The Best Parts of Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath

10th April 2014

I found Strengths Finder and its online component very useful. The book introduction outlines an overall philosophy on effort, and then has a chapter covering thirty-four strengths they’ve identified through research. Each chapter gives an overview of the strengths and then offers ideas for action.

You can read the whole book, like I did, or take an online quiz to show which strengths are yours so you can focus on those.

Overarching points:

“…people have several times more potential for growth when they invest energy in developing their strengths instead of correcting their deficiencies.”

“The key to human development is building on who you already are.”

“Most successful people start with a dominant talent — and then add skills, knowledge, and practice to the mix. When they do this, the raw talent actually serves as a multiplier.”

Sample text from a strengths chapter:


Sample information: “If you like to travel, it is because each new location offers novel artifacts and facts. These can be acquired and then stored away… who knows when they might become useful?”

Sample action item: “As you gather and absorb information, be aware of the individuals and groups that can most benefit from your knowledge, and be intentional about sharing with them.”

I found the book valuable mostly because some of the best decisions I’ve made have come from following what felt like the path of least resistance. But that can also feel like a cop out, because I have a lot of internal voices saying, “Overcome your weaknesses! Be a better you!” And so forth. The truth is, the you you’ve got is just fine. Work with those raw materials instead of fighting your nature, and you make more progress.

I have a friend who makes hiring decisions based on the philosophies in this book. I’m curious about whether any of you have done it, and whether you found it useful.

14 thoughts on “The Best Parts of Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath

  1. Casey

    I loved this book and the philosophy behind it–and found the test refreshingly (almost scarily) accurate. I’m an actor and voice teacher, and I’ve held approximately a gajillion different freelance gigs. Knowing my strengths made it easier to evaluate how well new jobs and situations would serve me-and how I could best serve them. It also was a great bit of personal validation. I used to be almost embarrassed by my skills/pretty stuff/reading material collecting. Now I just know that’s my ‘input’ instinct at work! :) And my enthusiasm/optimism became my ‘positivity’ strength, not just a Pollyanna tendency.

  2. Casey

    Definitely! I also noticed a conspicuous absence of ‘get shit done’ strengths in my list…..which, er, explains a lot. :) I’m definitely better at the ideas/motivation/positivity stuff.

  3. Sara

    “But that can also feel like a cop out, because I have a lot of internal voices saying, “Overcome your weaknesses! Be a better you!” And so forth. The truth is, the you you’ve got is just fine. Work with those raw materials instead of fighting your nature, and you make more progress.”

    As a therapist, I feel like we (as mental health professionals) give that message to people all the time. Fix your broken parts. Change. Grow. Overcome. I do this to myself all the time. And you know what happens? Nothing. You waste a lot of time feeling miserable and not good enough and making no progress. I love the idea of reframing growth work as learning how to embrace and nurture our true authentic natures and strengths.

    Thanks for that. I needed to hear that today. And I imagine so do a lot of my clients. :)

  4. Megan

    I have benefited from this book, but I take it’s labels lightly because of the risk in judging ourselves or others by labels. I neither want to over-simplify assets nor limit our ability to perceive potential in ourselves/others.
    I recall that in Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, Nickel and Dimed, she faced discrimination by employers based solely on her results on personality tests, despite her significant skill set. It frustrated me that these employers didn’t give her a chance to demonstrate her worth in a more thorough manner.
    I also question the validity of these kinds of tests/inventories because they are based on self report. Sort of like a magazine quiz, you can guide the answers to match your self perception- which may be inaccurate. Or, if used in an interview, one might guide the results more towards the employer’s desired strengths.

  5. Dawn

    I’m a teacher and the principal at my current school has every new hire read this book and take the quiz. He keeps a spreadsheet of our strengths accessible to everyone. He uses it to make committees and teaching teams. I always end up teamed with activators because I don’t have anything like that in my profile. I would say the quiz got me just right, and I was somehow blown away by the idea that I could just be good at what I’m good at. On the other hand, my principal might be a bit too devoted.

  6. Jess

    But what if you consider a powerful drive towards self-improvement and overcoming your weaknesses an essential part of who you are? The two aren’t contradictory for me…

  7. Sarah

    A good friend of mine uses the strengths finder, along with a myriad of positive psychology research, in his community work. He’s built a non-profit called Positivity Matters, and he’s president of an active neighborhood assoc, where he looks at strengths of community members and strengths of the community as a whole. His goal is to work for a private foundation (or multiple foundations), making funding recommendations based on the their core values, and how that matched up with non-profits or projects in the community.

    I think the research behind it is pretty solid, and I’m a fan of the “use what you’re good at”/”start where you are now” philosophy.

  8. Megan

    Yes, I have read this and my former employer has every new employee read this and take the assessment, so that all employees are pretty well versed in what many of the strengths mean. We were initially concerned in rolling this out because yes, labeling someone to “five” can be dangerous if not monitored (i.e. “You don’t have strategic so therefore you can’t be on this committee.”) They managed that message on the front end pretty well though. I still find value in this.

    The question remains, what are your strengths, Maggie? I am Achiever, Focus, Activator, Communication, and Woo. Always did want maximizer, but the good news is that learning about what a maximizer brings to the table and made me, well, more maximizing!

  9. Maggie Mason

    Jess, this is the central point of conflict for me, but I’ve also come to understand that not everything I consider a weakness is viewed that way by others. On two points:

    1. We may not be the best judge of our true weaknesses. Some of us can be more critical of ourselves than others will be — even when considering the same topic. Meaning, you can feel you’re lazy while others view you as industrious, because your internal landscape doesn’t match their reality.

    2. Often the things that bother us about ourselves are the very things that endear us to our loved ones. “I never have my shit together” becomes “You’re always so spontaneous.”

    Megan, my top strengths were input, learner, positivity, strategy, and responsibility, but there were a lot more in the book that made me say, “YEAH!” Fun to review and to find the ones that make you say, “That is not me at all.”

  10. JennX

    we use it at my museum – it can be really good to have that shared vocabulary. As an ‘activator’ amongst a lot of very process-oriented people, it helps me to say “Hey, I’m feeling really activator-y about this, can we just try something and see what happens?” I’ve also found that while I don’t use it in hiring, once people are on-board it’s really useful to see what the team’s balance is like. I’m Activator, Strategic, Relator, Self-Assurance, Significance. So I need folks from empathy, communication on my team to balance me out!

  11. Jess

    Maggie, thank you for taking the time to respond! Lots to think about – both your points sound familiar to me, especially the first one. Perhaps I should read the book!

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