Lead with your strengths. StrengthsMentor Lisa Ferguson introduces me to my "sweet spot"!

"Don't be like the rest of them, darling." - Wise words by StrengthsMentor Lisa Ferguson

It's Monday morning in Paris - a good time for musing about the valuable lessons that I learned from StrengthsMentor Lisa Ferguson during #EmbraceParis.

Admittedly, I wasn't the most willing student. When Lisa sent a gentle reminder saying that some of the #EmbraceParis ladies still needed to complete our Gallup's online StrengthsFinder online assessment, I momentarily thought about procrastinating until the next day ... or the day after. With blog posts to write and laundry piling up, the 30 minutes required to take the assessment felt like too big of a time commitment.

But after some internal coaxing and cajoling, I poured a glass of wine and got started. It was easy. All that I had to do to discover my top five strengths was choose between two statements, indicating that one or the other "strongly" or "moderately" described me. I could also select the "neutral" position by marking midway between the two. While I don't remember the specific phrasing of any of the180 paired statements, I do recall that one of the questions focused on my feelings about striking up conversations with strangers. Since it didn't mention that the exchange had to be in grammatically correct French, I indicated that it's something that I usually enjoy.

At the end of the assessment, I learned that my top five strengths out of 34 are achiever, learner, maximizer, ideation and relator. Since I'm happiest when I'm learning something new, I could immediately relate to number two. To understand the rest of the descriptions, however, I needed more information than what was included in the "Signature Themes Report" from Gallup.

That's where Lisa, a fully trained Gallup Strengths Finder® coach, proved to be invaluable. Whether it was during our group work, when she encouraged us to discover how we can "work smarter not harder" by maximizing our innate talents, or during the private mentoring session, I had a couple of insightful "aha" moments.

On our last evening together, after we had already prepared and eaten an incredibly delicious gourmet dinner at Alain Ducasse's cooking school, the #EmbraceParis ladies gathered in Jennifer's room for an important midnight meeting. Lisa asked us to simply, yet very specifically, state what we needed from the group and what we could give to the group. As one woman after another offered to help a newfound friend connect with a publisher or learn how to monetize her website, I was awed by the enormous potential in the room. We were all working in our "sweet spot of unique strengths" and loving it.

If embracing, investing and leading with your strengths would benefit you on a professional or personal level, be sure to contact Lisa!

Lisa Ferguson, StrengthsMentor

From Gallup Strength Center: For decades, the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment has helped people excel. From top business executives and managers to salespeople, nurses, teachers, students, pastors, and others, more than 10 million people have realized the benefits of leading with their strengths.

Article about Gallup's Clifton StrenghtsFinder in Forbes magazine: Need a Career Tuneup? Gallup's Tom Rath Has a Quiz for You

"What if I fall? Oh my darling, What if you fly" - a tangible and intangible gift from Lisa Ferguson!


  1. Well, that was certainly very interesting! I went to the website and paid 9.99 to find out my five strengths: input, learner, activator, empathy and relator, so we have two in common and in the same place. The explanation sheet at the end which describes each strength seems to be spot-on. What is ideation?

    1. We'll have to talk about this the next time that we're together, Rosemary! I've got to admit that I'm not terribly surprised that we have two strengths in common. That must be why we get along so well! Ideation, according to the workbook that I received from Lisa, means that I love coming up with something new and that I need to have the freedom to explore possibilities without restraints or limits.

      One of my "aha" moments was when Lisa paired us with someone who has complimentary strengths. Since I always tend to collaborate with people with the same strengths that I have, it was a really good reminder that we need to work with people who bring other strengths to a project.

      If I remember correctly, our group didn't have many activators, like you.

    2. Many find it almost freaky how spot on the results are. And when clients protest about one not being "them" it often ends up that they just don't like that one and wish they possessed another strength instead!

      I hope you will embrace this mindset and tool and infuse it in your everyday life! The StrengthsFinder 2.0 book by Tom Rath is a really great resource to have on your shelf as others share their strengths. It is has all the strengths alphabetically by chapter for quick reference.

      You are right Mary Kay, we did not have any activators in our group of 11.

  2. My company is big on Strengths Finder, and in the beginning, I thought it was hokey, but I am now a convert, especially as a manager. Knowing my employees strengths has helped me learn how to relate to them in ways that are more effective, and it also helps me orientate them towards task that will allow them to capitalize on their top five. My husband has also taken the test, and it has even helped us in our relationship - I share your top 3 strengths, so instead of getting annoyed that I insist on loading myself down with the groceries so I can carry everything in one trip, he is now able to shake his head and say "It's because you're a maximizer". Or when he's super over-analyzing a problem, I can attribute it to his "Analytical" Strength instead of getting irritated that he's analyzing something to death. They have several books out on the Strengths that are fairly interesting, including ones that go fairly in-depth with the individual strengths and how you work best, what kinds of jobs you'd be best suited for, etc.

    1. It's really interesting that your company uses Strengths Finder! Is your company French? I was wondering if this is predominately a North American tool or if it's used by companies worldwide. Lisa Ferguson has plans to expand her business abroad so I'm sure that she'll be pleased to know that it's currently being used in Paris.

      Your comment about loading yourself down with groceries really resonated with me because I always look like a beast of burden on my way home from the store. Yesterday, I was carrying two heavy bags from Picard and one from Carrefour. Next time I'm struggling under the load, I'll remind myself that it's because I'm a maximizer! ;)

      You said that we both have the same top 3 strengths, what are your other 2?

    2. My other two are discipline and consistency. I actually think consistency is one of the main reasons I struggled so much to adapt to life here in the early days. The fact that you could ask the same person the same question on five different days and get five different answers absolutely drove me insane. It's too bad I hadn't taken the test before moving here, I think being able to put a name to my frustration would have helped temper it a bit.

      And my company is American, I'm the only one who is abroad. I think they use Strengths Finder in French in Belgium, but it hasn't really caught on yet in France much as far as I know. I think there is a lot of progress to be made in the French workforce with regards to employees being seen as individuals and not as one big mass (= a lot more work for the manager), but I bet some of the international companies would be open to it!

    3. Those examples you gave Ksam are excellent examples of how one can tangibly use the SF tool daily to increase joy!

      While the philosophy of SF is to invest in your strengths and not your weaknesses, I find surrounding my self with coaches, peers and friends with opposing strengths helps keep my strengths out of their "basement" and much more into their "balcony". For example, my friend is an activator ( fires, then aims ) and I am a deliberative ( weighs risks for a long time before talking action ). When I deliberative too long, she calls me on it. When she is able to pull the trigger on something without thinking of a strategy, she calls me for a reality check.

      Gallup's StrengthsFinder assessment is being used by companies worldwide. Of the 10 million people who have done it, I have the report broken down by country and will be looking at it eagerly after hearing that talent identification and investment is still slow in France.

      FYI: Gallup's goal is to have 1billion people worldwide do the assessment. I think they will reach it and globally change the way we think to investing in strengths instead of weaknesses. Loving seeing their Strengths Quest version for students being implemented in schools.

    4. Ksam, I was wondering what books your company has given you as reading material other than the basic Gallup ones? I'm always veraciously reading any self help I can. And I've taken Lisa's class on StrengthsFinder at High Point Furniture Market - AMAZING!!

    5. Hi Alison, I'm not sure if they're different from the ones you already have, but the main ones we use are the "Strengths Finder 2.0" book, "Go Put Your Strengths to Work" and "Now, Discover Your Strengths.

    6. Thanks Alison for your kind words! I have all of the books @Ksam mentioned. They are great!

  3. I have to admit to also now being a convert. From the moment I recieved the results, through the workshop, and now taking it forward. Not only does the part about my own strengths interest me, but also the seeking out the missing strengths to collaborate on projects. I could have spent many more hours absorbing Lisa's insight.

    1. That's another really good point - now that we have the Strength's matrix for our entire department, it has allowed us to see where we are weak for certain projects, and so whenever we need to hire, we try to ask target questions during interviews in order to chose the right candidate. We obviously can't have potential employees take the test before hire, but we sure have a lot of fun guessing their strengths after the interview and then seeing if we were right for the person we hired!

    2. @Carina, The need to collaborate with people who have other strengths was a big "aha" moment for me, too! For some reason, I always tend to gravitate towards those with similar strengths.

      @Ksam, Thanks for all the information about how your company uses Strengths Finder. It's really fascinating! I like the idea of having a Strength's matrix for your department. Lisa suggested something similar when we had lunch with the owner of a company with 70 employees.

    3. It's been really useful, even amongst our leadership team. There are 4 of us, and we have one who is strong in positivity and woo, one who is strong in ideation and command, another who is strong in analytical and deliberative and then myself. We all really compliment each other nicely, and it makes for some very well-rounded discussions.

      I'm actually the opposite from you in that I tend to gravitate towards those with different strengths because I'm so aware of my own and how they can sometimes be shortcomings. For example, I'm not creative at all, so I love being with someone who has ideation because they can come out with so many things I never would have thought of. And then I act as the balance to that, helping weed out what is feasible, keeping people on task, etc. My husband and I actually have very similar strengths though, but maybe that helps keep "harmony" at home since we're usually on the same wavelength. :)

      Anyways, I'll get off my soap box now - I remember listening to our HR person explaining the concept all those years ago and just rolling my eyes (probably like a lot of your readers are doing now lol).

    4. To keep the knowledge alive and tangible and to practically apply, daily, @Carina , I find a few things are really effective:

      1-Highlight everything in your Gallup StrengthsFinder® report that you immediately say "YES! Thats me!" to.
      Every few days reread those highlighted bits. It will give you confidence without feeling narcissistic and to help you to start embracing these strengths and may even give you new language to communicate with others what you to table. A better communicated value proposition means more ideal clients, faster, and more profits!

      2- Ask those who know you really well for SPECIFIC EXAMPLES of when you are at your very best and in your sweet spot because you are using your strengths. Often they’ll share specific stories of your genius that you overlook, because it comes so naturally to you. You may want to explore creating a strategy that has you leaning more into repeating those types of things.

      3-Find a complementary peer who is in the same industry as you. Set up regular touch points for accountability, sounding board sessions, victory celebrations, strategy sessions, deliberate championing etc….Court before you formalize. Be sure your goals and values align. Have a give more than you receive attitude and don’t keep score

    5. @Ksam many roll their eyes at first for many reasons, including they don't want to be "figured out". I protested initially when my business coach suggested I do the assessment because I had done alot of tests and didnt need another one to tell me my strengths and weaknesses. She was really smart and said "but this one will present it in a new way with new insights". She just knew I had to have ideation [ innovator ] in my top 5 and that would flip the switch for me. It did [ I did the test THAT day ] and am now trained to coach others after seeing how the knowledge was enhancing my life over 4 years. I especially love that it gives us east to understand language to express to others what we bring to the table without feeling narcissistic.

  4. @Ksam (Samantha), Thanks for all of your interesting comments! They've really sparked an interesting dialogue about Strengths Finder. Your comment about your early days as an expat made me think that it would be helpful for people to take this assessment as part of their pre-cultural training. I can see how it would be difficult for someone to adjust to life abroad if one of their sweet spots is consistency.


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