One Thing That Made Me A Better Husband, Parent & Worker

Strengths Finder by Tom RathThere’s no shortage of resources for the self-obsessed. Are you a D, I, S, or C? An INTJ or an ESTJ? A beaver or a lion?

I’m a little cynical and a lot skeptical about it all. Can you tell?

I’ve taken all these tests – against my will – and walked away from each with a new label and little else. But Strengths Finder 2.0 actually helped me immediately in very practical ways.

Developed by Tom Rath of Gallup, Strengths Finder 2.0 is a book and a test.

The book contains a code buyers enter at in order to take the Strengths Finder test. The test determines (very accurately, I think) a person’s top five strengths – called “themes.”


The book explains why focussing on strengths instead of weaknesses is the best approach, describes each theme in detail, gives practical advice on how to make the most of each theme, and instructs those in your life on how best to partner with you. In addition to the book’s descriptions of themes, after taking the test on-line, spits out an even more detailed “report” on how you are unique among others who have your strengths.

My top five themes, for example, are…

Strategic: People strong in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.

Learner: People strong in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.

Restorative: People strong in the Restorative theme are adept at dealing with problems. They are good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it.

Individualization: People strong in the Individualization theme are intrigued with the unique qualities of each person. They have a gift for figuring out how people who are different can work together productively.

Ideation: People strong in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.

Here’s an eerily accurate excerpt from a report about what makes me “stand out” among others who also have a strategic strength:

It’s very likely that you characteristically find the right words to express whatever you are thinking. You offer explanations, discuss ideas, give examples, or share stories. You effectively use the spoken word. Driven by your talents, you can reconfigure factual information or data in ways that reveal trends, raise issues, identify opportunities, or offer solutions. You bring an added dimension to discussions. You make sense out of seemingly unrelated information. You are likely to generate multiple action plans before you choose the best one. Because of your strengths, you select the right combination of words to convey your ideas or feelings…Instinctively, you long to know more so you remain on the cutting edge of your field or areas of interest. Your inventive mind usually generates more possibilities than you can handle or fund. Nonetheless, you are committed to acquiring knowledge and/or skills. You study everything involved in a situation and conceive entirely new ways of seeing or doing things. What you already know prompts you to ask questions and delve even deeper into a subject or problem.

Here’s how Strengths Finder made me a better husband, parent and worker.

Better Husband

I’ve always known Becky and I compliment and serve each other well, but Strengths Finder put it into words. Becky’s top strength is Achiever. Achievers “have a great deal of stamina and work very hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.” For an Achiever, it’s been a good day if they made progress on their list.

Armed with that insight, I now make sure Becky has time every day to do something on her list. On my off days I ask if I can help her get something done on that list. When I have ideas I bring them to her and she turns them into action items and deadlines. And she’s learning that productivity doesn’t have to be tangible: When I’m reading, thinking or writing I’m actually getting stuff done and having a good day.

Better Parent

People are my favorite puzzles. Just call me House. What I once thought was a creepy quirk is called “Individualization” by Strengths Finder. Seeing it as a strength has helped me unashamedly put it to use at home.

I no longer parent all my kids the same way under the guise of being “fair.” This has been very helpful in parenting an internationally adopted child who is different from my other kids in substantial ways. I study him so I can tailor discipline, lessons, encouragement and rules to his unique needs and personality.

And, while I wouldn’t administer the Strengths Finder test to my kids, reading Strengths Finder has helped me spot my kids’ possible strengths. For instance, I used to get so aggravated with Gresham’s impatient leap-before-you-look ways. Now I wonder if he’s an “activator” – a person who would rather get stuff done than talk or think about getting stuff done. That’s helped me value him as a highly motivated self-starter. And the world needs more of those doesn’t it?

Better Worker

I often wonder what I’m really supposed to be when I grow up. This breads discontent. Strengths Finder has helped me relax a bit by confirming that I’m already in a great position to use many of my strengths.

Compassion International listens when I have ideas and sometimes I even get to do them. As the creator and leader of Compassion Bloggers, I’m empowered by my bosses to continually generate more ideas and strategize all I want. As a musician and speaker, I’ve been figuring out crowds and tailoring my presentations to them for years without even realizing it – that’s individualization. As a blogger, I get to creatively communicate ideas and think through things with a group daily and bump up against hundreds of unique perspectives. I get to do all of this to “restore” the lives of children and the purpose of Christians!

Strengths Finder has helped me see the green grass growing on my side of the fence and helped me pinpoint the one thing I’m still lacking: Opportunity to learn. I’d really like to get a masters degree in International Development. I’m saving toward that goal now.

Strengths Finder has also given me permission to say “no” to things that don’t fit me and “yes” to things that do without over-thinking them first. You want me to micromanage the details of your project? No. You want me to ingest a massive amount of information and regurgitate it in layman’s terms from a stage? Absolutely. I’m spending much more of my time these days on what I do well and saying “no” to the stuff I don’t.

Strengths Finder normally retails for $25 but you can get it here for only $14. I highly recommend it.

Have you taken Strengths Finder’s test? What are your strengths?