Talents by the Gallup Institute – CliftonStrenghts survey as the key to efficient management of employees’ potential

How to manage the team basing on talents diagnosed by the CliftonStrengths test? Why is it worth building employees’ position on the basis of their strengths instead of forcing them to improve their weaknesses?

In 1935 George Gallup founded in Washington the Gallup Institute which provides analytics and advisory services for various business areas. In the 80-ies Donald O. Clifton created Selection Research Incorporated which dealt with methods to conduct interviews so that employers could identify candidates’ talents and match them to the position. He invited to work with him on this project his former student – Marcus Buckingham. In 1988 SRI was taken over by the Gallup Institute  and since then was been called the Gallup’s test up to 2018 when it took the official name of  CliftonStrenghts survey. The test includes in total 34 talents/themes and 5 of them are identified in the basic version of the test – the TOP5. It identifies the 5 most dominant talents and the authors of the test claim that people who use these dominant talent in their work are the most productive.

Workshops by Pracownia Gier Szkoleniowych based on Gallup’s talent

Gallup’s Talents – competences or a personality test?

Patrycja Zielińska is talking to Jagoda Gandziarowska-Ziołecka – method expert and author of many trainings including ‘Strengths-based Teams’ – about building personal and team motivation and engagement basing on Gallup’s talents concept.

Excuse my being wicked but what if somebody has no talents at all?

Jagoda Gandziarowska-Ziołecka: TIt is just impossible, For each of us some activities are natural and simple while others seem rather difficult. What we do naturally and effortlessly is our talent and our huge potential. For someone it can be dealing with others, for someone else working with numbers and data or creating something from scratch. Structuring and putting order in their environment or reacting quickly to changing situations. I could go on like this and give you many more examples. What’s important  is to discover one’s own potential and ‘comfort zone’, like it and build one’s own career around it. What Gallup emphasizes is not to get frustrated with our weaknesses and envy other for what we don’t have. Instead of imitating someone else, get to like yourself. See the value we bring to the team, to the family or to the world.

Definitely it sounds encouraging as everyone wants to be unique and part of a one-of-a-kind team. Actually a team is always a combination of various competences, skills and … talents. Why Gallup while there are many other methods to identify and assess talents?

Jagoda Gandziarowska-Ziołecka: Participants often ask me what differentiates the CliftonStrengths test from other popular tests such as Extended Disc, MBTI, Insights Discovery. Each of them provides valuable information that can be used for self-development or to improve teamwork. What’s unique in Gallup compared to other tests is its individual approach. Different profiles are described. „There are millions of possible combinations”, explains Hanna Ignaczewska – coach, consultant and former General Manager of Gallup’s office in Poland.. The probability to meet a person who has the same set of the first top talents in the same order is 1 to 33,39 million! Other test don’t have this subtlety and uniqueness as they tend to assign us to a given type of personality or temperament.

Presentation of research analysis of Pracownia Gier Szkoleniowych on talents among Polish managers

It sounds impressing that my configuration of talents occurs once in more than 30 million. It’s fascinating. Since when the talents-based strategy of people and team management has become known and popular?

Jagoda Gandziarowska-Ziołecka: The beginning of the CliftonStrengths tools dates back to 1988, when Donald Clifton – the father of the talents-based approach, created with Tom Rath and a team of scientists from the Gallup Institute, an on-line test to identify talents, 34 themes understood as the person’s potential and talent to be developed. Since then this approach has been spreading like a virus. Today over 21 million people have participated in the survey to discover and get to know their talents and then to focus their actions to develop this newly uncovered potential.

How many companies have used this solution?

Jagoda Gandziarowska-Ziołecka: I don’t know the numbers because Gallup doesn’t divulge information about business clients. All I know is that already 21 633 352 have made the test! This is a really huge amount, which proves how popular this tool is. Gallup’s database includes  individuals as well as company employees. It is said that the creator of the test dreamt that one day all the people living on Earth would know their TOP5 talents and would even be wearing special signs with their talents on. He imagined how much respect and understanding it would bring to people’s existence.

Source: Gallup’s 2015 Strengths Meta-Analysis, the study on 1,2 milion individuals from 45  countries. Graphic design by Pracownia Gier Szkoleniowych

Talent or competence management?

What advantage does talent-based management have over, for example competence management?

Jagoda Gandziarowska-Ziołecka: Hanna Ignaczewska underlines that it depends on the competence model in the given company. Generally speaking competences represent some talents and competence models assume developing weaker competencies or in other words to develop missing talents, which is contrary to CliftonStrenght philosophy.” If we devote more time to develop competencies that we miss instead of improving our strengths, all we can achieve, according to Gallup, is mastery in mediocrity. What we should strive to do, instead, is to attain mastery in the field we are good at. If Mozart had discovered that he couldn’t paint and spent hours, days and weeks on learning to paint, he wouldn’t have discovered his musical genius. It is important to develop and improve competences that are required to be efficient in our role but first we have to identify what it is. Let’s take sales – there are multiple different ways to be a good salesperson – you can achieve it by building exceptional and close relations with clients, by strong goal and result-orientation, with strategic thinking or by a very systematic and methodic approach. This versatility is very important and the fact that our superior accepts it is of key importance to develop our full potential. A relational salesperson cannot be turned into a sales strategist if this is not his/her natural talent. And inversely somebody who doesn’t have highly developed empathy and the need of close relations with clients will not be able to manage his/her sales basing on relation. Even 100 different trainings meant to develop his/her ‘relationship building’ won’t bring the expected effect. Another problem is if the lack of empathy or the lack of strategic skills or the inability to work methodically become an obstacle to be efficient. Then one has to find out and develop a particular ‘tool’, something like a ‘prothesis’ so that the weakness doesn’t obstruct our productivity.

I would like big corporations as well as small companies to have this knowledge and adopt such approach to team building and people development. Can you tell us something about concrete methods that will help us explore and develop talents?

Jagoda Gandziarowska-Ziołecka: The first step is to complete CliftonStrenghts test. Then feedback information about what the result of the test tells about my possible role within the team or the organization would be recommended. The feedback could be provided by a coach, a superior or – for the brave ones – a family member or colleague from work. There are many possibilities for organizations that would like to adopt the CliftonStrenghts approach in their organization. Depending on the company needs and initial situation there is a wide range of choices. You could also start on a smaller scale and work with a team. All team members complete the test and after that participate in a teambuilding workshop based on the games and simulations method that will help them discover how the talents of the team are represented in action, what we value in each other, what we are good at, understand what could be the cause of our weaker points. Better understanding helps to find a solution instead of judging or crossing out. Such empowerment has a great motivational effect on the team, particularly if we don’t have time to appreciate each other on a daily basis. Our educational system embeds the habit to focus on our and others’ weaknesses and to improve what doesn’t work. It makes us critical and rigorous. Participants of our workshops often find out that appreciating the talents and taking skillfully advantage of it is a forgotten tart that has to be learnt from scratch.

Thank you for this conversation.

Jagoda Gandziarowska- Ziołecka, Pracownia Gier Szkoleniowych, Warsaw

Sociology graduate, co-founder and co-owner of a group of companies from the training games and simulations industry: Pracownia Gier Szkoleniowcych, Competence Game and Experience Corner. Jagoda’a area of expertise is the use of simulation games in processes such as new team building, communication improvement, implementation of cooperation rules based on trust and goal-oriented. Lecturer of the games method at  the Warsaw School of Economics and Akademia Leona Koźmińskiego. She is fascinated with the quality of collaboration of the organization in public life. Jagoda has participated in the creation of development programs for the public administration and education sector.

Zarządzanie zespołem w oparciu o talenty to jeden z autorskich treningów Pracowni Gier Szkoleniowych. Sprawdź inne treningi managerskie Talent management in a team is one of author’s training of Pracownia Gier. For more of them, click[link]

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Short descriptions of all 34 CliftonStrengths Themes

People exceptionally talented in the Achiever theme work hard and possess a great deal of stamina. They take immense satisfaction in being busy and productive.

People exceptionally talented in the Activator theme can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They want to do things now, rather than simply talk about them.

People exceptionally talented in the Adaptability theme prefer to go with the flow. They tend to be “now” people who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.

People exceptionally talented in the Analytical theme search for reasons and causes. They have the ability to think about all of the factors that might affect a situation.


People exceptionally talented in the Arranger theme can organize, but they also have a flexibility that complements this ability. They like to determine how all of the pieces and resources can be arranged for maximum productivity.

People exceptionally talented in the Belief theme have certain core values that are unchanging. Out of these values emerges a defined purpose for their lives.

People exceptionally talented in the Command theme have presence. They can take control of a situation and make decisions.

People exceptionally talented in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters.

People exceptionally talented in the Competition theme measure their progress against the performance of others. They strive to win first place and revel in contests.

People exceptionally talented in the Connectedness theme have faith in the links among all things. They believe there are few coincidences and that almost every event has meaning.

People exceptionally talented in the Consistency theme are keenly aware of the need to treat people the same. They crave stable routines and clear rules and procedures that everyone can follow.

People exceptionally talented in the Context theme enjoy thinking about the past. They understand the present by researching its history.

People exceptionally talented in the Deliberative theme are best described by the serious care they take in making decisions or choices. They anticipate obstacles.

People exceptionally talented in the Developer theme recognize and cultivate the potential in others. They spot the signs of each small improvement and derive satisfaction from evidence of progress.

People exceptionally talented in the Discipline theme enjoy routine and structure. Their world is best described by the order they create.

People exceptionally talented in the Empathy theme can sense other people’s feelings by imagining themselves in others’ lives or situations.

People exceptionally talented in the Focus theme can take a direction, follow through and make the corrections necessary to stay on track. They prioritize, then act.

People exceptionally talented in the Futuristic theme are inspired by the future and what could be. They energize others with their visions of the future.

People exceptionally talented in the Harmony theme look for consensus. They don’t enjoy conflict; rather, they seek areas of agreement.

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

People exceptionally talented in the Includer theme accept others. They show awareness of those who feel left out and make an effort to include them.

People exceptionally talented in the Input theme have a need to collect and archive. They may accumulate information, ideas, artifacts or even relationships.

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

People exceptionally talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.

People exceptionally talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. The process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.

People exceptionally talented in the Maximizer theme focus on strengths as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence. They seek to transform something strong into something superb.

People exceptionally talented in the Positivity theme have contagious enthusiasm. They are upbeat and can get others excited about what they are going to do.

People exceptionally talented in the Relator theme enjoy close relationships with others. They find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal.

People exceptionally talented in the Responsibility theme take psychological ownership of what they say they will do. They are committed to stable values such as honesty and loyalty.

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

People exceptionally talented in the Self-Assurance theme feel confident in their ability to take risks and manage their own lives. They have an inner compass that gives them certainty in their decisions.

People exceptionally talented in the Significance theme want to make a big impact. They are independent and prioritize projects based on how much influence they will have on their organization or people around them.

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

People exceptionally talented in the Woo theme love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over. They derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with someone.