Strengthsfinder? Empathy vs. Not-Empathy

I recently revisited my Clifton Strengthsfinder results. If you’re not familiar with this assessment, here’s a quick overview:

  • A psychologist named Don Clifton decided it made more sense to focus on developing people’s strengths than their faults. Clifton is considered the father of strengths-based psychology.

  • The Strengthsfinder is a set of 34 strengths present to different degrees in every human being.

  • The assessment gives you a deeper understanding of which of these strengths are strongest for you.

One of the interesting, yet difficult, things about Strengthsfinder is that they use their own language. For example, one of my top five strengths is Intellection. This is not a common word. The dictionary will tell you that Intellection simply means, “an act of intellect, thought, reason.” According to Strengthsfinder, someone with the Intellection strength is introspective and appreciates intellectual discussions. Spot on for me, but, probably not what you would conclude based on the word.

My top five strengths are:

  1. Learner - wanting to continuously learn and improve

  2. Intellection - enjoying intellectual discussions

  3. Developer - recognizing and cultivating potential in others

  4. Context - enjoying using the past to understand the present

  5. Strategic - having a talent at creating alternate ways to proceed (there are SO many examples of this in my life - like when I designed my own major in college, for instance)

A couple of the strengths that are not especially strong in me, yet are topics I train and coach in, are:

  • Empathy - sensing the feelings of others by imagining yourself in their shoes

  • Includer - making efforts to include those who are left out

So how did I get to be someone who occasionally calls myself an “Empathy Professional?”

I got there because of my strengths in Learner and Strategic.

I got there because I used to be fairly stressed out about work, and unfulfilled.

I got there because I wanted to be happier, and I realized that there are deep connections between how we feel about the things we do every day and how we feel generally and how much stress we experience.

I learned and studied and found important connections between empathy and workplace productivity. Yes, I fundamentally believe that we all deserve to be happy at work. It was through learning about how to be happier at work that I discovered the connections between kindness and empathy and workplace productivity.

I decided that, if having a great manager myself wasn’t in the cards, and neither was being a great manager, then I would help other managers figure out how to be great - and it turns out that empathy is key to being a great manager.

Managers who are able to be authentically curious and compassionate - important parts of using cognitive empathy - are truly great managers.

Creating my own curriculum to help managers learn more about empathy and learn simple tools to use the empathy skill at work has been so fulfilling. With every training, my hope is that at least one manager will find a higher level of fulfillment in their every day job duties through what they learn.

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