strengths finder

Leadership Strengths: Finding Your Highest and Best Use

By Kristen Harris

In real estate, there's a concept called "highest and best use." When appraising a piece of vacant land or property, under this concept the value must be based on the most reasonable, probable, and legal use that is physically possible appropriately supported and financially feasible. For example, if a property is currently an industrial site but would have more value when redeveloped with residential buildings, that higher use is how the property value is determined. (With apologies to real estate experts–I know there are many factors that must be considered, making it more complex than this simple explanation.)

Have you ever thought about your own highest and best use? Are you being appraised and utilized at your top potential value? One way to think about this is to know your strengths and look for opportunities to use them in your work. If you're a leader or manager of others there is also tremendous value in knowing how to leverage the strengths of your team members.

The CliftonStrengths (formerly StrengthsFinder) philosophy is one of the key tools we use at Portfolio Creative to better understand new team members and each other. If you want to know more about this tool, check out our previous article Be Your Best: Using Your Strengths at Work

Once our new team member has taken the assessment and we know their strengths, what do we do with that information? One thing we look at is how their strengths fall into the Four Domains of Leadership Strength. According to Gallup's research, each strength sorts into one of four domains: Strategic Thinking, Executing, Influencing and Relationship Building. 

These domains equate to how you absorb and analyze information or situations, make things happen, influence others, or build and nurture relationships. Every strength fits into one of these categories, and there is no good or bad category (remember, they are all strengths.) 

Knowing which categories a person's strengths fall into provides a clearer view of their overall balance. For example, three of my five top strengths fall under Relationship Building, one is under Strategic Thinking, and one is Influencing. By contrast, my business partner Catherine Lang-Cline has two strengths under Strategic Thinking, two in Executing, and one in Relationship Building. See how we complement each other? I'm strong where she is not, and vice versa. Together we're better. Now apply that to a whole team of people and you can see the power of this concept. 

Some people are heavily weighted in one or two categories (we have one person with four of their top five strengths in the Strategic Thinking category.) Others are more evenly spread across the categories, with top strengths in three or even all four categories. It doesn't matter how the strengths break down, but it's helpful to know if someone is heavily weighted in one or two categories or more evenly balanced.

Once you understand how individual strengths are categorized, you can also apply the concept to a whole team. We look at strengths categories for the entire Portfolio Creative team, and by each departmental team. Our team leaders can see the strengths of each individual on their team, their team's overall strengths, and gaps, and the strengths found on other teams.

Here a few ways we can utilize this information. If we're working on something that requires a lot of Strategic Thinking, we can reference our chart and pull together the people heavy in those strengths. A team leader can look at how the strengths of their team members are spread across the four categories, see where they are heavy and light, and pair up team members or put people in positions that best use everyone's abilities. Across the company, we can see where strengths fall, and pair up individuals or entire teams to complement each other. 

By understanding and leveraging the individual strengths of yourself and others on your team, everyone has the opportunity to work at their highest and best use. 

Be Your Best: Using Strengths at Work

By Kristen Harris 

At Portfolio Creative we welcome every new hire for our internal team with a copy of the book StrengthsFinder 2.0. We ask them to take the assessment and share their results. Why? Because StrengthsFinder is one of the key tools we use to better understand ourselves and each other.

 StrengthsFinder is built on the philosophy that we each have inherent strengths. They're part of our DNA, we can't change them, it's just who we are. The result of a lifetime of research, Don Clifton identified thirty-four unique talents. Everyone has a bit of each, but the top five are truly our unique combination of skills, talent, and knowledge that can develop into strengths. 

Why does this matter? Gallup's research shows that people are more successful when they focus on what they do best. Seems kind of obvious, right? You're happier, do better work and are more productive when you're doing something you're good at. The challenge is to identify those talents and then focus on developing them into strengths. 

We also like how StrengthsFinder takes a very positive approach. Many personality assessments identify strengths and weaknesses, then encourage you to work on improving the weaknesses. While that might seem logical, what's the best possible outcome? You'll probably only improve that weakness enough to be marginal or average. Who wants that? It's much more empowering to be great!

We prefer to have people focus on their strengths, on what they're already inherently good at, and keep building upon that base. It's much more rewarding to take something that is good and make it great; to take something you're already good at and become the best. 

Yes, everyone has to overcome their weaknesses enough to not get in the way or hold them back, but that's it. We don't want anyone our team spending significant time in areas where they'll never be great. It's more productive to keep building strengths, then partner with others who have different strengths. Remember, there are thirty-four strengths and everyone has a combination that makes up their top five. That means there's someone else out there with a different top five to complement yours. 

If you’re not familiar with StrengthsFinder, I encourage you to check out the book or online materials. It is truly empowering to discover, build and utilize your strengths. By focusing the majority of your energy on things you're naturally good at, you are able to bring your best every day to whatever you do.


Marcus Buckingham, author of NOW Discover Your Strengths (for my money the best "know yourself" book and system out there), recently wrote a blog post about opportunity. Specifically, the idea that difficult times are also times of opportunity. Before you say that's crazy talk, hear him out. Full article is here, key points below... If you have a job you may not be able to control the economy, or maybe even your own company, but you can take charge of yourself. Make the effort to discover what you're best and what you love, then find ways to build your career around those areas. Even if you're currently unemployed or seeing the writing on the wall about potential layoffs, there are ways to take charge and keep focus on your career. Take the time to understand your strengths and when you may be able to apply them. It may just be the time to make a change, perhaps a time of opportunity.