I Took the Clifton Strengths Test and learned THIS about myself

I go through pretty consistent cycles of behavior and workplace antics that inspire me to ask, “Why do I constantly fiddle with BNP when the team is already doing such good work?”

It’s no secret that I struggle to sit still, but I (genuinely, and desperately) want that fiddling and fidgeting to actually DELIVER value to the team, the firm, and our clients.

So several years ago I sat down with two of my partners at BNP and took an online test.

The test was the CliftonStrengths, which measures your talents or strengths in each of 34 “themes”.

(I wanted the two partners to go through the 20-minute test with me to keep me honest with my answers.)

Each “question” includes two statements at opposite ends of a rating scale.

Your job is to rate which statement best describes you, or whether you’re straight neutral or neutral-ish.

The questions look like this:

Other pairs of qualities to be rated include things like:

  • I am a sensitive person; I am a logical person.
  • I get to know people individually; I accept many types of people.
  • My view of humanity guides my life; my ambition guides my life.
  • I enjoy relaxing; I enjoy cleaning.

I blew through the test quickly, with no real arguments about any ratings.

The website then produces a report that tells you how you are uniquely programmed, your resulting strengths and weaknesses, and what to do to make the most of your one-of-a-kind profile.

I devoured the 25-page report right on the spot.

At the top of the list, the label given to the most prominent element of my programming or how I operate in the world was Activator.

The report defines this theme as follows:

“Can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. Activators want to do things now, rather than simply talk about them.”

My other two most prominent themes in the list of 34 included these phrases:

“Inspired by the future and what could be.”


“Great desire to learn and wants to continuously improve.”

Then I skipped to the end, to the final two or three themes on the list.

These would be the themes and phrases that are least like me… the opposite of my natural view of and approach to my work, my relationships, and the world:

“Craves stable routines and clear rules and procedures…”

“Described by the serious care taken in making decisions or choices…”

And, finally, the one that ranked the furthest of all from how I am wired:

“Seeks harmony. Looks for consensus. Doesn’t enjoy conflict. Seeks areas of agreement.”

The rest of the report gave advice and examples of:

  • How I can thrive.
  • How I should best leverage my Activator strength.
  • How I am probably affecting others.
  • What blind spots I need to watch out for.

I printed the report and read from it frequently, reflecting on where to dial it up and how I am likely to cause chaos if I don’t remember where to dial it back.

The pages became tattered over time and I eventually recycled it.

But recalling it here has caused me to re-print it and start referencing it again.

I was recently referred to another, similar test, the Kolbe A Index, which makes this claim about its results:

It does not measure intelligence, personality, or social style. It measures the instinctive ways you take action when you strive. Use your custom Kolbe A Index Results to be more productive, less stressed, and unlock joy at work or with your family.

So, on behalf of my family and the partners at BNP — the people I spend the most time around who have to co-exist with me — THANK YOU for this timely reminder.