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With over 30,000 premium subscribers around the world and full-time writers in six countries, The Ken is still an incredibly small organisation by most standards.

There’s just 36 of us.

But if you were one of the few to both interview with us and accept an offer to join us, one of the emails you’ll get before your joining date will have the following subject: “Take Gallup’s CliftonStrengths assessment”.

It’s an invitation to take one of Gallup’s most successful personality assessment tools, the CliftonStrengths. At the end of the online, roughly 6-minute assessment, you’ll get a customised report that looks like this (this is a sample).

Perhaps you’re thinking this helps us filter through the best candidates. But remember, I said we only send the assessment to candidates who have already accepted our offer. (Oh, and it’s already paid for by us.)

What this means is that CliftonStrengths isn’t a filtering tool for us. Instead, it’s a clarifying one.

It helps us and our new colleagues better identify their own respective Strengths.

CliftonStrengths Answers, “Who Am I?”

We’ve all wondered who we are and what makes us unique.

The CliftonStrengths assessment answers those questions. This online test (formerly named the Clifton StrengthsFinder) measures the intensity of your talents in each of the 34 CliftonStrengths themes. These 34 themes represent what people do best. They categorize all that’s right with humankind — distilled down to 34 different themes.

Why do we care about identifying a new colleague’s top Strengths? Because The Ken’s goal is to become an organisation where everyone plays to their strengths each day, instead of trying to fix their weaknesses.

Simple as it sounds, it’s a radical concept. As radical today as it was in 2001, when Gallup first introduced the tool along with the book, “Now, Discover Your Strengths.” I first read it around 2003, when I was just a few years out of college. It was the first “management” book I’d read that made me sit up and go, huh.

Because according to author Marcus Buckingham,

“Most organizations are built on two flawed assumptions about people:

  • Each person can learn to be competent in almost anything.
  • Each person’s greatest room for growth is in his or her areas of greatest weakness.”

Think back about how many reviews and appraisals you’ve had where your manager’s misguided focus has been on “helping” you identify the things you’re bad at, and how you can get better at those. And almost never about what you enjoy doing and are already good at.

Gallup says there is one question that organisations and managers ought to ask instead: “At work do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?”

“In Gallup’s total database we have asked the “opportunity to do what I do best” question of more than 1.7 million employees in 101 companies from 63 countries. What percentage do you think strongly agrees that they have an opportunity to do what they do best every day? What percentage truly feels that their strengths are in play? Twenty percent. Globally, only 20 percent of employees working in the large organizations we surveyed feel that their strengths are in play every day. Most bizarre of all, the longer an employee stays with an organization and the higher he climbs the traditional career ladder, the less likely he is to strongly agree that he is playing to his strengths.”

I’ll be frank. The Ken is not yet a truly Strengths-driven organization. For much of our history, we too have viewed each other through the narrow prisms of the roles we accidentally or incidentally came to inhabit. Our starting point was usually what a role demanded from a person, instead of identifying what each of us were good at and enjoyed, and then finding a role that would fit that.

Last year though, we started to change.

On our fourth anniversary last October, every single one of us at The Ken also took the CliftonStrengths. Our respective Strengths went into each of our annual performance appraisals. We made all our Strengths public to each other, because why would you not want your colleagues to know what you’re good at? When we recognize each other’s achievements on calls, we make sure to point out their Strengths.

This is what The Ken looks like today, from a Strengths prism. The darker a cell, the more number of people share that Strength. (For a bunch of journalists, we’re terrible at influencing people).

Which means that when a new colleague accepts our offer, we nudge them to start thinking about their Strengths even before they join us. In fact, we make it a point to talk about our new colleagues’ Strengths when we introduce them to the organization.

But that’s just what it is—a nudge. A starting point. Where those Strengths go from there, that’s up to all of us.

So if you get an offer from us and accept it, get ready to discover your Strengths. And ours, too.

Image credit: TeeFarm/Pixabay


Rohin Dharmakumar

Rohin is co-founder and CEO at The Ken. He holds an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta and an engineering degree in Computer Sciences from the R.V.C.E., Bangalore.

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