2017 CliftonStrengths Summit Highlights

It’s hard to believe the first international CliftonStrengths Summit was held only 12 short months ago. What began when Donald O. Clifton asked, “What if we focused on what is right with people instead of what’s wrong?” is now a worldwide movement.

The second CliftonStrengths Summit hosted over 1,100 strengths ambassadors from 27 nations. The energy, passion and coaching expertise felt like a second College World Series had descended upon Omaha—a human development World Series.

Here are just a few of my favorite highlights.


Jim Clifton, Gallup CEO – What The World Needs Now
  • Changing the very practice of management, of how the world believes in how humans develop, is crucial to our future and our children’s future.
  • A major problem is that leadership has not changed with the will of the people. Old command-and-control hierachies, forced rankings, annual reviews and focusing on employee gaps only enable employee disengagement, higher turnover and lost productivity.
  • Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace examines these trends:
    • More than half of employees (51%) are searching for new jobs.
    • Most employees (91%) say the last time they changed jobs, they left their company to do so.
    • Only 21% of employees strongly agree their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work.
  • What gave people meaning in their lives one and two generations ago has shifted. However, the old ways of people management are completely out of sync with the modern worker.
    • Past: My paycheck, my satisfaction, my boss, my annual review, my weaknesses, my job
    • Future: My purpose, my development, my coach, my ongoing conversations, my strengths, my life
  • What the world needs now—leaders who communicate frequently with their employees, offer development opportunities, deliver quality coaching, focus on strengths, provide cultures of flexibility and autonomy, stability and purpose.

Angela King Smith, Chief Engagement Officer, Atlanta Public Schools – Moving From What’s Wrong to What’s Strong
  • Focusing on strengths is a proven path to better results in the corporate world. Atlanta Public Schools has taken the same strengths-based mindset and applied it to the education realm.
  • Imperative for educators to move away from the narrow scope of testing.
  • Focusing on student strengths means more learning, better engagement, higher energy and purpose.
  • Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen and her team launched the new strengths-based culture for all 6,000 employees of the school system on the Georgia Tech campus.
  • Teachers, administrators and employees must take care of themselves first before they can take care of Atlanta’s children. A strengths-based culture helps achieve this. In turn, teachers are now better positioned to help students grow their strengths.
    • Old way: too often focused on adult issues instead of student issues
    • New vision: a mission-driven organization built around trust and collaboration with strengths as the guiding theme
  • Aristotle: “Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your vocation.”
  • Strongest indicator of college success? It’s not GPA, SAT or class rank. It’s hope. Hope is free. It’s found when students understand how they can be successful through their own unique strengths.

Joshua Marcuse, Executive Director at Defense Innovation Board – Our Greatest Power Is Our People
  • Many organizational cultures are based on uniformity. However, this philosophy leads to treating people with an industrialized age (outdated and wrong) approach to human beings.
  • He received ground truth feedback that officers felt they needed to be interchangeable because they were expendable. This prompted Marcuse and his team to begin building a strengths-based culture. This focuses on each service member’s innate talents.
  • Each individual who receives strengths coaching gains a durable understanding of how they lead, communicate, influence and deliver results. Strengths appreciates all the qualities that are unique about each service member. This helps reinforce the incalculable value they bring to their jobs, families and communities.
  • A Navy Seal officer and strengths ambassador carries his team’s talent map in his briefcase wherever he goes. This ensures he knows how to lead, understand, and get the best out of each member of his team.
  • “What do we mean when we say, ‘our people are our greatest asset’, but we don’t understand our greatest asset?”
  • “What will it mean for the U.S. to care about the strengths of their service men and women not just during their time of service, but after rejoining the private sector?”
  • “If the military is grappling with the question of how they are using strengths to succeed with their mission, how are we doing the same in our ogranizations and communities?”

Mary Rosai, Senior Vice President, Charles Schwab – Investing in a Strengths-based Culture at Schwab
  • The foundational elements of talent development: Leadership, Strengths, Engagement, Performance and Collaboration.
  • 380 strengths coaches at Schwab helping make strengths accesible to create strengths-based culture.
  • Compelling case study of how strengths-based corporate cultures deliver tangible results.

Mike Ritz, Executive Director, Leadership Rhode Island – All Aboard: The First Ever Strengths-based State
  • In 2013, Rhode Island had the highest percentage of actively disengaged workers in the U.S.
  • Disengagement costs $3,400 per $10,000 in annual salary. Thus, a disengaged employee with $50,000 annual salary, equates to $17,000 in lost productivity.
  • Through smart public and private partnerships, Leadership Rhode Island has helped Rhode Island become the #1 state (up from #49) on Gallup’s workplace performance measurement: “I get to use my strengths every day.”

Deepak Chopra, M.D. Founder, The Chopra Foundation – You Are The Universe
  • Hard to forget Deepak’s anecdote about Prime Minister Nehru, his mother’s carefully chose pink sari and one red rose!
  • “Great leaders commit themselves to a cause bigger than their own ego.”
    • Attention: deep listening
    • Appreciation: being recognized for your strengths and gifts
    • Affection: caring
    • Acceptance: not trying to change someone
  • “Humans are not rational. We justify our emotions with what we call rationality.”
  • “Good luck is simply opportunity meeting preparedness. It comes when we’re in touch with ourselves.”

Tom Rath, Bestselling Author, Research and Advisor – Strengthening the Workplace of the Future
  • We must learn to put our heath and wellbeing first. Too many people are currently dying for a paycheck.
  • “Focus on what you can do, on what is possible.”
  • “The single greatest strengths is uncovering a talent in another person they didn’t know about.”
  • “Life is not what you get out of it, but what you put into it.”
  • “Instead of following your passion find your greatest contribution.”

Paul Allen, Senior Advisor, Gallup and Jim Collison, Strengths Community Manager, Gallup – Called To Coach: One Global Language
  • Strengths movements are strong and growing stronger in Mexico, Kenya, Australia, United Kingdom and dozens of other countries.
  • Strengths unites people across different cultures, time zones and languages.
  • “Be a more effective leader by being a more authentic leader.”

As of this morning, over 16,619,021 people have discovered their natural talents using the StrengthsFinder talent assessment. If you’re unfamiliar, check it out, find a coach and embark on your own strengths journey. It’s one of the best personal and professional decisions you’ll ever make.

Jeremy Pietrocini opened the 2017 CliftonStrengths Summit with a crucial question: “How do you change a life?”

Check out next year’s summit if you’d like to know the secret.

Hint: You start with talent and you finish with strength…


If you enjoyed this post, please sign-up for more talent development insights at StrengthsLauncher.

If you’re seeking a Gallup-certified strengths coach in your area, here’s a good place to start.