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Jolene Pickens: Assessing strengths to grow business, self-awareness

Jolene Pickens - (Photo / Submitted)

Jolene Pickens, chief culture officer for Hampden Township-based Wakeen Enterprise, is a certified CliftonStrengths coach in the midstate.

Since joining Wakeen three years ago, she has used CliftonStrengths to help businesses and nonprofit organizations learn the strengths and weaknesses within their teams.

Pickens also works with individuals seeking to learn more about themselves by using the popular assessment.

She recently shared with the Central Penn Business Journal her work with CliftonStrengths. The following was edited for clarity. 

CPBJ: What is the history behind CliftonStrengths?

Pickens: It’s been around for years; it’s the assessment most people are familiar with. Twenty million people have taken the assessment across the world. The psychologist Don Clifton and his son began work on it in the early 1960s. Gallup owns StrengthsFinders, and they recently changed the name to CliftonStrengths because there are so many counterfeits and copies out there.

CPBJ: How did you become certified as CliftonStrengths coach?

Pickens: I went through a course taught by Gallup. There’s a lot of hands-on work, classroom, coaching work and a practicum. I had to go through six different coaches for a coaching regime. I had to pass a test. It’s not unlike any other certification process.

CPBJ: Can you describe a typical coaching session?

Pickens: I send you the link, you fill out the assessment, the results come back to me and I come up with a customized report for you. If you’re in a company, you might be in a team grid. You’ll see where you are as an individual and in a grid. It helps you understand the well-roundedness, or lack thereof, of your team. An individual doesn’t have to be well-rounded, we’re actually pretty sharp, but what’s powerful in that is knowing it so if you don’t have a team that’s well-rounded, there can be some skill gaps. It’s about leveraging strengths and sometimes it’s about filling in these gaps.

CPBJ: Can you describe the test?

Pickens: The test is comprised of 140 questions about your preferences, and you have 20 seconds to answer each question. Seventy percent of every decision you make is intuitive, and what we’re testing for is your intuitive answers. We ask a similar question in a lot of different ways because we’re trying to understand your motivation.

CPBJ: What strengths are you testing for?

Pickens: There are four domains in CliftonStrengths: executing, influencing, relationship building and strategic thinking. These domains are like parking lots. You park a car in the lot and walk to the entrance of the building. You’re all driving to the building, but you’re driving different cars to get there. Within the domains, there are a total of 34 strengths in everyone to differing degrees. Within the executing domain, you may be an activator who initiates action, you may deliberative in that you make careful decisions or you may be strong in consistency.

Your first group is dominant, your second group is supporting and your bottom group is your lesser talents. They may or may not be weaknesses, depending on whether they keep you from being proficient in your role.

CPBJ: How do you apply the newfound knowledge of your strengths?

Pickens: It’s about coming up with action steps to get you going forward and maximizing your top two domains. There’s a lot of power to putting language to your identity. Self-awareness leads to self-management; you can’t manage what you don’t know.

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