Know Thyself

  • September 13, 2019
  • Jim Middlemiss

Know Thyself

There are range of self-assessment tests in-house counsel can undertake to learn everything from their emotional intelligence to communication style and personality strengths and weaknesses.

CliftonStrengths, from the polling firm Gallup, Inc., is one assessment tool gaining traction. It is based on the idea that if you know your top five strengths, you can focus on those and maximize productivity. It examines 34 strengths broken down across four themes of executing, influencing, relationship building and strategic thinking.

Users answer a series of questions and are assigned strengths, which include things like developer, learner, relator, activator, achiever, etc. A report ranks their strengths and provides the characteristics of each one. There are tools and resources to help users build on their strengths.

Antoine Carrière, an Ottawa-based CliftonStrengths certified coach, says more than 21 million users have undergone the assessment. “It allows you to really understand what you are naturally gifted to do.”

Bonnie Oakes Charron is an Ottawa-based governance specialist who uses the CliftonStrengths model to help her as a director of Ottawa’s Odyssey Theatre and a member Ottawa’s Committee of Adjustments, a quasi-judicial administrative tribunal. A former procedural clerk at the House of Commons, her background is in library and information science, and she has sat on a number of boards and speaks regularly about governance. Her top CliftonStrengths include input, intellection and deliberative, and they dovetail under the theme of relationship building.

Input means she has a craving to gather and collect information, and a desire to know more. That demand for information as a board or tribunal member, she notes, can often be misconstrued by management as dissatisfaction or mistrust at the level of disclosure. She dispels such worries by explaining that it’s her nature to seek information when making decisions. “When you develop that self-awareness, you are able to act with more integrity,” she says. “You know who you are.”

Carrière and Oakes Charron are bringing CliftonStrengths into the governance space. They recently spoke at a Governance Professionals of Canada conference, and will host one-day workshops in 10 Canadian cities this fall to “allow people to do that deep dive [into their strengths] with a governance focus.”

Jim Middlemiss is a writer based in London, Ontario.