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Your Better Self with Akanna: My Top 5 Strengths

Akanna Okeke



Akanna OkekeI recently changed jobs to work for an employer that’s well known for its commitment to People Development and fostering a positive culture and environment within the work place.

Not surprisingly, within my first few days, I was given the book StrengthsFinder 2.0 to read.

The goal was for me to discover my strengths and discuss them with my manager, so that the tasks assigned to me at work would largely fall within my ‘strength zone’.

Like the book says, “the reality is that a person who has always struggled with numbers is unlikely to be a great accountant or statistician.  And the person without much natural empathy will never be able to comfort an agitated customer in the warm and sincere way that the great empathizers can.

The maxim “You can be anything you want to be, if you just try hard enough” is a misguided saying that has left a lot of people stagnant, burning up time and energy, unnecessarily, trying to improve and repair their weaknesses instead of progressing by simply focusing that time and energy on their strengths.

“You cannot be anything you want to be – but you can be a lot more of who you already are”.

Talent Investment = Strength


Talent is “a natural way of thinking, feeling or behaving”.

Investment is “time spent practicing, developing your skills and building your knowledge base”.   And

Strength is “the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance”.

I was told to read Part 1 of the book then go online to take the assessment to find out my strengths.  There’s a unique access code in a packet in the back of every copy of the book that allows you to do that.

So, that I did.  The CliftonStrengths comprises 34 themes that best attempt to create a common language or classification of talents.  After answering a bunch of questions, I was presented with my Top 5 (strengths) out of those 34 themes.

I have decided to share them with you here because I agree with them to a large degree – I couldn’t believe their level of accuracy – and also to encourage you to take the assessment too!

#1: Maximizer
“Excellence, not average, is your measure. Taking something from below average to slightly above average takes a great deal of effort and in your opinion is not very rewarding.  Transforming something strong into something superb takes just as much effort but is much more thrilling.

Strengths, whether yours or someone else’s, fascinate you. Like a diver after pearls, you search them out, watching for the telltale signs of a strength.   A glimpse of untutored excellence, rapid learning, a skill mastered without recourse to steps—all these are clues that a strength may be in play. And having found a strength, you feel compelled to nurture it, refine it, and stretch it toward excellence. You polish the pearl until it shines.

This natural sorting of strengths means that others see you as discriminating. You choose to spend time with people who appreciate your particular strengths. Likewise, you are attracted to others who seem to have found and cultivated their own strengths. You tend to avoid those who want to fix you and make you well rounded. You don’t want to spend your life bemoaning what you lack. Rather, you want to capitalize on the gifts with which you are blessed. It’s more fun. It’s more productive. And, counterintuitively, it is more demanding.”

#2: Intellection
“You like to think. You like mental activity. You like exercising the “muscles” of your brain, stretching them in multiple directions.  

This need for mental activity may be focused; for example, you may be trying to solve a problem or develop an idea or understand another person’s feelings. The exact focus will depend on your other strengths. On the other hand, this mental activity may very well lack focus.

The theme of Intellection does not dictate what you are thinking about; it simply describes that you like to think. You are the kind of person who enjoys your time alone because it is your time for musing and reflection. You are introspective. In a sense you are your own best companion, as you pose yourself questions and try out answers on yourself to see how they sound.

This introspection may lead you to a slight sense of discontent as you compare what you are actually doing with all the thoughts and ideas that your mind conceives.  Or this introspection may tend toward more pragmatic matters such as the events of the day or a conversation that you plan to have later. Wherever it leads you, this mental hum is one of the constants of your life.”

#3: Responsibility
“Your Responsibility theme forces you to take psychological ownership for anything you commit to, and whether large or small, you feel emotionally bound to follow it through to completion. Your good name depends on it.  If for some reason you cannot deliver, you automatically start to look for ways to make

it up to the other person. Apologies are not enough. Excuses and rationalizations are totally unacceptable. You will not quite be able to live with yourself until you have made restitution.

This conscientiousness, this near obsession for doing things right, and your impeccable ethics, combine to create your reputation: utterly dependable. When assigning new responsibilities, people will look to you first because they know it will get done.

When people come to you for help—and they soon will—you must be selective. Your willingness to volunteer may sometimes lead you to take on more than you should.”

#4: Empathy
“You can sense the emotions of those around you. You can feel what they are feeling as though their feelings are your own.  Intuitively, you are able to see the world through their eyes and share their perspective.  

You do not necessarily agree with each person’s perspective. You do not necessarily feel pity for each person’s predicament—this would be sympathy, not Empathy. You do not necessarily condone the choices each person makes, but you do understand.

This instinctive ability to understand is powerful. You hear the unvoiced questions. You anticipate the need.   Where others grapple for words, you seem to find the right words and the right tone.   You help people find the right phrases to express their feelings—to themselves as well as to others. You help them give voice to their emotional life.

For all these reasons other people are drawn to you.”

#5: Strategic
“The Strategic theme enables you to sort through the clutter and find the best route.

 It is not a skill that can be taught. It is a distinct way of thinking, a special perspective on the world at large.  This perspective allows you to see patterns where others simply see complexity.

Mindful of these patterns, you play out alternative scenarios, always asking, “What if this happened? Okay, well what if this happened?” This recurring question helps you see around the next corner. There you can evaluate accurately the potential obstacles.

Guided by where you see each path leading, you start to make selections. You discard the paths that lead nowhere. You discard the paths that lead straight into resistance. You discard the paths that lead into a fog of confusion. You cull and make selections until you arrive at the chosen path—your strategy.

Armed with your strategy, you strike forward. This is your Strategic theme at work: “What if?” Select. Strike.”

There they are!  My Top 5 Strengths.  The cool thing is that these descriptions are unique to me.  So, for example, even if you had the same top strengths as mine – Maximizer, Intellection, Responsibility, Empathy and Strategic – after taking the assessment, the descriptions provided beneath each strength will be unique to you, based on how you responded to the questions asked.

The book also gives tips and ‘ideas for action’ on how to capitalize on these strengths.  It’s not enough to just know what your gifts and talents are, you must know how to turn them into useful skills!  That’s Part 2 of the book.  I’m going to read that next and, of course, I’ll share my findings with you next week!


  1. B

    July 31, 2018 at 10:42 am

    Thank you. I am one of those people who have been on a journey of self discovering but my journey has been longer. I tend to focus on my weakness and how to improve. I ll try get the strength finger and start my journey again

    • Akanna Okeke

      Akanna Okeke

      August 2, 2018 at 3:20 am

      You’re welcome, B! Now you know to focus more on your strengths than on your weaknesses. I’m glad you’re going to get the book. It’s very helpful!!

  2. Kate

    August 1, 2018 at 4:28 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I will definitely try to get my hands on the book. I recently found an interesting definition of strengths – it’s what you are good at doing and feel energized by. On the other hand, weaknesses are those things that drain you. You might be good at it but you do not look forward to it, takes you ages and you do not enjoy the task. Was a very fresh perspective

    • Akanna Okeke

      Akanna Okeke

      August 2, 2018 at 3:22 am

      Those are good definitions of strengths and weaknesses, Kate. Thanks for sharing them!
      I’m glad you’re also trying to get your hands on the book- you can’t wrong!

    • Akanna Okeke

      Akanna Okeke

      August 2, 2018 at 3:22 am

      you can’t go wrong, I meant to say! 🙂

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