The Significance of Significance
About two years ago, I joined the FACS Alumni Association Board at UGA. Kind of wild to think about considering the type of student I was almost 20 years ago. But that’s not the point of this article.
A few weeks before board orientation, we all received the book Strengths Finder 2.0. The book, based on “The Father of Strengths Psychology” Don Clifton’s work is intended to reveal what your top five (out of 32) strengths are based on a brief personality test. By focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses, people are better equipped to evaluate themselves and companies can realign structure based on talent and complementary skills.
Opening up the kimono here and sharing my top five.
Mind-blowing, right? Yeah, not really. Let me explain.
At W/S, we call ourselves a Strategic Creative Firm. Hell, that has my first two strengths covered in our company description. Futuristic and Communication are pretty straightforward. But what about this Significance? I mean, it has “little man syndrome” written all over it. What is Significance? Do I need validation? Pats on the back? Words of affirmation? Crave attention? Turns out, yeah kind of. (I’m like 5’9” btw, totally average height).
Here’s what Don Clifton says about Significance:
You want to be very significant in the eyes of other people. In the truest sense of the word you want to be recognized. You want to be heard. You want to stand out. You want to be known…
You feel a need to be admired as credible, professional, and successful. Likewise, you want to associate with others who are credible, professional, and successful…
An independent spirit, you want your work to be a way of life rather than a job, and in that work you want to be given free rein, the leeway to do things your way…
Whatever your focus — and each person is distinct — your Significance theme will keep pulling you upward, away from the mediocre toward the exceptional. It is the theme that keeps you reaching.
Years ago, I was working on our company’s State of the Studio address, something Alex and I do annually (usually at the company retreat). In this particular SOTS, we asked ourselves a question we pose to clients all the time, “what do you want?”
“We want our work to be seen and appreciated.”
Being “seen” means people (as many as possible) engage and remember the message. Appreciation comes when the client and the audience have a positive response to the work. Work that works. That certainly sounds like Significance, yeah?
For me, it all goes back to Mom’s refrigerator. It’s 1992. I’m 9. I’ve brought home a picture that I drew in art class. It’s an Easter bunny and it’s pretty dern good. Some kids thought I “traced” it which is basically a cardinal sin to third graders. I did not. Go kick rocks, Toby Jeffcoat.
Then it happens. Mom put it on the fridge. Right under a pineapple magnet – the highest honor for work in our household. Every person that visited our house would see it. A shining beacon of artistic excellence in colored pencil. And if you know my mother, you know she’d only put A+ work on the fridge. The kitchen was her temple.
Flash forward and our motivation is the same. We still want work on the fridge. This month, the fridge was the 50-yard line at the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. Last month, it was the Children’s Hospital of Georgia. We’ve even had work on the biggest, baddest fridge of them all – Times Square. Sometimes the fridge is a bomb-ass instagram post that gets tons of likes. Every now and again, it’s industry recognition. The fridge can even be the back windshield of a Honda Odyssey in the carpool line. And hell, sometimes a fridge is just a fridge.
The fridge metaphor just works in the advertising business. How could anyone go into a profession with invisible work? I mean, do insurance guys get comments from acquaintances at restaurants like, “Hey Gerald, that policy you put together for Walter was really something, wow!”. I hope they do if Significance is in their top 5.
I encourage you to check out Strengths Finder for your team. (Not a #ad.) Here’s a few interesting facts that the test has uncovered about our team.
- Achiever is the most common strength – good news for clients.
- A close 2nd and 3rd – Positivity and Ideation.
- Alex and I have the same top 2 in reverse order.
- Nobody has Competition in their top 5
- I’m the only one with Significance – that’s probably a good thing.
Shoutout to Vera for always keeping the standard high and only allowing A+ shit on the fridge.
Now I’m off to see if our instagram post from 4 days ago got any new likes in the last 35 minutes.