Triple Threat: Tools for How, Why, and Where

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán

Over the past five years, I’ve worked with thousands of people to help them understand themselves better. This work is sacred because you’re dealing with people’s actual lives. The context may be a business workshop, academic setting, or corporate coaching series, but the topic is always personal—let’s talk about you.

When working with people, there are sometimes three big questions that come up: HOW, WHY, and WHERE. At first, I had a tool for the HOW, then came the WHY, and most recently came the WHERE. I’m thrilled to put the three together to provide this triple threat.

CliftonStrengths: The HOW

CliftonStrengths (by the Gallup Organization) is a talent assessment that identifies your areas of natural potential, called talent themes. The idea is to find your talent themes, apply them toward your intended outcomes, and develop them into strengths over time. Your best results are going to come from using your talents.

Your talents are HOW you best and sustainably produce great results.

There are 34 different CliftonStrengths talent themes, which each belong to a particular category of talent: executing tasks, relating to people, thinking intentionally, and influencing others. These categories of talent describe the general, overall contribution when working with others:

  • Executing tasks – focused on the way that work is getting done
  • Relating to people – focused on connecting with who is around you
  • Thinking intentionally – focused on thinking about what’s possible
  • Influencing others – focused on impacting people and causing movement

Within each category, the different talent themes function a little bit differently but the overall approach within each category is the same.

For example, both Empathy® and Developer® belong to the Relating to People domain. Both are focused on connecting with others:

  • Empathy® picks up on the feelings of others and understands the other perspectives and experiences that other people have
  • Developer® draws out the potential of others and works to motivate, and encourage, and stimulate growth

At the heart, CliftonStrengths is a performance tool, a HOW tool.

Enneagram: The WHY

The Enneagram began in the fourth century as a psychological and spiritual tool for personal growth. It has no owner and has been used and passed down through the generations. Today the Enneagram is being used by organizations like Stanford Business School, Disney, Salesforce, CIA, Kaiser Permanente, and the Federal Reserve System.

The Enneagram describes the nine core drives or motivations of humans. Its name comes from the Greek words ennea meaning “nine,” and gram meaning “figure.” By understanding your Enneagram Type, you can understand your core drive or motivation.

This is the language of WHY.

Here’s my version of the Enneagram and the nine drives:

At the heart, the Enneagram is a motivational awareness tool, a WHY tool. Putting together CliftonStrengths and Enneagram, you get HOW and WHY.

For example, I have two friends who have been identified as Enneagram Type 7: to Enjoy. They’re driven to be happy, move forward, avoid struggle, and experience the highs of life. 

Here are their top five CliftonStrengths® themes:

Friend 1

Friend 2

Woo® Connectedness®
Belief® Learner®
Positivity® Achiever®
Arranger® Input®
Communication® Intellection®

You’ll see they have no top five talents in common, even though they’re both Enneagram Type 7 with the drive to Enjoy. Plus, the categories of talents they have are different, too.

Friend 1 has:

  • two influencing talents (Woo, Communication)
  • two executing talents (Belief, Arranger)
  • one relating talent (Positivity)

Friend 2 has:

  • three thinking talents (Learner, Input, Intellection)
  • one relating talent (Connectedness)
  • one executing talent (Achiever)

So, while their primary drive (WHY) is to Enjoy, they go about it in different ways, according to their strengths (HOW). Friend 1 is going to enjoy life more through shared experiences with lots of people. Friend 2 is going to enjoy life more through thoughts and ideas on his own.

But neither of these tools can point to WHERE to go. Where are possible places that you may find fulfillment, purpose, and meaning?

PathwayU: The WHERE

PathwayU (by jobZology) is a platform that uses predictive science to help you discover which paths could create more purpose, meaning, and joy in your life and work. Think of it as a calling assessment, possibility finder, job hunter, coaching tool, and educational resource rolled into one platform.

PathwayU was originally designed for college students to choose best fits for educational majors and careers, but it’s also used by teenagers, working professionals, and retirees who are looking to build a more meaningful and impactful life. It was created by vocational psychologists using top scientific models and methods for validity and reliability.

Four assessments are built into the platform:

  • Work-related values
  • Interests
  • Personality
  • Workplace preferences

After you take the four assessments, you see your scores, read feedback about them, and receive suggestions on possible pathways for you to consider. These pathways are WHERE you may best apply your HOW and WHY in meaningful ways.

The suggestions include:

  • Job Subject Areas
  • Job Titles
  • Job Activities

PathwayU saves time and energy by suggesting subject areas and careers based on your personality. You could do this on your own but who has time for that?

PathwayU is a WHERE tool.

The Triple Threat

Clarity often leads to action. As you can see, these three tools bring increased clarity around the big questions of HOW, WHY, and WHERE:

  • CliftonStrengths focuses on HOW you are built to perform
  • Enneagram focuses on WHY you do what you do as a core drive
  • PathwayU focuses on WHERE might be possible pathways for fulfillment.

Now with the insights from this triple threat, you can move into meaningful action.


CliftonStrengths, Gallup, and theme names are trademarks of Gallup.

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