All Articles Leadership Management Are you born to build? Create self-awareness to discover your natural talents

Are you born to build? Create self-awareness to discover your natural talents

This book excerpt reveals the hidden talents of successful "builders."

8 min read



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This post is adapted from “Born to Build: How to Build a Thriving Startup, A Winning Team, New Customers and Get Your Best Life Imaginable,” by Jim Clifton and Sangeeta Badal. Copyright 2018 Gallup, Inc. Reprinted with permission from Gallup Press. All rights reserved.

Like all builders, you are likely to be most successful when you are working within your natural talents. So what kind of builder are you? What are your builder talents? Creating self-awareness and knowing your unique traits and behaviors will give you the greatest potential for meaningful and sustainable outcomes.

Identifying your builder talents

In our research, Gallup found a variety of behaviors among successful builders. For instance, highly successful builders effortlessly cultivate deep relationships, are laser-focused on results, are creative problem solvers and are the best spokespeople for their venture.

But after analyzing the data from samples across the US, Germany and Mexico and listening to hundreds of hours of interviews, we distilled everything to a list of 10 talents that influence behaviors and best explain the success of a builder. Every builder uses some mix of these 10 talents:

  1. Confidence: You accurately know yourself and understand others.
  2. Delegator: You recognize that you cannot do everything and are willing to contemplate a shift in style and control.
  3. Determination: You persevere through difficult and seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
  4. Disruptor: You exhibit creativity in taking an existing idea or product and turning it into something better.
  5. Independence: You do whatever needs to be done to build a successful venture.
  6. Knowledge: You constantly search for information that is relevant to growing your business.
  7. Profitability: You make decisions based on observed or anticipated effect on profit.
  8. Relationship: You possess high social awareness and an ability to build relationships that are beneficial to your organization’s survival and growth.
  9. Risk: You instinctively know how to manage high-risk situations.
  10. Selling: You are the best spokesperson for your business.

Remember, each talent is highly relevant to specific business outcomes but less so to others. For instance, someone with high Disruptor (creative thinking) talent will make sure their venture stays innovative but will be less likely to think about profitability. Independence talent (need for autonomy) is more related to survival of the venture than it is to its growth. And Risk talent (optimistic perception of risk) is positively related to revenue and growth of the venture but is less likely to affect innovation.

The behaviors associated with the 10 talents of successful builders — the 10 talents that are specifically linked to entrepreneurship — enable builders to meet the demands of the role, which ultimately leads to business success. Once you have your builder profile and know your dominant talents, you can start to think about your own talent-behavior-outcome pathways to success.

Rainmakers, conductors and experts

Now that you know your top talents, you can figure out what they tell you about the type of builder you are. As we noted earlier, Gallup has identified three types of alpha builders: Rainmakers, Conductors and Experts.

Rainmaker: If you are a Rainmaker, you are primarily focused on generating sales and revenue for your venture. You are boldly self-confident in your capacity to be successful and you rarely miss a moneymaking opportunity. You have a clear and aggressive growth strategy, and you measure success by the profitability of your venture. Incredibly persuasive, you know how to energize customers and employees with your vision of the future. It is easy for you to influence others to accept your point of view.

  • As a master promoter, you excel at sales and marketing, and you love being the voice and face of your company and pushing your products and services.
  • While fully self-reliant, you build purposeful connections with others who can help you achieve your goals. Your ability to form authentic relationships with customers and employees helps you further your business objectives.
  • You display a singular commitment to take on challenges and the risks that come with initiative. You have an optimistic perception of risk. In other words, you perceive potential threats positively, and you take an analytical approach to manage risks.
  • Your intense drive and ability to take decisive action and manage risks combine to shape your success. Day-to-day management of the business, however, is not something you enjoy — so let others handle the details.

Conductor: You possess great management talent and mainly focus on the operations of your venture. Like a conductor who unifies an orchestra to produce beautiful music, you bring order and harmony to the chaos of a young venture. You build an organization by building its people. You rarely act alone, and you take pride in finding the right people for key positions. Trusting others to take responsibility, you look for ways to delegate work and authority. You are quick to recognize when someone else can do a job better, and you give them freedom to make decisions and accomplish tasks. You use delegation and relationships as your tools to build capacity in the organization.

  • You are demanding and have a tendency to challenge the status quo. With little self-doubt, you do not hesitate to decide and act on your own, regardless of what others think.
  • Your persistence generates trust among your peers, employees and customers. You make a plan, stick with it and don’t give up. You feel strongly about keeping promises. When something needs to be done, you make sure it happens, even if something gets in the way.
  • But your determination and energetic drive are not thoughtless or stubborn. You have the capacity to re-evaluate what you need to achieve your goals. You know when to stay the course and when to reconsider your options. Hard work energizes you. You believe in high-growth businesses. You are fixated on growth metrics and hold yourself and your team accountable for the goals you set for the venture.

Expert: As an Expert, you primarily focus on product development and research for your venture. Being the best in your field in crucial for you. You set the bar high for yourself and focus on breakthrough discoveries. Whether you invent something new or improve a product or service through several iterations, you focus on finding solutions to the issues your customers face. You keep them feeling positive about your organization. In fact, your work helps the organization find new customers.

  • Highly independent, you constantly push beyond current thinking, never accept the status quo and reimagine new possibilities. You are not simply a dreamer but a discerning and sophisticated thinker, and you know when and where to spend your time and energy.
  • With your endless persistence and unbridled determination, quitting is not an option. You fully dedicate yourself to improving a product or service.
  • As a quick learner, you are constantly searching for ways to differentiate your product or organization in the market.
  • You are part artist and part scientist — and comfortable working at the intersection of both. Operating a business does not really interest you, so you are happy to delegate the mundane tasks of business management to others.

The 3 roles make a team

Our research has found that builders have all types of profiles, and each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. Your talent profile may strongly align with a Rainmaker or a Conductor or an Expert. Or you may be a Rainmaker-Conductor or an Expert-Conductor or a Rainmaker-Expert. Though each type of alpha builder has the capability to build and grow a venture independently, the real magic happens when the three come together.

Think of these three types of alpha builders as roles on a team. If you are a Rainmaker who is focused on aggressively growing your business, you need an Expert who can dream up new products and a Conductor to manage the business. Or, if you are an Expert, find a Rainmaker and a Conductor to join you. And if you are a Conductor, round out your team with a Rainmaker and an Expert.

A note about the 10 talents

The 10 builder talents do not address every factor that affects a builder’s success. Nonpersonality variables such as skills, knowledge and experience — along with a host of external factors — play a role in determining success on your journey, and you must take them into consideration. But the 10 talents explain who you are, what you can do and what you believe you are meant to do. Gallup’s research indicates that starting with self-awareness gives you the best chance for success.


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