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Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI)

Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI) -  helps you navigate the intersection of self-awareness and team effectiveness.

SDI  involves helping people understand how their motives drive their behaviours, how those motives and behaviours change during different situations, and how to develop a better understanding of the motive-driven behaviours of others. 

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Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI) Approach

What Makes TotalSDI Unique?

We Help You Navigate the Intersection of Self-Awareness and Team Effectiveness.  

Our approach involves helping people understand how their motives drive their behaviors, how those motives and behaviors change during different situations, and how to develop a better understanding of the motive-driven behaviors of others. It’s an approach that drives stronger relationships and more effective teams. This philosophy has driven our approach for more than 40 years with more than 2+ million people and it’s more important than ever in modern work environments 


With the Millennial generation growing as a force in the workplace, with technological advances connecting people around the globe, and with a heightened sense of consciousness about creating meaningful work, the ability to interact effectively with others is critical.

Our tools are designed to help people understand themselves and others – not just how we behave, but why we behave in certain ways – and that understanding can lead to meaningful, practical changes in leaders and teams that minimize conflict and maximize effectiveness.

People are Complex; Relationships Don't Have to Be

People are complex, and that can make interacting with people challenging. At times, it can make them downright difficult.  

TotalSDI is based on powerful yet simple approaches to helping individuals and teams develop the awareness and skills they need to build more effective personal and professional relationships. It helps them sustain those relationships by understanding the underlying motivations of themselves and others under two conditions – when things are going well and when there is conflict. Our approach helps people recognize they are free to choose behaviors that accommodate their values, while also taking into account the values of others.

This dynamic and powerful way of looking at the motives that drive behaviors aids in building effective communication and productive work relationships.


Consultants, coaches and trainers who use TotalSDI typically sum up our approach in three ways: It’s smart. It’s sticky. And it’s useful. Of course, every tool on the market makes the same claims, so let’s look a little deeper at what really makes the TotalSDI approach different from other assessments.


  • It reveals motives. TotalSDI focuses not just on behaviors, but on the motives that drive behaviors. Other tools simply measure behaviors. TotalSDI goes deeper to explore the causes of behaviors. We are all driven by self-worth – a motivation to be valued by ourselves and by others for the things that are important to us. TotalSDI gets to the heart of what people value, and that not only builds greater self-awareness but also more empathy for the values and needs of others.
  • It’s bi-conditional. Work comes with stress and conflict, even in environments where everyone likes each other. The reality is, when things get stressful and conflict enters a work situation, our motives and reactions change. Other assessments don’t take this reality into account. TotalSDI measures the motives behind the behaviors when conditions are going well and when conditions involve the different stages of conflict.
  • It strengthens a weakness. It would be nice if we only had to use the behaviors we see as our strengths, and that’s what some tools recommend. But we don’t have the luxury of avoiding our perceived weaknesses. Nor should we avoid them. TotalSDI recognizes that there are times when we need to use different behaviors based on the conditions, our motives, and the motives that are driving others. There are times when we can over-use our comfortable strengths and times when strengths we see as “weak” can become our greatest allies.
  • It’s a system of its own. When you go into an organization, you face two systems: The human systems and the organizational systems. TotalSDI is designed to improve both. The assessments improve human systems by creating more productive cultures, more collaborative teams, high-performing individuals, and stronger relationships. They also give you the data and insights you need to build the best programs for your clients – programs that use TotalSDI as a foundation for ongoing learning.

Smarter, Stickier, More Useful

We already acknowledged that other tools also claim to be smart, sticky, and useful, just like TotalSDI. Our partners – consultants, coaches, and trainers who use TotalSDI – tell us what makes our products different, however, is that ours are smarter, stickier, and more useful. So we’ll embrace the praise.

Smarter. Our foundation and framework consists of more than 40 years of rigorous academic research. Famed psychologist Dr. Elias Porter created the SDI and developed the Relationship Awareness Theory, which has four main premises:


  • Behavior is driven by motives. Why we do things is just as important as what we do. TotalSDI shows the motives that drive people’s behavior in a simple, memorable language that makes it easy for people to understand each other and work more effectively together.
  • Motives change in conflict. We feel and act differently during conflict; we want different things. TotalSDI shows these changes in motives as conflict progresses – and the related changes in behavior. It gives people tools to prevent and manage conflict in any type of relationship.
  • Strengths can be overdone. We can use our strengths so much that they work against us and become non-productive. For example, a person who trusts too much may be seen as gullible; an overly confident person may be seen as arrogant. Overdone strengths, or the perception of overdoing, can cause conflict.
  • Filters influence perception. What we see is influenced by who we are and how we are motivated. We look for ways to fulfill our motives. If we are motivated to help others, we will see people’s needs sooner than others do. If we are motivated by accomplishment, we will see opportunities that others miss.


Stickier. TotalSDI provides a suite of tools that are elegant in their design, making them easy to understand and remember. There are only 20 questions in the SDI assessment, so it takes far less time to complete than many other assessments. And the simple triangle graphic, the easy-to-relate-to descriptions, and the use of primary colors provide markers that people intuitively understand and remember.

More useful. Smart is good. Sticky is good. But neither of those things matter if the content is confined to a book or workshop. The question is, can it help people in their daily interactions? And the answer is, “Absolutely!” In fact, one thing that distinguishes it from many other assessment tools is that its usefulness applies in changing situations when the stakes are high. It provides a framework for understanding motivations when things are going well and when important relationships slide into conflict. The common, friendly language helps create a safe environment for people to talk about the challenges they face with their interpersonal relationships.

Do you know what your strengths are? 

Do you know how they contribute to your productivity and success?



The TotalSDI Suite of Assessments

TotalSDI is a suite of eight easy-to-use and easy-to-understand assessment tools that allow people to unlock the mysteries of personal motivation so they can become better leaders, build stronger teams, and more effectively deal with the inevitable conflicts that arise at work.


The TotalSDI Suite of Assessments

Our suite of assessments provides practical methods for empowering people to build the skills they need to improve organizational and team performance. These tools are based on a self-learning model for effectively and accurately understanding and inferring the motives behind behaviors.


Our tools and assessments help people better understand the motives that drive their behaviors and the motives that drive the behaviors of the people they interact with. When we really understand what makes people tick – both when things are going well and when there is conflict – we can make better decisions and achieve greater results.

Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI)

This powerful self-assessment helps people understand themselves by helping them understand the motives that drive their behaviors. But it doesn’t stop there. It also helps them understand the motives that drive the behaviors of others. By increasing self-awareness and interpersonal awareness, it increases personal and interpersonal effectiveness. And by showing the differences in how people are motivated in two different conditions – when things are going well and when things are in conflict – the SDI actually serves as two assessments in one. Understanding why people do or say things differently helps prevent unproductive conflicts by raising awareness that people are truly motivated by different things. The assessment is available online or in a paper version, and the results are available online regardless of which version you take.


Strengths Portrait

We all have our “go-to” behaviors – the things we know we do well and that we trust, in part because they are comfortable and in part because they’ve worked in the past. The Strengths Portrait ranks how a person values and uses 28 unique strengths (or behaviors) to produce a picture of how they choose certain behaviors when working with people. This portrait sets the stage for learning to use the most effective strengths in a given situation. It’s also useful for defining the collective strengths of a team. And it sets the stage for understanding how using different behaviors can contribute to optimal results. The Strengths Portrait is available online or in a paper version, and the results are available online regardless of which version you take.


Overdone Strengths Portrait

It’s all too easy to develop blind spots about the behaviors we believe work well for us in relationships. The Overdone Strengths Portrait ranks how frequently a person may overdo the 28 different strengths (our unique perspective on what most would call ‘weaknesses’). This provides insight into the costs of overdone strengths and reveals sources of preventable conflict. It helps people make more informed behavior choices by recognizing when they are about to overdo a strength. When the costs of overdone strengths become clear, people feel empowered to use other, more effective behaviors. The Overdone Strengths Portrait is available online or in a paper version, and the results are available online regardless of which version you take.

Strengths Portrait  - Expectations Edition

This portrait allows individuals and teams to prioritize 28 different strengths (or behaviors) they believe are required for high performance in a particular role. This flexible tool can be used as a self-assessment for a person’s own role, as a feedback instrument, or to clarify expectations of a vacant role. It provides insight into sources of satisfaction and/or misunderstanding with the role and helps people learn how to choose more effective behaviors. This Strengths Portrait is available online or in a paper version, and the results are available online regardless of which version you take.


Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI) - Expectations Edition

Understanding expectations is an important and often overlooked part of measuring and managing satisfaction with any role, job, position, or relationship. The SDI Expectations Edition can clarify expectations of any role and increase personal effectiveness and satisfaction. When different stakeholders have different perceptions of what is required of someone, it often leads to conflict or a lack of satisfaction – for the stakeholders or for the person in the role. The SDI Expectations Edition provides an objective forum to get expectations out in the open and on paper so differences can be discussed in a non-threatening and non-judgmental way. The assessment is available online or in a paper version, and the results are available online regardless of which version you take.

Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI) - Feedback Edition

Feedback has the power to open the doors of understanding and is a vital component to managing conflict and building effective teams. The SDI Feedback Edition uncovers differences in perceptions and encourages healthy discussions and constructive feedback. It is a non-adversarial way to shine a light on destructive misperceptions. Increased awareness and understanding lead to empathy, which lead to healthier interactions during feedback discussions. The SDI Feedback Edition is available online only.

Strengths Portrait - Feedback Edition

Similarities and differences naturally arise as people use their strengths when working with each other. This portrait allows people who provide feedback to create a picture of the strengths they see another person using most and least often in their relationship. It provides ways to effectively communicate constructive feedback by getting those perceptions out in the open. It includes an easy-to-use gap analysis for identifying specific areas for attention. A detailed chart provides practical examples of common reasons, purposes, and intentions that drive certain behaviors. In other words, they connect the “why” to the strengths people choose. This assessment is available online only.

Overdone Strengths Portrait - Feedback Edition

This portrait offers a unique, non-confrontational way of giving feedback by addressing the potential cause of the conflict — not the conflict itself. It reveals assumptions people make about others and helps to resolve misunderstandings. It effectively explores differences in perceptions about how people may overdo or misapply their strengths, thereby causing unwarranted conflict in relationships. Specific areas are highlighted through an easy-to-use gap analysis. This assessment is available online only.

Can you recognize when you “overdo” or misapply your strengths and inadvertently cause conflict?