Last school year we began exploring our strengths by using the Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment produced by the folks at Gallup. This survey identifies 5 of your top strengths from a group of 34. The deeper I get into this work, the more uncanny I find it to be in describing the core of who I am. While in a district level professional learning session last month, one of our district administrators described those individuals who have the “Achiever” strength as having to live with the “whisper of discontent.” That sent me down a reflective path about how my own strengths whisper to me as quiet voices of action. What I am realizing is that ignoring those voices is just as dangerous as ignoring the voices of the individuals we seek to serve. What follows are my strengths in rank order, the Gallup generated descriptor, and my thoughts around them.
Strategic – People who are especially talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot relevant patterns and issues. My strategic inner voice constantly speaks to me about tweaking processes in an effort to increase productivity. It hisses in my ear a distaste for the status quo. It moans when the phrase, “We’ve always done it this way” is uttered. It reminds me to look down the road to plan ahead.
Positivity – People who are especially talented in the Positivity theme have an enthusiasm that is contagious. They are upbeat and can get others excited about what they are going to do. “Pollyanna” whispers her perpetual optimism to me even in challenging situations. I have worked to project this voice to those around me who I feel are worth celebrating, in the moment I hear it. My New Year’s resolution has been to speak the positive to others, even if the timing seems awkward. This is a commitment I intend to keep for the long-term.
Arranger – People who are especially talented in the Arranger theme can organize, but also have a flexibility that complements this ability. They like to figure out how all of the pieces and resources can be arranged for maximum productivity. This inner voice warns me away from hiring others who are just like me. It celebrates and recognizes that diversity of thought and ideas creates synergy when building teams. This whisper speaks the virtues of connecting people for collaborative work.
Ideation – People who are especially talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena. This voice frequently whispers the phrase, “What if…?” It can drive me down a path to question why things are done the way they are. This voice is pleased when pondering. In my journey to open my new campus, this voice has become increasingly vocal!
Relator – People who are especially talented in the Relator theme enjoy close relationships with others. They find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal. This small voice always speaks of a simple story. It articulates complex ideas in plainspoken language that others connect to and find practical. It rejoices when I am working with my close associates on work that truly matters.
What steps can you take to amplify the quiet, whispering voices that speak to you from your areas of strength?
1) Purposely discover you own strengths – Aristotle is credited with the quote, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Can you currently articulate your own strengths and apply them to your professional and personal life? I don’t know of a better resource for this discovery than taking the StrengthsFinder assessment. Tom Rath’s book entitled StrengthsFinder 2.0 not only contains an access code for the assessment, it serves as a perfect resource to begin understanding how to use your strengths. (Click here to find out more about the book) Specifically you will find that each strength theme has a number of “ideas for action” that will help you get started.
2) Stifle that voice that drives you to be “well-rounded” in all areas – Few things disengage people more than working in their areas of deficit. What engages us are the things that we perceive ourselves as doing well. If you show me a struggling reader who can make others laugh, I can almost bet you he will be a class clown in language arts class! Granted, there are some skills that we all must master such as reading. In other areas, it is a much better investment in your time and energy to sharpen yourself in your areas of strength. These are the areas where our passions lie.
3) Discover the strengths of those around you and leverage them for success – Purposefully using the StrengthsFinder with those who you interact with is where the real power is in this work. I gave copies of StrengthsFinder 2.0 to my wife and grown kids. We then shared our strengths to deepen our connection and understanding of one another. The entire staff at my new campus will be taking the assessment and we will be using this common vocabulary and understand to build our community. My PTA Executive Board will be discovering each other’s strengths. Even my students will take the age-appropriate StrengthsExplorer assessment to become more self-aware. For this work, StrengthsFinder 2.0 has an area under each them that guides you how to work with others in THEIR area of strength. The end goal is to create a strengths-based culture that drives our engagement and celebrates our diversity.
4) Quiet the voice of busy – So often when I am not hearing my small strengths-based voices it is because of time pressures. This loud, bullying voice sounds like the sassy quote from Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”(Click here for a smile) Rarely are issues as time-pressured as we make them out to be. Do you find time each day to reflect? Do you have a reflective partner that you regularly connect with?
We all have the voice of self-talk that we hear every day. What do your small voices say to you? If you are purposeful in discovering your strengths, you will have the discernment to know which voices to amplify and act upon.