Finding Your Strengths | Emerging Leaders Series: Session 3
Emerging Leaders Series 2021 is underway! This group of leaders is primed for connection, learning and impact. We are excited to add our ELS Blog Series, where each session will be captured by one of the cohort members. Learn more about the third session with Payton Mills.
“What will happen when we think about what is right with people rather than fixating on what is wrong with them?” – Don Clifton
Our third session of the Emerging Leaders Series was hosted by the Special Olympics Michigan in their soon-to-be Unified Sports and Inclusion Center, which will be the world’s largest Special Olympics facility.
Shaina Lane, a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach from Premier Professional Coaching, guided us through a workshop to help understand and apply our unique strengths. Before this session, we each took the Gallup CliftonStrengths Assessment.
There are 34 distinct CliftonStengths Themes; the assessment identifies your top five. Let me give you a snapshot of the results of each individual, using mine as an example:
Of course, this session was focused on our professional lives, but I am going to take some liberties in these reflections that may not be ideas we discussed explicitly in the session.
Reflection #1: The paradox of my strengths (and yours)
As I reviewed my strengths, I reflected on why these make me unique, and I began to see a thread woven through each strength. Shaina helped put this thread to words with the Four Es filter: each of my strengths is something that comes to me with Ease, Excellence, Enjoyment, and Energy.
The idea behind strengths psychology is that we will be far more productive if we spend more time focused on our strengths and less time trying to fix our weaknesses. Lean into your strengths and have the humility to lean on others in your areas of weakness.
The beautiful thing about these strengths is that I find myself doing work and living a life that is consistent with my strengths, like fixing a meal (life) with the perfect ingredients (strengths). This leads to an immense feeling of gratefulness; I am grateful for who I am.
But I believe the paradox of my strengths and your strengths is that they are not about me or you at all; they are a gift to use to serve and uplift others.
Reflection #2: What am I going to do about it?
“While learning about your strengths may be an interesting experience, it offers little benefit in isolation” (Tom Rath, StrengthsFinder 2.0, pg. vi).
Now that we understand our strengths and why they matter, what are we going to do with them? Allow me to walk you through how I process information like this and consider action steps. I start with myself, then work my way toward the outer edges of my world.
Let me give you a graphic to help understand.
Now, using my learner strength as an example:
- Self: How might I structure my day to use this strength? The first thing I do each day is read. As my other strengths come into play my reading begins with a focus around my core values (belief & responsibility) and moves into ideas and stories that engage my mind (ideation & intellection). This informs me as I walk into the unfolding day of life and work.
- Neighbor: As I mentioned above, I believe the best use of my strengths should be about uplifting others, especially those closest to me: family, friends, co-workers, neighbors. How might I do this? In conversations, “assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t” (Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life, pg. 233). There is always something worthwhile to learn; by listening well, I can value the other person (i.e. my wife, Kadison).
- Community: Considering my broader community (neighborhood, workplace, church, city, state, nation, world), as I learn, are there ways I could share what I learn with my community to make them better?
Reflection #3: Seeing the world…
To conclude, let me return to the quote I mentioned at the top from the father of strengths psychology, Don Clifton, “What will happen when we think about what is right with people rather than fixating on what is wrong with them?”
Strengths aside, what would it be like to seek the good in everything rather than fixating on what is wrong? I am not arguing for ignorance of problems in the world, but I am arguing for a rationally optimistic outlook toward each person or situation we encounter. What would it be like to seek the good in your spouse or partner? What would it be like to seek the good in your work and your co-workers? What would it be like to seek the good in your neighborhood? Your community? Your world?
And what if there is no good to be found?
Could we each take a step, using our strengths, that might bring about goodness?