By Chad T. Ahern
Most people who've been exposed to Strengths-based efforts more often than not associate it with workplace -- improving team performance, engaging employees, and increasing productivity. Yet, some exciting developments are happening at institutions of higher-education; helping students understand their uniqueness and how it can help them succeed during and after their coursework.
Recently, Gallup has published three excellent pieces that provide some great advice on how to start a strengths movement on your campus, and what such an initiative could mean for your students:
If you're interested in joining the 600+ other strengths-based higher education institutions and launch your own strengths-based campus, consider these five major principles and actions:
Let me help you launch or support your Strengths-based campus, get in touch.
By Chad T. Ahern
Earlier this month, I had the chance to conduct my first coaching session utilizing Gallup's strengths coaching model. Even though I've helped, "coached", and counseled individuals before, this experience was unique enough that I wanted to share a bit about the experience and some personal lessons.
My client for the call was a new Director of HR who was looking to expand his own strengths initiative within company of 50. He, like me, is a relatively new strengths coach looking for an external perspective. His background was in marketing, but has an intense passion for developing people. His top 5 talent themes are: Responsibility, Connectedness, Belief, Positivity, and Individualization.
During our call, I discovered his amazing passion for developing others. In talking about it, he made the realization this was a perfect reflection of his top 5, all of which have an "others" focus. He isn't happy if others aren't being served. I also came to learn that he relies a lot on his 6 talent theme of Relator to develop close relationships with all his colleagues.
The learning and ideas that came from our conversation helped him realize that he didn't need to "sell" the strengths initiative to the entire company all at once. Instead, he could use his marketing background, coupled with his Relator and Individualization talent themes, to devise personalized sales pitches for each of the seven team managers based on what ROI they might achieve by implementing a strengths approach.
I share this experience to help highlight three ideas that might be helpful to future clients (or to people considering becoming a strengths coach).
By Chad T. Ahern
Who hasn't heard that they are "one of a kind"? We often hear this as kids; sometimes in jest, but most often from our parents trying to get us to understand just how unique we actually are.
As we grow up it can be harder and harder to believe. We constantly hear how many companies treat their employees as interchangeable cogs. We can get beaten down by the job interview process that often robs us of opportunities to highlight our uniqueness because of robotic applicant tracking systems (ATSs).
And yet, let's look at some of the research. According to analysis done on Gallup's Clifton StrengthsFinder (CFS) assessment and model, there is a:
What I find really intriguing about the second stat is this...given the current population of the USA (approx. 324 million in 2016), it's quite likely there are only about 10 others in the entire country that share your same Top 5 Strengths in the same order.
What's even more remarkable (at least to me) is that these 10 or so people are not likely to share many demographic similarities with you. It is very easy to consider that one could be a grandfather, another a newborn boy, another a young girl headed for kindergarten.
Adding to our demographics, we each grow up in different places, develop our own stories, work in our own ways, have our own unique path through life, and outwardly manifest our Strengths differently.
Why do I mention all this?
You are unique...just as our parents told you. Yet, sometimes in the hustle and bustle of life, it's hard to remember (or even find out) who you truly are. This is where a strengths-coach can help.
In their book, "Now, Discover Your Strengths", Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton remind us, that,
"What is easy and obvious to you is amazing to others....Many of us find it hard to convince ourselves of our enduring uniqueness. Our talents come so easily to us that we acquire a false sense of security. Doesn't everyone else see the world as I do? Doesn't everyone feel a sense of impatience to get this project started? Doesn't everyone want to avoid conflict and find the common ground? Can't everyone see the obstacles lying in wait if we proceed down this path? Our talents feel so natural to us that they seem to be common sense. On some level it is quite comforting to believe that the "sense" we make of the world is 'common' to everyone."
If you're interested in (re)discovering what makes you unique, and want to figure out how to use your Strengths and Talents to live a better life, improve your engagement with your work, or enhance your relationship(s) with others, please get in touch.
And if you need one last piece of data, consider this.
The chances that you have all 34 Talent themes in the exact same order as someone else is:
1 in 2.952328 x 10^38 (that's 2.95 with 38 zeros after it.) That's more people than have existed in the history of the world.
You are truly unique. Let's discover how, and celebrate it!
With the Pittsburgh Penguins winning the Stanley Cup, the NBA Finals underway, and the Summer Olympics in Rio on the horizon I've been thinking a lot about the role coaches play in achieving success at all levels.
We are used to seeing coaches impact youth as children learn and grasp new sports. We see coaches develop high school and college athletes into top performers and (ideally) into better, all-around good people. And we see coaches continue to perfect the performance of elite athletes.
Yet, when it comes to the working world, we seem to have an aversion to those who can help us become better. The most common excuses I've come across can be loosely grouped into one of the following:
Here's the thing. Coaches don't have to be expensive. They also don't have to be lifelong investments. It is all about the level of investment you want to make in yourself. It's also about the approach you want to take with a coach.
How can a coach help you? I'm glad you asked. Adam Hickman recently posted this great piece on what a coach can do for you. Here are my three takeaways from his post:
Want to find out more about working with a local Strengths-based coach?
Contact me to discuss how we can structure some coaching that fits your goals and your budget.
Government, at all levels, often gets a bad rap as archaic when it comes to developing people and allowing them to creatively solve problems....think of waiting at the DVM on a Monday morning.
Whether it's the detailed (but limiting) job descriptions, structured organizational charts, antiquated technology, or command and control management; government does not have the same reputation for flexibility and innovation as some business sectors... think Silicon Valley.
Yet last week, I had two experiences that have given me hope that change is on the horizon. In particular, how Strengths can be used to improve government operations.
The first, was a wonderful conversation I had with Rose Gowdey. In her role as Director of the Center for Achievement in Public Service for Vermont, she's worked with her seven colleagues to train more than 300+ supervisors in Talent/Strengths-based staff development.
The second is this recent TED Talk by Haley Van Dyck (also viewable below). Here, she emphasizes the power of small, flexible teams in solving some of our national government's biggest technology problems. Even though she doesn't mention Strengths directly, her focus on utilizing people, who've developed their Strengths within other industries, is critical to her team's success. It also could serve as a blueprint for how government workers could/should be encouraged to think about their own work for the future.
Here are three takeaways:
Let's connect so we can figure out how a Strengths-based approach might improve your local governance.
How many of you can find significant differences in the employee benefits posted in a newspaper job ad? How about online? How about in employee handbooks?
Okay, maybe you don't have access to multiple employee handbooks; but when was the last time you reconsidered enhancing your company's offerings? When was the last time you asked for employee input on what's best for them?
A few weeks ago, Lauren Bell of KSV posted this great piece on exceeding expectations. A lot of what she states about customers also applies to any company or organization when it comes to their employees' expectations.
Lauren first posed these very similar questions "what do you do for your employees?" and, "what do you provide?" In the context of her post, I think she meant them as different phrasings of the same question - "how are you helping your customer?"
For employers, these must be two very different questions.
You likely provide for time-off, health/dental/vision coverage, and maybe a retirement contribution or savings plan I'd like to assume these are on top of reasonable pay and a safe working environment. Good start, but these are pieces of the employment that people already expect. It's the bare minimum.
Employees likely don't value these benefits in and of themselves. They value what those benefits allow them to do --- feed/cloth/house themselves, take a vacation, spend time with family, and stay healthy. To paraphrase Laura again..."If we work for it, it’s an expectation."
The rub comes when you start considering, "what are you doing for your employees?"
How are you...
Your employees will value things that exceed their expectations.
In a world of overwhelming choice, and a workforce keenly aware that companies like Google are re-writing the book on hiring, motivating, and developing talent, how can you exceed the expectations of your employees?
How are you exceeding your employees' expectations?
Help us all learn what we can do better by posting a comment below.
At the end of 2015, Art Woolf published this article in Burlington Free Press detailing the rise in the number of jobs and the decline in size of the labor force here in Vermont.
The rise in jobs indicates that there is a rise in the amount of work to do. You typically don’t establish a new position unless there is work for that person to do. At the same time, there are fewer people to do all the work necessary.
To solve this dilemma, I would argue there are three basic solutions:
Increase the size of the labor force. More people = adequate workforce. It’s a nice idea; unfortunately, according to this report from the Public Assets Institute, Vermont is seeing its workforce “age out,” and its efforts to attract a growing number of younger workers fail (see pages 22 and 23 in particular).
Decrease or stabilize the workload. Not ideal, but we would hopefully avoid burning-out our state’s employees & employers. This solution will likely have the undesirable effect of stagnating Vermont’s economy even further.
Become more efficient.. Vermont’s businesses, non-profits, and organizations will need to find new ways to produce more from the same population. Putting aside efficiency found by improving our tools and our surroundings, I would argue that a new age of efficiency can be found by applying the ABCD’s of Strength-Based Leadership (focus near the end of this article).
Since the first two solutions are unlikely in the immediate future, I hold onto hope that Vermont re-embraces its "New Englander, entrepenuerial, can-do", attitude to redefine what 21st century work-teams look like, how we utilize the best of people, and what it means to work and thrive in the Green Mountain State.
At its core, Talent and Teams Consulting seeks to serve those who wish to build more efficient teams and workplaces. Please get in touch if you’d like help implementing Strengths-Based Leadership at your organization.
This coming Sunday, many will have their eyes on Super Bowl 50 with the Denver Broncos battling the Carolina Panthers. Whether you watch for the game or the famed Super Bowl commercials, let me add one extra layer for you to pay attention to as it relates to utilizing Talents, Strengths, and positive teamwork.
As each team takes the field they will come with a full understanding of their depth chart.
Not only do they know how many players can play each position, they will also know the best combination of players for each game scenario based on players' unique combination of Strengths.
How? They recruit for it. They experiment, They ask their players what's working for them, and what's not. Most importantly, they help those players that want to develop new skills and ways of thinking about various situations.
So as you watch Peyton Manning or Cam Newton pick apart the defense, consider when was the last time you really took a close look at the abilities, thinking and action patterns, and innate abilities of your staff? How could you be using them more effectively in different situations?
What does your depth chart look like?
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