Chad T. Ahern
Strengths in Government
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:
Strengths-based work and leadership has a place in government. For all of its seemingly slow moving parts and outdated practices, Strengths can bring incredible change and success for those who wish to serve the public good. Vermont joins Rhode Island as states starting to use Strengths throughout state government.
Look for Strength partnerships between staff. Part of the training Rose's team includes getting supervisors to see how two (or many) staff members may outwardly seem very different, but then find that when paired together can achieve great success. Similarly, Haley looks to couple the skills and knowledge (parts of developing a Strength) of lifelong federal employees with the skills, knowledge and talents of outside consulting IT extraordinaires. What Strengths exist in your current staff that could be brought together for super-success?
Don't make it a "flavor of the month." Strengths-based coaching and training is far more effective when applied over the long-term. The force-multiplying effect of Strength will become greater as team members have time to develop their Talents into Strengths.