Do you know your own personal and professional strengths? Do you begin your work with a focus on what you are good at, or where you need improvement? When you come into a meeting or a collaboration with colleagues, is there ever a recognition that everyone brings their own unique strengths to the group?
I recently had the opportunity to re-take the Strength Finder assessment for a class. The first time I took this assessment was during my first months as a principal. I offered the book as an optional book club and about 12 staff members participated in the reading and discussion of our strengths. I still have the chart my secretary created that outlined each staff member’s strengths and where we had commonalities. Sadly, after the book club discussion, I never did much with the information.
Fast-forward five years and I am now in a doctoral program where we took the 2.0 assessment and analyzed our results (along with those of the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory and a Leadership 360 degree survey) with our classmates. After my class discussion I offered two of my work colleagues the opportunity to participate in the assessment.
We had a great conversation about our strengths, what they say about us, and how we can begin to reflect on using our strengths more within our work. While this was nice, the most interesting part of our conversation was when it led to us reflecting on both teacher collaboration meetings and teachers’ differentiating for students in classrooms.
How often do we (in our classrooms or staff meetings or PLCs) take the time to recognize individuals’ strengths? So often we run meetings (or teach lessons) in the ways in which we are most comfortable. We use strategies that highlight our learning styles and preferences and assume that everyone thinks and learns the way we do. But the reality is, there are a variety of learning preferences, strengths, personality traits, etc., that make us all different. There may very well be people with whom you collaborate every day who are uncomfortable with the way in which you run a meeting (or teach a lesson). How often do we talk about this?
I think it is important that we are explicit with our purposes and our processes. The more explicit we are with the purpose of our actions, the more likely people are to understand. This may also open the door to bigger conversations about different processes that we can try to incorporate different strengths/styles/etc. We need to be okay with that dissonance, and open to these dialogues if we have any hope to improve our professional collaborations and our instruction to support all students.
I encourage us all to come from a place of strengths while acknowledging the differences among us. What are your strengths?