Education Opinion

Promoting the Strengths of Others

By LeaderTalk Contributor — December 17, 2008 1 min read
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“At work do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?”

This is one of the 12 questions that the Gallup Organization uses to measure “strong workplaces”. We’ve all experienced those times when we were successful and enjoying our work because we’re focusing on using our strengths. Why is it that Gallup’s research shows that only 12% of workers answer “most of the time”? What would the individuals in your organization say to this question?

Years ago I read Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and the late Donald Clifton and I was hooked on this idea that we perform best by identifying our strengths and then focusing on using them as much as possible in our daily lives. Since then I’ve read Buckingham’s Go Put Your Strengths to Work and I’m in the middle of reading Your Child’s Strengths by Jenifer Fox.

As a principal, I want to know how to create an environment where teachers, students and staff members can truly use their strengths “most of the time”. It seems that lately I’ve been stuck in the improving on weaknesses model. I want to share one example of what I have done in the past few years and then I’d love to hear others’ stories.

Twice now in the past few years I have started the year by having all of the Heads of Departments complete the Clifton Strengths Finder. Each individual shares his/her strengths with the group and discusses how the strengths come into play at work. This exercise was great for our team because we opened up to each other and the emphasis was on the positive. We all saw each other in a different light and we learned to appreciate the others’ individual strengths. I then used the information to recruit individuals for various projects based on their strengths.

  • The analytical and strategic individuals participated in planning for the future.
  • The problem solver solved problems with colleagues and/or customers.
  • The positive person organized and promoted the faculty party.
  • The empathetic person provided her insight on school climate.

I have also found that it helps two very different individuals understand each other better. The individuals who are impatient for action try to understand me better when I need to be deliberate and vice versa.

What are others doing to promote strengths? I need all the help that I can get.

Blair Peterson

[cross-posted at the old LeaderTalk blog (including comments)]

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