What is right about me? What is right about the people on my team?
These are the questions that led to a very energetic conversation during the three day leadership development program I just finished facilitating with a group of higher education leaders. We were discussing the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment and their individual strengths profiles. (Rath, Tom. StrengthsFinder 2.0. Gallop Press. 2007.) The work of Donald Clifton and Tom Rath encourages us to embrace our strengths and use our natural talents to enhance our leadership by focusing on “what is right about me!” I was struck, once again, by how passionate and enthused the 34 leaders got when I asked them to share stories about their strengths, about what is “right about them?” The conversations were full of laughter, vigorous head nodding and an authentic sense of pride and satisfaction.
Their conversations were a reminder to me of how powerful a small shift in perspective can be as I work to be the best leader I can be. From my experience, and the stories I hear from leaders, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the challenges we face in higher education. I can feel stuck and unable to work effectively with those around me who are also feeling overwhelmed. Yet I know when I rely on my strengths and ask myself, “how can I use my strength of individualization (the ability to identify unique attributes in others) to solve a problem with a course I am developing or a program I will be facilitating,” I have much more energy to tackle the challenge and I am more likely to come up with an effective solution.
This small but purposeful shift in perspective when working with others also makes a big difference in my leadership. I find that when I specifically start interactions with colleagues by asking myself, “what is right about this person?” or “what unique attribute or experience or information makes them successful?,” I am more open to new ideas and better able to move beyond the frustration I feel when things don’t go the way I expected!
Next time you feel stuck or overwhelmed, stay energized by asking, “What is right about me and what is right about the people on my team?”