Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Happy Strengths Wednesday!

We are so thankful for everyone who contributed as a guest blogger this year. We hope that by taking a look at each of these strengths through an individual’s lens, your eyes were opened to the diverse ways each of these talent themes manifest. I think we can often put strengths in a “box”, saying, Communication looks this way or Strategic looks that way, etc. We get stuck in this rut of talking about the strengths, rather than letting the strengths talk for themselves. This year, by allowing unique perspectives on each of the strengths, we aimed to let the strengths speak- to see how they each show up in unique ways, based on a person’s other themes, life experiences, generation, and more.

Despite being at the end of this year’s “A Look at” series, I want to encourage you to continue to allow space in your life for your strengths, and the strengths of those around you, to break out of the box you’ve put them in.  As we head into this new season, here are a few questions to ponder. Discuss them with a friend, journal them by yourself, or contemplate them in your mind.

  • What is something you have done recently that you are proud of? Which of your themes contributed to this?
  • How have each of my strengths matured over the last school year?
  • What is the best way you receive support from others?  
  • Which of your strengths could you not live without?
  • Describe a recent challenge or stressor in your life. How were your strengths a detriment to the situation? How were they an advantage?
  • Are there any of your top 5 you struggle “owning”? Why is that? What could you do to help you gain more ownership?
  • When was the last time you recognized and named a strength in someone else?

Want to dive even deeper in your strengths journey? Check out our video blog, Genn & Mille and subscribe to our YouTube channel for conversations and activities around strengths, mentoring, and generational differences.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Look at Woo

People exceptionally talented in the Woo theme love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over. They derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with someone.  

This week, our guest blogger is Dan Kingkade. Dan has been a TeamMates mentor since 2006, mentoring in both the Omaha Public and the TeamMates+ programs. In addition to being an incredible strengths advocate, Dan also is an expert trainer and has conducted mentor academies on the topics of well-being and humor. His top 5 are Maximizer, Communication, Individualization, Woo, and Self-Assurance. Here’s what Woo looks like for Dan:

I have a very clear memory from when I was in 4th grade. I had written a poem about a frog that my teacher thought was worth sharing with other classes in our school.  “Would you like to go and read your poem to the 5th and 6th grade rooms?” And I remember this part very clearly....I said, “yes, that sounds like fun”.  I had absolutely no fear about walking into a room of classmates I didn’t know and winning them over with my poem.

As a junior high student, I was often invited to parties. As one classmate said to me, “Can you bring your brother? He’s cute.  But you have a good personality and will make if fun”. And fun it was.

My 8th grade English teacher wrote on my report card that she “moved Dan’s seat because of wisecracks and side comments...he has a good mind but is going through a silly period.”

As a sophomore in high school, I boarded a bus by myself and traveled to Missouri to attend a band camp for a week. Shortly after arriving, I had met many camp mates, found a group to hang with and even had a girlfriend. This was easy.

I rarely got turned down for dates because by the time I got up enough courage to ask for the date, we were already friends and I had gotten her to like me.

So by the time I took the StrengthFinder in 1999, shortly after beginning my employment at Gallup, I was a bit surprised when a talent theme called Woo showed up in my Top 5. I had been assessed, analyzed and given a ton of feedback on who I was by then. I had even taken several talent profiles back in the late 1980’s that were developed by SRI, prior to that organization becoming Gallup. Woo was not a theme on those profiles.

But as I read through the theme definition it was eerily accurate:

Strangers are rarely intimidating to you.....Yep!
You are rarely at a loss for words....That’s me.
You derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection....Always!
There are new people to meet, new rooms to work, new crowds to mingle in.....Of course!

And like so many people, I thought that was just the way I was and had not ever considered all my schmoozing, meeting and greeting and getting people to like me as a talent. I was a people person and an extrovert, that was for certain, but now I knew more about why I was a people person and more specifically, what flavor of people person I am.

My Woo is bold, assertive and fairly intense, no doubt colored by my Self-Assurance, Communication and Individualization themes. I’ve known people whose Woo is softer and less noisy than mine.  But underneath the meet and greet aspect of Woo is a genuine desire to get people to like us. So much so that many Woo-ers will admit to working to get people to like them. If I can get you to like me, we can work better together, or have more fun, or solve the problem you have placed in front of me. When I worked as a professional counselor, I was often asked to work with individuals who were referred to counseling against their wishes and my Woo helped me get them to trust me and give the counseling a chance. When I worked in retail, I  noticed that my Woo made more effective at working with angry or unhappy customers. Not only did they not push back,  but I had a unique way of getting an angry customer to become a happy customer, or at the least, a little more agreeable.

For the last 25 years of my career, I walked into rooms of strangers nearly every day. There was always something about the possibility of all those new people that made me look forward to my work that day. The more, the better. And it didn’t matter if I was in small town Nebraska or New York City, I loved the challenge or getting to know a little bit about each person and building rapport.

For some people, Woo is perceived as phony, superficial, cheesy and insincere. Sometimes they just want us to dial it back a notch. And I can tell you that my Woo is genuine, curious, interested, and energizing. But I’ve also learned to pay attention to who I am wooing and how hard I can try to win someone over. I often will use my Individualization to  provide me with cues to help me apply my Woo more strategically. And believe me, there have been times when it told me “don’t go there”. Sometimes I’ve heeded that advice and sometimes I just couldn’t help myself.

I’m retired now but my life’s work was and continues to be meeting, getting to know and building rapport with a lot of people every day.  And making life fun for them . I’ve worked as a band director, a counselor, a coach, a public speaker and as a seminar leader. I’ve met so many people in so many places I couldn’t possibly remember them all. And this talent we call Woo was the first thing people experienced from me when we meet or when I initiated the connection.

When my time in this earth is done, I hope that people will remember me for the connections we made and the fun we had, regardless of whether our time together was brief or long lasting. What I know for sure is that the gift of Woo made this world we share a very small place.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A Look at Strategic

People exceptionally talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.    

This week, our guest blogger is Marcie Kostrunek. Marcie is the Program Coordinator for the TeamMates chapter of Cozad, Nebraska and has been a strengths champion within the chapter. Her top 5 strengths are Input, Strategic, Responsibility, Developer, and Learner. Here’s what Strategic looks like for Marcie:

To me the Strategic strength is approaching a situation and looking at it from many different angles and then coming up with the best possible solution. As a middle school teacher and a busy mom I use my Strategic strength all day long! Teaching middle schoolers involves being on your toes all the time. In our school we have a lot of students that come from poverty and broken homes so I use my Strategic strength to think of ways that we can reach out to them in unique and new ways.
My strengths are: Input, Strategic, Responsibility, Developer, & Learner. I use my Input and Learner strengths to read, research, and discover new ways to strengthen my life in many different facets. Input also helps me to categorize and organize myself. My Developer strength helps me to see the “awesome” in life. Everyone is unique and gifted in different ways and I love helping kids find out what their unique talents are.
I was very blessed because the teachers in my life have seen and encouraged my talents since I was young. A teacher I consider to be a mentor to me was my Speech and Drama coach, Mrs. Koch. She encouraged me to try new things and to reach for the stars. High school speech involved being organized and resourceful. Especially back in the old days before Google :) Mrs. Koch pushed me to try theatre as a freshman and now I help direct the middle school musicals. I believe that it is my chance to impact the lives of students in a positive and influential way, much as Mrs. Koch influenced my life.
I recently attended a Courage retreat at my school with the 7th grade class. At the end of that day everyone there was challenged to find an Act of Courage that they could do. I chose to stand at the end of the day and announce my Act of Courage for all the students to here. Why did I do this? I chose to let my students see me vulnerable as I confessed that I aimed to be a better version of myself daily. I chose to let them see that even adults need the Input and encouragement of others to achieve their dreams. I chose to be a Strategic adult and Develop new skills so that I can be a Responsible person in their lives. My strengths have blessed me in my life and I am honored to share them with my students everyday.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A Look at Significance

People exceptionally talented in the Significance theme want to be very important in the eyes of others. They are independent and want to be recognized.  

This week, our guest blogger is Teresa Hahn. Teresa’s journey with TeamMates began when she started assisting in the coordination of the program in Johnson-Brock in spring of 2015. That summer, she took on the full role of Program Coordinator. In addition, she has been mentoring since 2016. Her top 5 strengths are Arranger, Developer, Significance, Activator, and Maximizer. Here’s what Significance looks like for Teresa:

The first time I took the Gallup Strengths Survey and found out that one of my Top 5 was “Significance” I was a bit taken back and felt sad.  I do not want everyone to think that I want to seem important.  Ally and Tess, the TeamMates trainers who came to school to work with all of our mentors and mentees, assured me that significance means more about helping others to achieve what you believe is important in life. The TeamMates trainers definitely helped me to accept this Top 5 strength as a positive asset for myself.  I definitely do always need to be working towards a short-term goal to help make something work in our community.  I look at significance now as how God helps me make decisions about where to concentrate my strengths.  What is most important and why.

I probably use significance on a day-to-day basis when I plan out my week.  Each day I need to accomplish a specific goal.  Gathering new ideas is part of my daily life.  I love to plan activities or events that will form memories and impact the future. Being allowed to serve as a TeamMates coordinator has helped me to use my Significance strength because we can actually carry out projects that will help make a difference in the lives of our students.  If a plan is executed well, many people will benefit from the activity. 

My top five strengths are Maximizer, Significance, Activator, Developer, and Arranger.  My top five allow me to organize, plan, and carry out projects for TeamMates, my community, and my church.  These five strengths help me to understand myself and why I like to make things happen.

I don’t remember anyone pointing out, when I was young, that one of my strengths was Significance. I remember going to the guidance counselor and not knowing what I wanted to major in when I went to college.  I wanted to do a lot of things in the future and the guidance counselor said “Well, you have to just choose one.”  When I received my scholarship to attend college I found a professor who helped me to love business and he became my role model.  One of his quotes stays with me always “There is never room for sarcasm in the classroom.”  How true it is!  Everyone is important in their own way.

Recently, I have used my strength of significance by helping to plan two new events in the community for TeamMates.  We invited a Kansas City comedian for an evening show and hosted the Duelling Pianos. Both of these events required a great deal of time, planning, and communication.  Each of these fundraisers were very successful and were thoroughly enjoyed by the local community.  In two years, when our TeamMates mentees start receiving scholarships from our chapter, the importance of these fundraisers will be very evident, and we will be thankful for working hard to implement our goals.

 It has also taken me two years to raise $10,000 at our church to fund a new Prayer Walk using granite engraved bricks.  The memories will last forever but I really had to put myself out there to work on a project, basically with not much planning support, to make it happen.  I see it as a future fundraiser and as an important part of the future of our church.  Most people saw it as a way to spend money that was not a necessary expenditure for the church.  Significance led me to work harder and not give up on a dream.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

A Look at Self-Assurance

People exceptionally talented in the Self-Assurance theme feel confident in their ability to manage their own lives. They possess an inner compass that gives them confidence that their decisions are right.    

This week, our guest blogger is Connie Gildersleeve. Connie is the Program Coordinator for TeamMates of Holt County and has been mentoring since 2014. Connie is also a tremendous strengths advocate, being a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach and an Entrepreneur with Connie Lea Creative. Her top 5 are Futuristic, Positivity, Maximizer, Strategic, and Self-Assurance. Here’s what Self-Assurance looks like for Connie:

“With my dominant Talent Themes, I get excited & dream up big ideas on a regular basis.  My Self-Assurance doesn’t allow time for doubting IF these things are possible, because my other dominant themes are already trying to MAKE them possible!” 

We are all so use to just living our lives the best way we know how and it's easy to forget that other people don't think the same way we do. I am so grateful for Clifton Strengths which now gives me a language to explain and further understand my own behaviors.   Out of all my dominant themes (and I claim my Top 10 as all being pretty equal in my day-to-day life) I believe Self-Assurance is the hardest to put into words. 
My  Futuristic, Positivity, Maximizer, Strategic, Ideation, Activator, Adaptability and Woo are very visible and can easily be tied to specific actions throughout my day.   However, my Self-Assurance and Belief themes are more like internal guidance systems that lead me without  consciously thinking about them.

When taking a deeper dive into understanding my own strengths, I was almost embarrassed to discover in my research that others might view one of my dominant themes as “arrogant”.   Being naturally wired with Self-Assurance, I am very independent, I do like to make my own decisions and I don’t spend a lot of time wondering what others think about those decisions because my gut has already told me if it’s “right for me”.  I don’t mean for this to be disrespectful to anyone and I certainly don’t want to be seen as arrogant, this is just my natural way of moving forward.  This does not mean that decision making is always easy for those with Self-Assurance.  When faced with very difficult decisions to make, my Futuristic and Strategic kick in with a good old-fashioned Pros & Cons chart on poster board.  Sometimes this visual aid helps me to better SEE the future I want, which brings clarity to the decision making process.

One of the most valuable benefits of discovering strengths, is when you understand everyone else has their own view of the world shaped by their own dominant talent themes.  I’ve experienced my Self-Assurance being confused with Competition which is #21 for me.  If I have a different opinion than someone else, I don’t need to “win” the debate, I’m just very comfortable with my personal position on the subject. 

I believe my Self-Assurance paired with my Futuristic and/or Positivity draws me to confident people.  I love spending time with people who like to share their ideas, spread happiness and exude confidence that they can put things into action.  As a Program Coordinator for TeamMates, I am fortunate to work with a board of directors that have a positive vision for our chapter and a desire to make things happen. 

As a TeamMates mentor with Futuristic & Self-Assurance matched with a “Future Thinker” mentee with “Confidence” we have an absolute blast together imagining all the possibilities that lie ahead for us.  I know with all my heart we will be life-long friends and I can’t wait to see the places this young girl will go.   As a Program Coordinator, it makes me wonder if taking the Clifton Strengths assessment were part of the application process if it would make the matching process a bit more magical.  But my Self-Assurance is already saying no, as sometimes we need the polar opposites in our lives to help us see the world in the realistic complexity that it is. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Look at Restorative

People exceptionally talented in the Restorative theme are adept at dealing with problems. They are good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it.   

This week, our guest blogger is Christian Warneke. Christian has been a mentor in the Omaha Catholic chapter since fall of 2014. He has been a strengths-based mentor since 2016. His top 5 are Restorative, Positivity, Woo, Individualization, and Includer. Here’s what Restorative looks like for Christian:

Four words and funny YouTube videos. Sometimes four words, maybe even fewer, or a quick YouTube video, are all you need to change someone’s day. We’ll get to this later.

A favorite quote and life motto, of sorts, I’ve followed for the last decade come from Sir James M. Barrie, the playwright who brought Peter Pan to life. “Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves,” he said. This is what Restorative means to me: doing what I can to improve people’s days.

Gallup’s definition words this differently, explaining a restorative person likes to solve problems. When approached to share some thoughts on my #1 strength, the problem-solver jumped to action. Why not enlist my mentee to ease the load. I promise, his thoughts are far more interesting anyways.

Last year, my mentee, who is now a freshman in high school, and I both took our strengths assesments:


As we sat together, listening to Allyson explain the meaning behind our strengths, she issued us a challenge: use your strengths to make sure each other is using his.

I asked my mentee how he thought his strengths related to mine and how he used his on a daily basis. We agreed that dependability related most closely to restorative. My mentee noted that he’s needed to use this strength even more lately. “My grandma and sister have been sick lately. I’ve been getting my homework done and my jobs done. The past few days I’ve been doing several extra chores.” For a young man of 15, my mentee often blows me away with how insightful he can be. After mentioning taking on increased responsibilities at home, he added “to be dependable to those around you, you have to be confident in who you are and what your role is.”

As our conversation continued, I told my mentee, “The most important meaning of restorative for me is trying to make sure others are happy, and doing what I can to help make sure they are.” Our conversation, I asked my mentee how he would try to cheer me up on days he could tell I was upset or stressed. His response: “I show you funny videos.”

Looking back at this conversation now, the other four strengths in my top five make sense.

Of my remaining top four, Individualization may the most important to pair with Restorative. Every individual has their own struggles. No two are the same. Similarly, solutions will vary from person to person. There are also times when solving the problem may not be the best solution. We’ve all had those visits with our mentees during which our mentees seem down in the dumps for whatever reason, be it a poor test grade, troubles at home, or issues with other students. Our hearts break for our mentees and we want to do whatever we can to make it right. That’s not our job though. Our job is to serve as that support structure so that our mentees are in a position to tackle life’s obstacles themselves. Recently, my mentee has had a few of these days. These days cause some temporary blows to his usual confidence. From this, a new ritual has arisen. As we end our session for the week, I ask him a question using the same four words, “[Mentee], who’s the man?” After I repeat the question a few times, he replies, bashfully and humbly, “I am,” with a smile on his face.

Sometimes four words, or a cat video, have the power to improve the day for our mentees or for ourselves. Problem solved.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Look at Responsibility

People exceptionally talented in the Responsibility theme take psychological ownership over what they say they will do. They are committed to stable values such as honesty and loyalty. 

This week, our guest blogger is Christy Scott. Christy Scott is a mentor and the Co-Coordinator of the TeamMates chapter of Waverly-District 145 in Nebraska. Her primary role in the district is as a High School Match teacher. Her top 5 strengths are Responsibility, Harmony, Communication, Relator, and Focus. Here’s what Responsibility looks like for Christy:

When I wear my teacher, coach, or coordinator hat, my Responsibility drives me to create a plan, stay organized, and prioritize in order to get “it” done.   When I wear my mom, wife, or friend hat, being responsible makes me reliable and dependable to family and friends.  While I lead with Responsibility, it is usually never alone.  Communication and Focus help me to keep my Responsibility in high gear. 

My Responsibility rarely hides on a day to day basis.  At school, I am responsible for educating and encouraging students every day.  I teach 3 different courses and have to keep up on my lesson plans and be ready to adapt in order to meet students’ needs.  I feel like my responsibility to 3 young children at home is even greater than the 100+ students I teach.  Getting them fed, off to activities, making sure homework is done, and getting in some family time definitely requires a plan and some prioritizing.

I just started my mentoring journey a couple of months ago, but have been a part of the TeamMates chapter in our district from the beginning as a co-coordinator.  Responsibility and Communication go hand in hand as we train, interview, and schedule all the matches.  Understanding my strengths allows me to recognize when I can go full speed and when I need to hold back and gain other perspectives or seek help and other ideas. 

My top 5 are Responsibility, Harmony, Communication, Relator, and Focus.  While it is beneficial to understand how these all work together to help me shine, I think it has been more powerful for me to take a step back and realize the lead strengths of those who I work with.  It helps me to understand others and allows for a stronger, more successful team when we recognize how all the strengths work together. 

I think teachers and coaches recognized Responsibility in me at a young age.  I was one of the students the teachers would ask to run an errand or to help out.   I was called a “teacher’s pet” and, of course, that upset me.  I wasn’t asking for the extra attention, but looking back, I can say that it was my Responsibility standing out. 

As a reflected on this strength and collected thoughts to write this blog, I thought, “How boring!”  But I can own Responsibility since it is what propels me to be a successful mother, wife, teacher, coach, and friend.  And stories and memories that come from those paths of life are anything but boring!