Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Strengths Explorer: Organizer

Scheduling, planning, and organizing your world makes life better. People count on you to get the details right and pull a plan together.
Clifton Strengths Explorer

Students with the Strengths Explorer theme of Organizer like structure. They function best when the world around the is predictable and ordered. They appreciate plans by knowing the what and when of something going on. Gallup writes, “planning makes you comfortable and calm about what you are doing. It is fun to think ahead, organize, and include all that you want to do in your plan so you don’t leave anything out. You like to think about both the big ideas and details.”

The following picture was drawn by a TeamMates mentee about her organizer. She explained that her Organizer functions in many places, including her room, backpack, school work, locker, and even her friendships. For those with Organizer, all areas of life are better with order, including their physical belongings, thoughts in their head, and relationships with others. This mentee, describing the theme perfectly wrote, “with organization comes empowerment.”

35.5% of our mentees who have taken Strengths Explorer have Organizer in their Top 3 strengths. To honor your mentee with high Organizer, consider planning out your mentoring times for the month or even the semester ahead. Think of things your mentee wants to do and create a “mentoring calendar.” They will appreciate knowing what to expect each week going into your mentoring time, along with delighting in the process of planning ahead of time. This will also allow you to maximize your mentoring minutes, because less time is spent thinking of something to do and more time doing it. While doing your craft or playing your game, cater conversation around your student’s theme; ask what they like to organize. If it’s their closet, ask how they organize it- is it by type of clothing or color coding? If it’s their books, is it alphabetical by title or author, or in genres? Although this type of conversation may seem dull or silly to you, your Organizer mentee will appreciate this discussion; they likely have never had an adult in their life ask questions about their process of organizing. Doing so, will open conversation, build trust, and develop your mentee’s strength.


If you are interesting in guest blogging about one of your Top 5 StrengthsFinder themes this school year, please email Tess at

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Strengths Explorer: Future Thinker

Your mind loves to think and dream about the future. You are a person who thinks about what is possible, not what is impossible.
Clifton Strengths Explorer

For youth with Future Thinker, the future is full of possibilities. They love to dream, create, and brainstorm. Most find thinking about the future monumentally more exciting than thinking about the present. Gallup writes, “your visions of the future might be bigger than most people’s because thinking big is one of your talents.” Future Thinkers don’t just think about the future for fun, they enjoy doing so in order to find meaning. They are naturally oriented to look for meaning and purpose in what they do. Gallup explains, “You like to think about the important things in life, what they mean, and how they are connected to reach other.”

At our strengths day in McCook, Nebraska this year, I had the opportunity to sit down with a young woman and explain her strengths to her. During our discussion she mentioned that she has a hard time concentrating in class. I asked why that was, and she said that her mind wanders to her cupcake store. So I asked naively, you own a cupcake store?! She replied, “I will.” She went on to explain what it will look like, the colors of the walls, and the flavors she will sell. You see she led with Future Thinker, so to this young lady, the future of owning a cupcake store was so much more fascinating and exciting than anything she was learning in the classroom.

31.5% of our TeamMates mentees have Future Thinker in their Top 3 SE themes. In research conducted with Gallup using the Gallup student poll, our mentees have higher levels of hope. Hope is the energy and excitement we have about the future. The reason our mentees have higher hope is because they have something consistent to look forward to each week-their mentor coming to visit. By just showing up in a consistent regular way, you are building on your mentee’s hopefulness. And if your mentee has the Future Thinker theme, by just showing up, you are implicitly sending them the message that their dreams matter and can one day come to fruition. Even if their dreams about the future seems highly unlikely, even if they pester you with questions about life that you haven’t discovered the answer to, and even if they seem inattentive as their mind wanders to their future cupcake shop, show up anyway.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Strengths Explorer: Discoverer

A thinker, a learner, you are excited about exploring ideas and making connections. You like to ask the questions “How?” and “Why?”
Clifton Strengths Explorer

Students with the Discoverer theme have a natural curiosity. They like to ask questions and seek answers. They love to learn. This learning may be best inside a classroom or out in the dirt. They are passionate and can often get fixated on one topic or subject in their quest for answers. Gallup puts it this way, “It is fun to be an expert, and when you find a subject or idea you like, you can spend a lot of time exploring it.”

Gallup writes about students with Discoverer, “You might be bored doing things the same way everyone else does because you like to find new ways.” Because of this, students will Discoverer might not seem like great “students.” They may challenge the rules, be disengaged in the classroom, and not even get good grades. One mentee we met this last year who had Discoverer in his SE themes drew this picture. He described in this image, he is on his own discovering a new island no one new existed. He said his favorite place to learn was outside and his least favorite place was inside. He is a curious kid and wants to know more about the world. Where a teacher may not have the time and space to allow this curiosity to run rampant in class, we as mentors get the awesome privilege of allowing our mentees to be exactly who they are during our mentoring time. If that means going outside and looking for bugs on the school property for an hour, there’s no place I would rather be.

If your mentee is one of the 25% of TeamMates mentees with Discoverer in their Top 3 SE Themes, they are learning all the time; but asking them “what are you learning?” may be perceived by your mentee as, “tell me about your homework.” Instead, reframe your conversation by asking, “what is your favorite new idea of the week?” Ask your mentee, “who is your favorite person to ask questions? What does he or she know about?” You might find more about what gives your mentee passion by learning with whom they’re discussing their curiosity. Finally, we always love to support any use of “nexting” or “futurecasting” with our mentees, because hope is such a powerful indicator of successful youth. Ask your curious mentee, “what is something you want to learn more about?” Then discuss whether or not that’s something you could learn about together. Remember, youth with Discoverer never stop asking questions, regardless of whether they are voicing those questions aloud. Allow your mentoring time to be a place where those questions can run free; you’ll find yourself learning and growing right alongside of your mentee.


If you are interesting in guest blogging about one of your top 5 strengths for our 2017-2018 StrengthsQuest blog series, email Tess at 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Reflection & Future Casting

We have had an incredible last two weeks, learning from global leaders in the strengths revolution at CliftonStrengths Summit.#CSS2017. We then got to spend a whole day with our TeamMates strengths leaders in the strengths based mentoring revolution. Boy, are we blessed. Ally and I want to thank you all for the incredible work you are doing in your community and mentoring relationship to ensure we get all people to see each other through what is uniquely right about us.Your ideas, thoughts, and time shared with us give us so much hope. Dr. Shane Lopez taught us that hope is just the excitement and energy we have about the future. We sure are excited and we are so looking forward to travelling to your communities to assist you in your strengths implementation for the coming school year.

If you haven't yet seen the wonderful video Hannah made about our TeamMates Strengths Day at Gallup, please check it out here.

We did a Genn and Millie recap of the Clifton Strengths Summit, found here.

You can find our recap of TeamMates Strengths Day on our most recent episode of Genn and Mille found here.

To futurecast, a bit, I wanted to let you all know of the plans we have for the blog this coming year. We will continue to go through the Strengths Explorer themes in the next few weeks. Then this fall, we will be revisiting each of the 34 CliftonStrengths for Students themes, in alphabetical order. And, we are looking for guest bloggers! Guest Bloggers are individuals who love strengths- that's YOU! You do not have to be a strengths or TeamMates expert to be featured. We are just looking for people who want to share their strengths story [and really, who doesn't?]. We would love for you to share about a strength in your top 5, what it looks like for you as a person, what it looks like for you as a mentor, and maybe a story of that strength in action. If you remember earlier this year, Steph Pravecek, our events coordinator did a guest blogging piece on her Achiever. If you would like to be featured as a guest blogger, write up a bit about one of your strengths, like Steph did, and send it to Tess at

Thank you for a wonderful summer full of learning! We are looking forward to lots more in the coming school year!


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Strengths Explorer: Dependability

You can count on me!

If your mentee or a young person you know leads with the strength of dependability, they may describe the joy in being counted on like this:

Trust is important to you, and you care about being seen as responsible and trustworthy. People count on you to do what you say you will do. When you make a promise, you mean to keep it. You like being chosen to be in charge of getting something done because you know it means others see you as dependable and trustworthy. Sometimes, being asked to do more is like getting a reward because it means people believe in you. Maybe you have special chores or responsibilities at home or at school. Whatever job you are given, you want to get it done. Some people might say you act older than other kids your age because you are so responsible. You can be a good example to other people. Earning the praise of teachers and parents for getting things done and doing what is right feels good to you. People count on you to do what you say you will do.

Dependability seems a lot like the StrengthsQuest themes of Responsibility and Relator in my mind. When we can strengths spot this gift in a young person and highlight the ways that they can be counted on, this talent is likely going to bloom into a strength they can use throughout their life.

My son Shaun had dependability in his StrengthsExplorer top three themes. As parents, we have relied on this strength as he helps out siblings, neighbors, and friends. When asked to complete a task for school or a team or organization, Shaun takes that request seriously and does not like to let others down. He has grown into the mature version of this strength in the way that he manages his studies, college planning, extra-curricular activities and work schedule.

I’ve been able to witness this strength in action when it comes to his role as a brother.  Even his older sister knows that she can count on him to be there, to keep his promises, and to enjoy being known as a person who can be trusted.

This week, look for this strength in your neighborhood and thank the young person who is helping take care of their family, their friends, their pets, their community.

I always think of this strength when I hear this song by Bruno Mars.  Give it a listen!


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Strengths Explorer: Confidence

If your mentee leads with the strength of Confidence, you may notice a sense of self-assurance that can be described like this:

You believe in yourself and what you can do. This helps you take on challenges because you feel sure you can succeed. Because you are confident, you are able to do things that others may not want to try. Knowing that you are a unique and special person in the world gives you the power to be who you are. You don’t have to be like everybody else, and you don’t have to follow the crowd. Even when you don’t feel it, other people may see you as brave because you will speak up even if no one else will. You are sure enough of your opinions that you will take a stand for them. It is great to believe in what you can do because this belief helps you do more in your life.

Students who naturally possess confidence tend to have a sense of certainty in their choices and decisions, as well as a strong understanding of self.  I believe that self-awareness is tremendously underrated, and that goes for self-assurance as well – believing in and trusting yourself is a gift!  Students with this strength tend to be willing to share that strong belief in possibilities with others, as well as their opinion, even if it differs from the crowd.

A former mentee shared sometimes this strength could be seen as being tough or strong-willed.  She described it as her way of just knowing the way to go or the way to do things, “I just know how to do it the right way.”  I admit I have a bit of strengths envy for this powerful certainty in herself and the path ahead.  This theme shines light on the value of knowing, and being proud of, your unique awesome self, just as Jessica does in this video:


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Strengths Explorer: Competing

If your mentee or a student that you know has the strength of Competing in their top 3 – they might describe themselves like this:
You see many things in life as a game, and you feel great joy when you win. You truly hate to lose because you are always striving for first place. Every day you compete. Winning first place is your goal in any contest that you feel is worth your time. If there is no one to compete against, you compete against yourself to do more or accomplish a goal faster or better. You can be competing against someone else even when that person doesn’t know it. Because you hate to lose, you might get angry, upset, or even cry. It does not matter if others think the contest is important. If you are doing it, you want to be number one. Others look to you for the motivation to win.

As a mom, I am quite familiar with this strength as my son Shaun was born with it.  When he took Strengths Explorer as a 5th grader, Competing was his top strength and when he took StrengthsQuest as a freshman in high school, Competition is his number one strength.  I believe we first recognized this strength in Shaun as a toddler when he wanted to win games of “Duck Duck Goose” at daycare.  Often our evening dinnertime conversation included the best part of his day which was, consistently, “Winning”.

That continues to be the best part of Shaun’s day – when he has the opportunity to compete, and even better, when he wins.  I have watched this strength develop over the years through his self -awareness in different sports, activities, even academics.  I’ve also been fortunate to witness many mentors and positive adults in his life honoring and encouraging that strength’s development.

When Shaun broke his wrist during his last year of youth football league, he was devastated; inconsolable really.  I was struggling to find ways to cheer him up or give him something to look forward to – his joy was in that football game, he was honored to be a team captain, and plain angry that an accident had taken the season from him.

We were lucky.  Shaun had incredible coaches who not only recognized and understood how hard this was on him, but they honored his competing strength by asking him to be an assistant coach.  He could help call plays from the sidelines, shout encouragement to his teammates, and be involved right there at each game.  Shaun did not miss a practice, even with his hand in a cast – he worked out with the team and was proud of their season. 

We encouraged other competitions at home – could he make his bed faster than his sister, even with a cast on his arm?  Could he get a better grade on a spelling test than he did the previous week?   Competing doesn’t always mean competing with others, it also is a competition with yourself.  We saw that part of Shaun shine – his grades went up, and he loved daily games with his sister, and beating his mom at scrabble on a regular basis.

Sometimes Competing gets a bad rap, assuming it’s a “WIN OR NOTHING!” attitude or a desire to take others down to have the win, or win at all costs.  It’s a driving motivator for my son, and many other students who lead with this strength.  It’s been a growth mindset tool, because students with competition understand that losses do happen.  It helps us all be better than we were yesterday, and learn the importance of being a team player.