Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ideation: Thinking Outside the Box



People exceptionally talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.
Clifton StrengthsFinder

People with high Ideation are what the world might naturally describe as “creative.” These individuals have a knack for coming up with fresh, new, and original ideas. These ideas often come from being able to see situations from a new perspective and connect the dots. They thrive in brain storming sessions and are often a valuable part of a team that is “stuck in a rut.” They receive a lot of energy and excitement when they are in a space which allows the free flow of ideas from their brain. They are often described as people who “think outside the box,” being forerunners and innovators that come up with brand new routes that haven’t been taken before. Although Ideation manifests in situational settings, it may also manifest in an individual’s life through their love of art, music, or writing.  

Those with high Ideation are idea generators, but these ideas often do not have value associated with them, meaning one idea isn’t judged as better than another. Rather, their ideas are often given in bulk. Sometimes the individual may have other themes that “sort” these ideas, like Maximizer, Strategic, or Restorative, which naturally work in tandem with their ideas to decide which is the best for the given situation. On the other hand, some individuals may need great thinking partners who can help them sort through their ideas with them, in order to discern which option is best. Pure Ideation itself does not necessarily give value to the ideas, so theme dynamics [another theme in the individual] and/or complimentary partnerships [another person with differing themes] are necessary for implementation.   

15.9% of our mentees and 8.1% of our mentors have Ideation in their Top 5 talent themes. If you or your mentee has Ideation in your Top 5, honor that strength by allowing your mentoring time to be a place in each other’s lives where your ideas can flow. Think outside the box about new activity ideas you can do together. During this brainstorm, write down all your ideas. Then talk through each one and decide if it’s possible to do. Then, consider charting a timeline and deciding when it would be best to do each activity. By giving space for Ideation to flow freely, even during your mentoring time, you will be growing and honor the strengths of your mentee.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Belief: Reliable & Enduring



People exceptionally talented in the Belief theme have certain core values that are unchanging. Out of thee values emerges a defined purpose for their lives.
Clifton StrengthsFinder

People high in Belief have unchanging values. The specific values are dependent on the individual themselves, but in each case, they frame how that individual acts, thinks, and decides. People with Belief may not necessarily be religious or spiritual people, but their values shape their lives. Because their values are unchanging, people see those with Belief as reliable and enduring. Their values help bring purpose and focus to even the most menial of work.

These values give passion and drive to individuals, allowing them boundless energy around the non-negotiables. In my coaching course, I met a preacher from Tennessee named Rodney. He has high Belief and detailed to me a story of a young kid in his church. This boy’s dad had an unhealthy control over him and was preventing him from going to school. When Rodney found out, he gathered others in his congregation and spent the next two weeks working on a detailed plan to remove him from the home and relocate him to allow him opportunity for education. Rodney said that he could not even sit in meetings, sit down for dinner, or spend time in casual conversation because his mind was so focused on the welfare of this young boy. Rodney’s values of education and caring for the next generation were so strong that they overcame his own basic needs as a human. His Belief gave him boundless energy to care for this child. 




11.8% of our mentees and 21.9% of our mentors have Belief in their Top 5. Regardless of whether you have Belief in your Top 5, consider framing conversation around your values as individuals. There is an activity idea I would like to share with you that revolves around how our strengths and values relate to one another, something that someone with Belief will be able to explain well. The exercise, entitled “Maximizing Your Values” utilizes Gallup’s value cards. They can be purchased here at the Gallup store for $4, or you can create your own using paper and a list of values like this one. First, divide the values in two piles; those values that are “core” values [ones that define you without question] and those that are “negotiable” [not at all or somewhat important to you].  Then, with your core values pile, narrow the list down to your top 5 values, in no particular order. Then, with your top 5 values in front of you, journal to yourself [as I did below] or talk aloud to each other, asking the question, “How do my signature strengths themes influence or activate my core values?” Your values and your mentee’s values will be different, ensure you do not place judgement on their core values, but instead open the way for honest conversation about how your values shape who you each are. By having conversation about what matters most to us, you and your mentee will be able to pull away for just a bit from the busyness of life, to see your greater purpose.





Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Responsibility: Follow-Through



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

People with high Responsibility have a strong sense of ownership over the tasks that are given to them. If some duty is assigned to them, the will 100% follow-through with it. As a result, these individuals are seen as very dependable and trustworthy. They will do everything in their power to bring a task or project to completion. If they are not the ones to see it through the end, they check in with the person who is going to finish it to ensure it comes to completion. Therefore, people will naturally look to these individuals when they have things to delegate, because they know those with Responsibility will finish what they start.

The internal motivation for this follow through is not to complete projects, like it is for someone with Achiever, but rather, it is because their word, rapport, and often relationships are tied to following through. Gallup explains this in the long definition of Responsibility, writing, “If for some reasons you cannot deliver, you automatically start to look for ways to make it up to that person. Apologizes are not enough. Excuses and rationalizations are totally unacceptable. You will not quite be able to live with yourself until you have made restitution.” This expanded definition may seem harsh or even borderline obsessive, but in reality, these feelings comes from a place of strong ethics and morals. Although all strengths can slip into a negative basement, those high in Responsibility, at their core, and driven by the desire to fulfill their promises, because of their irrefutable ethical foundation.

17.6% of TeamMates mentees and 38.31% of TeamMates mentors have Responsibility in their Top 5. If you are a mentor with Responsibility in your Top 5, you likely do not miss match meetings regularly but if you do, you ensure you make up for it. You take it upon yourself to guarantee your mentee has access to all the resources available through TeamMates, like college preparation information and scholarships. In new mentor training, we use the term “promise keeper” to describe our mentors. Mentors keep their promises, they follow-through on what they say they will do and when they say they will be there. As a mentor with high Responsibility, this is naturally how you live your life. It would not make sense to you to do otherwise. However, we also know that those with Responsibility like to take on more than they might be able to handle in a healthy way. Stay encouraged that as a mentor, you have a team of support behind you in your journey; your local building and program coordinators, other mentors, school staff, and TeamMates staff are all here to help you continue to instill hope in a young person’s life.  


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Discipline: The Planned Life is the Best Life

People exceptionally talented in the Discipline theme enjoy routine and structure. Their world is best described by the order they create.
Clifton StrengthsFinder



People high in Discipline like structure and order; they thrive in an environment where they know what is to come and what is expected of them. Their meticulousness with details and order makes them highly productive individuals. They follow through on things because each step is planned. Because of this, those with Discipline are seen as stable and reliable individuals.

Every once in a while, we like to share a story of a real person who knows and owns their strengths. This week, I would like to share a bit about my mom, Erika. This fall, after years of my own personal discovery, I worked with my family to discover their strengths. My mom, not at all to my surprise, led with #1 of Discipline, followed by Relator, Analytical, Responsibility, and Achiever.

Monthly Meal Plan
My mom is meticulous in planning out life. There’s a small desk in my parent’s home. At which, every Sunday afternoon, my mom sits down, opens the cookbooks, and plans the meals for the week. Then, she moves onto balancing the checkbook. And then she moves to another desk, downstairs to work on her planner. Yes- work on her planner. Always being a scrap-booker and stamper, my mom quickly jumped on the Happy Planner/Erin Condren planner train. Each week, she spends countless hours stamping, measuring, and placing stickers in the perfect way to beautify her planner. Then, throughout the week, she will chart the weather as it occurs, record her workouts and health measurements, and check off her to-dos (as any Achiever would). 


Planner Layout
Planner Layout 2
When I was growing up and experiencing this, I would laugh, finding it so funny how much time she would waste on these activities. For me, it seemed weird that she was planning out life, when she could be using that time to live it.  After reflecting on my own strengths (Discipline is my #34-dead last), and learning hers, I realize that this is my mom at her best. She thrives by having this set aside time to plan and orient herself to the coming week. Every time she goes out of town for something, she always takes an extra day off of work when she comes back to have this time to reorient to life.


It isn’t weird, it isn’t off-putting, it isn’t wasting time at all; it is Erika at her best. By naming strengths and relating to people through a strengths lens, we see differences as positive uniqueness. When I facetime my mom each week, instead of rolling my eyes when she shows me a new stamp for her planner or a new layout, I find I am genuinely interested in what she has to share. And it sure isn’t because of a new-found fascination with stamping, but it is because I love my mom and although these things can see trivial to me, they matter to her.  

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Harmony: Seeing Both Sides

People exceptionally talented in the Harmony theme look for consensus. The don’t enjoy conflict; rather, they see areas of agreement.
Clifton StrengthsFinder

Harmony is one of the most misunderstood strengths. Because of its name, people may think of Harmony as a state of being full of peace, love, and flowers. In reality, Harmony is all about your relation to others, not your state of being. People with Harmony have the unique talent of seeing both sides of any story. They are able to put themselves easily into someone else’s shoes in order look at all situations. Unlike someone with Empathy who may do this same thing to feel what others feel, or someone with Individualization who may do this to understand how someone ticks, those with Harmony do this to seek consensus. By seeing all sides of a situation, those with Harmony can easily see what is in agreement among people with the goal of working towards that.

One of the common ways to describe people with Harmony is they don’t like conflict. This often can be construed in a negative way, giving someone a label like “pushover.” Gallup contrasts the development of all strengths using the imagery of “raw” and “mature.” Someone with raw Harmony may look this way; they may be so uncomfortable with conflict that they run from it and turn to
tactics of gossip or avoidance. However, growing and maturing Harmony looks very different. Often people with mature Harmony are the ones you see having the most difficult conversations. Although this may seem counterintuitive, in reality, those with mature Harmony see conflict as opportunity for consensus. They have strong discernment between necessary and unnecessary conflict. They do not shy away from the necessary conflict but take continuous steps to work through it.

9.3% of our mentees and 26.3% of our mentors have Harmony in their Top 5. If you have Harmony in your top 5, you naturally avoid controversial conversation topics. Steer your conversation with your mentee to places in which you both share common interests. However, also be cognizant and mindful of times where hard conversations, done in love, are necessary. Frame your conversation around your strengths by giving examples of a friendship or relationship that you helped work through conflict. Because of the difficulty in understanding this theme, by giving a real-life example of your Harmony, your mentee will be able to gain greater awareness of its power. In addition, because of your natural talent to collaborate well with people, consider how attending a renewal training session, going to a mentor meet up, or attending a fundraiser will enhance your mentoring relationship. By attending one of these events, you will be able to share and exchange information with other mentors, consequently gaining greater confidence and appreciation in your mentoring relationship.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Intellection: The Crock-Pot Thinker



People exceptionally talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussion.
Clifton StrengthsFinder

People with high Intellection like to think- think deeply and thoroughly. While some people may come to a quick conclusion, people with Intellection muse through all the processes and elements before coming to a conclusion. If we were to describe this in terms of kitchen appliances, people with high Intellection would be the crock pot; their thoughts need time to stew, soak, and combined before anything is verbalized or catalyzed. As a result, those with Intellection may often be seen as introverted or less open about their thoughts and opinions; this is not because those with Intellection aren’t “people” people, but rather, they naturally are introspective, and process life internally.

For those with high Intellection, their brain never has down time. They are constantly thinking and mulling over things, whether or not they are verbally processing. Their thinking is not discriminatory, and happens at any time, day or night, work time, or sleep time. Not only do people with Intellection think deeply, they also enjoy intellectual discussions. They gravitate towards people, that are able to keep up with their enlightened and even scholarly way of thinking. The content of these discussions are based on the individual’s own passions, interests, and other strengths.

If you have Intellection in your top 5, you have likely already mused about your mentoring relationship and the impact you are making. Take one more step back from that context and see how your Intellection talent, specifically, impacts your mentoring relationship. Consider talking through the follow questions from TeamMates Strengths & Hope Cards with your mentee to help them understand your thinking process:
  • What have you been thinking about? Are you able to reserve time each week to think? How?
  • What big ideas would you like to think about or discuss?
  • Which class or activity stimulates your thinking?
  • What/Whom do you find intellectually stimulating?



Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Achiever: Fulfillment from Accomplishment



People exceptionally talented in the Achiever theme work hard and possess a great deal of stamina. They take immense satisfaction in being busy and productive.
Clifton StrengthsFinder

We are excited to hear from Stephanie Pravecek about Achiever this week. Steph is the Events Coordinator for TeamMates and leads with Achiever, Responsibility, Discipline, Consistency, and Relator.

People with high Achiever are hard workers, list makers, and doers. It is very difficult for Achievers to take a break when there is a task at hand that needs to be completed.  Once one task is complete it is on to the next and then the next. Achievers set out each day to accomplish at least one task but, there is much more fulfillment when multiple things are crossed off the “to-do” list for the day. This does include weekends and vacations, as REST or RELAX are not words you often hear in the vocabulary of an Achiever.

As a guest blogger this week, I am going to put more of a personal tone to this piece, as Achiever is my number one strength. Making list and being able to cross things off is the most satisfying thing that I do every day. This is something that I have done for as long as I can remember. In my assignment notebooks, there would be a list of what I need to get done for not only school, but chores, goals, and even little reminders. Even on the weekends I will create a list of what needs to get done; whether it is on a sticky note, in a notebook, or on the back on an envelope, some kind of list is made. Gallup states that Achievers don’t rest and I can attest to that it is very true! Achievers strive for a challenge and push themselves as far as they can go. This could be in the classroom, in a career, in relationships, as an athlete, household chores; wherever a goal can be set, Achievers will try to go to the next level.

People say the reward for hard is more work. As an Achiever, it is important to remember that you don’t have to be a super hero and get everything done. At times I feel like a super human or an energizer bunny that keeps going and going. I need to remind myself from time to time that it is okay to say no to someone and it is okay to ask for help. Hopefully other Achievers out there can relate or have figured it out early on to rest, relax, say no, and ask for help.

Other strengths that help my Achiever shine are Responsibility, Consistency, and Focus.  The blend of Achiever and Responsibility ensure that when I say I am going to do something, I get it done in the time frame that is required or even ahead of schedule. Consistency is me making a daily list and using repetitive habits that work well to achieve the task at hand. Focus helps me zero in and block out the noise to attack what I need to get done. There are times when I am zeroed in and I don’t realize what time it is or that I have yet to eat.

Achiever is one of the most popular strengths not only in TeamMates, but within Gallup Strengths itself. I hope for anyone with Achiever can find some relativity in this and if it’s in your top five, then I helped give some insight from an Achiever. (See Achievers are always trying to achieve J) Thank you for reading as myself and the rest of TeamMates greatly appreciates you.

Take Care!

~Steph