Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Look at Arranger

People exceptionally talented in the Arranger theme can organize, but they also have a flexibility that complements this ability. They like to determine how all of the pieces and resources can be arranged for maximum productivity.

This week, our guest blogger is Sue Kennedy. Sue is the Regional Coordinator for the northern region of our organization. Sue’s top 5 Strengths are Positivity, Includer, Woo, Arranger, and Futuristic. Here is what Arranger looks like for Sue:

                The executing theme of ARRANGER is number four of my top five.  Before learning more about ARRANGER I really thought this theme was COMPETITION.   At my best when dealing with multiple things , and living in the moment, is when I’m most productive!

As a child growing up on a ranch I worked along side my Dad who had an incredibly GREAT work ethic.  There was a driving force when we worked together, call it a relationship,  call it ARRANGER…that I couldn’t explain. Being one of six children, we were a mighty work force.   On the ranch there were different seasons of work, summer was haying season.   It would take from late-June to mid-September to be done with this season.  We managed a cow/calf operation, raised quarter horses & thoroughbreds, chickens, goats, milked cows and had horse and calf chores in the morning and at night.  Along with that I played all sports, was a good student, showed calves & horses in 4-H, involved in music, church youth group, student council, etc.  This was us…this was chaos but wonderful!  On the ranch when something unexpected would happen we dealt with it as it came.   We did our best to keep everything moving along while being flexible and doing everything possible to get back to task at hand.  A juggling act?  You betcha! It took a “great team” to make this happen.  From what was instilled in me in my youth, I do my best to model this same work ethic and so appreciate it, and look for it in people around me. 

I lead with POSITIVITY and use it daily.  I can always “find the good” in a person or a given situation.  INCLUDER, for me, works well as I’m working with boards and making sure each member knows their role and how we need to serve them to engage them.  I recognize WOO AND FUTURISTIC frequently at site visits and strategic planning.  With my Futuristic I can see them carrying out the plans made in the meeting.  It is the strength of the ARRANGER in me that helps me to figure out the best way to get things done.  A quote from a Theme Thursday call:   "Arranger has the ability to hold a dozen ping pong balls under water at the same time."
I love that every day is different!

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Look at Analytical

People exceptionally talented in the Analytical theme search for reasons and causes. They have the ability to think about all the factors that might affect a situation.

This week, our guest blogger is Brian Klintworth. Brian is a mentor in Lincoln Public Schools. He also gives his time and expertise as a trainer for financial literacy mentor academies. Brian’s top 5 Strengths are Achiever, Discipline, Learner, Analytical, and Relator. Here is what Analytical looks like for Brian:

I want you to think back to when you were in middle or high school and you gave thought to what you wanted to be when you “grew up”.  And then, I want you to compare what you wanted to be back then to what you are now.  My guess is that the career path that you ended up choosing is somewhat different.  As you got older, you found a better way to hone your strengths and determine what you were best suited to.  When I got asked in middle school what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was always that I wanted to be a tax accountant.  Yes, you read that correctly.  A TAX ACCOUNTANT in MIDDLE SCHOOL.  And now, tax accounting is exactly what I am doing. 

When I look back as to what steered me towards this career, I have no doubt that my Analytical strength played a role in this.  Through my analytical strength, I like to dig down and explore ideas and theories.  I do not just want a plan; I want a detailed guide that considers obstacles and other items not considered.  As I started thinking about what I wanted to do at a young age, I used my analytical strength to change my mind and focus on a new career.  And now, I am doing something every day that is the perfect fit for me and I just love!  Prior to wanting to be an accountant, I really wanted to be a farmer.  I grew up living in the country, would go out harvesting with some family friends, had visited John Deere’s headquarters at least a half dozen times, and even had a bedroom decorated in John Deere.  My plan was to become a farmer right here in Nebraska.  And then, middle school me started doing some thinking.  I began to think about the cost of farmland, whether it was rented or purchased, and the cost of equipment.  I realized that my family’s six acre field and somewhat large lawn tractor would not get me very far in my pursuit.  Plus, I realized I liked wearing suits on a regular basis, which didn’t make sense for a farmer outside of a 1960’s TV show. 

As I started to try and decide what a better career path might be, I started thinking about the ways that I had been financially analyzing the drawbacks to trying to start a farm.  I realized that much of what I did was analyzing numbers without even thinking about it.  I then started thinking about the businesses that my family ran growing up, and I began to understand that I could help businesses just like that as an accountant.  I put the pencil to paper and determined that accounting was the perfect career for me.  So, while I may have been young when I decided on my career, having my analytical strength to guide me ensured that I made the right decision.

I must admit, as well, that I have to give my parents at least some of the credit for being an accountant.  After all, they did both meet as tax accountants.  And, I know that the way I act cannot be fully my fault.  Take this drawing I did in kindergarten.  It’s of an elephant.  And frankly, it is a much better elephant that I could ever draw today.  But also, take a look at the story that I wrote for the elephant.  “And then it went on line to”  Ameritrade is an online brokerage house where you can buy stock…I was five years old at the time.  So, I guess my analytical strength cannot take ALL of the credit for pushing me to where I am today.  Back when I was in middle school, I didn’t know what my strengths were.  But, as I look back on who I was back then and who I have become, it is clear to me that my analytical strength played a role in helping guide me to where I am today.


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

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A Look at Adaptability

People who are especially talented in the Adaptability theme prefer to “go with the flow.” They tend to be “now” people who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.


This week, our guest blogger is Jen Benson. Jen is the Development Director for TeamMates Mentoring Program. Her top 5 Strengths are Empathy, Adaptability, Ideation, Developer, and Input. Here is what Adaptability looks like for Jen.

At TeamMates, we talk a lot about our strengths in terms of their rank.  Adaptability is my “number 2.”  I think of adaptability as a lifestyle, not just a strength.  In high school and young adulthood, I was pretty “type A” in most things.  I was a perfectionist in school, got great grades, took on leadership positions, pursued challenging internships, had my life all planned.  As a busy mom with a demanding job and volunteer work that I love, I still don’t think of myself as a free spirit!  With that in mind, when I read the description of adaptability, I don’t think it describes me at all.  But, as I’ve been reminded many times in my life, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.”  Adaptability to me is the ability to appreciate and embrace the unique opportunities, happy accidents, and genuine challenges that have helped build my character, my personal relationships and my career.  It has helped me believe in the power of the unintended and unexpected events that have brought to me the greatest joy and accomplishment and keep me looking forward to a hopeful future even though I don’t know what exactly lies around the next corner.uture even though I don's that have brought to me the greatest joy and accomplishment and keep me looking forward to a h

My top five themes are:  Empathy, Adaptability, Ideation, Developer and Input.  In my work at TeamMates, it is my job to find the funds needed to operate our organization each year.  I raise money. I am often faced with the challenge that some grant opportunity or event I was pursuing isn’t going to pay off in the way that I had planned.  I believe my Ideation is what makes my Adaptability work to my advantage.  I value my ability to creatively solve problems and encounter challenging situations to achieve what I set out to do, even if the original plan didn’t work out.  It also allows me to be open to something better than what I had originally intended.  I find myself saying “Well, what about doing it this way?” pretty often in my work. 

When I was young, I think Adaptability helped me overcome setbacks quickly.  I remember being 5 or 6 years old, I had just learned to ride my bike without training wheels.  I was riding in circles in the driveway at my dad’s house and my circles got too small and I toppled my bike.  I remember thinking, “well that didn’t work, I’ll try it differently this time,” which I think of as a key mantra in my life.  I got up, picked up my bike and got back on and rode in bigger circles.  I don’t remember anyone pointing this strength out to me, but I think, given that my parents divorced when I was very young and I was passed between two households most of my childhood, Adaptability was expected more than it was appreciated.  With my parents wrapped up in much of their own stuff when I was a kid, I recall learning many life lessons by trial and error.  In my adult life, I believe Adaptability contributes to much of the “grit” in my toolbox.  I don’t have high Achiever or Competition in my strengths but achieving my goals is still critical for me.  Adaptability is the strength that helps me achieve by allowing me to “roll with it” to take an alternative path to my intended destination and to be open to new possibilities along the journey. 

A small example of how I used adaptability at work recently, last week, we were holding a lunch time fundraiser for the United Way.  We had a few guests from United Way coming to visit and were planning to eat in the conference room.  Earlier that morning, folks from Gallup came to the office and set up equipment in the conference room to do a live broadcast the next day, rendering most of our conference room unusable.  This didn’t bother me in the least bit.  Adaptability activated and we moved the table we could still use and chairs to the hallway outside our office and we all enjoyed a delightful lunch of southern food in the company of friends and the ambiance of vending machines and tropical hallway plants. 

If I were writing the description for Adaptability for Gallup, I would describe it as the ability to appreciate and embrace what you’ve got to work with when life throws you the inevitable curve ball.  And I would end with another one of my favorite mantras, “It’s all good!”


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

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Look at Activator

People exceptionally talented in the Activator theme can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They are often impatient.


This week, our guest blogger is Hannah Miller. Audrey works for the TeamMates Central Office, where she serves as the Recruiting and Marketing Coordinator. Her top 5 Strengths are Positivity, Woo, Activator, Restorative, and Empathy. Here is what Activator looks like for Hannah:

I’ve always seen impatience as a weakness. Growing up, my mom would laugh “You’re so impatient! You’re just like your father!”. When I learned I had Activator as my #3 strength, a lightbulb clicked. Impatience is something I excel at, and I couldn’t be more proud.

For the record, my dad also has Activator in his top 5—THANKS DAD!

            If I were to give my Activator a catch phrase, it would be: “Are ya ready yet?”. I love action. I don’t like to sit around and procrastinate. In fact, I’m writing this blog post about a month before it’s due. People have often called me ‘speedy’ or ‘efficient’. I don’t like to wait to get something started, especially if it’s something that excites me.

If you’ve ever met me, I’m sure you’ve spotted it by the way I talk or the way I answer emails immediately, but the best example of my Activator strength would be the way I planned my wedding. My wonderful husband proposed Aug. 3, 2015. The second I finished crying, called my friends and family, and played with my new puppy (yes, there was a puppy), my Activator strength took the reins. In three days I booked the venue, hair, makeup, bridesmaids, maids of honor, guitarist, singer, music, DJ, photographer, videographer, dress appointments, colors and minister. (To be fair, the minister was my dad).

When I’m excited about something, there’s no stopping me. My mind is consumed with how I can efficiently put something together, and I can’t concentrate on anything else until I’ve reached a solid stopping point. I’m the Energizer Bunny and Joy from Inside Out combined into one action-packed 26-year-old. Did I mention I lead with Positivity? I use a lot of fast-moving jazz hands.

Does that mean everything I start gets done? Absolutely not. Sometimes it takes my dear coworker, Steph, to remind me I started something because when the next fun idea comes along, I’M ON IT! Steph leads with Achiever, so her awesome strength keeps me on track.

I’m sure Activators can rub some people the wrong way because we’re positively impatient, but it’s always great to remember how beneficial we are. If you’re someone who tends to procrastinate or maybe doesn’t have the time to get a project started, give it to us! Most of us are waiting for action and excitement, you just have to ask!

So— are ya ready yet?

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Look at Achiever

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.

This week, our guest blogger is Mallory Gregory. Mallory is the co-coordinator for the TeamMates program in Waverly, Nebraska. Her top 5 Strengths are Achiever, Relator, Learner, Responsibility, and Belief. Here is what Achiever looks like for Mallory: 

"Mrs. Gregory, if you were an animal, what would you be?"  What a fun question to think about.  A senior student of mine asked me this exact question at the start of this school year.  I replied and said, "Well, I would love to be an eagle because it would be so cool to soar and see the beauty of our country from above."  My student immediately replied, "Well that's an interesting thought but I think you would be a golden retriever.  You talk a lot, your loud with a lot of excitement...a lot like a loud yippy golden retriever.  Oh, and you are very caring like the heart of golden retrievers, too."  I chuckle every time I think of that conversation because without even being aware of it, I was being strengths-spotted (at least I hope he meant to view them as strengths and not as insults!) by a teenager within the first week of school.  

After leaving that conversation and pondering it on my drive home, all I really knew about a golden retriever was that they do indeed bark very loudly (our neighbor use to have one so loud is somewhat of an understatement), are high energy, and can be good hunting dogs.  So, after reliving that conversation over and over in my head I decided I needed to learn a little bit more about the breed if in fact my student was right and I would be a golden retriever in another life.  

The Wikipedia definition of a golden retriever: "The Golden Retriever is popular as a disability assistance dog...In addition, they are trained to be a hunting dog, a detection dog, and a search and rescue participant. The breed's friendly, gentle temperament means it is unsuited to being a professional guard dog, but its temperament has also made it the third-most popular family dog breed." 

After learning the basics, I was having a hard time paralleling a golden retriever to my #1 strength of Achiever.  From Wikipedia's definition, a golden retriever seemed to be more strongly connected with a few of my other strengths of Responsibility (obedient/disciplined), Learner (teachable), Relator (popular family dog breed), and Belief (gentle temperament and loyal).  Achiever just wasn't standing out to me with the golden retriever.  An eagle on the other hand, now that just shouts out Achiever wouldn't you agree?  An eagle, just like an Achiever in many people's eyes, soars, is majestic, full of strength, and is a prominent, leading figure for others.  So, I was going to just dismiss the idea of using this entire story with the golden retriever conversation for this blog until a thought popped in my head when I was reflecting on how Achiever looks in my life now and did in my past.

Achiever in my past was something that did indeed come naturally to me.  It bothered me to get less than an A in class or miss out on a club or competition.  But, Achiever in my past didn't show the majestic strength like that of an eagle.  In fact, Achiever in my past was often labeled as over-achiever, brown nos-er, too good, etc. etc.  Growing up, I was blessed to have family, friends, and teachers that encouraged my strength of Achiever and provided me with opportunities to continue to grow in this area.  There were many times growing up that the negative labels that come with Achiever would lead me to second guess myself and the work I was involved with.  Jumping ahead to Achiever in my present life, I find myself not thinking about the negative labels that can come with Achiever, but using Achiever to serve my family, my work, and my community.  Without a cause or a core value, I wouldn't have something noble and worthwhile to use my strength of Achiever towards.  I am blessed to have, day in and day out, a cause and value that burns deep in my heart that does give me something to contribute towards.

The more I think about Achiever and a golden retriever versus an eagle, the more I see a deeper connection with Achiever and a golden retriever (and it's not just because they rhyme!).  In my life, I am coming to learn my #1 strength of Achiever is a result of my other four strengths (Relator, Belief, Responsibility, Learner).  A golden retriever's obedience, compassion, teachability, and gentle temperament allows it to serve others better than almost any other breed of dogs.  Through a golden retriever's service to it's owner, it is contributing to that person's success and quality of life.  When I allow my empathy, values, commitment, and curiosity lead the way, my strength of Achiever is supported and thrives to it's highest potential.  

So, the next time you are working with or around someone with the strength of Achiever, I challenge you to find the compassion and values of love and equality in that Achiever's heart.  I challenge you to see how their strength of Achiever is a result of their selfless desire to help and serve others.  I challenge you to label them as a golden retriever and not an eagle.  I can't believe I am saying this but a golden retriever-that is what I hope my strength of Achiever parallels and models each and every day for my family, my work, and my community.  The strength of Achiever does not stand alone.  It is a result of His love.  I am blessed God used one of my students to help teach me about my gift of Achiever He created in me.   

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

We want to hear YOUR strengths story!

This school year for our strengths blog, we will be featuring a guest blogger each week for the 34 talent themes. The guest will write about what the featured strength looks like in their own life, blended with their other 4 themes. We believe in the power of sharing our strengths stories. Knowing my strengths has aligned my thoughts of myself and others with reality versus assumptions or expectations. It’s truly been life changing. This same transformation can happen with anyone we encounter, but it won’t come to pass if we do not take the brave step of sharing our own stories.

Every single one of us has a story to tell--our own. You don’t have to be a talented writer, grammar wizard, or tech genius to be a guest blogger. All you need is a willingness and a bit of courage to share your story.

If you are willing to share your story, please reach out to Tess at We will provide more information about this process, as well as some questions to help guide your writing.

We are looking for bloggers for the following strengths:
  • Command
  • Connectedness
  • Consistency
  • Deliberative
  • Developer
  • Empathy
  • Focus
  • Futuristic
  • Harmony
  • Ideation
  • Includer
  • Individualization
  • Input
  • Intellection
  • Learner
  • Maximizer
  • Positivity
  • Relator
  • Responsibility
  • Restorative
  • Self-Assurance
  • Significance
  • Strategic
  • Woo

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Strengths Explorer: Relating

You like to start friendships and keep them for a long time-maybe even your whole life. You widen the circle of friends for yourself and others.
Clifton Strengths Explorer

Youth with Relating in their top 3 Strengths Explorer themes are people people. They like to be around others and have a knack for building relationships. They easily make new friendships and maintain old friendships. They relate to others in various ways, and can prefer small or large groups of people. Regardless of how they relate, others feel comfortable around them. They not only build solid relationships with their peers, but also with mentors, adults, teachers, and parents. Gallup writes, “Whatever style of relating, people like you and relationships are important to you.”

Because school is a social environment, it may not be the easiest to point out those who have the talent of Relating versus those that are sociable because of the context. No matter the difficulty of identifying the talent, once it is named, one can easily note examples of the strength in action. One such example is a fourth grader I met in Freeman. Like most kids, she gravitated towards sitting next to her friends for our time together. When her strengths were identified, I asked her about her Relating. I asked if she had a best friend, and without a word, she immediately pointed to the girl sitting next to her and said “we’ve been friends since kindergarten.” This young Relating individual knows and understands the value of relationships, and with her Strengths Explorer results, is now able to give language to that unique talent she possesses.

39.7% of our mentees who have taken Strengths Explorer have Relating in their Top 3 strengths. Meaning over a third of our mentees understand the importance and give value to relationships. This strength can be very beneficial in a mentoring relationships, because it is just that- a relationship. To help grow and develop your mentee’s Relating theme, here are some questions to have strengths-based conversations. These questions are taken from our TeamMates’ Strengths and Hope cards.

  • Tell me about two of your friends. How long have you known them?
  • What is a compliment you have given one of your friends recently? Whom could you compliment more in the future?
  • Describe a friend you would like to know better. What are two questions you could ask him or her to know more about what he or she is like?
  • Could you learn more names in a group of class? Tell me about that group? 


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