Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Look at Ideation

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

This week our guest blogger is Bob Arp. Bob’s TeamMates journey began in the fall of 2009 when he became a mentor in Columbus, NE. Less than a year later, he took on the awesome responsibility of Co-Coordinating the chapter. His top five strengths are Ideation, Strategic, Achiever, Responsibility, and Adaptability. Here’s what Ideation looks like for Bob:

Do you know someone that seems to have a knack for coming up with that out-of-the blue, crazy and exciting idea?  Maybe that someone is you. 

Well, I have been told many times over the years that this describes me.  I never thought of it as a big deal.  But I must admit that there have been many times when I have even surprised myself with a think-outside-the-box suggestion or solution.  As a youth, our church youth group was asked to plan a Sunday morning worship service.  My ideation kicked in and we ended up with a service that included the song Turn! Turn! Turn! by The Byrds for the anthem and the sketch entitled Noah by Bill Cosby as the sermon.  And while there was some rolling of the eyes by a few, most in the congregation found it a refreshing change.

One of the aspects of my role as a high school principal that I really enjoyed was in never knowing what a day was going to bring.  I was energized by the challenge of the moment.  And when that challenge came, I relied on my Ideation along with two of my other strengths of Strategic and Adaptability to carry me through.

While Ideation has served me well, it has also created some additional stress.  Stress in my not always being disciplined enough to create the steps necessary to put the idea into practice.  Additionally my strength of Responsibility has at times tugged at my Ideation forcing me to be careful to not ignore rules and procedures in pursuit of the new and exciting.  Admittedly there have also been times when I created stress in others who think ‘here he goes again with another crazy idea.’  But you know what?  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Being the person that looks at a situation and sees more potential than many around me energizes me!  And being part of creating something new, of finding a different path to follow, of opening up new possibilities to others, has been part of who I am in my professional, personal, social and spiritual life.

If you are working on an event and you want to add a unique twist, if you are responsible for attracting new mentors and are open to something different, if you are in need of a name for a new project or product and want something catchy, find yourself someone who leads with ideation … and then hold on.

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

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A Look at Harmony

People exceptionally talented in the Harmony theme look for consensus. They don’t enjoy conflict; rather, they seek areas of agreement. 

This week our guest blogger is Tony Jensen. As the FFA Advisor at Freeman Public Schools, Tony has been collaborating with TeamMates on strengths implementation for years. In fall of 2016, Tony became a TeamMates mentor himself. His top five strengths are Futuristic, Learner, Harmony, Relator, and Discipline. Here’s what Harmony looks like for Tony:

My top 5 strengths are Futuristic, Learner, Harmony, Relator, and Discipline.  For me, Harmony was the one strength from the StrengthsFinder that I didn't realize was a strength until I got my results.  Once I read the description and dug deeper into the meaning of the strength, I learned that Harmony allows me to be a peacekeeper and a consensus builder.  I come into contact with a variety of people every day and seeing them happy and content is important to me.  In my role as teacher and FFA advisor, my philosophy is that everyone must get along and be on the same page to keep the group moving in the right direction.  I feel like I have a good listening ear and understand most situations pretty well if a conflict or disagreement takes place. 

As a teacher, conflict has no place in my classroom.  I simply cannot have it.  If something does arise in my classroom, my students probably have heard me say, "Harmony is a strength of mine.  You need to figure out how to get along!"  

As advisor of our FFA chapter, I am very proud of the officer teams that lead our chapter each year.  They are made up of young people that bring a variety of skills, experiences, and strengths.  In working with this group, I definitely see my Futuristic blend with Harmony because we get to plan out upcoming activities at our annual officer retreat.  During this time, we set goals, evaluate our activities, and put dates on the calendar for the next school year.  As we discuss our events and generate new ideas to improve, my Harmony allows us to build consensus to where I feel everyone is on board as we look and plan towards the future of the organization. 

My Harmony can also be a challenge at times.  Sometimes I will do whatever it takes to avoid conflicts, although some situations call for confrontations of the problem, so my Harmony can slow down progress towards a solution.  If conflicts do arise in my life, I tend to take them personally and can lose sleep over them if not resolved by the end of the day.  It is important for me to feel a sense of closure to any conflict so that I can feel at peace with the events of the day.  I appreciate differences in people, can often relate to where they are coming from, and have strong relationships with others because of my Harmony strength.


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

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Look at Futuristic

People exceptionally talented in the Futuristic theme are inspired by the future and what could be. They energize others with their visions of the future.

This week our guest blogger is Suzanne Hince. Suzanne has been with TeamMates since 2005, serving as the Executive Director for 11 years, and last year, transitioning to become the TeamMates Foundation Director. In addition to being a staff member, Suzanne has also been a mentor with TeamMates for 12 years . Her top five strengths are Strategic, Self-Assurance, Achiever, Futuristic, Ideation. Here’s what Futuristic looks like for Suzanne:

The best way I can describe the Futuristic theme is…daydreamer.  I can get so lost in my own thoughts about the possibilities of how things could be that I lose track of time and place.  I used to be a runner and one of the reasons I loved to run was it gave me the dedicated space and time to think about problems, situations and plans for the future.  It was also my best creative time for generating new ideas. 

Each day I use the futuristic theme to envision how events or situations will go and set the stage accordingly.  I have a one year old at home and often reconfigure his play area to make it different, creative and present new challenges to him developmentally.  I think about this reconfiguration at night and then put it together in the morning. 

I also use the futuristic theme when mentoring.  Before each meeting I think about our time together, what my mentee’s needs are and how we can make our time meaningful together.  One of my mentees happened to share the strength of futuristic so I tried to think of games that she would like to play that would feed that strength.  The game of LIFE was the clear winner – it’s all about choices that paint a picture of your future.  We played that every week for half a year and discussed her future life in detail.  She often talked about envisioning herself walking across the stage at graduation and through a circuitous journey and many years later – it happened!  She never lost the vision and it’s a great testimony to her futuristic strength. 

In addition to futuristic, I also have the themes of self-confidence, ideation, strategic, achiever and I will also mention a sixth - individualization.  The strength of this blend has been the ability to creatively problem solve and see the unique set of circumstances related to each situation.  I love to flyfish and often think of this blend as the beauty of reading a river, understanding the fish’s want and needs and then the miracle of it all working to catch a fish.  It’s also a blend that can help you untie the knots that are a big part of flyfishing! 

The help I need with futuristic is remembering to continually and clearly communicate the vision.  I made the mistake early on in assuming one vision-casting is enough – people really need to hear the vision many times.  The vision casting provides hope and excitement about the future.  I also need to find a good activator or someone with consistency to carry through on the ideas and plans I generate. 

When I was young, I don’t recall anyone specifically identifying futuristic in me but I do think it helped greatly in the mental aspect of sports.  I loved to play sports and futuristic helped me to envision a positive outcome.  It also helped me keep the end goal and vision of what that would be like alive.  This helped with the focus and work ethic needed to achieve the goal.  

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

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Look at Focus

People exceptionally talented in the Focus theme can take a direction, follow through, and make the connections necessary to stay on track. They prioritize, then act.

This week our guest blogger is DeMoine Adams. In 2012, DeMoine came on staff with TeamMates, launching our Post-Secondary program, TeamMates+. Last year, he became TeamMates’ Program Director. In addition to being a staff member, DeMoine has also been a mentor in both Lincoln Public Schools and Gretna Public Schools. His top five strengths are Achiever, Focus, Discipline, Leaner, Strategic. Here’s what Focus looks like for DeMoine:

My Focus puts me in a zone where I can channel all of my energy into something and tune everything else out.  It allows me to boost my number one Strength which is Achiever, while complementing my number three Strength which is Discipline.

I have a lot of hats to wear in my position with the TeamMates Mentoring Program – from projects and never-ending e-mails to managing other staff and making sure their needs and the expectations of the organization all aligned.  My Focus is like a light switch – when I get Focused, it’s ‘lights….camera……action’!  I tend to get very serious and intense because when there are things that need to get done, I have to prioritize everything that’s on my plate and channel my energy to get them done.  There’s no such thing as starting work at 8AM, having lunch at noon, and getting off work at 5PM with my Focus.  When I’m focused, I’m in a zone where nothing else matters!

In my mentoring relationship, I try to use my Focus to always be a great listener and refer future conversations from past conversations based on my memory.  I make my mentoring relationships a priority by putting them on my calendar every week, same day same time.  And when the opportunity presents itself, I’m able to help my mentees stay focus in school by settings goals for themselves in their level of capacity, follow through & stay committed, and always stay focus on the end goal even through obstacles and setbacks that may come up.

My top 5 are Achiever, Focus, Discipline, Learner, and Strategic. They all blend with my Focus because they help me to stay connected to the goals I set, to prioritize my actions to ensure they correspond with my goals, and to give 100% of my time, energy and effort when accomplishing something that needs to get done.

As a kid, I feel I wasn’t born with natural talents and gifts like others.  I wasn’t born with promise, but with potential.  I wasn’t popularity or a cool.  I guess my Focus became a natural Strength which over the course of my life gave me the grit, resiliency, perseverance, and drive to work hard for everything I wanted, imagined and dreamed of.  It allowed me to set personal goals for myself so that I would stop comparing myself to other kids.  It allowed me never give up when I didn’t make the basketball team or start in football.  Whether it was the 13 I received when I took the ACT or how nervous I was when I paid for myself to attend the UNL football camp all by myself, my Focus didn’t let anything keep me from achieving my best.  And I feel I am the person I am today because of my Focus: first-generation college graduate, three-year Defensive End at UNL despite being undersized, Academic All-American despite my teachers telling me I wouldn’t make it at a school like UNL, and playing professional football for five years even though I didn’t get drafted. 

Well just recently, I had to wear multiple hats in this community that included speaking in front of a group of people to recruit mentors, speaking on a radio show about TeamMates while showing a little humor, thanking donors for their support, and then emceeing/DJ’ing a Mentor Appreciation/Recruitment event at evening.  Each hat required a different Focus switch which included a certain level of energy, a certain type of personality, and even using Strengths that are not in my top five (Woo – 32, Adaptability – 30, Communication – 31, Command – 13). 

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

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Look at Empathy

People exceptionally talented in the Empathy theme can sense other people’s feelings by imagining themselves in other’s lives or situations.

This week our guest blogger is Tricia Dix. Tricia has been a mentor with Millard Public Schools since 2011. In addition to mentoring, last year, Tricia began working for our central office as an Administrative Assistant. Her top five strengths are Harmony, Empathy, Connectedness, Consistency, and Discipline. Here’s what Empathy looks like for Tricia:

Growing up I was told that I was “too sensitive”, could easily cry “crocodile tears”, and that I should have been an actress because I could cry on cue!  I always wished that I wasn’t so sensitive.  I viewed it as a weakness.  It wasn’t until the day I took the Gallup Strengths Finder and discovered that my #2 strength is Empathy, that it all made sense.  It was then that I realized being empathetic is not a weakness, but rather one of my strengths.  I have always said that I wear my heart on my sleeve and now I know why!

I always knew what Empathy meant, but I never really understood it until I went to a mentor training session.  Allyson Horne was talking about strengths and how these are the things that are “uniquely awesome” about us.  The lightbulb went on and I realized that my Empathy was a good thing!  Now I freely let my feelings flow and am no longer ashamed or embarrassed to show my true feelings.

My Empathy enables me to understand where others are coming from and sense what they need.  It is what enables me to reach out to others and help in any way that I can.  It is what enables me to listen attentively and feel what others are feeling.  It makes me a trusted friend and advisor. 

My Empathy is always at work.  Sometimes it can be a double edge sword as it is amazingly draining to absorb other’s emotions all day.  At times, I find myself struggling to understand why I feel like I must take on all the world’s problems.

I recall at one of my previous jobs, I was having an increasingly frustrating day, sensing my team’s emotions and trying to solve their issues, so I shared my frustrations with a trusted co-worker. I’ll never forget what she said to me, “You know you don’t have to wear your cape every day; let some of it go.” 

In my Administrative Assistant position at TeamMates, my Empathy strength assists me in sensing the office culture and how each department’s actions and decisions affect the group.  As a mentor, I recently used my Empathy to help my mentee get through her first real break up.  I could feel what she was feeling not only because I had been there before, but because it is my nature to sense feelings and help in any way that I can.  If someone is hurting, I want to help and provide support. 

My other Top 5 strengths are Harmony, Consistency, Connectedness, and Discipline.  I believe that Harmony blends well with my Empathy.  I can easily sense conflict and it is uncomfortable for me.  Therefore, I will look for ways to redirect it and try to find common ground with others.  I truly want everyone to get along.  Consistency also blends well with my Empathy because I have a strong desire for balance and fairness.  The activist in me wants everyone to be treated fairly and when I feel something needs to be changed, I will fight for it. 

My 5th Grade Social Studies teacher use to say, “In order to understand someone, you should walk a mile in their moccasins.”  That is true Empathy and I’m so grateful I have it!

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

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Look at Discipline

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

This week, our guest blogger is Audrey Watson. Audrey works for TeamMates of Lincoln Public Schools, where she serves as a Project Specialist. Her top 5 Strengths are Discipline, Positivity, Achiever, Learner, and Responsibility. Here is what Discipline looks like for Audrey:

Many of the people I know would be shocked that I am not choosing to write about positivity in this blog.  My top Strength is actually Discipline and I strongly believe that this strength describes me very well and I feel that I confidently name and claim it, but as with my other four strengths, I’m still working on aiming it.

“People exceptionally talented in the Discipline theme enjoy routine and structure.  Their world is best described by the order they create.”  This is a strength of mine that I absolutely love because with Discipline, I find myself being very organized and that helps me to achieve my responsibilities (two of my other strengths).  Before bed each night, I pick out my outfit and I pack my lunch, so when I wake up in the morning, I have such a routine set that I feel more confident about any challenges or obstacles that come up.

When I am providing support to mentors in Lincoln, I bring my ‘Mentor Bag’.  It has many treasures inside: blank TeamMates forms, activity ideas, reminders of deadlines for myself, strengths focused activities, and information about the different schools.  By being prepared and having this organized in one bag, I feel confident that the order I’m creating will help me with any challenge or question that comes up.

I may not always like change, in fact I hate it because it strays from my routine, but because I can organize and create structure within my routine, I can make it successfully through the different changes that arise.


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

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

A Look at Developer

People exceptionally talented in the Developer theme recognize and cultivate the potential in others. They spot the signs of each small improvement and derive satisfaction from evidence of progress.  


This week our guest blogger is Stephanie Horner. Stephanie joined our TeamMates Team as a Screening Specialist in the Central Office in September of this year. In November, she began her mentoring journey with a 4th grader in the Omaha Catholic chapter. Her top five strengths are Empathy, Ideation, Developer, Learner, and Positivity. Here’s what Developer looks like for Stephanie:

I would define the Developer strength as the ability to highlight, encourage, and rejoice in the gifts of others. Essentially, this strength focuses on seeing the potential in others, honing their specific gifts and talents, and cheering for every progression in development toward their full potential. In my day-to-day life, my Developer strength is most evident in my interactions with my husband, family and friends. I don't know any other way to be besides nurturing and encouraging to those I love and care about.

With my husband, I have always told him I'm his greatest fan and see unlimited potential in him. Acting as his number one support person, calling attention to his talents and gifts, and celebrating each of his successes brings me profound joy! It’s not something he asks me to do or always needs, but it’s something that comes naturally to me. In my immediate family, I am often mentioning the skills and gifts I see in my family members and am excited when someone has success in any realm, especially when it is related to something I always felt they were capable of. Specifically, my Developer has always been an aspect of the relationship I have with my brother, who is five years younger than me. When he was little, I was his confidence-building and caretaking sister who would often act as his mentor. Our grandfather would routinely comment that I was his best audience because I was constantly helping his development, inspiring him, and was very excited to see any success he had. In fact, he took his first steps into my arms when he was nine months old! This experience early in my life probably helped me to practice my Developer and refine this strength.

Seeing success in others always makes me very happy and I'm best suited to be a cheerleader for others. I never want to be the one on the stage receiving applause; rather, I much prefer to be in the audience cheering loudly for someone I care about. In my friendships, I am a "hype girl" of sorts because I see my friends’ unique strengths and talents, always strive to be supportive, and am there with them to celebrate every little success. Life has its ups and downs and it’s my goal to be there for my friends through everything. When they are going through struggles or are celebrating the blessings in their lives, I hope to be there beside them to offer helpful and caring words of affirmation. It’s very important to me to be there to lift spirits when needed or to share in successes of all measure. No matter what life brings, I believe offering support and sharing in joy is crucial to friendships, and all relationships in general.

In thinking about my Developer strength, my other Top 5 strengths certainly come into play. These other strengths are Empathy, Ideation, Learner, and Positivity. My Empathy and Learner strengths often intermingle and enhance my Developer, especially in my role as cheerleader for many in my life. I have a sense for what others are thinking or feeling because of my Empathy and use my Positivity to provide optimism in times of both good and bad. My Empathy and Positivity also assist me in seeing the potential of others and providing growth-oriented praise. I try to put myself in others’ shoes and sense what they might need, whether that’s someone to boost their confidence, remind them that they are valued and needed, or be someone to sing their praises and offer congratulations. These three strengths likely work in unison in my life more than I am even aware, strengthening and highlighting each other.

In my mentoring relationship, my Developer has been in action on a weekly basis in highlighting my mentee’s artistic abilities. I began mentoring her in November and during our first session, she shared with me that drawing is one of her great passions. She's a very gifted artist and her talents have even been noticed by an art teacher in the school, who invited her to join an after-school art club for 5th-8th grade students. Even though my mentee is a 4th-grader, the art teacher felt she could benefit from and would enjoy being a part of this art club. My mentee was originally hesitant about joining because she would be the only 4th-grader and wasn’t sure how she would fit in. Thankfully, my mentee had many people in her life persuading her to join this art club. I was among this group and felt it was important that she understood how exciting it was to even be invited to join, and what that invitation must mean about her artistic skills. Certainly, she was asked to join because she truly is a talented, budding artist! Before I met her, the school coordinator had let me know that my mentee could use some positivity and encouragement, especially in her friendships at school. Thankfully, this art club has been a perfect way for her to meet new kids and cultivate friendships over a shared interest. Seeing and hearing how happy she is about being part of this art club really brings me a lot of joy. My Developer naturally comes out in this mentoring relationship. I am very excited and grateful to be someone who can witness her development and be there as a supportive person in her life no matter what. Witnessing her development will likely be one of my most treasured aspects of our mentoring relationship!

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