Wednesday, May 24, 2017

What a year it has been!

 We are grateful to have traveled to many communities this year and while Tess and I did a great deal of “talking strengths” on the road, we learned just as much from the strengths discovery and awareness of mentors and mentees.

Realizing that some of the best strengths practice comes from conversations with one another, Tess and I decided to structure a new opportunity – a video series aimed at building conversations on the unique ways we see the world, based on our strengths, and based on our stage and season of life.

As we were sharing this idea at one of our first fall strengths sessions, Bob’s ideation guided us to our title:  Genn and Millie.

My perspective comes from the GenX generation and Tess’s the Millenial.  We witnessed Bob’s ideation in action as that title quickly came to mind.  Thankfully Bob helped us find the right description.

Often we discuss the impact of high school students thinking about their strengths in relationship to career planning and consideration.  In Wilcox, a student shared her long-term dream of becoming a forensic investigator, and we were able to rejoice how her futuristic, arranger, deliberative, restorative, and achiever strengths were leading her to not only a career she will love, but one that she will be uniquely suited for.  We also learned from students about ways to thank mentors through strengths language:  in mentor thank you notes, mentee’s writing about the mentor’s strengths in action; a great way to add to an authentic message of gratitude.

The forever cheerleader in me was honored by being able to pose with the Eagle Mascot in Johnson-Brock.  woo went to good use in those days, and in our full schedule at J-B, learning with school staff, mentors, and mentees. Fun fact:  I had the role of being the Exeter Eagle a few times over the years in high school.  All that

Many complimentary partnerships were witnessed, especially in co-coordinators Kristi and Esperanza, who met as TeamMates in Madison and have grown together as leaders, demonstrating the impact of a trusted friend.  The team approach at McCook and Clearwater-Orchard was shining through the light of caring adults – in mentors, school staff, and parents who are encouraging students to thrive.

Middle schoolers showed us how to own their strengths and recognize the strengths in classmates, especially in Mullen and Freeman.  One of our favorite strength-based activities includes asking participants to consider one strength, and describe it by drawing on a piece of paper.  What does it look like?  What does it sound like?  Feel like?  Even smell like?  We typically have limited art supplies and time, and the impressive creativity of students absolutely solidifies our belief in the simplicity of ownership:  just take these words and use them as tools to bring your best self to the table. 

Another meaningful component to our strengths travels this year included the reminders of community support and it’s positive impact on TeamMates chapters.  In Scottsbluff, hosted at the awesome Runza conference center, long term mentors shared about their challenges and joys in the mentoring journey.  Later we were fortunate to attend Gering’s Citizen of the Year honoring our friend and TeamMates champion Maurie. He was honored for his dedication and tireless energy in the community, but it was his humble gratitude, thanking everyone in attendance for their contributions, that exemplified his character and integrity.

I experienced many heart-warming moments like that.  It was in the middle of a strengths training in Doniphan that I found a connection to a family friend and learned that the amazing coordinator Dawn is a cousin to my amazing friend Erin.

  In Waverly, I was reunited with my second grade teacher Mrs. Hill.  In our brief conversation together, she spotted my strengths just as she did back when I was 8 years old, leading our class Christmas play as the narrator.

Strengths match meetings in the metro are some of my favorite times, especially hearing the ways elementary students claim and aim their strengths.  In meeting with Jerry and Johnny, I asked Johnny about his elementary school, Twin Ridge Elementary in Bellevue.  I noticed upon arrival and all through the hallways that everyone seemed to carry joy and energy, so many smiles and laughs.  I asked what might be behind that, and Johnny quickly shared “Well, EVERYONE smiles here!  I’ve been going to this school since I was in kindergarten, and everyone just smiles all the time!”  Johnny leads with caring as a StrengthsExplorer talent, and I am so grateful he, like many others, were willing to share those moments of awareness with us this year.


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