Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Buzz About Strengths

If you haven’t heard about Strengths, i.e. naturally occurring abilities resulting in consistent excellence in a given activity, the concept is soon to be part and parcel of every water cooler discussion. As popularized in widely circulated books such as Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham, strengths talk has infiltrated selected college campuses and and become part of corporate culture as well. It’s not uncommon for someone to list their top five strengths on their resume, figuring that “those who know, know”.  Marcus Buckingham himself is scheduled to appear on Oprah this week and reveal his secret to a better life, a better you.

There’s a lot to be said for the theory. In brief, the Strengths assessments enable an individual to discover their top five strengths out of a list of thirty four possibilities. Time and energy then can be devoted to developing those strengths rather than endlessly trying to shore up weaknesses, an endeavor which at best leads to mediocrity.

For some, personal strengths discovery has been incredibly encouraging, providing language to express what may have only been intuited on a gut level. For others, I’ve noticed a more tepid response. But in those cases, little has been done beyond reading through the results in a cursory sort of way.

Interested? If you’re a current student at Calvin, you can find out more about Strengths Finder by emailing Aunt Bonnie. Or call the Career Development Office and ask for Karen.

All the best from Aunt Bonnie, aka Ideation/Strategic/Input/Adaptability/Empathy

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 04/16 at 01:55 PM
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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

How to communicate strengths to your boss

The buzz is all about using Strengths at work. So much so that employees sometimes get confused.
Check out the following readers question.

Dear Aunt Bonnie-
Discovering my personal strengths made me pretty excited, especially about using them at work. But when I started sharing my discoveries with my co-workers, their response was to basically say that I need to forget about my strengths and just do my job. After all, that’s what I’m getting paid to do.
And now I’m confused. I was going to talk to my boss about my strengths and opportunities to use them in the office. But what if he reacts the same way?
Signed, Achiever/Command/Developer/Discipline/Maximizer

Dear A/C/D/D/M-
Though it’s unfortunate that everyone at work didn’t share your enthusiasm over Strengths, approaching your boss might still be a good idea. Depending on how you approach him. Anything smacking of entitlement—like, these are my strengths and I don’t want to do anything that would not make use of them—will not go over. Every single position on the face of this earth includes interesting as well as uninteresting tasks which simply need to be completed.

If, however, you approach your boss using wording which helps him understand how you can be most productive in reaching office goals, he/she might be more receptive. The key is to make this a conversation rather than ultimatum.

There’s a great book out, Lifescripts by Stephan Pollan and Mark Levine. Though it won’t cover your Strengths discussion specifically, it does provide a helpful grid for pre-planning conversations such as this.

All the best in using your strengths!
Aunt Bonnie

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 04/02 at 04:13 PM
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Getting back in gear…

Re-starting a blog is just like any other lapsed activity. One has to exert a significant amount of energy to kick start before momentum takes over. Take exercise, for example. Due to a lengthy post-surgery recovery last summer, I found myself slouching rather than standing, panting rather than breathing and discouraged rather than hopeful. The way back to functional fitness looked like the proverbial mountain. But with a little help from my trainer-friends at the local health club and a lot of persistence, I’m back to where I was a year ago—or almost.

So too with the job search. Seniors arrive on my (office) door step in various stages of preparedness, from those just getting started to those in need of an encouraging word after months of seemingly fruitless searching. The point is, they come. One at a time. Scared or enthused.

If you find yourself with your head in the sand, ignoring all that awaits after graduation, start the first step by showing up. Because despite the dismal prognosis filling even the most positive of publications, people are still uncovering opportunities, finding jobs and moving on.

To quote The Source: as your day, so shall your strength be.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 04/02 at 02:41 PM
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