Friday, April 11, 2014

Go with Your Strengths

"They focused on their strengths and that's how they won the game" is a statement I've heard announcers and analysts say time and again throughout the March Madness NCAA basketball tournament that culminated with Monday’s and Tuesday’s national championships.  The same holds true for success in our personal and professional lives.   Focusing on what we do best and doing more of whatever it may be gives us confidence; yields success; and that success yields even more success.

The Gallup organization has taken more than 50 years of research to develop 34 themes that we all carry to some degree.  The idea of strengths is that the more we are aware of our top five themes, the more we can turn them into strengths through our awareness and conscious actions.  It involves a 30 minute 188-item online questionnaire that assesses personal preferences on a number of different dimensions.

I believe our continued use of a strengths-based approach to personal and professional growth has the potential to become a distinctive feature of Mohawk Valley Community College.  Centering conversations on someone's strengths can provide a constructive context to have an otherwise difficult conversation.  Strengths inherently refer to the best in all of us and can provide a creative mechanism to think differently about a problem or challenge.  So many organizations, and colleges in particular, find themselves relying on old habits of problem solving. In contrast, a strengths-based approach opens new doors to conversations that can lead to new solutions - whether it be a gifted student trying to turn that C into an A or a College trying to address a recurring problem.

In the past three years, nearly 70 percent (302) of all current full-time employees and more than 100 part-time employees have completed the Gallup Strengthsfinder assessment.  They've done so not only to better understand themselves and each other, but perhaps even more importantly, to better understand and support our students - more than 1,000 currently enrolled students (and another 2,000 who have since moved on) have completed the assessment themselves.  With the support of faculty and staff who are familiar with strengths these students are learning to leverage their strengths to change their behavior and experience greater success in their academic studies at MVCC.

A number of classes at MVCC use the book, StrengthsFinder 2.0.  The book is written by Gallup executive Tom Rath and provides the security key to take the assessment along with an explanation of the 34 themes along with some advice on how to use your strengths. The book helps people understand that a focus on strengths is about making the most of our talents rather than a discouraging focus to repair our flaws.  Rath argues that focusing on our strengths not only increases our confidence and productivity, but our outlook and sense of hope – isn’t that something we could all use?

The mindset of abundance and strength is also an important underpinning of our forthcoming strategic plan process, which I wrote about here.

The Strengths page on our website provides greater detail (including a brief video from a previous vlog) http://www.mvcc.edu/academic-programs/strengthsquest-1.  If you have any questions or comments on this post, please contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu.