First, I want to take a moment to say Happy New Year! We made it out of 2020, and although there are already challenges in 2021, I hope there is more optimism around what our 'new world' could look like. There is so much opportunity to learn from our past, make informed decisions in our present, which will undoubtedly impact our future. So I try to wake up every morning and ask myself, "What are you going to do today that will positively impact tomorrow and the next generation?" Sounds lofty, right? But it could be as small as asking myself if I really need that item today, or if I could wait a couple more days and have it shipped to my house to avoid going out into public. It could be sharing with my friends who are parents a 'virtual homeschool hack' that I see on Twitter or Facebook in hopes that it might make their lives just a tad bit easier. It could be sending a text message to a friend who is single and navigating this pandemic on their own a quick check-in message to remind them that I'm here and I care.
What have you been doing to try to make today, and tomorrow, a more positive world?
Second, I want to thank all the people who frequent my website. No matter how often or how little I post, I consistently have high engagement week-over-week. Thank you for always checking in, reading my blog posts, and ordering my diaper cakes. While I don't necessarily know who you are looking at my page, I feel a sense of support and community that deserves to be recognized, especially in difficult times like this. Knowing that you're looking at and reading my page makes all the difference and motivates me to continue posting, planning, and sharing things I learn as I go. So, as the dedicated readers that you are, I have a question for you: What would you like to see discussed, reviewed or shared on my blog this year?
Finally, if you read (and/or watched the video for) my last blog post, you know that I have taken my love of strengths-based leadership to the next level. My colleague and I launched our company, Pathways Educational & Career Consulting, a few years ago and it has taken off in the last couple of years. Much of that has to do with the focus on positive psychology, mental health, and the need to focus on what is right with people, rather than fixating on what is wrong with them. We have been so fortunate to work with thousands of students, hundreds of teams, and countless campuses and organizations to help them develop self-awareness, cultivate team development, and deliver on organizational success. Strengths-based practices, specifically as it relates to flourishing campuses, students and educators, has become a research interest of mine; one that I hope to start more formally conducting research on as a PhD dissertation in the near future. But something of even more importance and relevance these days has been a focus one exploring strengths-based parenting and pregnancy. For those of you who follow along, I will be sharing some videos and research on how understanding and leveraging your strengths during pregnancy and parenting can support your well-being and planning. Stay tuned for that - it is timed to drop in mid to late March.
Wishing you a very happy and healthy 2021. 'See' you back here soon with some exciting news, updated posts, and a year in the review from my work at Pathways.
Over the past 3.5 months, I have spent almost every spare moment working on a capstone project toward completion of a post-graduate certificate in strengths and positive education. What was meant to be a 15 or so page document highlighting how we could begin integrating a strengths-based culture into our work and promote well-being, turned into a full integrated learning framework, grounded in the principles of curriculum development, assessment, career and purpose exploration, and strengths-based education. At this point in the journey, I need to collect feedback from experts, colleagues and friends in the field to help me get this framework, which includes two distinct yet complementary educational plans, to the finish line. Rather than sharing the 75+ page document, which I am still working on refining with copy edits and learning guide development, I put together a high level overview of the framework and aspects of each of the individual plans.
The video discusses the theories I selected as the underpinnings of the framework, the critical reflection I engaged in to unlearn and relearn what I thought I knew, a new approach to digital pedagogy and assessment, and the educational priority, learning goals and outcomes, and strategies designed to help educators and students flourish.If you're able to watch it in its entirety (or even if you skip through it quickly... I won't mind!), I would value your thoughts, insights and feedback. What does the framework do well? What is is it missing? Are there theories, frameworks and research that are not currently included but should be? Where do I go from here?
Furthermore, this framework has been designed to be delivered virtually and in a broader way to make it easily transferable to campus contexts, should institutions wish to use it in their own work. It is my hope that anyone who adapts or transforms this framework will do so while asking critical questions of their own practices as educators and administrators, and invest in deconstructing and reconstructing the theories and documents that guide their work with students.
As gratitude is a key element of wellbeing, I want to take a quick moment to acknowledge all of the people who have supported this journey - you know who you are: the folks who have cheered me on, asked questions, engaged in dialogue with me about strengths, career and life design, curriculum and assessment, and the 128 people who completed the survey during a difficult transition in their personal and professional life with the outbreak of COVID. In particular, I want to thank Natalie Allan, Erin Huner and Kate Schieman for their incredible support, leadership and belief in me. Thank you Shari Walsh for being such a great friend and business partner with Pathways Educational & Career Consulting, and for allowing me to integrate so much of our collective work and curricular design into this framework. Most importantly, I want to thank my husband, Jordon, for taking on all the responsibilities around our house for the past 3.5 months and for always being my biggest #nerdfan in whatever projects I undertake.
Thank you, finally, to you! Thank you for investing your time in learning more about my work, the research on strengths and positive education particularly as it relates to creating flourishing campuses, and for sharing any feedback or thoughts you may have in the comment section, via twitter or Facebook, in email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or through text. Your expertise and love for our work will only help make this framework more impactful to educators and students across post-secondary campuses, particularly at a time when well-being, digital learning and engagement, and brave conversations have never been more important.
I am finding myself leaning into my strengths a lot lately, more so than usual, because in uneasy times like these it is important to remember that our own talents, which I like to think of as personal super-powers, can help ourselves and others lead our world through this crisis.
As schools, daycares and non-essential services close, the stock market plummets and a pandemic changes the lives of people all around the world, we are trying to stay connected and be hopeful. Many people are learning how to connect virtually instead of physically, whether that be for school, work or with friends and family who we are used to spending time with. Truthfully, I think it is safe to assume that collectively our minds aren’t really thinking about spring; rather, we are focused on the concerns we are facing and those we anticipate are still ahead.
While I stood there, I also thought a lot about my strengths, asking myself: How can I leverage my strengths in challenging times? What talents best help me be successful in my job remotely? How can I contribute to my communities through my strengths? In part, these questions arose from seeing my husband’s strengths in action and leveraged during such times of crisis and uncertainty – Adaptability, Ideation, Competition, Consistency, Command. He’s been using these to manage chaos for over a decade, and finessed these talents at the beginning of his career when he was on-call 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, for 730 straight days (seriously, I’m not exaggerating). He was made for times like this when ambiguity, complexity and emotionally charged situations come to the forefront. Most importantly, he knows when and how to use them to make positive change and difficult decisions.
What I realized was maybe one of the best things I could do is help other people think about how they are or can be utilizing their own strengths during these turbulent times. My Context (#1) has thought deeply about how communities have come together to support each other in past pandemics and crises, and my Learner (#2) has done everything possible to find accurate information and share it broadly, hoping to contribute to preventative education, and research ways strengths can best be applied in times of chaos. Truthfully, the strength that I have seen the most (and didn’t expect to!) is my Competition (#5). For those who know me or have been in a strengths session with me, I always comment on how uncertain I was about this talent at first; in fact, I was actually ashamed it was a Signature Theme because of the connotation. However, this one has really begun to shine in my life lately, as I am constantly looking for programs, services, supports, communities and countries who are managing this crisis well and hoping we can exceed that here in Canada. It has also helped me, in combination with the other two, find the best resources and information to share, in hopes of helping Canada and my local community best manage and overcome this challenging pandemic.
I am finding myself leaning into my strengths a lot lately, more so than usual, because in uneasy times like these it is important to remember that our own talents, which I like to think of as personal super-powers, can help ourselves and others lead our world through this crisis. They can help us come together and collaborate by contributing our own unique perspectives and talents, to build a community from a place of strength. Afterall, if a strengths-based approach is about focusing on the talents and good things in people, why aren’t we trying to take a strengths-based approach to situations like these?
Thanks to research and discussion with other coaches in the CliftonStrengths community, here are a few ways that your talents are contributing to overcoming these challenging times:
Achiever – You are leading your family or team to success, as you set daily goals and create to do lists that help ensure tasks are managed effectively. You may be enjoying the new responsibilities and challenges that these uncertain times are affording, primarily because you have the stamina to follow through in difficult situations and people trust you will deliver. Projects, planning and responsibilities are in good hands because they will be done and done well.
Consider partnering with someone with a strong Discipline or Focus theme to help you use your energy as efficiently as possible, particularly as complex situations quickly change.
Activator – You provide energy to ensure new measures are put in motion and you follow through on your word. Especially in times of uncertainty, you are keenly aware of the tasks that need to be actioned and are essential to ensuring strategic plans and ever-changing situations do not fall through the cracks. If uncertainty is clouding judgement, you help ensure programs, plans and initiatives are launched to improve supports and alleviate ambiguity for others. To you, actions speak much louder than words.
Consider partnering with someone with a strong Strategic or Analytical theme to help you take informed, well-thought out action.
Adaptability – The brilliance of this talent lies in the way you manage and respond to chaos. You are able to pivot and navigate the ever-changing demands that appear during challenging times and remain productive. Often being able to provide direction to others who may be uncertain or emotional at times, you easily take the lead and thrive in situations that cause others to shut down. When the punches come, you roll with them in stride.
Consider partnering with people with a strong themes such as Focus, Strategic or Belief theme, as they can help you shape goals, allowing you to focus on adapting to ever-changing situation.
Analytical – You are able to see the details in situations that others cannot, which helps you understand cause and effect, particularly in complex situations. Driven by truth-seeking, you can help dispel rumours with facts and calm the hysteria in difficult situations. Your belief that the truth is objective, not subjective, helps ensure that decisions are made with facts rather than feelings.
Consider partnering with someone who has a strong Activator theme, as they will help you move quickly through the analytical phase to avoid getting caught in the weeds and into the action phase.
Arranger – The flexible mindset you have helps juggle ambiguity during chao and adjust as needed to ensure things get done in the best way possible. You are able to take changing information, needs and tasks, and create clarity by reorganizing priorities and delegating appropriately until you find the path that will produce the most successful outcome. When variables constantly change, your talent provides effective, adaptable solutions.
Consider partnering with people who have a strong Communication theme to help you effectively verbalize your new way of doing things to others, and Context theme to ensure you are not reinventing the wheel, especially if an approach hasn’t been successful in similar situations previously.
Belief – Your response in difficult times is largely guided by your core values, which allow you to support your family, friends and colleagues in a meaningful manner. Your beliefs help keep you focused and on-track during times of difficulty, and inspire you to authentically support others navigating their own struggles. When chaos comes, your talent keeps you grounded and mindful of what matters most.
Consider partnering with someone with a strong Futuristic theme, as this person can help you better understand how your values can help inform future impacts and decisions.
Command – You are able to step in, take charge and lead in times of chaos and crisis. Cutting emotional tensions that may cloud others’ judgements, you share your opinions and engage in confrontation as needed to move toward resolution and clarity. Your confidence and calmness during difficult times often draws others in and your ability to make difficult decisions or take risks to move forward motivates others. When emotions are running high, you are the voice of reason.
Consider partnering with someone who has a strong Woo or Empathy theme, as these people can help you overcome obstacles through relationship building.
Communication – Keeping others informed during difficult times is a priority of yours, and helps others be more inspired and prepared to act in a crisis. Your ability to craft messages and stories that motivate and resonate with others help them understand their role and remember what is most important in trying times.
Consider partnering with someone with a strong Analytical theme to ensure the stories you are communicating are not only empathetic, but also accurate and objective.
Competition – Your ability to raise the performance of others during difficult times is commendable. The ‘come on team, we can beat this together’ aura you share can catalyze individuals and communities to come together for a common cause. Your commitment to success at the highest level helps you consider how others are managing similar situations and improve your own performance accordingly. Whether it is better care, more health resources, or increased policies, you strive to ensure your family, colleagues and communities are getting the very best tools and supports possible to effectively manage the chaos.
Consider partnering with people who have a strong Significance or Developer theme so that your measure of achievement can contribute to making positive change and motivate others.
Connectedness – Your ‘we’re all in it together’ attitude in difficult situations is inspirational. The ability you have to see the bigger picture and help others find their place in it helps ensure communities can best support each other. Acting as a bridge-builder, you help others overcome uncertainty and ambiguity by having confidence in the unity of others. Particularly during times of isolation, it is important to you that you help ensure people stay emotionally connected.
Consider partnering with someone who has a strong Communication theme, as they can help you share and advocate for the importance of social and emotional connection during difficult times.
Consistency – During times of crisis, you see the importance of clear policies and procedures that help people function in a consistent environment. As people often need direction and predictability during chaos, your ability to put measures in place that help people find stability during a time of uncertainty offers reassurance and comfort.
Consider partnering with someone with a strong Maximizer or Individualization theme, as these people can help remind you when it is important and appropriate to accommodate individual differences.
Context – Instead of looking ahead, you provide a unique perspective that offers insight on what has been done well in the past. You look to previous historical events that have brought chaos and disruption to the world to offer effective solutions that can be applied in the moment. Understanding the various and complex aspects of past crises can help you apply best practices and make informed decisions.
Consider partnering with people who have strong Futuristic or Strategic themes, as their fascination with what ‘could be’ can help you stay focused on the task at hand, while your deep understanding of Context can ensure they do not move forward without first considering the lessons of the past.
Deliberative – You probably thought the world was unpredictable before the chaos began and because of that are prepared for the worst. Drawing on your ability to see the risks involved in situations, often before anyone else can, you can assess them and make appropriate plans to manage or eliminate them. Your deliberative nature is necessary during trying times in the caution that you exercise to others, particularly when it comes to being diligent about following through on implemented policies or guidelines, such as health recommendations.
Consider partnering with someone with a strong Command, Self-Assurance or Activator theme, as together you will make many sound decisions, especially when action needs to be taken quickly.
Developer – You see the ultimate goal as helping others experience success, and often during times of trouble, that is evident in your dedication to support your communities. Because you see small wins, simple gestures that you know help others grow or succeed in chaos are rewarding. Whether it is seeing a colleague grow from managing a difficult situation or a small smile of appreciation from a person you did a good deed for, providing tools that help others succeed motivates your commitment to supporting your communities especially during a time of need.
Consider partnering with someone with a strong Individualization theme, as they can help you see where each individual’s strengths lie and allow you to invest in using their talents wisely.
Discipline – Predictability, structure and routine are essential to your success, and in times of chaos, this talent allows you to take action and create effective contingency plans for yourself and others. Emphasizing the importance of details, timelines, actionable steps and deadlines, you help create micro-routines in times of trouble that provide structure to friends, family and the community. Your attention to detail helps ensure situations are managed appropriately and based on clear plans of action.
Consider partnering with people who have strong a strong Adaptability or Empathy theme, as they will help you manage the uncertainty and instability as you develop and implement new structures.
Empathy – Your authentic concern for those who are struggling and need additional support is so important during trying times. The ease in which you can connect with others and sense their feelings helps you share their perspective and give voice to their feelings. People are often drawn to you because you provide the appropriate support they need in a moment of panic and uncertainty.
Consider partnering with someone with a strong Command or Activator theme, as this person will help you take needed action during difficult times, particularly when people’s feelings might be hurt as a result.
Focus – This talent allows you to prioritize a clear destination and identify what is most important. During troubling times you are able to drown out the noise and distractions to keep people on track and stay focused on the task at hand. Particularly in moments of uncertainty, you are able to set goals, evaluate the effectiveness of actions, and help move others toward that objective.
Consider partnering with someone with a strong Strategic or Futuristic theme, as they can help you set and action meaningful goals for future achievement.
Futuristic – The future is what motivates you, and during troubling times, you have visions of what could be for our communities and our world. You are able to see what can be gained once the chaos has subsided – stronger connection with family, eliminating the unnecessary, clearer priorities – and use that to help others feel a sense of calmness and hope.
Consider partnering with someone with a strong Activator theme, as this person can help you realize that in order to help foster a future that 'could be', there are actions you need to take today that will directly impact that vision.
Harmony -- You have an innate ability to feel everyone else’s anxiousness and find a way to connect people together in order to share peace of mind. During difficult times, you bring people together to find practical solutions and help people move forward. Your calmness and ability to find commonalities helps reduce conflict, particularly when emotions flair. In trying situations, you prioritize interdependence over independence.
Consider partnering with someone with a strong Command theme as they can help you confront conflicts head-on, particularly when there isn’t time to resolve a decision with group consensus.
Ideation – A new perspective inspires you to explore creative ways to cope with challenges and find innovative, and often unconventional, solutions. Risk and ambiguity roll off you, as they provide an opportunity to think about complex situations in a new way. Particularly during times of uncertainty, while you may sound like the black sheep at times, you offer ideas that balance clarity, practicality, flexibility and innovation.
Consider partnering with someone with a strong Analytical theme, as they will question and challenge you, allowing you to strengthen your ideas. Parting with someone with a strong Achiever theme will help you determine how to make your ideas happen.
Includer – Making sure people feel a part of the group and involved in decision making is important to you. Particularly in chaos, you recognize that everyone is valued and although people and communities have unique needs, everyone’s needs are equally important. When planning teams are coming together to discuss ways to proceed and develop action plans, you ensure that the right people are at the table and that representation from a variety of perspectives is included.
Consider partnering with a strong Command theme, as this person can help you make decisions or share news that must be made in the absence of all parties involved.
Individualization – Because you are so interested in the unique qualities of a person and you are familiar with each person’s motivation, interests and strengths, you are the perfect candidate to build a specialized team of individuals to address the crisis at hand. Your intimate understanding of the uniqueness of each person is essential to the team’s success, and your ability to make each person feel individually valued keeps the team motivated, even in times of concern or frustration.
Consider partnering with someone with strong Consistency, as they can help you determine when policies and procedures need to be prioritized and in place for all, and allow for individualized care to those who need it most.
Input – You love to collect things – books, articles, tangible items or information – so in times of uncertainty, you can quickly identify and navigate contextual information, resources and research to help make informed decisions. Drawing on collected artefacts or information related to current events, you quickly become the information curator for the team. Consider yourself the information intake and disseminator to make informed decisions with the most relevant and up-to-date facts.
Consider partnering with someone with a strong Focus or Discipline theme, as this person will help you stay on track when you become distracted with intrigue.
Intellection – As someone who sees thinking as doing, you are at your best when you can use reflective practice to solve problems. During chaos, you are able to find alternative approaches and discuss solutions after a few minutes of deep thought. While some decisions during trying times must be made quickly, for those that allow more time to engage in thought and discussion, you can best contribute by quietly, intentionally find solutions through reflection.
Consider partnering with someone who has a strong Communication theme, as they can help you clearly articulate and integrate your thoughts.
Learner – With your love of learning as a process, you often find chaos exciting. As new curve-balls are thrown at you, it means that you get to learn new ways to manage them. You are at your best when you can absorb and use information to act and advise others accordingly. Spreading accurate information is also very important to you, and the team should know that if you are bringing it forward as a recommendation, you have done thorough homework to ensure it is appropriate.
Consider partnering with someone who has a strong Achiever or Maximizer theme, as they will help you expand the many ways you can put the content and information you learn to use.
Maximizer – Keenly focused on getting the best out of the situation, you are energized by the opportunity to transform chaos into something great. As measuring against excellence is important to you, your family or team will benefit from your review and design of action plans because they will be elevated with your talents. While some people may struggle with the new normal a difficult situation provides (time with family, working from home, working as part of an essential service, etc.), you are focused on getting the very best out of it and that motivates you to give it your all.
Consider partnering with people with Woo or Positivity, as they can help you consider how to best share your plans with others, especially as things regularly change and pivot.
Positivity – We need your positivity during difficult times because you often lighten the mood and bring hope to others. As you are often naturally enthusiastic about anything you do, people get excited by your energy and vision, particularly in chaos. Your ‘glass-half-full’ approach to the situation will relieve pressure and anxiety among family members, colleagues, and the community, and with your help, people will be able to find a silver lining to the situation at hand.
Consider partnering with those with a strong Achiever theme, as they will help you infuse hope and enthusiasm into projects and tasks that need to get done..
Relator – In times of crisis, particularly as we socially distance, it can become easy to focus on our own needs. You know the importance of checking in with friends regularly and ensuring those closest to you are okay. Because your talent for developing deep relationships allows you to understand friends’ and families’ fear, dreams and goals, you are keenly aware of how on-going situations and the complexities of chaos may impact them. You are an excellent sounding board for friends, family, colleagues and the community to share their concerns and emotions during difficult times.
Consider partnering with a strong Learner or Developer theme, as they can help you learn about those outside of your close circle to develop deeper, more trusting relationships that you can rely on during times of difficulty.
Responsibility – Because you feel emotionally bound to commitments you make, you have an unwavering conscientiousness to do the right thing for the sake of your family, friends, colleagues and community. When you agree to manage a task or take the lead on a situation, people know that it will get done because they believe in you. During times of struggle, you are often one of the first people thought of by those around you because they know that, regardless of the complexity of the situation, you offer immediate help and they are confident that you will complete the objective.
Consider partnering with someone with a strong Discipline or Focus theme, as they can help you stay on track and set boundaries to avoid burnout or over-commitment.
Restorative – During a crisis, one of your biggest assets is your ability to help others find a solution for them, their families, their colleagues, and people in need. Because you love to solve problems, chaos offers a unique opportunity for you to analyze the situation at hand and find appropriate solutions. Your natural courage and innovative spirit is very valuable in managing ever-changing situations and complexities, which is why you are a very important part of a crisis response team.
Consider partnering with a strong Deliberative theme, as they can help you quickly identify problems and analyze causes, which will lead you to finding an appropriate solution much faster.
Self-Assurance – Your ability to confidently take risks, step up to new challenges, and take action, particularly in times of ambiguity, is invaluable during times of struggle. In a moment, you can make fast decisions, know that it was the right decision, and keep your team on track. Your ability to form a conclusion and then act is appreciated by those who may be uncertain of the appropriate course of action.
Consider partnering with someone with a strong Strategic, Deliberative or Futuristic theme, as they can help you assess goals you want to commit to and stay with it until it is achieved.
Significance – You appreciate feeling like you’re making a difference in the world, so in times of chaos you are centred and ready for action. Your talent encourages you to stand up as a leader and take action to make a difference for those you love and your community. The dedication, excellence and confidence that you show when you take the lead in difficult situations becomes a guiding light for others.
Consider partnering with a strong Self-Assurance theme, as they will help you overcome any fear of failure or uncertainty you might experience to ensure you perform at the high level you know you are capable of.
Strategic – You are very good at seeing how different things can connect to create solutions and see all the possible pathways a course of action could take. Before others can identify the appropriate steps to achieve the desired outcome, you have already determined the best route and ironed out the complexities along the way. Your constant ‘what if?’ questioning helps you find clarity and simplicity in chaos, and select a course with the highest likelihood of success.
Consider partnering with someone with a strong Activator theme, as this person’s need for action and your need for anticipation can create a powerful partnership.
Woo – Connecting people in your networks to those who need them brings you immense joy, particularly during times of struggle. You care for everyone, not just those close to you, and encourage people to stay connected as much as possible. As someone who often struggles with physically distancing themselves from others, you find creative solutions to ensure that people feel stability and a sense of belonging.
Consider partnering with someone with a strong Relator or Empathy theme, as this person can help solidify relationships that you begin and draw on them during difficult times.
Note: Special thanks to many CliftonStrengths coaches from around the world that helped research and brainstorm the various ways individuals can leverage their talents in a time of chaos. The coaching community is an example of the importance of supporting each other and our communities to stay connected and remain hopeful.
A creative educator striving to enhance the holistic student experience and committed to exploring personal strengths and fulfillment.