Strengths based living
As I reflect on five years as a leadership advisor, and a significant number of days in lockdown during 2020 and 2021, I am prompted to consider the dysfunctional staff relationships within some schools.
Whether these have come about because the beginning principal has inherited a low trust working environment or because the dysfunction has been allowed to continue for too long, effectively addressing them is critical in order to successfully lead a school.
So, what to do? I’m suggesting that a positive way forward is to introduce all staff to Living Your Strengths - learn about the strengths that each of them brings to their mahi every day. In other words, know and celebrate strengths, and start to accentuate a positive, appreciative frame of mind. In so doing, a constructive strengths-based environment is possible for the whole staff, both in terms of a positive impact on relationships in themselves and additionally, on relationships for learning. Focusing on strengths tends to ignite a ‘can do’ approach.
“When we discover our strengths and when we give them a name something resonates deep within us. It is as if our spirit reacts to this discovery, with a resounding Yes! This is the way it is supposed to be…” *
With a focus on developing strengths it is possible to be more effective at tasks and roles and therefore more successful, happy and fulfilled. With this focus, trust between colleagues grows.
So, why would you want to know your strengths and learn from them? A better question might be, ‘do you want to know what makes you, uniquely you?’ In other words, what is your reservoir of untapped potential that is waiting to be discovered and put to use in your life.
My belief is that a strengths-based approach cancels out the weakness prevention model which most of my generation grew up with. We were told that to become strong, and successful in the world we had to ‘fix’ our weaknesses. Some previous viewpoints went as far as to say that talents and strengths were a source of sinful pride! With the benefit of hindsight, I can honestly say that thinking was just plain wrong.
The evidence of Gallup research conducted over the past 30 years, which includes interviews with more than two million people, reveals the overwhelming confirmation that you are most successful in whatever you do by building your life around your greatest natural abilities, rather than weakness. In other words, “Your talents should be your primary focus.” The problem is that most people don’t even know what their greatest talents are or how to go about discovering them. I strongly recommend reading Living our Strengths by Albert L. Winseman, Don Clifton and Curt Liesveld, as a starting point.
Start by taking Gallup’s Clifton StrengthsFinder, an online talent assessment. There are other models, like the VIA (Institute for Character) and Strengths Profile, which are also great sources for discovering and developing strengths.
In the interest of ‘what we focus on grows, expands, magnifies and becomes our reality,’ it is well worth considering Living your Strengths. This could well be the genesis for developing relationships that celebrate strengths between/among adults within your learning community and, in fact, in every other sphere of your life.
Overcoming dysfunctional relationships within the learning community makes it more possible to keep learning at the centre and to focus on relationships for learning.
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