“We need to replace the roof on the church. Then replace the wall paper, carpet, and test for mold.” I remember asking, “How long have we had these issues?” The answer was “since it was built”. Oh, my, that has been a while, apparently since the early ‘70’s.

I was about 3 months into my elected role as president of the church at the advanced age of 31. I had no idea where to go, so the church council discussed the problem. We asked experts to come in to evaluate and found that the fixes could be done, but the structure was not sound and more issues were guaranteed. Next, we asked for an evaluation on removing the church and rebuilding and then requested an estimate on “off-site” building of a new church. Then we brought it to the congregation in an open meeting. The discussion was:

“Where do we go from here?”

Honestly, I didn’t really know. I am not an expert on church replacement. So, we brought in experts. We discussed the expert feedback with the congregation and we made a decision.

During the professional consultations, I privately asked a lot of questions of my colleagues, they were able to describe what HVAC, R value, and other building essentials were described to me. Having people in my life that understood this world was very helpful. To this day I think about all of the people who have shared their expertise with me, and WOW! Am I blessed!! (BTW – the questions have continued).

Sometimes, it seems that asking for help or outside opinion may be seen as a sign of weakness. I have experienced only the opposite. I ask for help, a lot, I also freely help out when asked. Having the courage and confidence to identify your own strengths and recognizing the strengths of others, and asking for help, is key for productive, healthy outcomes and work environments.

I appreciate the expertise of those that I work with professionally and those I engage with for non-profit work. If you receive a note from me that says “let’s connect” or “help” or “let’s brainstorm” – that means you are the expert and I am hoping you will share your strengths zone with me. These are precious collaborative moments and result in some of the best work that I do (actually we do). Additionally, I just started “crowdsourcing” and found the opportunity to explore is so much more fun when recommendations come from a large group of friends. Thank you!!

My challenge for you: Identify a big issue in your life – and ask for help. There are a lot of ‘strengths rich’ people out there who can help!


The Team and Their Strengths

The Team and Their Strengths

I recently asked one of the professionals that I work with what he expects from me as his supervisor. After some time, I received the response from him and asked him to share a bit more about the words and concepts that were shared. “No one has ever asked me that question before”, was how his feedback started.

Then I started to think, what would I have answered? Honestly, this has monopolized my thoughts over the past few weeks. Then I realized, it is probably what I hope that I am doing and have done with those I engage with (never perfectly, always striving):

  • Welcome creativity
  • Welcome surprises (my team surprises me all the time – and I love it!!)
  • Appreciate that I do not know what others are doing and that controlling other people is a waste of time
  • Power, authority and ego are always present – and seldom about role
  • When asking the team for genuine engagement and honesty, not holding a comment or facial expression against the sending person
  • Empower people to do their job, in the way they choose, as strengths are unique in each individual.

(This, is of course, an opportunity for those I would with to keep me on task.) 🙂

The entire idea of considering people first is central to how I lead. To be clear, I do get frustrated and need to refocus, however, when I do – it is about people and their strengths. My strengths coach has been working with me and my team and knows the team well, she describes me as a lioness. Protective of the pride, willing to scavenge for short term wins (food) to achieve the bigger outcome (kill, to keep with the metaphor). Always surveying the surroundings for the best next migration with the pride. Everyone matters, we take care of our own and developing people is key to a stronger team and the creation of the next team leader.

I have experienced the transformation of a team when focusing on strengths. Individuals choosing to update their own position descriptions and reviewing the changes with me to outline what they actually do and how the role then empowers them to achieve the outcomes that better the work we do together. Individuals going from unhappy to much more jolly in the work-place. Individuals feeling safe to be creative and daring. Am I the change, no, they are the change, I am just the fortunate observer and supporter. Watching transformation of people is rewarding for me. The outcomes fall into place. I love seeing people grow in their roles and explore new ways to develop their Strengths. Their happy place becomes my happy place.

I deeply appreciate the heartfelt work that the WSU-R team expertly engages in everyday and know that our WSU-W colleagues support this work. Further, as a community engaged learning institution, our community partners are dedicated and loyal. Our students and future employees benefit from our focus on Strengths and encouraging individuals to work in their “Strengths Zone”.

Indeed, I am blessed!

WSU Learning Community Images.Jeanine