Do you know what your Strengths are? CliftonStrengths, that is. Approximately 415 staff have taken the assessment, which measures one’s natural patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving and categorizes them into 34 CliftonStrengths “themes.” Once a person knows their top 5, 10, or the rank of all 34 of their Strengths, they can learn how their Strengths help (and sometimes hinder) them in their professional and personal lives.
In 2016, Kellie Fuller (HR) became a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach and began partnering with Jason Meier (SEAL) to provide Strengths training sessions at Emerson. Participants completed the assessment online and then reviewed their results together, with Meier and Fuller facilitating. Fuller explained, “When I took my assessment, I was able to do so much of my own personal and professional development. I knew this was something that could benefit the Emerson community!”
Since 2016, the Strengths program has expanded. Now, staff can participate in a five-part learning series to learn how to use their Strengths to work more efficiently and collaborate more effectively with colleagues. The classes are hosted by Fuller and are held about once a month. Additionally, teams and managers can request their own group sessions for some of the classes.
For many people, learning about their top Strengths helps them articulate what they already know about themselves. Through her participation in Strengths classes, Ashley Schiefer (IT) has discovered a way to talk about some aspects of her work style that she’s always been aware of. For example, she’s always known that relationships are important to her. So, it wasn’t a surprise to learn that four of her top five Strengths are in the Relationship Building domain. She said, “I’ve learned how my Strengths work together and how I can apply what I know about myself and my teammates’ Strengths to make our interactions as successful as possible….Knowing that I’m good at relating to people as individuals means I can adapt well to working with anyone on my team.”
Dan Brokowski (Equipment Distribution Center), a self-described steward of CliftonStrengths in his department, used a metaphor to explain how he views his Strengths knowledge: “It is like the peeling back of petals on a flower bud—each layer reveals something deeper and more revealing about your style and behaviors. In some cases, it makes complete sense and echoes what you already know about your work or management style. In other cases, it’s a self-revelation that you had no idea was a motivating factor in your approach to work.”
And when a whole team takes the assessment and learns about each other’s Strengths, the insights gained can foster more productive collaboration. As Anders Croft (Career Development Center) said, “Strengths have greatly informed the way I think about team dynamics. Everyone has their own set of Strengths and, with that, everyone has their own mode of operation. Knowing this can be a huge benefit when managing a project or assigning group roles.”
Daryl Paranada (ELA) has completed the series of classes with his teammates. He found it constructive to split up into small groups to talk about people’s individual Strengths and how they make a strong collective whole. “I learned about the value that I bring to the team. It is rare to experience that kind of assessment from my peers, and it was both meaningful and encouraging. I also got the opportunity to share my appreciation for my colleagues and how their Strengths contribute to our success,” he said.
Understanding coworkers’ top Strengths can prove extremely helpful when an unforeseen challenge arises in the workplace (such as a pandemic). When a number of Iwasaki Library staff took a CliftonStrengths class with Kellie Fuller in January, Fuller announced that four of out five of Michelle Romero’s top Strengths are in the Executing domain. As Cheryl McGrath explained, “Fast forward to March, when the library suddenly became completely virtual and we had to figure out a way to provide faculty and students with remote access to collections….Cue voiceover of Kellie talking about what it meant for one person to have Executing as four out of their top five Strengths. We asked Michelle to help develop a process for us to succeed in transitioning to remote service delivery, and she dropped everything to work on that for the rest of the semester. The culmination of her efforts was an Academic Affairs STARS Award for the Iwasaki Library staff.”
The power of CliftonStrengths lies in its offering of a shared language among coworkers as well as managers and direct reports. Annie Kelly (ELA) is grateful to have learned this language by participating in a number of Strengths classes and workshops. She said, “It has been fascinating to learn more about my colleagues—how they think and work, their preferences, and how we can collaborate. It has been extremely beneficial to be able to utilize the tools we have acquired from Strengths as a new and neutral language to think, act, and speak differently.”
Managers who are versed in Strengths find this language helpful when communicating with their teams. McGrath said that this mutual understanding helps her “explain to my colleagues why I am shifting priorities or asking a particular person to step into a process seemingly out of their normal scope of work in extraordinary circumstances.”
Croft considers his Strengths knowledge to be part of his toolbox at work. He said, “Your Strengths are as valuable as you make them. They’re not the be-all and end-all of describing the role you play—rather, they’re a way to understand where you come from intellectually and professionally. They give you a shared way of understanding and communicating when working with others at Emerson and beyond.”
Interested in taking the assessment? HR purchases codes for all new staff hires. Current staff are welcome to participate, but departments would need to cover the $10 cost per staff member. Email Kellie Fuller for more information and view the upcoming class schedule here. Join the Strengths conversation on Slack! There is a new discussion topic every Thursday on the #cliftonstrengths channel.
Nancy Howell (Communications and Marketing)