A few weeks ago, I relinquished my year-long membership to the "Broken Screen Club" and bought a new phone. It was a good opportunity to clean up the apps I didn't need. I had two meditation apps, two fitness tracker apps, three nutrition apps, four dating apps, and two hydration-tracking apps. If there was a gap in my life, I had an app for it.
I was an expert at pinpointing what I wanted to improve about myself and identifying the tools to do it...but was it working? Using these apps reminded me to drink water, but they also served as a constant reminder that I was bad at regularly drinking water.
Recently, I attended Strength-Based Leadership Workshop presented by She Geeks Out (SGO), a Boston-based community of women in the STEAM fields. The workshop was led by Katie Greenman, Founding Partner of HumanSide, a "human-centered consultancy" that works with individuals, teams, and organizations to build success from the inside out. Through activities and lively discussion, we discussed the concept of strength-based leadership and how to apply it in our personal and professional lives.
When it comes to introspection and self-improvement, it’s natural to focus on what’s wrong rather than what’s right. Strength-based leadership focuses on emphasizing an individual’s existing strengths and passions. The core belief is that there is higher growth potential in developing strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses.
At the workshop, everyone had a worksheet with about thirty traits listed and had to circle which traits we considered our strengths. For each of the traits listed, I wanted to brainstorm how I could improve on it rather than see if it was already a strength of mine. Next, we listed items from one aspect of our lives and discussed how our existing strengths would help or had helped us achieve our goals.
The last item was: "Something you're not doing so well with." It was easy for me to come up with something to improve upon...but how would my known strengths help? The takeaway is one of the central tenants of strength-based leadership—whether you're succeeding or not at a task, you should focus on your existing strengths to improve or to continue to excel.
Although the exercises focused on the individual, they can also be applied to teams. Focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses allows for diverse, passionate teams that can excel at the tasks at hand. It also creates a stronger relationship between a company's leadership and its employees. Acknowledging your employees' passions can build enthusiasm and promote evangelism. It's important to note that strength-based leaders don't ignore weaknesses altogether. However, they don't focus the majority of their time and efforts on filling the gaps.
Since attending the workshop, I’ve realized how much strength-based leadership plays a role at CMB. I’ve been assigned difficult projects and given unfamiliar roles that I was at first terrified to take on. But during one-on-one meetings, when I was internally panicking, my manager would tell me, “we thought of you for this.” Through challenges we reveal skills that are valuable to a project, a team, and the company as a whole.
Thanks to my "perfectionist" trait, it's still difficult for me not to focus on the negative, particularly my own. SGO's workshop provided me with a new perspective on how to approach my projects, my career, and myself. I still have more than one meditation app, but if that's the worst of it, I think I'll be okay.
Blair Bailey is a Senior Associate Business Analyst at CMB who still doesn’t drink enough water.
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