Feature article: Can you imagine how much more excellence we would have at CISD if we could nurture the strengths of our leaders – our principals, our teachers – and ultimately our students? That was the mission when we, S2Synergy, were brought on board in late 2010 to work with the CISD principals and some district leaders. The objective was to help this leadership team: Develop their individual leadership skills; Engage with each other to from a great team; and Evolve CISD into a center of excellence.
Who is S2Synergy? We are Susan Potter, ACC and Susan Carson, Ph.D., both professionally trained Coaches with a passion for Strengths Psychology and for helping others to “be more of who they already are.” We have a special passion for the education of our children.
Discovering and developing one’s strengths as opposed to focusing on weaknesses is at the core of Positive Psychology – the parent of Strengths Psychology. The basic premise is to focus on what is right with an individual, organization or community – and how to build on what’s right vs. focusing on what needs to be “fixed” because that just doesn’t work.
The tool we used was Gallup’s StrengthsFinder assessment which is rooted in over 40 years of research and has been taken by over 5.2 million people worldwide. It has been used successfully not only in educational institutions but also in business, religious and other non-profit organizations to improve leadership, teamwork and results. In the educational environment that translates to building better, more engaged schools. As Alvin Toffler, the futurist said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”
S2Synergy began a series of workshops starting with the principals after each had taken the assessment. The first workshop was an introduction to the basics of Strengths Psychology, how to describe their own strengths and to spot the strengths of others. There were lots of “ah-ha” moments once the team began to have the common language of StrengthsFinder. We heard comments like “now I see why you do it that way” and “now I understand why I don’t like doing that task.” This was very effective, as it is critical for the team to truly engage with each other to bring out the best in each other. Subsequent workshops with the principals focused on the use of strengths in real life situations facing CISD.
Over the spring and summer, we conducted workshops with Dr. Mary Johnston’s teachers and staff at Old Union Elementary and with the teachers and staff atRockenbaugh Elementary.
Karen White, Principal at Rockenbaugh, commented about the workshop. “The StrengthsFinder workshop provided an explanation of strengths and what those might look like in our work. Our staff has started referring to strengths as an opportunity to leverage people on our teams and across our campus. One result of our learning and work with StrengthsFinder has been an increased level of respect and appreciation for our differences and how those contribute to our collective strength as a school. The campus template containing all of the individual strengths for each teacher is a great visual and planning tool. It is interesting that as we review the strengths, someone will respond, ‘Yes, that is so her.’ Some of our teachers have had their spouses take StrengthsFinder and are extending our learning beyond school and building upon it at home.”
Do you know your strengths? Do you have the opportunity to use your strengths each day? Are your children aware of their natural strengths and do they have the opportunity to use them every day?
Acknowledging and discussing strengths makes great family dinnertime conversation. Gallup has the Strengths Explorer assessment for children 10-14 years old and StrengthsQuest for high school and college students. What a great way for children to develop awareness of their natural talents and for parents to help their children develop those talents – to help them be their strongest, best self.
We named ourselves S2Synergy (Susan2) because we are a great example how much can be accomplished when each team member uses their best strengths and respects the other’s strengths – true synergy!
Susan Carson, Ph.D. is the founder and president of “SMART Leadership Coaching.” Her firm specializes in the development of individual leadership and communication skills for scientists and technology professionals. With her extensive experience as a scientist, as the owner of a successful executive recruiting firm, and as an ICF-trained coach, Dr. Carson is eminently qualified to provide her clients with the assistance needed in their job or life search journey. Dr. Carson’s focus throughout is to “build success into the client’s DNA.” Her top 5 strengths are Learner, Communication, Individualization, Achiever and Activator.
Susan Potteris an International Coach Federation (ICF) credentialed Business and Life Coach with over 1000 client coaching hours. She has a B.A.A.S. in Behavior Analysis from the University of North Texas. Besides her own coaching business, Susan serves as training director for the Southlake-based Gardner Institute coach training school and is on the board of directors for the North Texas Chapter of ICF. Susan brings both business and life experiences to coaching. She had a long-tenure career in the telecommunications industry that encompassed human resources, training, sales support and production management. She is married with two adult children and two grandchildren. Susan’s top 5 strengths are Arranger, Responsibility, Empathy, Achiever and Maximizer.