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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Strengths as Superpowers

by Jessica Stutzman

Rush, rush, rush. That’s my daily routine as a working adult with somewhat dubious time management skills living in a metro area. Whether I’m on my way to work, to the gym or to some social obligation, it feels like I just barely have enough time to get everything done. But an experience at a recent training event stopped me in my tracks. It gave me a new perspective on something I’ve been aware of, but taking for granted, for years – my strengths.

On a Friday in early December, I was rushing from my job to a training event for a mentoring program I participate in called TeamMates. Although this will be my fifth year as a mentor, I had surpassed the three-year mark and required a refresher before I could meet with my mentee again in January. I walked into a classroom filled with tables, each surrounded by a cluster of chairs. On each table were blank pieces of paper and a set of markers. “Oh great,” I thought, griping internally, “an icebreaker activity.” Exasperated by another frenetic day, my thoughts were everywhere except with the class that was about to begin.

Then Allyson Horne, TeamMates Match Strength Specialist, stood and introduced herself and the icebreaker activity. She told us to create nametags by writing our names on the paper and drawing a few illustrations that represent things that are “uniquely you.” Before Allyson invited the room to create and discuss nametags among our tables, she shared her own illustrations with us and explained their significance: musical notes (she loves music), a heart (she loves what she does for a living), six stick figures (representing her family, whom she loves) and the word “Woo.”

Having worked for Gallup for nearly 10 years and being very familiar with strengths, I immediately recognized Woo as one of the 34 Clifton StrengthsFinder themes. Generally speaking, people with strong Woo talents enjoy the challenge of meeting new people and bring energy to social situations. However, Allyson’s take on it was something I hadn’t heard before:

“I have ‘Woo’ here because it is my social superpower,” she said, smiling. She went on to explain that as a child, she never thought of this part of her personality as a strength since her overly social disposition led to spending a lot of time in the principal’s office. It wasn’t until she took the Clifton StrengthsFinder and learned her top five strengths that she realized this “party superpower,” as her husband affectionately calls it, is a strength and something she can lean on to benefit herself and those around her.

I’ve discussed and written about strengths a lot in my time as a Gallup associate, but I’ve never heard them referred to as “superpowers.” It made me think about my top five strengths and what my hidden superpower might be -- perhaps leading with Strategic is what allows me to navigate the seemingly hectic pace of life every day. And maybe my relationship-based strengths ensure that I never leave my loved ones feeling short-changed for time, in spite of always being on the go. But more than just thinking about myself, Allyson’s insight made me wonder about my mentee and what her superpower might be.

I’ll be meeting with Allyson this year to learn how to discuss my mentee’s strengths with her and how to help my mentee understand my strengths as well. I look forward to learning about our superpowers together as we explore how to make the world around us a better place, one strength at a time.

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Jessica Stutzman is an Editor and Creative Writer for Gallup. Her nametag for the icebreaker featured a heart (celebrating her engagement), some musical notes (she likes to listen to music), a book (she likes to read), a yellow brick road (she is from Kansas) and some poorly drawn cats (she’s a proud mom of three). Jessica received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her focus was on print journalism, and she minored in history, psychology and Spanish.

Jessica’s top five strengths are: Strategic, Relator, Developer, Learner and Individualization.


Carol Rizzolo, PhD said...

What a great story and a wonderful reframe of Strengths! I love this! And definitely see my Positivity and Connectedness as super powers. I think that in my 50's, I came to embrace intellection as the super power that it is, and now at 60, I love, embrace, and delight in my Intellection. But most of all, I have come to learn that I can trust my intellection as a part of my core...And that is as cool as it gets! Thanks for posting this! I am excited to use it in my own journey as well as with my clients! Carol Rizzolo

John and Ning said...

Thanks for this great blog. We've modified the "Theme dynamics" exercise a bit and now call it "Define your Strengths Superpowers" -- even giving participants a sheet with a superhero logo on them. If anyone is interested in this process, I'll be happy to send along the materials. Again, thanks!

Ryan [ Coach Rye ]Salvanera said...

Great post! Now, I'm planning to use that icebreaker activity in my upcoming workshops.

Allyson Horne said...

Thank you so much Jessica! I feel so lucky to love what I do, and to help people learn about their superpowers, but especially fortunate that we can help students at an early age start focusing on what is right about them, with the support and encouragement of dedicated mentors like you.


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