Using Our Strengths to Improve Teamwork
Department: Division of Student Affairs
As an enthusiastic user of the StrengthsQuest™ online assessment in her curriculum and academic advising sessions, TRIO Student Support Services Program director Angie Klimko has long been hoping to bring greater university awareness about the tool to her staff and other WSU colleagues. That commitment paid off earlier this month when 27 faculty and staff members from the Washington State University system participated in an Accelerated Strengths Coaching Course. Some participants were long time users and others were newer to using the assessment as a tool.
The StrengthsFinder assessment allows people to recognize their own value as well as the value and talents in others. One course attendee explains, “Strengths has opened my heart and mind in so many ways. First of all, I have a better understanding of who I am and what drives me. Now that I appreciate my own unique talents I can focus my energy on developing those talents into strengths that will have lasting impact on my staff, students and the university as a whole. Strengths gives me the power to dream, think, and act, to improve outcomes for recruitment, WSU, and the people around me.”
Strengths can give universities like WSU a common language to discuss our differences and similarities, and how we can improve our work performance as faculty, staff, and other working groups. Knowing and understanding the strengths of our students can also improve and enhance the students' transformational experience of WSU, both inside and outside the classroom. As one course attendee indicated, “Strengths would be a wonderful fit with the transformational student experience. This would be a great vehicle for students to engage in self-discovery and confidence building.“ On the Pullman campus, the First Scholars Program is one example of how the StrengthsFinder tool is used in the advising of WSU students. Program Director Eva Navarijo explains, “One of the first activities I do with my Scholars is assess their strengths, and identify which strengths are personal and unique to each student. This activity encourages my students to grow confidence in their individual talents, and seek out experiences that draw on and develop their strengths. As an advisor, I value StrengthsFinder for its ability to transform the way my students see themselves and for giving them personalized language to describe their natural talents in a way that helps them stand apart from other college students. The StrengthsFinder tool allows me to assist them with exploring best fits within their academics, extracurricular activities, and relationships.”
Using strengths in the work environment can also improve work performance of teams, engagement and outcomes of employees. Rooted in a positive psychology viewpoint, using strength assessments can provide the campus community with a shared language to talk about leadership, student success and deepen our performance in specific areas in which we have the potential to do well. Strength building can lead to success by focusing on what we do well and managing around our weak areas. Another benefit is that the widespread use of the StrengthsFinder assessment can serve as a mechanism to become “oneWSU". It can create a common ground and awareness regardless of campus location. Using Strengths more systematically is a way that WSU could be set apart from other institutions and enhance critical partnerships. “I think by having almost 30-40 coaches at WSU, we could work with utilizing and maximizing our strengths rather than searching for the areas we are needing to improve on. We could utilize it also to work together as a university to strengthen relationships with student affairs and academia to better serve our students,” said another participant.
This cadre of newly certified coaches are excited to use their collective strengths to make a potential impact within the university system. If you would like to be part of this working group or just want more information on StrengthsFinder please contact Angie Klimko at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Lucila Loera, Assistant Vice-President of Student Affairs, Office for Access, Equity, & Achievement