week 7 coaching course

As we continue to emphasize the “know yourself” part of our rules for success, this week’s coaching course focuses on strengths – character strengths (VIA Character Strengths) and engagement strengths (StrengthsFinder/StrengthsQuest).

First, definitions of strengths, character strengths, and engagement strengths:

  • A strength is the ability to consistently produce a positive outcome through near-perfect performance in a specific task or given activity.
  • Character strengths focuses on your ethics, morals, behaviors, and values; answers the question, “What is best about who you are?”
  • Engagement strengths consists of your skills, knowledge, and talents; answers the question, “What’s best about the work you do?”

The challenge this semester is how to have students engage in the activities in a short amount of time without having to do the online tests for homework – and for free.  For the character strengths, we decided to take the short, 1-2 sentence lists of 24 character strengths from the VIA web site (http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Reports-Courses-Resources/Resources/Character-Strength-Fact-Sheets) and turned them into small cards/tags (character strengths-short-2-page, 9-24-18), so that students could sort them at their desk.  We did the same thing with engagement strengths; we went to Gallup’s StrengthsFinder for Students site, downloaded to 2-page list of engagement strengths (https://news.gallup.com/poll/166991/clifton-strengthsfinder-theme-descriptions-pdf.aspx), and turned them into small cards/tags (engagement strengths-short-3-page, 9-24-18) for the students to sort.

For both activities, we asked the students to identify their top five character strengths, top 5 engagement strengths, then write down a sentence or two that briefly describes how they use one of their character strengths and one of their engagement strengths on a daily basis.  If there’s an odd number in the class, the one student gets to share with me, as the facilitator/instructor/coach.  It was useful to hear how each of the students were able to use their strengths, either in their personal lives, in the classroom, or at work.

We show an information video at the start of each of the two strengths sort; there seems to be much better videos to outlines the value of the character strengths than for the engagement strengths.  We do explain that this activity, along with the personality type and the values assessment, not only provide you additional insight into knowing yourself, but also provides the foundation for the next activity – which is defining how you want to serve the world by constructing a meaningful work statement.

At the end of class, we also share with them that they can get more in-depth analysis of their character strengths by visiting the VIA Character Strengths web site and taking the free survey, where they’ll get a listing of all 24 strengths from highest to lowest.  For more in-depth work on their engagement strengths, we encourage them to visit UNCG’s Career Services Center, where they provide an access code for students to take the on-line test and meet with a career counselor one-on-one to discuss the results.  My guess is only a handful will take advantage of these two opportunities – better a few than none.

In addition, for my specific sections of the class, I share a couple of stories how knowledge of my strengths have helped me – both personally and professionally.  For example, based on my engagement strengths, I left my previous position due to a conflict of my strengths of MAXIMIZER, FUTURISTIC, and ACTIVATOR.  And my character strengths of LOVE OF LEARNING and CREATIVITY show up most in reading (2-3 books a week) and creating new tools for personal growth (at least one new tool a month).

As with the previous two activities, we state they must take the results of any of the assessments with a grain of salt, but use them as pieces of a puzzle to know yourself a little bit better.

In the end, it’s my hope that the students gain addition insight into themselves so that they can be empowered to create experiences that are aligned with the best parts of themselves and make a difference in the world.

P.S.  If you want to read an interesting article about the differences of the two strengths assessment, check it out here:

Word of warning: Although I enjoyed the article, author is Education Director at VIA Institute.

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