• Ashley Lang

Seek out a coach. Take the CliftonStrengths.

A few years ago, I got the courage to ask for funding to attend a CliftonStrengths training to become a Gallup Certified Coach. I truly thought this would just give me more resources to use as I met with people and had conversations. I first took the assessment myself at my graduate assistantship because it was a part of the training we offered to the teachers and superintendents we worked with. I was hooked but really had no idea how many ways the tool could be used. I knew people who had taken the assessment maybe remembered their results and then filed it away until someone asked if they knew their “Top 5.” There was a fairly large gap in when I had taken the assessment and when I had the realization this would be a great tool to use with my students and colleagues.

I was at a point in my career where I felt stuck. I couldn’t figure out why. I liked my co-workers and the students I was surrounded by. I liked what I did and couldn’t imagine what else I might do with my life. I believed I was content and happy. I knew I should be grateful for what I had in my life, but I felt called to more. Finally, after getting permission to attend the CliftonStrengths training because I was hungry for professional development, I had some realizations about the true value of the CliftonStrengths and having a coach.

The training I had gotten permission to attend was an opportunity for some professional development. I was sure it would be just what I needed to go back to my job and be focused and re-energized! What I didn’t know was I was in for so much more. The training put me into information overload! I was learning not only how to coach others on their natural talents but was building my own self-awareness through peers coaching me during the course and my own self-exploration and reflection.

There were moments when I realized my top talents: Futuristic, Strategic, Significance, Command, and Competition, were more than just words to describe me. These talents were an explanation, a common language, to understanding myself and others. Not only did these words, based on the CliftonStrengths report explain my way of being, but I also saw my way of doing. These explained who I was as a leader. By understanding these pieces that came more naturally and align them with my career path or recognize a mismatch, I understood I still needed to “feed” them all in order to feel happy and successful, whether that was in my job or personal life.

Those moments of peer coaching and conversations on my talents opened my eyes to why I was feeling “off” in life and my career. I may have been doing things I enjoyed, but there was no intentional time to “feed” my natural talents, talents that were truly unique to me. See, I have always made the assumption that others are like me because we are who we surround ourselves with, and wasn’t seeing that these talents were not natural to others, since it is 1 in 33 million I will have the same “Top 5” in the same order as anyone else.

My job situation was not allowing me time to focus on making plans to feed my Futuristic as I was living hour to hour to keep my head above water. My Competition was so focused on challenging myself to be better or thinking I was going up against others that I was constantly comparing myself, so I wasn’t content. It was also important to me to know I was making a difference in the lives of others to “feed” my Significance. During this time, I struggled to see how my job was truly having an impact on those I worked with and changed me as a person.

The CliftonStrengths, though I had taken it years prior as well, gave me a renewed sense of confidence in who I was and what I was capable of. By learning more about myself and spending time reflecting on what this meant, I came back with a renewed sense of self and inspired to use this tool to help others gain self-awareness for their personal and professional lives. After the training, I approached my boss, addressing what I felt like I contributed to our team and what I needed from them, as well as taking the opportunity to propose some changes in my position. This never would have happened without the self-realization from the CliftonStrengths and those who coached me through the process.

Sometimes we think we know who we are, but it takes a bit of a nudge to see ourselves how others already see us.

Because of the coaching, which felt more like casual conversations and questions to challenge my thinking, I had to reflect on who I was, owning it, and then aiming what I knew about myself to set goals to motivate myself and inspire those I worked with. My peer coaches and then opportunity to meet with a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, allowed me the opportunity to ask questions and understand what next steps were for me. The coaching validated what I was capable of and showed me my potential. I felt more prepared to take on each day, was happier, and more successful in my role because I had the hard conversations with my boss up front.

As I was writing this post, I received a timely email from Gallup. According the email from John Clifton, CEO of Gallup, sent today, March 16, 2020: “The most relevant and urgent Gallup discovery for you to know right now: The world's 7 billion citizens demand that leadership and institutions lead our nations and the world with (1) compassion, (2) stability, (3) trust, and (4) hope and inspiration for the future, according to our biggest global study of what followers want.”

I hope I can provide some of that for you! Reach out to me, or someone you trust and see how they can continue to motivate, challenge, and inspire you. We all need these in our lives, but especially in times of change, where there is fear of the unknown. If you find yourself with the time or need for leadership skills or simply to understand yourself better, reach out to a coach or elect to join the millions who have taken the CliftonStrengths, or better yet, BOTH!

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