Last month we were in Seattle, and we were filming some educational videos for SAS and our company. The building we were working in had an area dedicated to the history of Seattle during the Klondike gold rush of 1897. At that time, Seattle was the last stop, the center for transportation and supplies for those pioneers and explorers. As I looked at the pictures of these people, I wondered,
“What were they thinking?” And, “What level of belief does it take to make this type of commitment to venture into the unknown, for the potential of riches?”
Here I am today, to recognize your accomplishment of becoming a Strengths Communicator. You yourselves are pioneers and explorers in the expanding of your professional skill set – and personal character. Each person here has taken the same type of intellectual, relational and professional risk – leaving the comfort of what you know, risking an unproven professional practice of strengths conversations, and inviting others into a new space in the midst of a ‘challenging environment.’
Developing the Discipline of Listening
As Strengths Communicators, as pioneers, you have progressed through a series of challenges, obstacles and practices to develop the disciplines of… well… listening. You have invited people into a conversation about their strengths, to explore for themselves, and you have risen up to the confrontations of those who questioned this strengths philosophy ••• but you persisted and pressed in.
You have listened attentively to the joyful and the conflicted, and you have echoed back what you have heard, with dignity and honor. You have asked questions, you have taken notes, you have wrestled with resistance, you have celebrated when things have come together. You have created safe places within this culture where people felt heard, valued and respected – as people.
What is the most beautiful thing that you have done is how you have given people a place to share their story about themselves. You have given people the gift of speaking aloud to their own narrative. There are few things in life more powerful than this! By listening you have invited others to give voice to who they are.
Daniel Gach, you are one of my greatest memories and most profound examples of this transformational, pioneering work. As each of you met with instructional assistants, Daniel, you also brought a new voice to the instructional assistants. And our LVC team experienced this first hand when you brought them together and we heard their gratitude for the work you had done. Daniel, it was an honor to be with you that day as you honored these women.
Giving Others a Voice
And for you all as a team, your work among the IA’s is dignified. For these formerly anonymous, voiceless members of this community, you looked them in the eye, extended a hand of invitation, and spoke to them face to face about their value as members of the SAS community, as influencers to the teachers they serve. And most importantly, you gave these women a voice, and place to be heard and seen, and for many of them this was the first time in their lives that they felt seen, that they felt unique and heard. They were noticed for who they are as women, not simply a people in support of the professional educators.
Each of you have stepped up, volunteered, for a professional challenge that few have taken. Whenever we step up to a professional, risk-filled challenge such as this, it shapes who we are as people. Whenever we avail ourselves to a personal challenge it will impact our practice as professionals. So as we pause to look around at one another, let us remember that each one of us have responded to a professional challenge, we have each been shaped as a person by this challenge, and that our professional and relational practice has also been changed in the process.
Personal Growth and Challenge
Quite recently I have entered into a new, professional, coaching relationship which is intended to challenge me to the same thing, to step up to a professional challenge. As much as this relationship is designed to shape and focus who I am as a professional, I am also being challenged and shaped as a person –
- a challenge to what I believe.
- a challenge to my past successes.
- a challenge to my present relationships.
- a challenge to my daily practice.
This professional challenge is hard work, painful at times, but I can see that by my saying ‘yes’ I am giving other people an opportunity to do the same – positively respond to personal and professional challenges.
A Professional Challenge to Strengths Communicators
You were asked to step up to a professional challenge, and you said ‘yes‘. When faced with an opportunity to add responsibilities, study and work to your already busy lives, you responded with a ‘yes‘. This ‘yes‘ was not only a personal response to be a stronger person, but this ‘yes‘ was also an invitation for others to be strong themselves as people and as members of this community. People knowing themselves as people and people knowing the importance of their place in this place.
But now allow me to ask you — are you truly aware of the impact you are having? Pause one more time and reflect on this professional challenge we have presented you, and reflect now on the impact you have each had on other people throughout this school. By engaging in the work you have, as strengths professionals, you have not only been shaped yourselves, you too have become shapers of people lives, influencers of culture and co-creators of a generative environment.
Being Changed Through the Journey
We need to be ever mindful of the change we have each experienced through our shared journey. We have each committed to the disciplines of the work, we have each committed to the process of learning, practice, study and risk. The work we have shared in is more than an interest you have, it is a work giving meaning and purpose to others. Our work together is meaningful, our work together is purposeful.
Congratulations, you have crossed a threshold and we can no longer withhold the transformational impact you are having in peoples lives and in the shaping of this culture. Continue to pioneer new ways of relating and connecting to people. Continue to explore the changing landscapes of this culture. Continue to fearlessly and fearfully explore the changing landscape of you as a person and a professional. Continue to lead us in the changes we need to make as co-influencers and shapers of the SAS culture.
I speak on behalf of the LVC team, the SAS administrators and leadership team… Congratulations, we are proud of you all for completing the requirements of this Strengths Communicator training.