How a Story Captured our Strengths Based Work
As strengths consultants, we often receive questions like;
- What does a day look like in the life of a strengths based consultant?
- What do we even do in a session with a team?
- So, as strengths based consultant, what is your role?
Yes, we have our elevator pitch about our strengths based work at Leadership Vision. We can describe who we are, our approach, our strategy and our differentiators.
However, sometimes words fall short to capture the personally and professionally profound places we journey with people. Even using descriptions or phrases and timelines are insufficient to encapsulate the narrative. Naming the countries where we’ve traveled or introducing the amazing individuals with whom we’ve connected, it seems that my words don’t do the work justice. Sometimes I just want to respond to questions with a statement like, “It was incredible, but you just had to be there.”
Then, once in a while, a simple story or mere metaphor unlocks the days we seek to live, the sessions we lead, and the kind of investment we strive to make.
Our Strengths Based Work
In the last two years, I have worked on a Leadership Vision team tasked with serving a school in a multi-year strengths engagement. We have worked with over 40 teams who make up the larger community. It has been invigorating work, exhausting but exhilarating.
Recently, during day four of a week long engagement, a leader observed one of our strengths application sessions with a small team. The session was lively, cathartic, and promoted understanding. As a Leadership Vision team we were responding to each comment, tying seemingly disparate pieces together. We invited participants to describe their approach to own their strengths. The one-hour session flew by.
As consultants, our role, in part, is to weave stories, draw comparisons, and reflect back to teams or individuals using strengths based observations. We do this in order to promote understanding and further embed the strengths language.
In this dynamic environment, we are at the edge of our seat poised to respond to each talent we see or hear or notice.
- We listen intently.
- We listen actively.
- We learn from every interaction.
- We apply our learning to the next group, the next team, or the next individual.
Each of us at Leadership Vision feel as if we are “always on” in engagements like this one, bringing the whole of who we are to the table. We want to share the good news of a strengths investment with everyone we meet.
A Heartfelt Compliment
As we walked out of the session, the leader observing the team time, remarked about our strengths work by telling a story. He described a group of photographers who had come to the school earlier in the year. They worked from sun up to sun down. They were energetic and alive. From how he described them, I sensed they weren’t your traditional school photographers.
I imagine they didn’t hand out the tiny black combs of yesteryear. The actual product was more than the white-framed picture that marks the grade year in school. The photographers were not just getting canned shots of kids, but rather making kids laugh, having them make “strong kid poses” or react to their stinky shoes.
The photographers grabbed shots of teachers, or groups of people, and individual photos of kids. Their work was remarkable. You could see the difference in the photos because the expressions were priceless and true. As the leader concluded his story about the photographers, he mentioned that he himself was exhausted just watching these artists do their work all day long with them same intensity. And then with the “moral of the story” approach, he directed it to us saying, “You must be exhausted.”
What we Seek to Do
He had invited us into a narrative, and I found myself celebrating the gift that the students, parents, teachers and the school received that day. But the sharp turn acknowledging our satisfying exhaustion finally captured what we seek to do as strengths based consultants.
This leader (who is skillful in narrative and generative communication) offered us an explanation we have never been able to touch. The metaphor surprised me, humbled me, and caused me to step back and reflect. It was an image that has stayed with me long after the engagement was over. I am profoundly grateful for the compliment, the acknowledgement, and a narrative that captured the intensity, the joy and the passion we bring to our work.