Strengths and Mindfulness: Paying Attention to what Makes us Unique

My role at Leadership Vision is one component of my profession. I have the privilege of working as part of an Institutional Advancement team at a PK-12 independent school in the Twin Cities. The beauty of working in multiple professional capacities, is each role provides me the opportunity to continually develop my practice in a variety of environments, working relationships, and professional contexts. Each of my roles are influenced by and made better by the other.

In my work as an Institutional Advancement officer, I was asked to take a leadership role and facilitate a professional development training. The topic I shared, was one about Mindfulness, which I felt I could speak to meaningfully because of my practice of yoga.

Mindfulness is,

Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.

To fully understand mindfulness, I think it is important to understand what it is, as well as what it is not.

  • Mindfulness is not about being calm or any particular way.
  • Mindfulness can significantly reduce stress, but it’s not about stress reduction.
  • Mindfulness is not the absence of thought.
  • Mindfulness is not about being complacent.
  • Mindfulness is not religious.
  • Mindfulness is not a silver bullet.

Not surprisingly, teaching on the topic of Mindfulness has influenced how I think about my own Mindfulness.I’ve been actively looking for ways that  Mindfulness could influence my practice as a Leadership Vision consultant.

What I’ve concluded is that StrengthsFinder is a practice of Mindfulness. Let me use the statements of what Mindfulness is not to explain further.

Mindfulness is not about being calm or any particular way

Mindfulness isn’t about conforming to a predefined set of thinking. Rather, it is about being open to understanding things as they come. In the same way, knowing your Strengths is about understanding behaviors, and meeting learners where they are at.

There is no right or wrong way to grow in our understanding of Strengths. At Leadership Vision, we acknowledge that everyone takes a posture that is best for them when learning and engaging in Strengths. This is one of the reasons we emphasize the core offerings. This process provides educational opportunities to meet a variety of learners where they’re at as they seek to learn and adopt the practice of a Strengths-based approach.

Mindfulness can significantly reduce stress but it’s not about stress reduction

The purpose of mindfulness is not to reduce stress, though that is a wonderful byproduct. As you become present to what is going on around you, stress naturally fades away. In similar fashion, an individual or team who goes through a Strengths engagement, find great clarity in understanding the differences between people – something that often leads to stress. When we are unable to understand where someone is coming from, simple miscommunications can lead down a road of destruction.

A greater understanding of individuals and team Strengths, can reduce tension and frustration, “stress,” in any environment. But, that is not without great intention. A greater emphasis should be placed on making space for compassion and identifying how a team’s unique Strength dynamic can be utilized to drive results and cultivate a healthy and productive environment.

Mindfulness is not the absence of thought. Mindfulness is not about being complacent.

When we talk about being mindful, it’s not about being ok with the way things are. When an individual or a team has completed a Strengths engagement, it is important and necessary to invest in the ongoing work of Strengths development to ensure growth in all areas.

It’s about being intentional.

Once a team or individual has completed an engagement, it is important and necessary to commit to a consistent Strengths approach. As a team, we are constantly looking for ways to support all of our clients in keeping this promise to themselves and to their colleagues and teammates. Aleasha spoke to one of these tools in her post, a Team Health Check.

Mindfulness is not religious

Being mindful is not connected with any particular religion, yet it has deep connections to one’s spirituality. That said, we find many who are connected to StrengthsFinder to be affiliated with a faith in some way.

StrengthsFinder invites each of us to celebrate what is good and right in ourselves and in others. Many faiths celebrate and emphasize this same idea.

Mindfulness is not a silver bullet

If you find yourself “stuck” for whatever reason in life, mindfulness isn’t necessarily the answer. Like StrengthsFinder, it can be one tool to help you understand the bigger picture of who you are. Similarly, just because you are now aware of someone else’s Strengths, you still need to invest the time and energy to fully understand what those things mean, and how to apply them to your context.

StrengthsFinder is not a silver bullet for understanding the complexities of people. It’s a tool to start a conversation and develop a common language. Just because you know someone’s top five Themes of Strength, does not mean you know the depth of their person. This speaks to another core value of Leadership Vision, descriptive not prescriptive. Again, this process takes time and a consistent commitment for individuals and teams.

Strengths and Mindfulness

Let’s remind ourselves the definition of Mindfulness:

paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.

StrengthsFinder is a conscious awakening of our humanism. It is a choice to pay attention to yourself and others through the lens of Strength. It demands our presence in that we must pause to consider our Strengths, the Strengths of others, and how they influence one another.

Finally, Strengths demands that we not judge ourselves or others but make space for compassion.

I have been so grateful for the opportunity to learn more about Mindfulness and to identify the ways that it can make me a better Consultant, Advancement professional, and all around more mindful human being.

What areas of your life do you see aligning with the Strengths-based approach? Can you find ways to have them positively influence and further your growth and understanding?