Women Need to Accentuate the Positive
Your job is to make your strengths more effective and your weaknesses irrelevant.” – Peter Drucker
So often women are focused on their weaknesses. With the constant barrage of multi-tasking with kids, husbands, jobs, relatives, homes, etc., it’s easy to focus on what didn’t get done versus the long list of things that she did accomplish.
What if she, instead, focused on her strengths?
That was the theme of WALL, Women in Argyle Leaving a Legend. WALL was an all-day conference for women and men featuring former Denton County Clerk, Cindy Mitchell. After serving four consecutive terms, Mitchell is now the CEO of Strategic Solutions HQ where she helps leaders and teams develop and grow. Certified in the Clifton StrengthFinders tool powered by the Gallup Organization, Mitchell had each attendee take the 45-minute StrengthFinders test prior to the conference. Armed with this information, attendees learned where their strengths lie and where their talent should be focused.
“Did you know that people who focus on their strengths are more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life?” asked Mitchell. “Productivity increases 7.8% in people operating in their strengths.”
Mitchell went on to talk about the test and how after four decades and 14 million people have taken the test, no two people have ever gotten the same matches. That’s how specific it is to each individual. It’s used for business strategy. Once a person determines her talents and strengths, she needs to work within those strengths in order to be in her most productive and happiest state.
“People who work within their strengths are six times more engaged at work than those who don’t,” pointed out Mitchell. “They are also much more profitable.”
It is also important to understand the strengths well—both the good and the bad— because there is also a down side to these strengths. There are “basements and balconies” as Mitchell calls them. For example, someone who is an achiever is tireless, has a strong work ethic, leads by example and is a go-getter. However, that same person may also have a tendency to be overcommitted, burn the candle at both ends, can’t say no and is too concentrated on work. By understanding the full definition of our strengths or “superpowers” (as Mitchell calls them), we may better understand ourselves.
As a business strategy, by placing people in jobs that highlight their strengths, Mitchell has found that it is the equivalent of having extra members on the workforce. So often, there are a certain number of people in an office who are not engaged, but in using this strategy, those same people–working within their strengths—become more productive, lightening the load for everyone. That makes it easier for the leaders to spend time encouraging their employees instead of acting as a “helicopter boss”.
“Great leaders don’t light a fire under individuals,” said Mitchell. “They create a spark within them.”
Once an employee learns to utilize the talents that are natural to who she is, it makes work much less stressful and much more enjoyable.
Attendees not only learned all about their strengths and how best to use them, they met with many other women in attendance and networked. Many connected on LinkedIn and exchanged information in order to broaden networks and make important new business associations.
Following lunch, talent consultant Shannon Graham discussed BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) and what keeps people from reaching those goals. She drew a picture of a road to reaching a goal. On the road were boulders which acted as obstacles. With audience participation, she worked through the obstacles to help attendees see how easy it is to reach even the most far-fetched goal.
The conference ended with a panel of successful women local to the area answering questions. Moderated by Argyle United Methodist Church Rev. Sarah Roberts, the women were asked questions such as their major influences and how they saved their businesses following economic turmoil such as 9/11. The panel included:
Lisa Cave, Assistant Vice President, Branch Manager, Point Bank, Argyle
Marcylle Combs, President & CEO Foundation Management Services
Sharon Cox, Director of Communications and Community Relations (retired) Denton ISD
Karen G. Rue, Ed.D, Superintendent of Schools (retired) Northwest ISD
Debbie Sardon, President, Buckets & Bows and Cleaning for a Reason
Telena Wright, Ed.D, Superintendent of Schools, Argyle ISD
Each panelist told stories of challenges faced and how each overcame her obstacle. Instead of making excuses in business, all found it important to look for solutions instead. Debbie Sardone discussed how her business had dwindled after 9/11 once she realized that the reason the business was failing was not the economy but rather her role and how she needed to change due to these circumstances, she was able to salvage things.
“Instead of placing blame, realize that you are the reason the business is failing,” she said bluntly. “Once you are able to own that failure, the great news is that YOU can fix it.”
The most important takeaway from the discussion, however, was how women should be there to support one another.
“We need to continue to pour into women and offer them support,” explained Rev. Roberts.
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