Great quote: “W…

Great quote: “We tell ourselves stories to explain the events in our lives. Being connected to others provides a necessary opportunity to challenge stories that might be hurting our performance and inhibiting our growth.”

Great quote by Stephen Lundin & Bob Nelson, authors of Ubuntu! An inspiring story about an African tradition of teamwork and collaboration.

Exercise: A Plate of Strengths

This exercise has been adapted from one in fellow coach Michael Bungay Stainer’s book Do More Great Work. This exercise offers a quick and insightful way you can process the greatness that is you by breaking it into what you show to the world and what you keep more to yourself. Combined with a strengths tool like the VIA Signiture Strenghts Questionnaire, it’s a powerful self-reflection exercise. Great thing is, you can do it on your own or with your team. If you like the Johari Window concept, you’ll like this.


  • Thin markers
  • Paper plate (not shiny or else the marker will rub off)
  • Optional: results from the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire or other strengths tool


  1. List on the outside of the plate all the strengths that you show to the world.
  2. Flip the plate over. On the inside, write all the strengths you know you possess but perhaps others may not know about you.
  3. Refer to your VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire or other strengths tool. Record any you have missed either on the inside or outside of your plate.
  4. Reflect:
    1. How visible are your strengths to others? Do you let your best self be known to the world or do you keep most of that do yourself?
    2. How much are you able to leverage your strengths in your current environment/situation?
    3. To what extent do you live into your strengths (or do you downplay them)?
  5. Identify one thing you would like to do as a result of these reflections. Remember, just one next step at a time – that way you’ll know what you can attribute your success to!
  6. Select a place you can keep your plate as a reminder of your strengths. Set an intention to keep recording them as you live into them.

 Let me know how it goes!

Related posts:

Interview #6 with a strengths-based leader: Author, speaker, trainer and executive coach Gloria Miele

 Trainer, Coach, Speaker and Author Gloria Miele

Trainer, Coach, Speaker and Author Gloria Miele

1. As a professional coach, how do you help clients better understand and leverage their strengths? 

First, I let people know my perspective and my bias. I help people focus on their strengths, which I define as the intersection between what you do best and what you love to do most.  That’s the sweet spot where you can really thrive and excel.

I’m always taken aback when people say things like, “Do you have a test for weaknesses,” or a recent favorite, “I can’t wait to sit down with you and have you shred me apart.” Huh? How’s that going to help?

Dwelling on what’s not working is something people tend to do anyway, part of those negative messages that mess with our confidence. I want to lend a fresh perspective of strengths to help energize, excite and engage my clients. I love seeing the light go on when someone really starts thinking about what they love and how they can do more of it.

As a psychologist, I also value what you can learn about a person from a standard assessment. I typically recommend the Strengthsfinder 2.0 from the Gallup organization and the Values In Action test from for people to get an objective sense of their strengths and values. On my website, I offer a free workbook designed to help you create a goal-setting strategy completely informed by your strengths and successes. It’s a different, more positive way to work on your goals.

2. Your LinkedIn profile references your interest in appreciative inquiry. How can appreciative inquiry fit with strengths in leadership?

AI is an exciting process that focuses on what empowers and energizes an organization. It is a powerful organizational change and development system with a strengths-based approach.

AI has 4 steps: Discovery, Dream, Design and Destiny. The Discovery phase entails exploring “the best of what is,” a time when you or your organization was at its best. Understanding how your strengths and values fit into those successes is essential to the process. From there, the following steps are Dream by imagining what could be; Design by determining what should be; and Destiny, creating what shall be.

By examining the successes and strengths of an organization, a leader can move forward new initiatives that have already proven to work. A strengths-based leader keeps this type of inquiry going, checking in or debriefing in a more positive direction. Another benefit of AI is that it encourages input from all stakeholders. Whether you work in a cubicle or the C suite, all voices are valued. In this way, more viewpoints are represented and can make a difference.

You can learn more about AI here.

3. As an educator and trainer, how do you teach people about strengths in leadership? How do you make this meaningful to them?

One thing I learned from being a clinician is to start where the person is and that self-awareness is key to behavior change. So, letting people explore and understand their own strengths is the place to start. Ask yourself, “What am I best at?” “What do I love to do?”

Then you look outside yourself to see the perspectives of others. What are the strengths of the others on your team and the goals to be met? Maximizing each person’s strengths can create a skilled, energetic and engaged team.  For a few years I taught a business planning class for entrepreneurs through an excellent non-profit, Women’s Economic Ventures in Southern California.  These primarily (but not exclusively) women sign up for a 14-week class to turn their skill, talent, and strengths into a business: massage therapists, business consultants, retail, specialty food makers, and more.  They want to make a living doing what they love to do and being their own boss.

But business success requires managing a lot more than your passion: marketing, financials, technology, systems that may not be your areas of strength. In fact, you may know nothing about balance sheets or marketing strategy.  A great leader knows their own strengths but also what’s needed in the big picture. It’s so important to get the help you need when you’re a business owner by tapping into the strengths of others, looking beyond your own skills to see what type of support you need to round out your best qualities and create a more balanced, productive team.

4. When you think of one of the most significant moments in your career (a highlight or low point), what role did strengths play in it?

I pursued coach training because I was looking for something new, a different way to help people.  I was a research scientist working virtually on a number of national research projects, my days spent on conference calls and in front of my computer working on research papers. While I’m a good researcher and understand well issues related to research design and methodology, I became a psychologist because I wanted to help people. Yes research helps, but it’s less direct than therapy or coaching. I’m a people person and a great trainer, at my best when helping others learn and integrate new material, whether that’s a research protocol or a workshop on becoming a stronger leader.

During a walk on the beach with my coach training classmates, I realized I needed to do more of what I loved and was best at. I realized I had spent the first 20 years of my career almost entirely focused on what was wrong with people – their symptoms, disorders and pathologies – and wanted to spend more time focusing on what was going well with people – their strengths, talents and aspirations. I started focusing more on strengths and made a concerted effort to secure more projects that entailed training and coaching and fewer that entailed writing research papers. It was a huge turning point.

5. What are your Top 5 strengths and how do you put them into play as a leader?

My strengths are Empathy – Strategic – Developer – Communication – Woo.

As you can see, my strengths tend to be interpersonal, and are mostly in the leadership domains of relationship building and influence. As a leader, I quickly build strong relationships with people through perspective-taking and active listening (Empathy) in the service of helping them achieve more, learn more and develop their potential (Developer).  I’m also good at delivering a message (Communication) and can be persuasive with a group (Woo). I also tend to see connections between ideas, people, and events and how to navigate the best route for future possibilities (Strategic).  I’ve come to appreciate and understand these qualities in a variety of contexts and have applied them to be a stronger leader.

On the VIA, my top character strength is humor and playfulness, which I see as the glue that holds everything together. I naturally tend to value and create a fun, joyful environment that makes people comfortable and relaxed. It’s a great combo with my other strengths, especially Communication and Woo.

6. If you had to recommend one or two essential books for strengths-based leaders, what would they be and why?

There are so many great books out there that speak to leaders’ strengths, but I’d first recommend Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie. It’s a great place to start, since it also includes a code to take the Strengthsfinder 2.0 assessment. You also receive an in depth report on how to put your strengths into practice as a leader, how to focus on others’ strengths and how to create teams that represent the four domains of leadership strengths: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building and Strategic Thinking.

And I’d also recommend readings in positive psychology, a field brought to life by Martin Seligman, Founder and Director of Positive Psychology Center at University of Pennsylvania. The VIA is available there, as well as dozens of other interesting assessments on happiness, quality of life, character strengths and more.  Positive Leadership by Kim Cameron is an excellent book that looks at the science and practice of creating positive organizations through strengths and other research-based concepts related to positivity.

Finally, I’m working on a book called Stronger Leader, an approach that weaves a strengths-based perspective through other essential leadership practices, skills and qualities, like effective change management, emotional intelligence, communication, self-care and more. It will be a how-to guide to develop conscious, strengths-based leaders who want to create a positive organizational culture, stronger teams and workplaces. It’s a synthesis of the work I’ve been doing with my own clients that’s proven again and again to help them achieve their leadership goals and build stronger organizations. I hope it becomes another essential text to the field.

Thanks Gloria for sharing your wisdom!

Related posts:

More about Gloria Miele, Ph.D.

Gloria M. Miele, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, trainer and executive coach who uses a strengths-based approach to help individuals, groups and organizations achieve their goals and realize their greatest success. She also offers training and coaching programs to develop tech-savvy leaders in health care. Visit www.OptimalDevelopmentCoaching.com to receive a free strengths-based goal setting workbook and information about her upcoming book, Stronger Leader. Connect on Facebook and Twitter for even more motivating and inspiring resources to become a stronger, more confident leader.

Guest Blogger Sandeep Aujla: The Strength of Gratitude Part 2

How can leaders increase feelings of gratitude in themselves and others?

In my previous blog post, I put forward a case for leaders to cultivate gratitude in themselves and others.  Now, I’d like to share one approach to doing so using the ever so popular competency perspective that we love in human resources.

ImageCompetency perspective constitutes one of the most popular approaches to recruitment, selection, and training in today’s workplace.  Competency is the conglomerate term that refers to knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs).

Dictionary.com defines gratitude as “a quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.”  However, I want you to reconsider gratitude as a competency that includes knowledge of what you can/should be grateful for, a skill of knowing when and how to thank the other, and the ability to demonstrate genuine gratefulness in words and actions.

I feel that reconsidering gratitude through a competency framework can de-mystify ways to develop it and effectively exercise it for not only one’s benefit but for the greater good.  Of course we can debate that KSAs can be treated interchangeably and if you’re inclined to do so, feel free to rework the framework to fit your needs.  The ultimate goal of this exercise is to establish a concrete approach to develop and harness the strength of gratitude in oneself and others.

What to be grateful for? (Knowledge)

To answer this question, I defer to Ralph Waldo Emerson who encouraged us to

“cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to [us], and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to [our] advancement, [we] should include all things in [our] gratitude.”

But instead of Emerson’s inclusive suggestion to include “all things [that] have contributed to your advancement,” I suggest you pick (at least) one thing per day.  This sparing identification of sources to be grateful for should help relieve the pressure for those that are new to adopting the habit to be grateful.  For others who practice gratitude more frequently, distinguish between things that bring fleeting joy versus those that leave a lasting or even lingering feeling of positivity and contentment; I recommend celebrating the latter feeling and its source.

When to thank? (Skill)

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives”  - John F. Kennedy

You can increase your probability to adopt a new habit, such as giving thanks, by setting specific time to give thanks.  You can choose to either do it in the first hour of work or before going to bed, or at any other time that is meaningful to you.  Ideally, you should thank others as soon as you observe them doing something kind for others or for you.  However, it’s never too late to thank someone for an act of kindness or any of their actions that positively impacted you, even if it were months or years later.

How to genuinely thank the other? (Ability)

This question feels most important because without genuineness your actions despite positive intentions may not appear authentic, disallowing expression of gratitude to positively impact the recipient and you, the giver.  Pondering on the word “genuine” brings children to mind; we don’t expect deceit or ulterior motives when children say thank you.  So, thank others with similar genuineness as children, displaying heart-felt gratitude.  Don’t feel the pressure to glorify their actions; you can thank others for something small as long as it was meaningful to you.  Furthermore, you can thank others in writing, in person, or just in your thoughts; the former two options are most appropriate and rewarding for others and you.  In case you ever suffer self-doubt, remind yourself of Winnie-the-Pooh:

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.”  –  A. A. Milne

In conclusion, if you commit to finding things to be grateful for, make the time to show gratitude to the source of that feeling, and express that gratitude sincerely, I believe that you will cultivate the habit of gratitude and reap the benefits of developing this competency.  Furthermore, demonstrating this competency at work should help you engage others by increasing their feelings of being valued.  Also, we can expect that your role modeling as a leader should encourage others to also practice gratitude, thus creating a positive workplace culture of gratefulness; now who wouldn’t want to work in such an environment?

If you have other suggestions for cultivating gratitude please share in the comment section below. Thank you for reading this article and for considering to develop and to leverage gratitude as one of your strengths.

Thank-you Sandeep for sharing your wisdom…you are who I am grateful for today…

Related posts:

Guest Blogger Sandeep Aujla: The Strength of Gratitude

Welcome guest blogger Sandeep Aujla! It was of no surprise that Sandeep selected the strength of gratitude as the focus of her guest blog post – anyone who has ever met Sandeep knows that she truly lives it every day in her spirituality, her relationships and her perspective on work and life. Thanks Sandeep for sharing your wisdom!

Leading with Gratitude

Consider these three scenarios:

  • You receive a thank you note from a client that you worked with several months ago. 
  • It’s been two days since you’ve worked day-and-night to resume operations at work after your workspace got accidentally flooded with water; the CEO of your organization comes by with coffee and snacks for your team and you. 
  • You created an internship opportunity for a recent graduate who has no prior work experience in your field.

ImageIf you were a part of the aforementioned situations, you’d either be the recipient of someone’s gratitude or made someone feel grateful for your actions.  Regardless of who the source of gratefulness is, both individuals would feel a sense of positivity and well-being along with feelings that their work is meaningful and that they make a difference.  These latter feelings are the essence of employee engagement and I believe that feelings of gratitude can positively contribute to increasing everyone’s engagement at work (of course an idea that should be empirically tested…a not-so-subtle hint to the researchers reading this).  Yet, we don’t consciously and proactively encourage feeling and expressing gratitude at work, except perhaps in the more popular sarcastic terms (for example, “they should consider themselves lucky to have a job in this market!”  Sounds familiar, anyone?)

But strength-based leaders recognize the benefits that can be realized by exercising and developing the muscle of gratitude.  Furthermore, they encourage and inspire their direct reports to incorporate gratitude in their work lives. Leaders can accomplish this with simple “kudos” programs (if these programs are genuine and have procedures that fairly recognize all employees for their respective strengths and contributions) or through consistent modeling and reinforcement of these behaviours.  After all, how many more employee surveys would we need to remind us of the never-quenching thirst for simple thank-you’s.  Yes, people are paid to do their jobs well.  But human nature desires validation; it seeks acknowledgement of the value added by one’s work, no matter how far one’s work is from organizational strategy…especially, if it is particularly far from the organization’s strategy.

There is scientific evidence that suggests that practicing gratitude increases one’s feelings of happiness, life satisfaction, and perceived communal strength of a relationship.  Moreover, the benefits of practicing gratitude are not just limited to personal relationships; expressing gratitude has been linked to positive mood that can in turn lend to effectiveness at work, increased comfort in voicing relationship concerns, and can be expected to increase employee engagement.  Why would a leader not want his or her direct reports to benefit from such positive outcomes?

Considering the significant positive effects associated with gratitude, I encourage you as a leader to cultivate in yourself and others a sense of gratefulness.

Lucky for us, there is always something to be grateful for!

Visit later this week for Sandeep’s next post “How can leaders increase feelings of gratitude in themselves and others?”



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Strengths-based approaches = HOPE

Sarah McVanel:

Check out this great post on strengths-based community leadership…

Originally posted on Sustaining Community Engagement:

Photo by Rupert Ganzer

Photo by Rupert Ganzer

Strengths-based approaches are about HOPE

Helping Other Possibilities Emerge

When we focus on the half-empty glass, we discover what is broken, missing or inadequate.These tell us what we can’t do and can lead us to relying on professional, external support.

When we focus on the half-full glass, we discover what people and communities care about, what resources they have, and what they are passionate about. These open a door to a world of possibilities.

If you liked this post you might want to subscribe to the blog (top right-hand corner of the blog),  and you might like to look at:

  1. What is the Strengths Perspective?
  2. What is asset-based community-driven development (ABCD)?
  3. What is Appreciative Inquiry?
  4. “We didn’t just build a garden, we built a community”

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