Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

At a recent Administrative Intern Institute meeting, I found myself learning from the best in the business. Along with several educators also pursuing their Masters in School Administration (MSA), I got to meet and interact with interdepartmental leaders serving in various administrative roles. Especially as an aspiring administrator, it was a dream come true for me. What a great opportunity!

I’m super grateful to my school district for providing these specific learning experiences for cohorts of aspiring administrators. It felt great to be included in this company, and all the more to learn from those who’ve been-there-done-that. I always came away inspired with greater perspective, deeper understanding, and a stronger desire to grow in my leadership journey.

Just a few months down the road, now, and I’m reflecting on the valuable resources shared, the lessons learned, and the many networking opportunities.

In these power-packed sessions, my favorite part was the Q/A time. Any aspiring administrator in the audience could pose a question to the expert panel. And I couldn’t wait to ask my question:

“What are you looking for in an assistant principal?”

My question was answered by a very well-respected and highly-regarded principal (now area superintendent). His answer resonates with me to this day, and I will carry it with me moving forward.

He answered (and I’m paraphrasing as I heard it on-the-spot):

“I want to know how well you know yourself. When I interview you, I’m going to ask you about your strengths. Can you articulate them? Then, I’m going to ask you about your weaknesses, and I’m looking to see if you respond [vulnerably and] sincerely. Finally, I’m going to ask you how you’re addressing your weaknesses and how you plan to grow moving forward. [I can tell a lot about you and your character from this initial conversation].”

In the Moment, Two Things Stood Out to Me:

  • How well do you really know yourself?
  • Can you articulate your strengths, weaknesses, and plans to improve?

Upon Reflection, Two More Things Stood Out to Me:

  • Why? Identifying your strengths is not about bragging or tooting your own horn. In fact, it’s not entirely about you. The reasons for knowing your strengths are so that you can be better equipped to:
    • Find your niche in a new learning community
    • Know how you can use your strengths to best serve that community
    • Model lifelong learning with character and a growth mindset
  • How? There are many resources to help you get to know yourself better. StengthsFinder is one of them, and it remains popular to this day. While these kinds of products are nice, the value is really in the process of self-exploration.

This principal’s answer reminded me of an #ECUMSA cohort discussion from one year earlier. We were talking about strengths-based leadership. At the time, we were encouraged to take Clifton’s StrengthFinder Assessment. I’d heard about it a few times in the past, and now, at this point in my life and career, it was more relevant than ever.

What is it? How does it work?

The website states: “During this hour-long online assessment, you’ll see 177 paired statements and choose which one best describes you. The assessment measures your talents — your natural patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving — and categorizes them into the 34 CliftonStrengths themes.”

On May 23, 2020, I took the assessment.

Here were my Top 5 Themes, as stated in my personalized report and also as comprehensively defined on StrengthsFinder 2.0 book pages: 169-172, 37-40, 133-136, 153-156, and 65-68, respectively.

1–WOO (Winning Others Over): You have an exceptional ability to win others over. Because you energize social situations and naturally put strangers at ease, you help build networks by connecting people with each other.

2–Achiever: You love to complete tasks, and your accomplishments fulfill you. You have a strong inner drive — an innate source of intensity, energy and power that motivates you to work hard to get things done.

3–Learner: You love to learn, and you intuitively know how you learn best. Your natural ability to pick up and absorb information quickly and to challenge yourself to continually learn more keeps you on the cutting edge.

4–Restorative: You love to solve problems. Your ability to analyze a situation, identify potential shortcomings and modify as needed makes you powerful in times of difficulty and crisis.

5–Communication: You are good at capturing people’s attention by what you say and how you say it. Your ability to find words for your own and others’ thoughts and feelings highlights important messages and helps you make meaningful connections.

Two More Takeaways

  • While StrengthsFinder identifies your Top 5 Themes, you can also unlock (for a small fee) the other 29. This allows you to see the areas in which you are less strong, too. That matters big time–especially if you’re ever asked how well you know yourself in an administrator interview.
  • I found StrengthsFinder extremely valuable. What other self-exploration products or services like this would you recommend?

What are your thoughts? Comment here!

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