CEHD Strengths Spotlight | Jennifer Engler, Assistant Dean for Student Services
At the University of Minnesota and in CEHD we feel every student has what they need to be successful. We believe in taking a strengths based approach and work with students to learn to use their talents so they can be developed into strengths.
What are your top 5 talent themes?
Connectedness, Activator, Input, Relator, Communication
In what ways do you use your talents each day?
My Connectedness theme tends to be the driving force behind most of my days, efforts and source of energy. In almost every meeting, conversation, article or book I am reading, I routinely identify the links between ideas, events, or people. Fortifying the bonds between the people and projects that help improve the student experience gives me a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction and overall energy.
My other talent themes tend to serve in support of the automatic connections I see. My Input theme is often constantly running in the background doing what I like to refer to as "data download" seeking more and more information, facts, and patterns to help feed the connections the other part of my brain is trying to make.
My Relator theme thrives on knowing people on a deeper level and getting to know what is most important to them, what talent themes they rely on to make their life most fulfilling, and what drives them to do their best every day.
Of course, one of the best ways these connections can be made, enriched and maintained with others is through my Communication theme (lots and lots of it!). I find email almost addictive and I have piles and piles of articles, blogs, and books that I have yet to read, digest and share.
Finally, all of this happens for me very quickly - my Activator theme - I try to download the information quickly, my brain is making connections before all the information is in, and I am moving forward to communicate, connect with others, and move an effort, task, or project forward even before I am aware of the total plan or even outcome.
How have you sought to develop your talent themes?
I can move too quickly and I also often get caught up in all the connections I like to make between ideas, people and projects so I often try to partner with someone with Focus or Discipline themes. Colleagues with these talent themes help me stay on track and give attention to the details that can get lost for me in my haste or in the many connections that I pursue.
I have also realized that my Relator and Connectedness themes make it essential that I make time for family and close friends. I need the deep connection and quality moments in order to feed my soul and keep me energized and motivated to make a difference at home and in my work.
What surprises you about your talent themes?
At first, I didn't like my Connectedness theme and I wasn't sure how it helped me in my life, either at work or in my personal life. I resonated with the idea that I am a spiritual person and that I believe we are all connected and thus impact one another in with our thoughts and actions. However, it took me a while to see how the connections I was making in my head between people, ideas, projects and events was helpful in my leadership and coaching roles. I took for granted that everyone made the same connections and could see how they could be put to use to further projects and achieve goals that could ultimately help students.
Which talent themes fit you best and why?
Perhaps not surprising, I see the connections between how my talent themes work together and I like to see how each of them works in combination with the other.
How have your talent themes helped you as a leader to resolve conflict and find creative solutions ?
I am very energized by the ability to transform innovative ideas into immediate action. I like to work with creative and original thinkers, and then do whatever I can to support them to move their ideas from conceptual framework to effective and concrete practice. I enjoy spurring others into action, especially around areas that have been log jammed for a while. Removing the barriers and getting things done is a great delight to me!
Currently, I am working in student services to help everyone see how their programs and efforts fit in the larger picture. I am striving to build solid teams where people feel they are important to the organization and that the work that they do ultimately benefits students. I like the idea of using my Connectedness talents to break down silos, share knowledge and ultimately help people see the connections among their talents, their actions, their mission, and their successes. The ultimate goals is to help people believe in what they are doing and feel like they are part of something bigger that is making a true difference in the lives of others.
Visit Strengths at the U to learn more!