I am just returning from New Orleans where I have been attending the 2015 NAEYC Institute for Professional Development. It was this year’s theme that drove me to attend The Early Childhood Profession We All Want: What Will It Take To Get Us There? As a person who is continually thinking about leadership and leadership development there are many ideas swirling in my head which will manifest themselves into various blog posts that I can share, but for today I want to keep it simple.
During one of the sessions I attended, the presenter recommended asking people what in their work gives them the most joy? She suggested, in their answer you will find their strengths. For me, my immediate answer was people and relationships. Later on I asked a group of colleagues I was talking with, “what gave them joy in their work?” As each person shared their answer, such as organizing, research, technology and building relationships, I began to see by using this simple tool; a leader could begin to build a collaborative team with diverse strengths. It also provides a natural opportunity for collective leadership allowing members of the team to lead a portion of the project using their strength. Knowing my strengths lay in relationship building and setting vision, a good organizer, researcher and technology lover would be necessary to lead other aspects of a project not in my skill set. Once again this demonstrates the sum of the parts of a team is exponentially greater then the individuals.
Perhaps even more importantly by using this tool to identify what gives a person joy in their work, they can make sure they are able to use that strength as much as possible in their daily efforts. Of course as a child care center director even though I was not crazy about creating a budget and number crunching, it was a necessary piece of my work. I could not get away from it. However, when the number crunching was starting to get me down I would remember to get up and go do a classroom visit so I could interact with the teacher and children, which always provided a little dose of joy.
Reflecting on this notion that using our strengths brings us joy, I am drawn to think about being. Being is defined as all the physical and mental qualities that make up a person. Our strengths are our most well developed qualities and part of our being. They are simply part of our authentic self and should be easily available. These qualities are not static. As part of our journey it is possible to add to and develop other qualities as we need them and they too will become part of our being. It seems logical then, when our best qualities are simply part of who we are and we are easily able to use them in our job, we are able to feel contentment and satisfaction in our work and life.
Consider then, what brings you joy in your daily work? Do you recognize it as one of your strengths? Can you add more of it throughout your workday? Is it part of your being? I hope you will take a moment to reflect on these questions. I know I plan to some more.