God has given all of us gifts, strengths. We are unique. Working in our areas of strength often leads to greater fulfilment and satisfaction, as well as effectiveness.
It was based on this premise that Dr. Daryl Johnson, a trainer with Nazarene Strengths Institute (NSI), brought Strengths training to Africa Nazarene University last fall at the invitation Prof. Rod Reed, Deputy Vice Chancellor – Academics, and other local leaders. Through the generosity of an international donor, all full-time university faculty and staff were able to take the online test to discover their top five strengths from the full list of 34 signature themes and their related leadership domain.
The Nazarene Strengths Institute (NSI) is training Nazarenes around the world to identify their God-given strengths, and to work within those in their vocations and ministries. NSI uses Clifton StrengthsFinder, a strengths assessment tool available through the Gallup organization, designed to help people realize their strengths and build on them, as well as leverage them in team settings.
NSI has training centers at five U.S. Nazarene universities, and trainers at the denomination’s Global Ministry Center, which is bringing the Strengths training to missionaries and leaders in several regions.
Working with Evie Gardner, Johnson, who also taught for one trimester in ANU’s Department of Religion, kicked off the Strengths training at the Faculty Workshop on August 31. Citing his “Strengths Definitions” tool on the NSI website, he told the group, “A basic tenet of Gallup Strengths training is that most people are focused on weakness fixing rather than using their strengths. They are trying to correct their weaknesses rather than live out of the flow of who they already are. God has called each believer on the basis of what he has already put into them rather than what he has left out.”
The session created an air of excitement. Many said it was the “best workshop ever.”
In late November, Johnson and Evie Gardner led 105 of the non-teaching staff in learning about their top five at both the downtown and main campuses.
“The receptivity and interest in Strengths from both these groups was the most enthusiastic of any group to which I have ever presented this workshop,” said Johnson. “Listening in on various department groups during learning activities, I was pleased at the level of understanding of their signature themes, strengths domains, team profile, and application they were making to their departments.”
“The Gallup Strength Finder training is a learning experience that has inspired me to understand how to lead with my strengths,” said Jeremiah Dol Mwale, Finance Department. “I was of the conventional school of thought of improving on my weakness, but the Gallup training made me understand that I should develop my best and focus on them to enable me to be a good team player. The focus on common traits enables a team to improve productivity and so, strengths are key to improve the performance of individuals as well as teams. Thus, I am best when I use my greatest strengths.”
“What I learnt of myself is that my top 5 strengths (Activator, Command, Relator, Learner and Strategic) have helped me be effective in the supervisory role I play within ANU,” said Maureen N. Kinoti, Clinical Officer in-Charge, ANU Nellie Montague Clinic. “They also challenged me to look out for teaching opportunities where I can learn even better. I will look for opportunities to partner with colleagues and friends whose strengths are complementary to mine such as analytical, empathy and activator. The clinic team hopes to allocate tasks that are best accomplished by individual’s strengths within their job descriptions.”
Because of the overwhelming interest, Johnson squeezed in the next level of training – “201: Strengths Advisor” – for a core group from the university before his return to the United States. Those taking the training are equipped to carry on the vision of Strengths by advising and working with their colleagues at the university. Several have already led or scheduled coaching sessions.
NSI offers three levels of Strengths training: 101, which introduces people to their Strengths and teaches them more about what they are and how to build on their strengths; 201 trains people to be Strengths coaches to others in one-on-one mentoring relationships; 301 trains people to be team leaders and cultivate the strengths of their team members.
In addition to the trainings at institutions of higher learning like ANU, Nazarene Global Mission has been training missionaries and national leaders in each region as coaches and trainers, so they can host Strengths training events to further equip Nazarenes across the regions, according to Marty Hoskins, director of personnel for Global Mission.
“We would like to see it working on every region,” Hoskins said. “Our hope and goal would be to identify people that we can invest in that can become trainers and have those on each region.”
So far, 101 and 201 trainings have been held in the South America and Africa regions, and 301 has also been held in South America, Eurasia and Asia-Pacific regions. In South America, leaders translated the materials into Spanish, and in November, all the country coordinators in the region were trained as Strengths coaches so they could carry forward Strengths training to the leaders in their countries. In Asia-Pacific, all the field strategy coordinators (leaders of the churches in a “field”) and their teams use Strengths training extensively.
“It’s a tool that works for anyone,” said Hoskins. “We believe it’s a biblically-based tool in that helps each person discover who God created them to be. By identifying natural talents that we have and by investing in those talents … and beginning to use those, you build those into strengths. It helps you understand how you process information and ways others complement you in your areas of weakness.”
-- Gina Grate Pottenger also contributed to this article.