Sarah Budd led NEWIM's leadership team through two weekends devoted to understanding our unique talents (using Gallup's StrengthsFinders Assessment tool) and how we each contribute to the success of the team.
Leadership Retreat - Professional Development for Us
Women on NEWIM's leadership team were invited to take the Gallup StrengthsFinders Assessment and then participate in a weekend of professional development with Sarah Budd facilitating. Two retreats were held: one in Oakdale and one in Orange County. We wanted to understand this information and learn how to apply it in our interactions with others. We wanted to learn how to strengthen the gifts God has given to us, as well as gain an increased awareness of the talents of the others on the team. We also hoped that our friendships would be deepened and that we would more fully recognize the gift that God has given to us in each woman who serves on this team.
Time during the Retreat for Personal Reflection, Worship and Prayer
We used Romans 12:1-9 as our text for the retreat. It is so interesting that after 11 chapters of theology, articulating the wonders of the grace of the gospel, Paul urges us to respond to God's mercy by offering ourselves wholeheartedly in sacrificial service using our unique blend of gifts.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a woman's gift is prophesying, let her use it in proportion to her faith. If it is serving, let her serve; if it is teaching, let her teach; if it is encouraging, let her encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let her give generously; if it is leadership, let her govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let her do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere.
Uncovering our unique, natural, innate ways of thinking, feeling and behaving helps us to discover how we are "fearfully and wonderfully" made. We want to step into being who God created us to be in order that we may enthusiastically live our lives to please Him rather than hold back because we fear that we are doing it all wrong. Often we don't value our talents because we don't recognize them as strengths. Often we don't understand why others approach a task so differently from us. This retreat helped all of us to better understand our talents and how we need each other for our team to excel.
What we Learned
The retreat schedule included 7 workshop sessions led by Sarah. We developed a shared understanding of Gallup's 34 strength "themes" and reviewed our top five talents and our individualized Insight Guides. We discussed what aspects of the Guide resonated with us, and what aspects we didn't recognize in ourselves. We also came to understand that our talent themes are neutral. There isn't a hierarchy that shows that some talents are actually better than others. We want to see our strengths as our toolbox, and just like a carpenter we want to know when to use each one of them and how they complement the strengths others have. When we invest in our strengths, we get the most return from our investment.
Balconies and Basements
We don't always use our talents well. Sometime we can be annoying and each talent has a dark side that we need to be aware of. It's really valuable to have someone help us to see how we might be in the "basement" with one of our strengths so we can open ourselves to the Holy Spirit's work in our inner life. "Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Rom. 12:2)
Requirements for Success
The group brainstormed what we felt were essential elements for us to be a successful leadership team: Results, Collaboration, Trust, Shared Values, Action, Common Goals and Purpose are what we want for our team as we move forward. We recognize our interdependence.
Our talents and strengths help us, and the team execute, influence others, build relationships, and absorb and think about information. We mapped each of our strengths in these four domains and recognized who the go-to people are in their areas of strength. And we thought about who the people are that we naturally seek out when we need help and what we particularly appreciate about them. We also spent time thinking about why people want to collaborate with us. What do we bring that others find helpful?
We make things happen by using our talents, but because they are so much apart of how we innately approach what we do, we may not have identified our approach as a strength. We think everyone approaches tasks, relationships and decisions just like we do. But the fact is, we bring a unique way of approaching things that others don't share.
Sarah provided us time to reflect on one of our top 5 themes, and helped us to see how we are always using our talents and how our talents benefit the team. As Paul said in Romans 12, we need each other. "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." The NEWIM leadership team is at our best when we wholeheartedly work together to accomplish what God has given us to do. It's obvious! We need each other.
I am at My Best When...
Each of us took time to reflect on when we are at our best, when we are at our worst, what we will bring to the team and what we'd love to receive from the others on the team. Common themes emerged: We are at our best when there is plenty of grace, when there is safety as we learn and make mistakes, when we are listened to and when we have the opportunity to be out in nature connecting with the Lord. This was a powerful time of sharing our hearts: we spoke vulnerably about when we feel we are at our best, what shuts us down, what we are committing to each other and how we will work collaboratively as part of the Leadership Team.
Coming to recognize our unique blend of talents and how important it is that we fully invest in developing them into areas of strength, we left the retreat more deeply valuing the role we play, and that others play, on the team. And we were each convinced that we need to keep investing in our knowledge, skills and abilities so we continue to grow our talents into true assets for the team. The northern gals scheduled a follow-up phone call with Sarah where she could coach us in our personal professional development plan. The southern gals are also scheduling a coaching call with Sarah so we take the insight from the retreat and put it into action.
Participant's Response to the Weekend
"As a woman, I found it particularly empowering to focus on developing my strengths rather than fixing my weaknesses. I hope to learn ways to 'manage' my weaknesses and increase my strengths by going deeper into the Strengths Finders resources."
"I feel like Sarah has awakened my dead brain. I was actually thinking that I might have early Alzheimer's but now I'm just wondering if parts of me have just started shutting down to cope with my job. What we did this weekend has given me hope that with some thought and focus and being intentional about building on my talents and strengths, I will be able to get back to a fulfilling and happy life."
"I found this to be not only insightful, but very freeing. It has opened up brand new understandings about how and why I live and work the way I do."
"If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (I Peter 4:11)