Colleges and universities using CliftonStrengths to improve engagement and development among their students, faculty and staff must gain buy-in from leaders and students to ignite a movement across campus. One proven solution schools can use to build a strengths-based culture is marrying a peer leadership model and a student activities model -- both in academic and non-academic settings.

CliftonStrengths champions recognize the value of students knowing their individual strengths, including the empowerment to reach their full potential. Schools have a bevy of touch points and methods to meet students where they're at -- from career services to advising, first-year experience programs, resident life, classrooms and various institutions on campus. And as CliftonStrengths programs mature to a model of coaching and development, campuses are training students to coach their peers to use their strengths.

Activating Students to Coach CliftonStrengths

On a recent Called to Coach webcast, Mark Pogue, the executive director of the Clifton Strengths Institute at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Business Administration, details how the college recruited and trained 80 students to coach. The college adopted a model to train students to work individually with their peers in the freshman class, including conducting one-on-one conversations about their strengths.

"There's a commitment from the UNL CBA that all their students will really understand who they are and how they can leverage that uniqueness to be successful in the world," Pogue says. "We specifically use CliftonStrengths to get there."

To find the approximately 80 students who would help coach the 800 incoming freshmen, Pogue looked outside of the CBA. He went to about 20-30 organizations and individual groups on campus to encourage them to apply.

"The trick was trying to not only help them understand the opportunity they'd have to coach other students, but we also tried to help them understand that this could possibly be one of the best ways to prepare [them] to be a manager of human beings once [they] graduated from college," Pogue said.

Pogue's peer-to-peer program is a leader among other student leadership models nationwide. At Kansas State University, for example, students lead the movement. Strengths Advocates, a peer leadership group, helps integrate CliftonStrengths initiatives across campus by facilitating strengths workshops and on-campus events, to name a few activities. What's more, students who take the CliftonStrengths assessment can schedule one-on-one peer coaching sessions to talk about strengths in action.

"Find student champions," said Kristen Brunkow, a founding member of Strengths Advocates at K-State, in an interview with Gallup in 2015. "Find the student champions who can pioneer and push and really be the voice [for strengths]. Because [when a student says], 'I want to see this happen, this matters to me and my friends and we want this to be a part of our academic program' -- it's powerful."

The benefits of such programs appear clearly at the individual level. According to Pogue, 94% of UNL CBA students who received coaching surveyed at the end of the eight-week course agreed that their coach encouraged their development. Additionally, 92% of students thought that the time spent with their coach was a positive investment.

This content first appeared in the Strengths Insights Newsletter -- subscribe today!