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Watch How Kansas State University Creates a Strengths-Based Campus

Watch How Kansas State University Creates a Strengths-Based Campus

Featuring interviews from the 2016 CliftonStrengths Summit

Ever wonder what it takes to truly make an entire campus -- from students to faculty, staff and other professionals throughout a school -- strengths-based?

Watch members of the Kansas State University campus community talk about how they help their school bring the power of CliftonStrengths discovery and development to every corner of their campus.

From the video:

We reach 900 first semester freshmen every fall semester. And so our students took the assessment, identified their strengths, and then a lot of our students started to say hey, out of everything that we did throughout the course of the semester, strengths mattered. Strengths gave me the power and the efficacy to see myself exercise leadership in powerful ways. The magic behind strengths at Kansas State University is really because, has really been driven by our student energy, taking their strengths and then applying their strengths to their living learning communities, student organizations, student government, and so then it's really impacted and touched all campuses, or all departments across the campus.

-- Mike Finnegan, Assistant Professor, Staley School of Leadership Studies, Kansas State University

I love learning about my strengths. So I'm number one Discipline, so I have a lot of structure and order. And before coming to college, I thought I needed to learn how to be more flexible. But I realize, nope, I'm good at this structure thing, so I should just stick with it. But it definitely provided a new lens and common language. We rolled it out within my sorority, and so I would talk to my roommates about it, you know, I'd bust in the room and just go straight to do something and someone's like well, she's just using her Focus, it's okay. And so it became that common language. We were able to call out when we saw someone else using their strengths and how we think that benefited them and where they could maybe more productively apply them.

-- Kirsten Brunkow, Kansas State University, 2012-2014

I can't lie, when I first saw my Top Five, I was a little frustrated. Not out of them not reflecting me, but for the exact opposite: It was me to a tee. And at that point in my life, I didn't want to be the person I was; I wanted to be like everybody else -- the executors, the doers, the people who could do a thousand things at once perfectly and never falter. I have always been a relationship builder. I've always been invested in people. And up until that point in my life, no one ever, at least no one ever communicated to me that that was viewed as something of value.

-- Erin Poppe, Kansas State University, 2009-2013

When I see students engaged, students have a real sense of self. They understand their values, they understand their own authentic approach to teams. So strengths has empowered our students to understand their role in team. Our students who have high talent in the Executing domain, they now take on roles to say I'm going to complete this task. My Strength of Responsibility is going to allow me to crawl through broken glass to make sure that this initiative gets completed. And so our executors know their role. Our relationship builders understand their role. And so it gives students an opportunity to say, "Where are my talents?" And if I understand my talents and my strengths, then I can productively apply them to team, to make the team run well. But they start to think more conscientiously about what the team needs. And I think strengths allows that conversation to happen.

-- Mike Finnegan

You know, pairing Positivity with Woo and Input, Empathy, all of them, for a good portion of my life I have been told that my enthusiasm and curiosity is a tad overwhelming. And I would have to agree with them. Mainly because that curiosity and enthusiasm for the potential in other people or ideas or opportunities, there's just so much of it out there that, of course, it was overwhelming. And learning the language of strengths and learning the action items associated with my Top Five helped me to narrow down that focus so that I could really figure out how I was going to be the best version of myself.

-- Erin Poppe

Strengths is an opportunity for students to see their own individual spirit show up amongst others on our campus environment. So it's powerful.

-- Mike Finnegan

When we decided to go campuswide, we needed to engage multiple voices across multiple factions of the institution. Campus leaders started to say I want strengths training in my department. I want strengths training in my college, in my office. And so we went out and we fulfilled the need. But in fulfilling the need, we also energized a lot of people across campus from a lot of different factions who were excited about strengths. And they said, "Mike, what can we do? What can we do to be an active participant in this strengths initiative?" And I said, "Well, be a strengths champion."

-- Mike Finnegan

We had the opportunity to bring some of the champions from campus into the organization to help us understand it and to start to use it on a regular basis. Everyone who's currently an employee at the Foundation has their, knows their strengths. We have them on our email signatures, we talk about them in trainings, we try to weave strengths activities through as much as we can, and we also bring in all of our new hires. It's part of the new hire paperwork. They get the code, they do the assessment and some of them ask a lot of questions and they have never seen it before, and it's only once they come in and really get started that we're able to help them understand what the real meaning of strengths is and how they can use it in their work life.

-- Jill Trego, Associate Vice President of Talent, Culture & Human Resources, Kansas State University Foundation

So when people started to see that strengths wasn't something else, but, more or less, something that they could integrate in the work that they were already doing and it as affirming and it felt good, people were all on board. And so then it was kind of a, just our university community saying let's schedule times for our champions to meet, and we're just constantly giving updates and sharing stories as to how strengths is being significant in the lives of our students, our faculty, and staff and alumni.

-- Mike Finnegan

We're a separate, but connected, organization to the university, so we're in the K-State family, but we're the fundraising arm. It's part of how our strengths program on campus began. It is the genesis of a philanthropic gift from a passionate alumnus who wanted to invest in the future leaders from K-State. And through that initial gift, we've been able to continue to work with that donor to build what started as a shoestring for just getting as many codes as Mike and his team could get on campus in the School of Leadership Studies, to something bigger, something broader.

How do we now support the champions and their training? How do we support this, not just the students, but also the faculty and staff? And now here we are at the Foundation investing in the training of our human resources and talent team so that we can be better coaches and mentors for our staff. And how our staff can, then, be their best and most actualized selves in their current role and also in the community.

Because one of the best things about strengths is that it's not just about what you're doing at the office -- it's about the rest of your life. It's about how you interact with family, how you lead in your church, how you lead in a community organization. And for the whole K-State family to be well-rounded and make a huge contribution beyond the little walls around campus, but to permeate the community overall.

-- Jill Trego

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