Now that you’re aware of your school’s strengths, opportunities, weaknesses and threats and have reviewed your strengths again, it’s time to pick a direction. It’s important to note that just because you’ve defined opportunities, weaknesses, threats and strengths in that order doesn’t mean you need to work on them in the same order.
Realizing that opportunities and threats are external to your school, it’s always best to focus on the things your can deal with, and those are the internal aspects, which are strengths and weaknesses. Start with those things that you’ve identified as positive attributes about your school, since those can lead to the things that are remarkable about your school, and those things that are uniquely remarkable about your school are the points that make your school “marketable.”
But let’s talk about “you” for a moment. There are several books on “Strength Finding” on the market. One of the most significant for education professionals is “Teach With Your Strengths.” The book is a quick read, since most of the book describes the attributes of each particular strength. After reading the first few chapters, the book directs you to an online Web site to help determine your top five strengths.
I always thought one of my strengths was organization. I tried my best to always be organized so I knew where things were, could reference them quickly, and keep things tidy. While doing those things are important, I found it was something I struggled with. I was always looking for new ways to organize things so that I could access them when I needed them. After taking the Strengths Finder assessment, I discovered why organization was such a struggle. it wasn’t my top strength. It wasn’t even one of my top five strengths! This explained why I had to keep working at it. Strengths are something you don’t have to keep working at…you’re naturally good at them. Doing them gives you the energy to do the things that require some effort, and therefore aren’t necessarily strengths.
Strengths are something that you’re already good at. One of my identified strengths is “Connectedness.” This pertains to getting people together, establishing cooperative projects, networking and certainly has application to communicating via the Internet. When I was in an advancement position, this was a great strength to lead with, allowing me to leave the “organization” aspects to someone who had that characteristic as one of her strengths. And when you think about it, connecting people with passion to the mission and vision of an organization is what Advancement is all about. Connections create relationships…and relationships get messy sometimes, and often, aren’t prone to being neatly organized.
Once you’ve found your personal strengths, then apply the same rubric to evaluate the strengths of your school. Are they congruent? If so, you’re in an excellent position to “identify” with your school. As a leader of the school, you will become synonymous with it…which is why there is so much “shakeup” when leadership changes. For example, if you’re an organized person, and your school is in a constant state of chaos, the dissonance created will either drive you crazy or cause your school to decline in enrollment, morale, parental involvement or community support…or all of the above.
After you’ve found your personal strengths, and know the strengths of your school, you can begin to create a marketing plan for your school to capitalize on those strengths. More about that next week. Until then, visit the above link to get “Teach With Your Strengths” on Amazon.com, or here – http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Teach-with-Your-Strengths/Rosanne-Liesveld/e/9781595620064/?itm=1 – and get your copy from Barnes and Noble. If you’re interesting in taking the assessment, buy it new, since the access is only permitted by the first owner of the book. It can be a transformative experience for you…and your school.
So, why is the second part of the title of this article “Lead TO Your Strengths?” If you come right out and tell the world your strengths, it could sound like boasting. In fact, that’s why many schools don’t really like to deal with marketing, and “blowing their own horn.” Remember, however, that your actions speak louder than words, and it does no one any good to light a lamp then set it under a bushel basket. Does your school demonstrate a safe and caring environment and not just say it? Are students working cooperatively on assignments? Does your school have an atmosphere that makes a parent of a prospective student think, “I really want my child to go to school here?” When students make discovery part of the learning process, the learning is authentic. Similarly, leading parents of prospective students to have an authentic learning experience about your school’s strengths is precisely what causes a personal emotional link with the school. And this year, with the pandemic still plaguing our nation (and the world), parents are more aware than ever about the kind of educational experience they expect their children to have.
Is it difficult to get a parent to that point of having an authentic learning experience? I’ll answer that with a question: Is is difficult to get a room full of distanced students fully engaged in the learning experience in the classroom, AND cater to those joining in the education experience virtually? Is it possible? The answers to those questions should be the same. Is it easy to do? If it was easy, everyone would do it.
© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2006-2020