Are you the type of person who loves learning, whether it's devouring the latest bestseller on memory techniques or something as simple as mastering rules to a new game? Do you have a knack for relating well to the people in your life, everybody from co-workers to condo neighbors?
If these sound familiar, you may share some of the same strengths discovered in women executives, in data analyzed by the Center for Leadership at Florida International University (FIU).
"For the last six of our Women on the Move (WOTM) programs, participants completed the Strength Finders 2.0 survey, an assessment tool to help them discover their specific talents," reports Dr. Joyce Elam, developer of the WOTM program and Executive Dean of the College of Business Administration at FIU. "While this analysis was done to give insight to the individual participants, we couldn't resist compiling the results of the assessments to see the top strengths of these motivated, energized women."
Not surprisingly, the women executives - with titles including middle to upper manager, director and vice president - had a range of valuable talents. Strengths such as Discipline, Consistency, Self-assurance, Harmony and others appeared frequently.
But five strengths emerged as the most common in WOTM participants. We had a chance to talk to some of the women who displayed these strengths on their Strength Finders 2.0 survey about how identifying and capitalizing on these attributes help them be better leaders:
Being a Relator took the top spot, with an overwhelming 48.7 percent of women executives in the group having that strength. A Relator experiences great satisfaction from being surrounded by close friends and prefers establishing deep relationships.
"A leader gets work done through people, so being a Relator is crucial to many executive positions," points out Maria Guillen, Reagents Manufacturing Manager for Beckman Coulter, a company she's been with for 23 years, in management for the past 15 years. "I have found if you have connections with people and bond with them, you can drive them in the direction you want."
"Being a Relator means you can have real discussions with people who work for you, to find out what's really going on," says Danielle Miller, Director of Finance for the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine at FIU. "I find that I'm able to cross that layer that often separates people because I try to truly understand others."
Monique Nunez, Interactive Marketing Manager at FedEx Latin America and The Caribbean, wasn't surprised that the assessment showed being a Realtor is one of her strengths. In fact, Monique thinks it's her biggest strength. "Even though I need quiet and lonely times to recharge myself, I have a keen ability to reach out to people," she comments. "That has helped me professionally and personally, not only when I need to motivate people but also when they're having problems."
"I've always been an Achiever. If a teacher said do A and B, I did A, B and C," says Maria, who has 23 people on her team at Beckman Coulter. "Maybe it's ego that makes me want to show people I can do more, but mostly it's about achieving my own to-do list. Every day is a new opportunity to accomplish things, to not settle for the status quo."
In addition to striving for excellence in her career, Maria tries to achieve mentally (she's learning French), physically (she's taken up half-marathon running again) and spiritually.
Slightly more than 45 percent of the women who were assessed were found to have Achiever as one of their strengths. Achievers have a constant need for accomplishment. There is a constant fire burning within these individuals which motivates them to do more.
Being an Achiever has absolutely helped Monique in her career. She won FedEx's prestigious Five Star award in 2011 for her outstanding achievements. "I'm the type of person who eagerly wrote reports on helping FedEx market to Hispanic customers, including writing tutorials in Spanish," she reflects. "Now as a leader, being an Achiever helps me motivate my team because they see my desire to reach goals."
Some people enjoy the process of learning regardless of content or results, and 39.3 percent of the WOTM executives have that important strength.
"I'm curious about everything from quantum physics to how to fix a bicycle," says Maria. She comments that Learners are often sharers. When she learns something new, especially something that is an improvement, she wants to share it with her employees.
Being a Learner helped Danielle when she was assigned a completely new job at FIU. "Because I am a Learner, I can take on any task and enjoy the process of learning what I need to know," she says. "I know I'll figure it out. That strength also helps my team because they know when they are explaining something to me, I want to understand it, to learn from them."
Danielle also says that being a Learner made the WOTM program appealing to her. "I'm eager to learn everything, including about myself and how to balance my life," she states.
Monique adds that being a Learner is extra important in her role as Interactive Marketing Manager."This is a field that changes frequently, with new technology and new vendors all the time," she says. "A leader better be a Learner first."
Monique also offers a caution. "You should be cognizant of the fact that not everybody is a Learner," she says. "You cannot expect your team and others around you to love learning like you might."
Responsibility, a strength held by almost 40 percent of the women assessed, describes a person's unwavering commitment to completing tasks.
"It's a trait of my personal and professional life, the way I grew up," Danielle reflects. "Compensation doesn't matter. Getting a project completed does. That's the culture I try to develop with my team."
When it's time to assign new duties, others look to people with the Responsibility strength because they know the job will get done.
"Almost all the time, Responsibility is a strength but sometimes there is a drawback," Monique observes. "Every now and then in the business world, you can't see a project through to its entirety because it has been rerouted or discontinued. This can be hard for a responsible person."
A person with Strategic strength recognizes there are multiple plans of action and can determine the best one. This strength, held by one in three of the WOTM assessed, allows people to sift through various scenarios and identify workable patterns.
"It's rare to be caught off guard when you strategize," says Maria. "I'm always thinking 'What's next?" I'm wired that way. I'm planning today for months from now and that has proven to be a valuable way to operate."
"Over the years, my mentors helped me learn how to strategize, to see the big picture," Danielle says. "That is a strength that has served me well."
Monique points out that you can't get "there" from "here" if you don't realize the paths and choose the right one.
"An employee told me that he looks through the magnifying glass and sees one ant but I see all 20 ants," she says. "I took that as one of the nicest compliments I've received. Because a Strategic person sees the total picture, he or she can see all the options available for moving ahead or solving a problem."
What's in it for me? Graduates of the Women on the Move program share their story.
From all over the world, women come to the Women on the Move (WOTM) course, offered each spring by the Center for Leadership at Florida International University, to increase their competency levels in the many facets of leadership and to learn more about their talents. Charting a new future is a regular occurrence at the program.
• Maria Guillen, Reagents Manufacturing Manager for Beckman Coulter, took the Women on the Move course to validate her feelings as to what good leadership is. "At that time, certain leadership skills weren't being appreciated by upper management at my company and I was doubting myself," she reports. "Women on the Move helped realize my style was on the right track. Since then, our company has new owners and the new management group is quite different, more in line with the way I think leadership should be. I'm glad I didn't change what I knew to be the right way. Women on the Move was of enormous help."
• After participating in WOTM, Monique Nunez had a complete change in responsibility and was named Interactive Marketing Manager at FedEx Latin America and The Caribbean. She credits the change in great part to the WOTM course. "I was at a point in my life that I wasn't sure about where I was going, and I wasn't sure it was going to be at FedEx," she says. "With the action plan I did at Women on the Move, I decided to stay at FedEx and make it known to others what type of job I wanted. That's exactly what happened and I'm really enjoying my new job."
• Danielle Miller appreciates her current role as Director of Finance for the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine at Florida International University. "Being at Women on the Move meant I was among high-achieving women and it definitely had a positive impact on my life and job performance," she said. "Right now I'm quite comfortable where I am, especially because the Women on the Move course strengthened me to be a better leader."
What are your strengths as a leader? How can you leverage these for success?
Women will continue to take the Strength Finders 2.0 survey as part of the Women on the Move program, where professional women from across the world gather to dive deep into the fresh approach to life-long leadership development based on a contemporary leadership competency model developed by FIU's Center for Leadership.
The next Women on the Move program will be April 17-20, 2012, at the Hyatt Regency Bonaventure Conference Center & Spa in Weston, Florida.
"Participating in this program will help women be effective decision-makers and align others behind their choices," says Mayra Beers, the Center's Director of Operations. "Women learn how to negotiate to reveal unexpected options, lead teams, motivate others and develop their personal strengths. It's all about going beyond what you thought your limitations were."