Robin Clements planned an interesting activity for her class, Professional Development in Agricultural Business Management. She divided the students into groups of 4 or 5 and explained their assignment. They were tasked with creating a tower, but the building supplies were surprising. Clements explained that the group who could build the tallest structure using only dried spaghetti and ziti noodles and marshmallows would win.
A fierce competition ensued. Each student’s unique strengths became apparent. There were team leaders and action-based builders. There were thoughtful students who came up with construction plans. Some students embraced the support role and handed noodles to the builders and tallied the marshmallows. There was work to be done for everyone. At the end, amidst playful banter and collapsing noodle towers, Clements explained to the students why this activity is a great example of finding their CliftonStrengths and using them to their advantage.
CliftonStrengths is rooted in positive psychology, where the focus is on encouraging a student’s current strengths rather than trying to force improve in their areas of weakness. Through a survey of 177 questions, CliftonStrengths identifies talents and recommends investing time in building those traits that will serve them well in the workplace. By embracing and honing what comes naturally, students can learn about the value they will bring to a team.
CliftonStrengths is offered for free to all new students on campus as part of NC State’s Common Experience. Developing an awareness of strengths as a student can help with professional development on campus as well as in future work environments because the students will know how to market themselves to employers, recognize unique strengths in work colleagues and enjoy greater work satisfaction when using their strengths to get a job done.
Clement’s class had taken the survey before the tower assignment. When reviewing how they interacted as part of a team, many students found that their dominant CliftonStrength was apparent. Others found that they didn’t fall into any one category exclusively, but had multiple strengths. Clements assured the students that it is normal to fall into several categories (CliftonStrengths identifies 34 themes) because humans are multifaceted and cannot be easily categorized. CliftonStrengths also helps students see the unique value in their peers and how diverse characteristics makes a team better.