My Connectedness says it was meant to be. Her Strategic put the pieces together immediately. It was an instant colleague-ship turned friendship. Leveraging our complementary strengths (and the shared accountability of a colleague with some skin in the game), we launched a meaningful network of strengths professionals right here in San Diego. How cool is that?
When we started Strengths Network San Diego (SNSD) in May 2014, we sought input from those who came before us -- talented people organizers, like Tessa Dodge of Strengths Network South Pacific and Brandon Miller of the Sacramento StrengthsFinder MeetUp. And now, looking back on our first year, we have learned a thing or two (or five, as it were) along the way. So for all of our fellow CliftonStrengths enthusiasts out there in the world, here are a few nuggets gleaned from our experience in building a local Strengths Network.
- Complementary strengths are key:
As we sipped tea in the cool breeze of a California fall and kicked ideas around, we realized that we both felt compelled to start a group that would bring regional strengths professionals together on a regular basis to collaborate and share experiences. Yet neither of us had actually made it happen. She has influence and connections. I have motivation and execution. Only the combination of our collective strengths -- not either one alone -- ignited the spark to take true action. I am happy to say that we are living examples of practicing what we preach. Phew. Understand what you bring to the table, and share it with a partner who brings something else.
- Accountability matters:
Oftentimes over the past year, the motivation to continue on with excellence in SNSD amidst the busyness of life has been that "drat, she is depending on me" voice in our heads. At times it hasn't been easy or convenient, but the accountability to keep going has been the driving force to put one foot in front of the other. While we share many of the responsibilities in making each event happen, we have also come to adopt relatively defined roles, and we count on each other to take ownership of our respective pieces so that together we can achieve the outcome. Set deadlines and define roles to be sure the right things get done well.
- A communication platform provides credibility:
We quickly realized we needed a more professional identity and communication plan beyond our Excel spreadsheet and Gmail communication. We discussed several alternatives and ultimately decided on a combination of a classy website and targeted email marketing campaigns. As a result, our fellow members know what to expect from us each month, and the information can be found by members and non-members alike, without barriers to join. Decide on a mode of communication that is both personal and professional, and stick with it.
- Transparency and defined processes work:
It turns out that crumpled receipts and mental math do not cut it as an accurate accounting system. So instead, we transitioned to a mutually accessible, semi-automated Google Doc to manage our basic contact list, RSVPs, membership payments and expenses. It's nothing fancy, but it has served us well and created the transparency we needed. Set up a simple accounting and list management system from the beginning; it will pay off down the road.
- Structure pays off:
Since we both lead our own high-paced businesses and lives, systematizing has been crucial. Based on feedback and needs of the group, we created a standard outline for each event. So, while content changes by month, we are not reinventing the wheel, but instead plugging new content into our existing outline. That structure has been a lifesaver! Understand what your group wants and create a meeting structure around that value.
Strengths Network San Diego has turned out to be a highlight of each month as a place to feed our strengths and partner in our pain. We highly recommend you join one in your area, and if there isn't one, find a complementary partner, and start one. Together, it's possible to create a place to connect, learn and share.
Becky Hammond's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Achiever, Arranger, Learner, Belief and Connectedness.
Erin Passons' Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Strategic, Positivity, WOO, Relator and Communication.