Coaching people is what I really enjoy, and at the Brunner Literacy Center it has been my delight to find a wonderful group of people who are willing to try new things and take some calculated risks. Being small and appreciating each other on a personal level has certainly helped as well as our recognition of the unique gifts of everyone involved.
At our first retreat together last July, I asked each of our staff to take the StrengthsFinder assessment which helped them to identify their “strengths,” those areas in which they have the most natural abilities. StrengthsFinder is an outgrowth of the positive psychology movement which is not focused on dysfunction, but rather on what people do well and how they can continue to improve in what gives them life and makes them whole. We learned some interesting things about each other, lessons that we have been fortunate to bring back to the Center as we support each other, not only in the work at hand but also in the equally important work of becoming all we can be as professionals and as people.
Before I came to the Brunner Literacy Center as my “encore” career, I was working at the University of Dayton, managing the training and development of staff, and focusing on leadership development across the campus. The only thing that was missing for me was interaction with students. I encountered them on a daily basis, but my interactions with them were sporadic and arbitrary. Nonetheless, my professional encounters with those working with students helped to satisfy my need to help others to discover and maximize their talents.
At Brunner, I have a similar situation. We are all here to help the students to succeed, but my position does not have a student-specific function. I see them all the time, but my responsibilities preclude a lot of interaction with them. I am more focused on our staff and on interactions with folks externally.
While some may see this as a negative, in my experience my investment in those who either work directly with students or perform functions that support our operation is very rewarding in its own right. There is something exhilarating for me about seeing someone mold their raw talent into a new area of expertise, or incorporate a new skill into their repertoire of competencies.
We have been fortunate to expand our staff since I have joined the BLC, mostly because we have expanded from one site to four in the 18 months I have been here. In addition, functions that were handled by outside vendors have now been brought in-house, and we have become more self-reliant and confident as we move the BLC forward.
I am so proud of the staff at the BLC – their talents, their commitment, their willingness to grow and stretch. And I am so glad that my job responsibilities allow me to steward their development and create an environment in which we and the students all continue to learn together. It is simply the best.