Are YOU Playing to YOUR Strengths? MY Top 10 Learnings from Playing to Them with a Bunch of 10-year-olds!

 In Career, Communication, Leadership, Personal Development, Professional Development, TOP 5, Uncategorized

Dave’s Top 5 Lists:
Sharing some ideas and insights on transformation and change with YOU!
(Oh! and as a bonus if you can make it to the end. A challenge for YOU!)

Chapter 1: Setting the Stage (a.k.a. The background and context)

Playing to one’s strengths.
I am more used to those types of discussions in a Corporate setting.
A setting where most of the participants are over 18 years of age.
Playing to one’s strengths.
I am more used to those types of discussions in a University setting.
A setting where most of the participants are over 18 years of age.
Playing to one’s strengths.
Well guess what?
I just wrapped up a couple of sessions in a primary school setting.
A setting where most of the participants were 10 years of age.
I was curious as to what a bunch of 10-year-olds had to say on the topic.
So, I reached out to the English teachers at my daughter’s school,
and proposed a workshop on the subject.
A few Powerpoint slides later, we had a 90-minute workshop,
teed up for just such an occasion,
and that occasion took place last week.
It took place on two occasions.
With two classes.
One of which was my 10-year-old daughter’s.
How cool is that!
I was telling the participants (a.k.a. the primary school students)
that I had recently undergone a similar exercise where I had come up with
MY Top 10 list of, not strengths, but personal values.
In our case, we were going to focus our efforts on discovering strengths.
One of the exercises was for them to come up with,
a first pass at what they believed to be their #1 strength.
We would leverage a list of 20 for inspiration.
In the case of MY finding MY Top 10 Values exercise,
I had started with a list of 500 in order to provide me with inspiration.
I started by adding 2 to the list and then I slowly whittled it down to a Top 10 list.
When I finally got it down to the Top 10,
“FAMILY” came up as #1.
So, you can just imagine how excited I was to do be workshopping with my daughter in the room. 😊
How cool is that!
Oh, and, guess what came up in the #2 spot?
“L&G”! (a.k.a. Learning and Growth).
I love to learn! Bring it on!
And in this case.
I was hoping that the participants would learn a thing or two during the session as well.
Well, if they did not, I certainly did.
Wow. Did I ever!
And that included finding out what my daughter considered one of her top strengths,
Coincidentally enough, it was also among my top 10 values,
Turns out, it was “CARING”.
In my case Caring and Sharing (which even rhymes). 😊
So, to that end, I am going to share some of those learnings with you via this blog.
I am going to share some ideas with you as well.
You see, “IDEATION” is one of MY Top 5 Strengths,
Apparently, I am “Fascinated by ideas”
Supposedly, I am able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena”.
Well, guess who else have a whole bunch of ideas?
A whole bunch of ideas!
And a whole bunch of questions which often result in all kinds of new ideas.
If you guessed, a bunch of 10-year-olds.
Then you guessed right. 😊
Oh, and the English teachers had a few cool ideas as well. 😊
Thank you Ms. Danine and Mr. Vincent.

Note to Self:  I might want to consider conducting more workshops with 10-years-olds.😊
and/or How about a workshop on “embracing YOUR preferences (a.k.a. personality)”
and/or a workshop on “aligning to YOUR Values”
But for now, lets get back to ….
Playing to YOUR strengths.
And by YOUR, in this case, I am referring to each of the students.
Each of the UNIQUE students in those two workshops (a.k.a. primary school classes).
And, by each of them, I mean each of their desired strengths,
Not those of their parents, or aunts or uncles or great-great grand-parents.
As I mentioned in one of my previous blogs;
(Dave’s Top 5 List: Traits of a Great Leader (as viewed through my lens))
This is the age in which our children’s behaviours and thinking and mindsets are being shaped.
So, why not introduce the concept that they are free to choose what works best for them
at this earlier stage in their learning and growth cycle of life.
As opposed to bombarding them with so many
“you should do that”
“you should not do that”.

“Work hard on your math Billy so that you can grow up an be a doctor like your mommy”

“It’s 4 am. Time to get up for swimming lessons Suzy. You won’t be able to become an Olympian like uncle Jeff if you don’t practice, practice, practice”.

“That piano is not going to start playing by itself Antoine. Let’s go.
Just because Mommy missed out on her dream to play on the big stage does not mean you have to.”

“Johnny.  Get back in there and study.
They don’t take people with low marks in law school.
You will be the 4th generation to be a lawyer in the family.
Come on, put the paints away and start studying!”

How about we give them a chance to choose their own?
One’s that they enjoy!
One’s that help them learn and grow!
Ones that help them best contribute to the people around them!
In a way that best suits them!

Well, in this case, that is what we decided to try and do.
And, without further ado,
This is the story of what we learned!
What we learned from a bunch of 10-year-olds!

Chapter 2: Exploring the Topic (a.k.a. ideating, reflecting, researching and connecting)

I am going to take a bit of a different approach to exploring this topic this time around.
No 1 page google search this time.
I am going to frame up the learnings the way we did in the workshop.
As a number of hoped for takeaways,
And THREE learning by doing exercises.

Re: The hoped for take-aways.
I will mention to YOU, what I mentioned to THEM.
The hopes and expectations at the outset of the session were,
That the students would take away some learnings from the session,
But that was up to them.
And in this case, as blog readers,
The same is up to you.

So here we go.

Hoped for Take Away #1: YOU (we) are all unique

Yes, we are all unique.
And by we in this case I mean YOU.
So, when considering YOUR top strengths.
Think of YOU.
Think of what would work best for YOU.
Think of what feels right for YOU.
After all, YOU are the one who is going to be playing to them.

Hoped for Take Away #2: YOU (we) can’t be good at everything

When asked how many strengths actually exist,
One of our participants answered that,
“everyone has their own unique strengths to contribute”,
So, if that is the case, at last count,
Per a quick google search,
there were 7.347 billion people living on the planet earth (in 2015),
so that makes for a potential of over 7 billion!
Wow. That is a whole lot of strengths to choose from.
Try mastering all of those? Good luck!
YOU might want to consider focusing on a smaller set of them?
YOUR strengths,
Those that YOU enjoy doing.
YOU can always complement for the OTHER ones with OTHER people.

Hoped for Take Away #3: YOU (we) can only play to our strengths if we know what they are

By definition, YOU have to know your strengths to play to them,
And guess what?
In order to find them, YOU need to try them.
Try them on for size.
Find the one’s that fit.
Learn them.
Practice them
After all, we learn by doing, and
doing takes practice.

Re: The THREE learning by doing exercises

Learning by doing Exercise #1: Better understanding YOURSELF and YOUR strengths

The objective of this one was for each participant to pick 1 strength.
What each of them believed was their #1 strength.
They were provided with a list of 20 for inspiration.
They were encouraged to choose another if was not on the list.
The list of 20 included a bunch that had caught my eye.
Nothing more magical than that.
FYI – the list is in the appendix section if you care to tale a peek.
As mentioned previously the possible choices quickly grew to 7.347 billion.
As one might expect there was a nice mix once everyone had contributed.
A few surprises and lots of smiles.
And a few inquiries.
“Mr. Dave, is “EATING” a strength?”
Humm.  I think so?
There are jobs where people are tasked with tasting food.
What better strength to have than that for that type of career?
Hopefully those folks also have a complementary strength,
One that came up more than a few times in the workshop.
And that strength is “ATHLETICISM”.
That one might be helpful in burning off some of the calories from the taste tests. 😊

Learning by doing Exercise #2: Doing #2: Identifying the Strengths in others

The objective of this exercise was a bit tougher.
This time around the participants had to come up with;
What they thought was the top strength of the person next to them.
Again, a lot of smiles,
A little soul searching in some cases,
But no asking questions allowed.
It had to be based on the observations and experiences that they had already made.
The results were mixed.
Some were surprised to learn of their strengths,
And some were not.
Some were in denial,
And some embraced the newfound self-awareness.
For what better way to become more self-ware of oneself,
Than to ask someone else for their perceptions.
They might be right and/or they might be wrong.
After all, no one knows their own strengths better than ourselves,
Or so we think?
We think, through our own lens.
What about expanding that lens by consulting others?
In the corporate world, we call it 360 feedback.
If the smiles from the participants in our class were any indication,
YOU might want to give it a try.
Getting some feedback from others that is.
If the blushes from the participants in our class were any indication,
YOU definitely might want to give it a try.

Learning by doing Exercise #3: Assembling an Inclusive Team.
Including the most relevant strengths for the task at hand

As I mentioned in my blog on Gender based inclusiveness
“The Top 5 reasons why this dude is now an advocate”
Companies are not creating roles at the c-suite level, (i.e. Chief Inclusion Officers)
To waste their time and resources.
Study after study has highlighted the huge positive impact that inclusion can have
on organizational performance.
In this case, we were not talking about including different genders,
In this case, we were talking about including different strengths.
More specifically, 5 strengths.
5 strengths that would result from creating a team of 5 people.
5 people who each possessed a different strength.
That was the objective of exercise #3
Our students, in teams, were to select those top 5 strengths,
that they believed would best be able to accomplish their assigned task;
Which was, to select a team of 5 people to designing and build a school
for a bunch of other grade 5 students in another country.
And guess what strengths came out as the most prominent?
I will give you hint?
It aligns well to the current management trend/obsession/buzz word of the day.
And that is innovation.
And the strength that the students came up with was,
Well, looks like we have a group coming up the ranks who are ready to help in this space. 😊
Although ironically enough,
Fostering creativity seems to be lacking in our school’s theses days ☹
Someone shared a great Ted Talk on the subject with me recently;
“Do schools kill creativity?” By Ken Robinson.
If you have a chance to take a peek/listen, here is the link:

For those of you who do not have the time to listen to it,
At 20 minutes, it takes as much time as reading one of my blogs. 😊
Here is my Coles notes version:

  • Children have an extraordinary capacity for innovation.
  • We are often squandering their talents.
  • Creativity in education is as important as literacy and should be treated with the same status

Again, another opportunity to help shape our next generation.
In their formative years.
An opportunity, that is often lost. ☹
Oh well this blog is on playing to strengths,
And not re-engineering the educational system and establishment.
So, Dave, remain focused, please.
I know that as an “IDEATOR, focus, is not one of YOUR strengths. 😊
Ok. So, what other strengths came up as important in our little team building exercise?
Coming in tied for 1st place was “PERSEVERANCE”,
Which I guess makes sense, since being creative often results in a lot of,
mistakes and failures and lessons learned at first.
Tied for second place were,
(Note to self. Write more blogs on leadership)
Efficiency? Humm. That explains all the blogs on time management these days.
Oh, and one of my favourites, “FUN” was only mentioned by a couple of teams.
But at least it beat out my least favourite subject in school,
Which is apparently also a strength, although not one of mine,
And that is “MATH”, which only received one vote.
I guess the teams figured that they would use a calculator for any
Of the calculations required in the school design.
Or perhaps, from an efficiency perspective, hire an architect, one strong in Math. 😊

Chapter 3: My Takeaway(s) (a.k.a. What I have I learned? How have I grown?)

I have taken a bunch of the different strength finder type self assessment’s myself.
I have included a few of them in the appendix in case YOU have the urge to explore them.
If you do, feel free to share them.
It is incredible how much I find that we learn about others,
And about ourselves, when we share and discuss our strengths.
I hope that our participants did.
As mentioned previously, I did.
Here are some of those learnings.
TEN of them to be more precise.

Leaning’s based on MY insights and observations,
from both preparing for and delivering the workshops, and
of course, from the insights and observations
of some pretty bright and very wise 10-year-olds. 😊

So, here we go. And in no particular order.

Are YOU Playing to YOUR Strengths?
MY Top 10 Learnings from Playing with a Bunch of 10-year-olds.

Learning #1: They can change (along with YOU)

As mentioned previously, the participants are in their formative years.
As they learn and grow, their interests and passions will likely change with them.
They have yet to embark on their career journeys.
Careers that can and often do change.
In my case, I am starting to lose count. 😊
And according to a lot of the studies that I am reading,
I am not alone.
So, good thing that you can change YOUR strengths as well.

Learning #2: They can serve YOU well.

Align them to your passions and values.
In coaching, we often refer to one’s values as one’s GPS.
Our GPS to help guide us through our journey through life.
What about leveraging our strengths to help us along that journey as well.
Something to ponder.
Something that might serve you well.
And in my case.
In line with my value of caring and sharing.
Serving others as well.

Learning #3: They can be fun. (Hear that? YOU can have fun!)

Not only can they be FUN, they should be.
I don’t like to should on people.
but I am going to make an exception in this case.

Learning #4: They can be right in front of YOU! Or NOT.

Sometimes we see them.
And sometimes we don’t.
At least not at first.
That is where a little feedback from others can come in handy.
Feedback on what others see in YOU.
And NOT what THEY want to see in YOU.

Learning #5: They can take YOU time to flush out.

Don’t forget that there are over 7.2 billion of them out there. 😊
It might take you some time to find YOURS.
And the only way to really find them is to try them.
To try them on.
To try them out.
To find those that feel right for YOU.
So, what are YOU waiting for? 😊

Learning #6: They can be built upon so YOU might want connect with a few folks!

It takes a little time and patience,
And “PERSEVERANCE” to build out one’s strengths.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
By yourself and/or with others.
So, you might want to connect with a few folks.
Others who share a passion for YOUR strengths.
Nothing like a little sharing and exchanging among peers,
In this case, “strength based peers”.
Oh, and don’t forget,
Practice. Practice. Practice.

Learning #7: They can be influenced by others. So, you might want to be aware of that (self-aware)

YOUR strengths can be influenced by others.
Positively or negatively.
Remember, these are YOUR strengths,
Based on what you want to play to.
Not someone else’s that they think that YOU should play to.
So, remember, you might want to keep your self-awareness lens handy,
Play to your Spidey (a.k.a. Spiderman or Spiderwoman) senses.
And when soliciting ideas and insights from OTHERS,
Choose THEM wisely.
And by Choose THEM.
I mean both the ideas themselves and those WHO are providing them.

Learning #8: They can build upon one another. YOU might want to consider a portfolio approach.

Think of your TOP 5 strengths as a portfolio of strengths,
According to portfolio theory, the sum of the whole,
is greater than the sum of the parts.
Or something like that? I never did pay much attention in that class. 😊
In my case.
MY Top 5 (according to the S
They seem to playing together quite nicely.
It took me a while to figure that out,
But now that I have, I am feeling even stronger.
In my case, the IDEATOR in ME (described above), is complemented with:
(per MY results from my Strength finder 2.0 Self-Assessment)

The INPUT in me:
“I am inquisitive. I collect information – words, facts, books, and quotations”

“I am a dreamer who sees visions of what could be.
People will want to latch on to the hope that I bring”

The ACTIVATOR in me:
“I believe that action is the best device for leaning.
This learning informs my next action and my next. “

“When assigning new responsibilities, people will look
to me first because they know it will get done”

A nice little mix, if I do say so myself.

What about YOU?
Are YOU playing to YOUR mix?
To YOUR portfolio of strengths?

Learning #9: They can shape your leadership style

O.k. I am cheating on this one.
We did not get around to discussing leadership styles in the workshop.
But as some of you know from reading some of my blogs,
I am a big fan of leadership development,
And there is a big gap in that area these days,
Hopefully one that will be filled with some of these students.
And as the students mentioned themselves in exercise #3,
Leadership is pretty important.
So, I thought I would include it in the Top 10.
What is the link to playing to YOUR strengths you might ask?
Well, YOUR strength can be part and parcel of YOUR leadership style.
Can you think of a better way to play to your leadership style?
Than by aligning YOUR’s with YOUR strengths?

Learning #10: They can be rewarding. For YOU and for the others around YOU

Rewarding for YOU by playing to YOUR Strengths, and,
Rewarding for YOU by encouraging OTHERS around YOU to play to theirs.
As one of the teachers mentioned after our sessions,
” I loved watching the students try to determine their #1 strength,
such amazing self -reflection.”

Chapter 4: MY Challenge to YOU (An opportunity for YOU to learn and grow.)
Optional of course. Like everything in Life. YOUR CHOICE!                                                        

Well, there YOU have it,
My thoughts on everything strength related.
Including the kitchen sink.
So, time for YOUR challenge.
In this case TWO of them,
Or at least TWO parts to it.

Challenge Part #1

If you have not yet done so, try out one of the self assessments in the Appendix to this blog.

Challenge Part #2

Once you have self-reflected on the feedback on YOUR top strengths
Encourage someone else close to you to do the same.
Then, share and explore your results together.
You will both be all the wiser as a result of it.
You will both be all the stronger!

Well, that’s all folks.



Looking at making a positive CHANGE in YOUR Life?
What would that change be?


Make that change a reality and explore Life Coaching at the same time by participating in my “Life Coaching with Dave Experience”.  A great opportunity to experience Life Coaching in a very timely and cost-effective way. The details are on MY website in the 1to1 Coaching Section.

And NO, that is not a typo in the $ rate of the offering. It looks low because it is. I am really trying to encourage YOU and others to give Life Coaching a try.



There are a number of methodologies and models that are available to help support you in identifying and playing to your strengths. I have included a couple that I like below.

Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath

One of my colleagues suggested this one to me a while ago now. It immediately grabbed my attention because the leader of one of my programs tried a few times to convince me that it was o.k. not to have to balance out strengths with development opportunities. “Play to your strengths Dave” he would say. I took the top 5 strengths assessment using the unique code at the back of the book. “I get it now”. My new approach is to complement my strengths with others who have strengths in other areas and not try and develop them all myself.  I think they call that “inclusion”.

This one is one of My favourites but requires you to buy the book to get the code to take the self-assessment or to connect via their website which also has a fee. In my case, I found the expense worth the investment.

A link for more information:

Strength Based Leadership: Great leaders, teams, and WHY people follow by Tom Rath

How do YOUR top strengths align to one or more of the “Four Domains of Leadership Strength”. Executing? Influencing? Relationship Building? Remember. Play to YOUR strengths. Trying to cover them all off yourself could be hazardous to your health, or at least your leadership style and credibility 🙂 This book also includes a unique code for accessing the top 5 strengths assessment mentioned above in the Strength Finder 2.0 book.

A link for more information:


The 20 strengths that we used for the sessions:
The intention was to limit them to a top 20.
Blank cards were provided so that the students could add other strengths as required.

  1. Creativity
  2. Curiosity
  3. Caring (a.k.a. kind)
  4. Love of learning
  5. Fairness
  6. Perseverance
  7. Leadership
  8. Followership
  9. Fun
  10. Humorous (a.k.a. funny)
  11. Prudence (a.k.a. cautious)
  12. Bravery
  13. Responsibility
  14. Detail oriented
  15. Honesty
  16. Positivity
  17. Team player
  18. Action oriented
  19. Reliability
  20. Efficiency



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