Tag Archives: Strengths

Quick Review: Strengths Based Marriage

My focus for a couple months, while we are in the U.S. and at a training for international staff, is family so I’m reading a bunch of books and resources related to family life right now because that’s a lot of what we are thinking about and reflecting upon right now. One of those books is Strengths Based Marriage: Build a Stronger Relationship by Understanding Each Other’s Gifts.

I was luke warm on this book, but was intrigued initially because I have some Strengths Finder training and often teach and do trainings related to the typical Strengths based themes.  There are some helpful things in this book for people familiar with StrengthsFinder, but in general I did not find it all that great.

First – I think the audio book experience for this one didn’t work for me. The book is divided up between a marriage counselor/expert and a strengths coach/expert. They rotate back and forth and I grew weary hearing them identify themselves as an expert in their field for each of their sections.  I read along in the book at points to take some notes and was not nearly as bothered in the written form.

There are just some things I wasn’t feeling – there was a lot of language that describes a lot of marriage things in stereotypical language. Like the comments that men need this and women need that, while men like this though women like that.  That kind of stuff.  There was helpful insight, but there was a bit too much labeling for me along the lines of the “Love and Respect” books.  There is some truth in there, but it gets lost for me in the generalizations.

I was surprised that there was a Biblical foundation or commitment by the authors so I appreciated some of the attempts to link it to Scripture, thought the use of Ephesians for the love and respect type of stuff above irked me a bit. But the stuff on servanthood was pretty solid.

Language wise – there was also a section in which complaining was encouraged as a necessary way of helping spouses having a voice with each other.  Some of it is semantics as their point was really about sharing your heart, but they used “complaining” as the actual word/concept and I think that’s a really poor choice of language and I don’t think that has ever helped anyone. I do support the idea of spouses listening to each other’s hurts, pain, frustration, and anger.  I guess I don’t see that as complaining.

The book is designed around the StrengthsFinder tool, but they recommend you take the version of the assessment online that gives you all 34 strength themes, not just the top 5.  I am not sure I am a fan of that, but they propose matching up your 34 side by side with your spouse to see where there are strength “tensions” or conflicts – say my top strength is strategic and my wife’s 34th strength is strategic (and that type of thing).  This could be helpful, but it draws a lot of attention to non-strengths and at times I didn’t like that Strengths was being presented as the secret ingredient to a healthy marriage.  I don’t know – 99.9% of human marriages in the history of time have not had access to the StrengthsFinder assessment. They provide

I don’t know – 99.9% of human marriages in the history of time have not had access to the StrengthsFinder assessment. They provide some helpful ideas as to how to encourage one another at the identity level and not just the performance level. But I’m not sure StrengthsFinder is the secret ingredient to most marriages – though it can help I suppose.

But hey – also, if you have ever wanted a conversation about how StrengthFinder impacts the marriage bed – this is the place for you.  That’s a whole next level of application there, but it was interesting.

If you are a SF junkie it’s not a bad book to read, but I’d encourage you to go elsewhere if you are really looking to go deeper in your marriage – maybe starting with Families Where Grace is in Place, which I reviewed a few days ago.

Servanthood and Gifting (Guest Post)

I’m excited to introduce another servant leadership guest post.  This is from TJ Poon, an Epic Movement staff member based in Austin, Texas.  TJ has guest blogged here before (here) and is graciously giving me permission to post her thoughts here.  She also is a current participant in the Systems & Power Leadership Community!  She explores servanthood and our own giftedness here so read on!


In years past when I’ve heard people talking about their jobs and what they were gifted in how they want to make sure they were able to do mostly those things, I could get pretty annoyed actually.  It seemed unrealistic to me and just an excuse to not do the things they didn’t like to do. As a campus minister on the field, there are certain things you do, whether you’re “gifted” in them or not. Or that was my thinking. (Gosh, I was such a sweet little thing. Ha.)

I feel like it’s incoherent to say that we can serve in a way that’s not out of “who we are”.  That was a lot of weird language but what I’m saying is: anytime we’re serving, we’re serving out of who we are as people. It seems logically impossible that this isn’t the case.

But what most people usually mean when they say they want to work and lead out of “who we are” is their giftedness, passions, or strength.  And honestly, I think that’s an incomplete picture.

“Who we are” can be a lot of different things and it is not just giftedness or strength or what is life-giving to us. For xample – since my parents’ deaths, I have been handling every single bit of estate stuff and legal hoopla, even though I’m the youngest sibling, because part of “who I am” is being who I need to be in order to survive and do the things that need to be done.

Two things on the topic I’m thinking right now: (subject to change at any moment)

  1. We are responsible for bringing who we are into whatever tasks we’re doing, even if they aren’t our favorite, in whatever ways possible and appropriate, and even if we can’t do that in a way that gives us life…
  2. A part of who we are includes hopefully having some motivation (compelled toward the vision, love for teammates…) that makes us willing to work in areas that aren’t our strengths when the situation requires it.

I think this is where people can easily be taken advantage of. When there is a group of people who are only willing to serve out of “who they are” and take that to mean what they are naturally good at or gifted in, I think there are usually certain others who end up filling the gaps over and over again.  It adds another dimension to maybe what servant leadership should look like in community.

We can be very self-serving when it comes to empowering ourselves sometimes. And completely unaware about the degree of impact those actions can have on those who are willing to serve -whether they are natural servants or the compulsively responsible.

Perhaps it would be fitting to say that “who we are” can be reflected just as much in what we are refusing to do for the sake of the community as well as in what we get to do in our own strengths and passions.  Such a reminder about “who we are” may be quite humbling to us in those moments where we can only see ourselves through the lens of our own greatness or satisfaction.

I also believe this can be a huge issue in multi-ethnic contexts because I think individualistic cultures are more likely to expect or demand that they only work out of giftedness whereas members of more communal cultures would end up filling in the gaps time and time again. Now that I think about it, I think I’ve seen this.

How are you living out of who you are in a way that is stewarding yourself and also serving your community and the bigger picture when needed?

Leadership That Knows What You CAN’T Do

I heard an interview a few days ago from the NFL world that I found to be a clear and insightful description of leadership in helping others succeed.

Former All-Pro receiver Cris Carter and current ESPN analyst offered this analysis in discussing what beleaguered wide receive Roy Williams was going to benefit from in returning to work with his former coach Mike Martz with the Bears.

“The best thing in the National Football League is not what you CAN do, it’s having a coach who knows what you CAN’T do….It’s about being put in a position to do what you can do.”

– Cris Carter on Mike & Mike on ESPN radio 8/12/11

Now my own personal expectations as a Bears fan for Roy Williams is limited, but I thought the analysis was great.

I see it as an honest and backdoor approach to strength based leadership.  It may seem negative to some, but I think it can be a pretty honest approach to help someone succeed by keeping them out of situations in which they are almost guaranteed to fail.

There’s a movement of strength based leadership today which is long overdue, but it can be somewhat a nebulous search for joy and satisfaction.  One of the most direct paths to recognizing your strengths is being able to honestly assess where you don’t have any business spending a lot of your energy and time – where you might be doing more damage than good.

We all can get better at things, but as leaders we want to help people connect with their strengths and set them up to succeed. This includes helping build capacities that don’t come naturally, but also drawing out unique strengths and passions.

I’ve blessed with a couple of leaders who have helped me connect with my strengths and point me towards those, also recognizing where I wasn’t going to bear a lot of fruit. If you’ve had experiences with others who don’t or can’t do that – it’s a blessing!

So especially for those of us people that have great strengths in some contexts, but great weakness or limitations in other contexts – leaders can serve greatly by paying attention to where impact and effectiveness and passion can be nurtured.

Do you have examples of a leader helping you succeed because they knew your limitations?

**I can’t help add this too – positional leadership doesn’t mean you’re automatically the most qualified to lead in particular moments or situations. Lot of damage is done by people trying to do what they frankly aren’t cut out for. The greater the stakes, the more strengths and gifting are needed as opposed to just someone with a title.