Educators at War: A Tale of Zest and Self-Regulation

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Strengths are the blueprint to finding success in life – both at work and at home. When we focus on strengths within ourselves and in the people around us, we can help build better workplace relationships and improve communication in all aspects of our lives.

But here’s the catch.

Our strengths can get us into strife too! Strengths do clash. Let’s face it, we have all encountered conflict with another person in some shape or form. No matter how many policies and procedures we develop or how well we craft a position description – we will always have to deal with people. We can’t run a successful Centre on our own (We could try, but this may lead to insanity. But that’s another story….).

Strengths clash and it is because of this that we can achieve genius such as breakthroughs in problem-solving or novel inventions or amazing musical lyrics and song. But in the ordinary world when strengths clash, it usually indicates two people approaching the same situation from different perspectives. It can be really frustrating and the impact can reach all areas of the Centre.

Recently I spoke with a client who told me of some problems she faced within her team. Two of her educators were in conflict. She had tried talking to them, she tried asking them to work together on a project, to encourage them to get to know each other better. They were even sat together at the last Tasty Thai team dinner. Nothing worked. Upon exploring the issue further, I asked some questions relating to their individual strengths and what they were doing well. Both educators made valuable contributions in their own right, so what was going on here?

This was a classic tale of Strengths that Clash. One of the educators, let’s call her Miss Zest, full of life, adventure and energy liked the morning routine to commence with three activity tables set up by 8am. One for play doh, and two tables for baking – cookies or cake that could be eaten for morning tea. Miss Zest believed that when the children arrived, joining an organised activity straight away made the drop-off and goodbye easier. Easier for the parents, easier for the educators and for children. This meant the early morning was a mad scramble between wrapping up breakfast service and setting up the three activity tables. Miss Zest found this exciting.

Miss Self- Regulation, the co- educator in the room, did not like being made to madly race around so early in the morning believing this stressed out the children and that instead, they should be allowed free-play on arrival. Self-regulators monitor their feelings and behaviours closely, they are controlled and disciplined. Miss Self-Regulation preferred to ease into the morning and not be drawn into the ‘madness’ just so the kids could bake some silly cookies – they already ate too much sugar and shouldn’t be encouraged to over-indulge anyway.

Miss Zest complained that her colleague lacked energy and enthusiasm and always took the fun out of her ideas. Miss Self -regulation felt her colleague was adding unnecessary pressure to the morning, after all she would need a constant stream of energy to sustain the entire day’s schedule. Why over exert oneself so early? – we had a whole day to get through.

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How would you approach this situation?

Insist Miss Zest abandon her morning activity tables? Force Miss Self- Regulation to participate? Both of these options allow one educator to thrive whilst the other continues to be unhappy. Split them to different rooms? You’re only moving the problem around.

A better approach is to encourage a culture where strengths are celebrated. Everyone has a unique profile of strengths. When we get to express them, we feel valued and connected to our work. Not to mention happier at the end of the day. So try to remind yourself of the contributions your colleagues make, to the Centre, to the team, and to the children. It shifts your mind set from negative to positive.

We call this Strengths Spotting.

And when we spot the strengths in our adversary, we can curb our frustration and begin to work on a solution.

So, back to Miss Zest and Miss Self Regulation…..

After learning to spot strengths, Miss Zest recognises that her co-worker simply wants to exert her energy in equal amounts throughout the day so she can operate at her best – consistently. Miss Self-Regulation now sees that Miss Zest’s energy is contagious and can see the children and the parents love walking in to the buzzing room.

Our two educators now thrive at work. They enjoy being themselves and being valued for their contributions to an overall successful day at work. Their relationship has improved taking the tension away from the work day. (Miss Zest now prep’s the activity tables the night before and breakfast service has been moved to another room, removing the morning stress).

So, when strengths clash, try some strengths spotting instead. You may just be surprised at what your colleagues value in you.

It feels good. Try it!


To learn about how Strengths Spotting can build a Trusted Team, click here to take a look at our team workshop.