Meeting Management

Why Developing Your Strengths Pays Off

Are one meeting planner’s innate talents applicable to the entire profession?

Close to 13 million people around the world have taken Gallup’s StrengthsFinder assessment tool, which identifies a person’s top five natural talents out of a total of 34 possible “themes.” By focusing on developing these Strengths rather than trying to fix their shortcomings, according to Gallup, people can become more engaged, productive, and happy.

In Convene’s April issue, we explored how the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) used StrengthsFinder during its 2014 Annual Osteopathic Medical Conference & Exhibition (OMED) to identify the collective top Strengths of its osteopathic-physician attendees. Which made us wonder: Would meeting professionals also share certain top Strengths with one another?

360 Live Media — the Washington, D.C.–based event-design company that worked with AOA to develop a StrengthsLIVE program at OMED 2014 — had the same question. So last spring, the company invited Convene readers to take the StrengthsFinder online assessment on a complimentary basis. Several meeting professionals who took the assessment were also offered a coaching session, courtesy of 360 Live Media, so they could learn more about how to build on their top five Strengths at work.

Thanks to a session with Gallup Certified Strengths Coach Betsy Flanagan, Christine Pauley, CEM, CMP, director of event planning at the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) — whose StrengthsFinder assessment revealed her top Strengths as Input, Positivity, Empathy, Adaptability, and Maximizer — gained insights about the way she approaches her role and works with her team. We spoke to both of them to see how Pauley’s individual Strengths might be characteristic of the meeting-planner role.

Betsy Flanagan
Betsy Flanagan

FLANAGANIt’s important to see Strengths as really an indication of what gives us energy. Everybody for the most part is being asked to do more and more in less and less time. We need things that feed us, that fill our bucket, that are self-sustaining. We’ve all learned to do things well that take energy from us and that suck us dry. Those are not the things that we want to be moving towards.

People [like Pauley] who have Input in their top Strengths typically collect a lot of information, for the purpose of being useful. That’s not a Strength that necessarily jumps out at me as something I would expect to over-index [rank consistently high] in this industry, but I can’t say for sure.

People with Positivity — they have an energy and magnetism to their personalities that people are drawn to. In this industry, I actually would expect to see that fairly high, because I think of meeting planners as people who have to deal with a wide variety of people and need to be able to build rapport and establish trust quickly. Positivity really helps with that. I also think of it as a fairly social type of industry.

I think of Empathy as a superpower. People with Empathy have a sixth sense in that they often understand how people are feeling without the other person saying anything. They can go into a room and take its temperature. That really was one light bulb that went on for Christine — that she’s able to do that in meetings and sense how people are feeling about things.

Adaptability is something that I absolutely would expect to be way over-indexed in this role, because I think that meetings are prone to having unpredictable things come up.

Maximizers are all about taking something that’s good and making it great, about thinking more efficiently, making things faster and better. It’s all about excellence and being world-class.

Christine Pauley, CEM, CMP
Christine Pauley, CEM, CMP

PAULEYAt first, getting the results of my assessment was kind of an affirmation. I think we all tend to just take our own characteristics for granted.

The one Strength that Betsy talked about that surprised me was Empathy, I think because I do take that one for granted. Maybe this comes from my background; for 20 years [before becoming a meeting planner] I was a teacher. You have to be able to read students and what they are absorbing and what they need. And I think that transfers really well into this industry. You have to be able to read your people. You can’t just plow ahead, no matter what. You have to be able to sense how things are going and adjust as needed.

Adaptability, another of my Strengths, obviously factors into both teaching and in meetings management. You have to be flexible and go with the flow. You can’t panic when things don’t work out. And I think Positivity is crucial to that.

The timing for me to take the assessment and have the coaching session was perfect, because I’d only been in this new position with ASRT for a few months at the director level and leading a team. I want to be able to use my Strengths to work better with them. But I also want to help them identify their Strengths, so that we are all working optimally and are all focusing on what we do best.

I’ve already kind of seen that in the way that I’m approaching our team meetings. And I would really like to have each member of my team take this assessment. I found it empowering. I feel that some meeting planners don’t realize how important they are to an organization.

Shared Attributes

Strengths Coach Betsy Flanagan surmised that a few other Strengths that didn’t come up in Christine Pauley’s assessment might be prevalent among other meeting professionals:

I would expect to see a lot of people with Arranger as a top Strength. I think of Arranger as an air-traffic controller. They are sitting up in the control tower and they have a million planes coming in and they’re all on a very tight schedule. They have to really know what all the needs are, what’s happening. I think of a meeting and all the different features that go into it. If say, for example, there’s one change, what’s the ripple effect of that going to be?

In general, Achiever tends to be high in business. Typically, when I go into a work environment, which is almost all of my clients, I see Achiever as generally over-indexed. In business, you need to get stuff done.

I also generally see a lot of Learners over-index in different groups that I work with. I would expect to see that probably for meeting planners — particularly for the ones who took 360 Live Media up on its offer to get their StrengthsFinder assessment. These are people who are curious and interested in learning new stuff.

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.