Written by Lynne Richardson, Vice President for Administration & Finance at the University of Mary Washington
I’m a huge fan of the concept of doing work that encompasses things you really do well AND enjoy doing. In fact, I am a devotee of StrengthsFinder 2.0, by Tom Rath, a book that espouses that people should figure out what their strengths are and then find work that allows them to utilize their strengths. Based on years of research by Gallup, the idea is that utilizing your natural strengths (and everyone has a different set!) vs. trying to improve on areas we’re not so good at is best for both you and the organization.
I totally agree. This is why I’m returning to the business dean position in January. You may know my story, but here’s a quick recap.
I became a business dean in 2001 at another institution and served there for six years before taking another dean position. After doing that for several years, Mary Washington recruited me to become the Founding Dean of the newly formed College of Business. I was plugging right along working on several items on a ‘to do’ list. In August 2017, I very unexpectedly was asked to serve as interim (and then permanent) Vice President of Administration and Finance and Chief Financial Officer at Mary Washington.
The first 6-8 months were crazy as I had to learn about the areas I now led and managed, most of which I had little to no interaction with while dean. My direct reports were amazingly patient and tolerant as I climbed the steep learning curve.
After about a year in the job, however, I realized that I was not playing to my strengths in this role! The more I thought about it, the more I knew that I wasn’t, with respect to Jim Collins’ GOOD TO GREAT, in the right seat on the Mary Washington bus.
So I surprised many people by asking to return to the business dean position, which is the best place for Mary Washington to utilize my strengths. While I was a good VP (I’m told), I wasn’t a fulfilled one. Fortunately, my boss said YES and I will become Dean 2.0 in January.
If you’re not utilizing your strengths in your work, please recognize this and find a different job that allows you to contribute and shine. You’re not a tree, so pick up and move! We need the best that you can be.