Visualizing Our Change Matrix Strengths

As a learning organization, we strive to build on and leverage the strengths that each of our team members brings to the collective. We reviewed our StrengthsFinder assessment tool results, reflected on the diversity of our team, noticed where we have overlap and gaps, and thought about the ways our project teams might adjust the ways in which we work together.

According to the Gallup organization (famous for its Gallup polls), the StrengthsFinder test started when one man made it his mission to change the world through empowering human development. Don Clifton began the global strengths-based movement over 60 years ago after the Second World War when he asked this simple question: What would happen if we studied what was right with people instead of what was wrong? 

The StrengthsFinder test first came into the public eye in 2001 due to the publication of Now, Discover Your Strengths written by Donald Clifton who was at that time chairman of Gallup, and Marcus Buckingham. Today, more than 22 million people from around the world have completed this assessment. Gallup claims that more than 90% of fortune 500 companies have used this tool to take a strengths-based approach to their organization culture and climate. 

Based on the notion that every person has certain strengths, StrengthsFinder has broken these strengths into 34 categories, or themes. Each of these strengths falls into one of four areas or domains: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking. The Gallup Organization interviewed over 1.7 million professionals from a variety of fields and disciplines. Their research led to the development of strengths. 

The assessment helps identify the areas where you (or your team) have the greatest potential for working off your strengths and building a strong team or organization. The StrengthsFinder measures recurring patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior, and identifies your top 5 to 10 strengths. The assessment is based on what is “right” about people, not “wrong” with them – their talents so to speak. Knowing this information can help individuals, teams and organizations leverage their talents, and turn them into enduring strengths.

According to Gallup, their research indicates that people who know and use their strengths are more engaged at work, more productive in their work, and happier and healthier.

If you are interested and wish to take the test ,visit the Gallup website for the StrengthsFinder assessment.

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Reflecting on Our 2019 Change Matrix Retreat

Over the past year, Change Matrix has grown to include new team members who have never met in person. Our annual staff retreat offered the opportunity to finally connect with faces we have seen through videoconference for so long. We got to Thompson Island (who knew there was an island in the Boston Harbor?) on a stormy Wednesday afternoon just before the ferry service canceled remaining services due to windy conditions.

Our goals were to have face time with each other to get to know and build relationships; to observe and appreciate the diversity that individuals bring to CM to make up a collective organization; and to engage in dialogue on topics core to CM – evaluation, leadership and equity. In the midst of stormy weather, we still achieved our goals with grace, flexibility, and authenticity.

We also celebrated three big events with our team members – the marriage of Karla to her long-time partner; the arrival of baby #2 for Annie and her family; and the attainment of Tennille’s DBA in Forensic Accounting.

To wrap-up our CM retreat on Thompson Island this month, we all shared something we learned and/or were taking-away:

Alice: I thought I knew what Change Matrix represented, but the retreat led me to a deeper understanding of the values and goals of Change Matrix. Through the retreat I took away friendship, understanding, connectedness and pride for my company.

Shannon: We arrived on Thompson Island (in the Boston Harbor) to overcast skies and take-your-breath-away winds. The idea envisioned by the partners was of walks in the warm sunshine, leisurely strolls in nature at its best with beaches to explore and even some things for the more adventurous and fit. Instead as a storm blew through, the adaptive leadership and collective intelligence rose to the occasion and we created other avenues of warmth with laughter, good work and thoughtful planning. Leaving the island provided another adventure with high seas and the center of a nor’easter a mere moments away. Change Matrix at its best, took care of each other, providing a steady calm in the midst of the storm and managing to do it with more than a little grace and humor along the way. The retreat was Change Matrix, made up of all the talent and skills and spirits of our remarkable team.

Tennille: It was an amazing experience to spend time bonding with and learning from such a diverse group of women. I left the retreat with a greater understanding and appreciation for the CM team and the work it does.

Annie: As one of the newest team members to CM, the retreat provided me the opportunity to better understand the history of the company and breadth of our projects. Leaving with new friendships and memories, I also left the island with a sense of pride and appreciation for being about to do such meaningful work with such incredible people.

Jennifer: I’m very thankful to work for a company that values team bonding and growth. It’s inspiring how much we learn about ourselves, each other, and the company during our retreats.  I walked away with a renewed perspective on life, work, friendship, and vulnerability.

Kristin: What a diverse and talented group of women! I loved learning more about each Change Matrix team member’s background, passion, and skill set. When we saw all of our Strengths Finders on the wall, it demonstrated we have a lot of power to affect social change.

London: I have found a true home for my career with CM. I hope to share that sense of pride in and connectedness to our work with our new team members, and will make an effort to reach out to them to offer support and explore both new and existing opportunities together.

Sandra: As a virtual company, most CM team interactions are through virtual calls, so I was looking forward to seeing everyone IRL. We spent a few days working—assessing our strengths and discussing our strategic priorities; we dined together over several meals; and we just hung out and were silly and passed the time indoors as the Nor’easter was kicking up high winds outside. It was so nice to have this space together although I should have brought dramamine ☺

Alina: We’re a powerful virtual team, but nothing beats us when we’re together in person – not even a nor’easter! This was quite an adventure, involving plane, water taxi, ferry, bus, train, and car rides. I cherished this time that we were able to spend together reflecting on what that Change Matrix has built over the years and exploring new possibilities for future directions. We were able to make the best of a stormy trip, share laughs, discover deeper connections and create a new understanding of our CM family on this little island.

Karla: It was such a treat to spend time with my colleagues! We at Change Matrix do an amazing job at building a strong rapport with one another virtually. Meeting in person just bolstered that feeling of community. For me, these are the moments I will always treasure!

Suganya: Three days of camaraderie, reflections, innovative thinking and expressions of our hopes and dreams for a strong, connected, loving team making meaningful change in the world.

Elizabeth: From yoga, belly dancing, and pilates in the morning, to windy walks on the beach in awe of the sunset, and celebration of each other in the evening, I am still basking in the glow of the connections we made on Thompson Island. I also appreciate the energy that we all put into identifying our collective strengths, organizing our work and diving deeper into the themes that bind us together in the work.

Rachele: While CM started as a virtual company, we have always valued the power of time together. I truly cherished the opportunity to spend time with these wonderful women who readily accommodated my love of spending an evening hydrating with Korean facial masks. I am happy to call you all my CM family. I’m already planning for our next retreat – someplace sunny!

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The Bravest Girls and Women We’ve Ever Met

In celebration of the United Nation’s “International Day of the Girl,” we asked our team members to share a story about the bravest girl or woman they have ever met.

Kazzy: In celebration of Hispanic Heritage and the Day of the Girl, I would like to acknowledge one of the bravest girls I have met, Jovita Idar. In 2017, I had the honor of being deeply entrenched in historical archival research at the University of Texas at Austin. It was during this warm fall day that fate brought me to an article written in 1911 describing the first congression of people from Mexican descent across Texas coming together to discuss how to save their people from the atrocious violence caused by the Texas Rangers. Jovita Idar, teacher, journalist, and political activist, bravely wrote about the atrocities the Texas Rangers committed in South Texas during the time that many Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and Tejanos were being murdered. During El Primero Congreso Mexicanista in September 1911, she joined members and others at Laredo to discuss educational, social, labor, and economic matters. Her voice along with many other women were so significant that a month later they formed the Liga Femenil Mexicanista, a social, cultural, political, and charitable organization for Mexican American women; the first attempt for Mexican American women to unite for social and political change. In contrast to what sociologist William Madsen was writing about Mexican Americans in South Texas in the 1960s– stating that they were passive vessels and did not care to make change around them this rich history shows the strength, resistance, and resilience of my community; it reminds me, us, the significance of uncovering history that has purposefully been taking from communities through colonization and racism. Jovita Idar, who wrote strong, political articles about the Texas Rangers, is the strongest woman I have met. Even after Texas Rangers came and destroyed her office, she continued to write and advocate for her community who was dying at the hands of racists. Jovita Idar inspires me to speak up and use my voice everyday. We must not forget the people who paved the way for us. Thank you, Jovita. 

Shannon: The bravest girl I ever met?  There are so many brave girls and women, it would be hard to pick a single one. Probably because it is current, I think I would have to say Greta Thunberg. She speaks truth to power and dares the adults in the world to take responsibility. My sister is another because I see her daily live her life in a selfless manner with courage in the face of serious challenges. In addition, every mother that has a child with a wellness challenge for their bravery and compassion and dogged determination to see their child’s needs met. I don’t think you can be female in the world and not be called upon to be brave. Being brave means doing the right thing when you are not assured of the outcome and often requires putting oneself at risk in some way. Every time we speak up against a patriarchy that creates harm we are being brave and displaying bravery is what changes the world.

London:  There are brave women and girls around me everyday who teach me and inspire me to be and do better. Choosing just one woman or girl to mention seems unjust to the others. They are those who are caregivers; those who have lost a family member or friend and have found a space to grieve for their loved ones while moving forward; those who take risks and ask vulnerable questions; those who speak up against the imbalance of power and what ought to be basic human rights (i.e., Black Lives Matter, #me too and families retained and separated at the border); those who recognize the gifts children and youth bring to our communities; those who understand we have just one Earth and we must take care of it; and those who love unconditionally – no questions asked. 

Alice: The bravest girl I have ever met, it would be my mother. I know this sounds so cliche, but I honestly can’t think of someone as brave at her. At 18 years old she came to the USA, leaving her entire family in China to marry my father she met a handful of times. She had nothing, no money, no family, an entire new language and culture. I can only imagine how difficult it was for her and how scared she must have been. But she took that step for love and hopes of giving her family in China, a better life. I am proud she is my mother, someone I will always have the utmost respect and love for. 

Karla: When I was in the 8th grade, I distinctly remember one hot summer day when one of the girls in my grade was chastised for wearing a tight, short dress. I recall a male teacher exclaim, “what is this, the beach?” and then proceed to stand directly above the girl to rant about her choice of attire. He then escorted her to the principal’s office. The very next day, she wore a similar short dress — and she continued to wear short dresses throughout the months. During lunch one day, I remember her talking about her outfit choices and stating that she refuses to be shamed by others. At the time, I felt confused by her stance — why would you welcome disapproval? Doesn’t this disapproval hurt your feelings? As an adult, I am in awe of the courage and understanding this young girl had, of her own self image and rights. Being brave means being vulnerable!

Jennifer: My friend would call herself a coward. I heard the fear in her voice when she called me up one night. She wanted to keep me on the phone while she stepped outside in the dark with a flashlight to check out the noises.  She thought it was her ex-husband outside coming after her that night to kill her. She is still on her journey of moving on from an abusive relationship. She hasn’t accepted how brave she is for taking the first step, and how far she has traveled in no longer letting fear dominate her life.  Her fear has not gone away, but she is able to move along with it and has found her voice. 

Annie: In 2008, I met a girl named Jen. She was born without her right hand, yet this has not stopped her from doing just about anything! She loves being active – she plays the sport of curling, rides her adaptive bike and is an avid snowboarder. Over the years, we became best friends and I was privy to her world of one-handedness, full of creative ways to type, drive, clap, open containers and cut food. When we first met, she rarely talked about her hand as it was a sensitive topic for her, but recently, she started a blog called singlehandedly.jen that gives a glimpse into her life and how she manages day-to-day activities. She has grown in confidence and hopes to be a role model for children who have a shared experience. She is the bravest girl I know as she has overcome her own insecurities and is now a champion for what makes her unique!

Suganya: In my book, every girl/woman is brave because she has to navigate a world that is mostly patriarchal, somewhat misogynistic, and one that undervalues the worth of the female. Women are paid 70 cents for every dollar a man is paid for the same work done. Sexual harassment in the workplace is still alive. The E.R.A. (Equal Rights Amendment) has yet to be passed in the USA. If you are asking yourself what the E.R.A. is and why it matters, here is something that will boggle your mind – women don’t currently have equal protection under the United States Constitution. By some estimates, 80 percent of Americans mistakenly believe that women and men are guaranteed equal rights, but the only right the Constitution explicitly extends to both men and women is the right to vote. The E.R.A., a proposed amendment to the Constitution, would guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex. It would also require states to intervene in cases of gender violence, such as domestic violence and sexual harassment; it would guard against pregnancy and motherhood discrimination; and it would federally guarantee equal pay. It will require political will to make this change. So the brave girls who turned into brave women and who are showing us the way towards equality, are in my mind  – Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. My idea of young brave women who will transform our world are: Greta Thunberg, climate change activist, Emma Gonzalez, gun violence activist, Marley Dias, anti-racism activist. 

Elizabeth:  I have always heard stories about my Great Aunt Kay.  She was considered stern and bookish. That came in handy when she went to law school as one of two women in 1932.  After law school, she had a long career in the navy as the first woman lawyer. She wrote legislation that was ultimately signed into law by President Eisenhower.  And she never married. It was not that she didn’t love, but there were two problems. The man she loved was not a “suitable choice” for her family, and she would have had to give up her career that she loved.  So, she chose a life of solitary purpose in a world of men who did not always welcome or take her seriously. She courageously lived into her 90s, inspiring capable women who came after her.

Alina: I have a difficult naming one girl as “the bravest girl I’ve met.” I’m continually in awe of all that girls and womxn have been able to change and accomplish in this world.  Everyday, making the choice to take on the ism’s, biases, systems, etc. in a humxn world that was not created with us in mind, or overtly created to stifle us, is a necessity and a continual source for inspiration.  We did not choose to be born in the constructs around us, and yet we have historically chosen and continue to choose be trailblazers for a more promising future for those outside of ourselves.

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