Includer: Back to School

It's back to school for many kids in Florida.  I recall the mix of excitement and nervousness on that first day of school.  In Elementary School my mixture was 95% excitement and 5% nerves.  My mixture progressively changed for the worse through Middle School (we called it Junior High) and High School as my fear of fitting in got the best of me.  Bouncing around from Public School, to Catholic School and back to Public School in the same Township did not help the situation.  "Woo" (Winning Over Others) is #27 out of my 34 Talent Themes; then like now, I was cautious in a room full of strangers.

We all remember those first days of High School.  Walking slowly into each class, scoping the room out and hoping you knew someone (liking them was an added bonus). Then, once finding that person, you made a beeline to sit close to them. 

Lunch was always an adventure.  Discovering who was in your lunch period and trying to sit at the "right" table.  As the days went on, things fell into place, cliques were formed, anxieties lessened, drama escalated and High School as we know it  carried on.

Thinking back, I distinctly remember a girl named Anne Marie who was one grade above me.  During my first year of High School, she was in 2 of my classes and in my lunch period.  If she were to take StrengthsFinder today, I am sure she would have "Woo" as she seemed to know everyone, even strangers.

It wasn't her charm that caught my attention, as I had seen that behavior throughout the hallways.  Rather, it was how she made everyone feel welcomed.  While most of us teens were cautiously finding our way and carefully choreographing what we said and did, she had the ease and confidence of an adult.  She transcended all cliques and moved gracefully from athletes to scholars, from extroverts to introverts and back again.  I really admired her.

Anne Marie kindly waived me over to sit in her area as I nervously scoped out the Physics classroom on that first day.  She introduced herself and those around her as if she was hosting a party.  I remained at that lab table for the rest of the year and squeaked a B- out of a topic I would avoid for the rest of my days.

The Talent Theme that Anne Marie demonstrated so confidently and for the benefit of my clan of introverts was Includer.  People with Includer have a special sense which allows them to identify people who are being left out and possess the innate desire to draw them in so they feel the warmth of a group.  They are instinctively accepting and cast few judgments.  Their accepting nature rests on the conviction that fundamentally, we are all the same.  We are equally important.

Includers really demonstrate the core principle of the StrengthsFinder movement; we are all at our best when everyone feels involved and knows they are valued.  They know everyone has a strength and make outsiders into insiders.

If your child is going to High School for the first time, have faith that at least 12% of global StrengthsFinder population have Includer as a Top Talent Theme - so nearly 4 "future" Includers in every classroom of 30 to make them feel welcomed!

If you are an Includer or know someone that is, here are some tips on how to optimize this talent theme at work;

* Volunteer to become part of the on-boarding process for new hires within your department.  Like the first day of school, the first few days in a new job can be scary.  Includers can make anyone feel like a part of the team.  

* Inclusion can include communicating information.  Includers have a sense about who might benefit from knowing what about upcoming projects, activities or opportunities.  Filter the distribution list through an Includer before sending out important information.

* To respect the differences among us (our diversity), we must begin by appreciating what we all share (our similarity).  Help design a forum where everyone in your work group can define what they have in common (goals, experience, values) and then uncover what makes us different (unique StrengthsFinder talent themes).  

Dan is currently serving 20 years to life as the Sr. Director of Destination Experiences at Universal Orlando Resort.  He prefers white-water rapids over data lakes and lists Ideation, Futuristic and Positivity amongst his signature talents.    Find him on Twitter @dpddonovan 


  1. Love this outlook and perspective, Dan. I was in 5 schools in 3 states from 1st grade through junior high to high school. I can appreciate all the details you described and have my first grade picture framed as a fact, had to do a double take with yours that it was not mine exactly. Keep sharing good words!


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