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20 min

Warm up, catch up, and get going!

Step 1: Icebreaker

Group activity

1 min per member

An icebreaker is a powerful tool to help us become present with one another and ourselves. One by one, fill in the sentence below and share it with your Circle. Listen carefully as each member takes a turn and say thank you when she’s finished. Avoid the urge to slip into conversation.

  • Today I am feeling . . .
  • What I most want to bring forth in my leadership is . . .
  • That is truly important to me because . . .

Step 2: Member Updates

Group activity

2 min (or less) per member

Once you’re warmed up, go around your Circle and share personal updates. As a general rule, personal updates should be brief and focus on big changes and important decisions in your life. (It’s OK not to have one every month!)

If you have a One Action update, share that with your Circle at the same time. (A One Action is one concrete action you committed to take at your last meeting; the goal of a One Action is to step outside your comfort zone or practice a new skill.)

For example, a member update might go like this: “Since our last meeting, I asked my boss for a big assignment and got it. I’m thrilled but a little nervous [personal update]. For my One Action, I asked that coworker I’ve been struggling with out for lunch. She immediately said yes, and I was surprised by how easily we got along. I can see it helping in the office, and we’re going out for lunch again next week—her invite! [One Action update].”

Activity 1: Key Takeaways

5 min

Before you jump into today’s meeting, review the key takeaways of our “Meaning” video individually or as a group:

Strengths lie at the core of your happiness. It is counterintuitive, but pursuing happiness does not make us happy. So what does? Half of our happiness comes from our parents, or our genetic makeup. Another 10 percent comes from our conditions, or the comforts we have. That leaves 40 percent, which comes from choosing to engage in activities that create positive energy for us. Our choices do not always match our skills. You may be great at something that does not fill you with energy.

You find your strengths through energy. Many of us do not know our passions, and we grow anxious worrying about that. Lots of people advise “Do what you love to do,” but what if you don’t know what that is? Many of us were raised to get good grades, to excel and make our parents, teachers, and bosses proud. Love didn’t have anything to do with it! Instead, look for what gives you energy. Notice your heart racing as you think about those activities. Notice if your voice speeds up or gets louder as you talk about them to friends. These are signs of positive energy. We define strengths as what brings you positive energy. Strengths are characteristics that have always been true about you—and that you truly value.

Why we use reflection. Joanna’s research shows that our strengths are already within us, but we don’t always have access to them. By reflecting deeply, you can make new discoveries about yourself and remember what you already knew but may have forgotten. You may even find yourself feeling more inspired—and being more inspiring!

Self-awareness is the key. Once we slow down enough to reflect on our underlying mind-sets—to build self-awareness—we gain the freedom to choose. We can choose to use our strengths more. We can choose to shift mindsets. We can allow new behaviors to emerge naturally. In this way, we can change from focusing on fixing weaknesses and striving for perfection to living into our strengths and doing what brings us positive energy

Purpose comes from using our strengths. The more you use your strengths, the more you deepen them. You’ll find yourself waking up with more energy for the day. Purpose is down this path: as you learn what is important to you, you get closer to it; then one day you’ll suddenly realize you’re doing what you were meant to do.

We start with ourselves. As you begin to deepen your strengths and bring them to your work, you will begin to see strengths in others. Noticing others’ strengths helps you withhold judgment; your mind-set will shift from what’s wrong to what’s right. That’s why Centered Leadership starts with leading yourself. We become better leaders when we are able to see ourselves more clearly and shift, out of choice, to be more open to learning. Then we can model the change we want to see.

Activity 2: Personal Leadership Inventory

20 min

Step 1: Identify the characteristics of your favorite leader

Individual activity

5 min

Imagine a leader who is truly distinctive in your mind—someone who has had a profound impact on you. This could be a leader from any walk of life, real or imagined

Write. Spend a few minutes considering the characteristics that distinguish this leader. Think about what makes her or him head and shoulders above the rest. Be as specific as you can and jot these characteristics down.

Step 2: Identify the characteristics you see in yourself

Group activity

2 min or less per member

One by one, share the top characteristic you admire about your chosen leader and why. Keep track of everyone’s favorite leadership characteristic to create a full list for your Circle.

We often find a group’s collective list touches on:

  • technical skills like planning and project management
  • emotional attributes like passion or making personal connections
  • values like integrity or authenticity

Write. We all admire and want to be like leaders who bring out the best in us. So often the traits we admire in others are traits that we have ourselves. Take a moment and reflect on which traits you most admire on your Circle’s list—jot them down below if helpful. Then one by one, share the one or two traits that you see in yourself and/or would most like to bring out in your own leadership.

Activity 3: Strength Awareness

20 min

Step 1: Reflect on the activities that energize you

Individual activity

10 min

Now we’re ready to deepen our awareness of our strengths. Let’s go back in time to recall three moments in your life where you felt high positive energy. As you reflect on the questions below, close your eyes and allow the images, words, and feelings to flow. When you’re ready, open your eyes and jot down your answers in the present tense

Write. As a young child, what fantasy games do you love playing? What do you get to do and who do you get to be in these games?

Write. As a young adult, what activities do you feel drawn to? When do you feel so absorbed in an activity that you lose track of time?

Write. As your recent self (during the past eighteen months), what activities leave you feeling strong, energized, and alive?

Step 2: Identify your core strengths

Pair activity

5 min per partner, 10 min total

This activity lets you use your responses in step 1 to identify your top three strengths.

Break into pairs. One partner should be the interviewer, using the questions below to probe with curiosity and appreciation. The other partner should be the interviewee, responding to the questions openly and honestly. Each interview should take about five minutes, with one to two minutes for personal reflection at the end.

Interview questions:

  • What patterns do you see across the three moments in time? What do you most value about yourself in these moments?
  • What do you value about the activities that you describe? Why are they important to you?
  • What lies beneath the strengths that you see in yourself? Are there deeper strengths buried below?
  • What has always been true about you that you value?

Before wrapping up, the interviewee should take a moment and answer one final question:

  • Based on your answers, what do you see as your top three strengths?

Switch roles and repeat the exercise.

Step 3: Share your core strengths

Group activity

1 min per member

One by one, share your strengths with the Circle. Simply state your strength without elaborating on it, and consider cheering on one another as you go.

Activity 4: Future Possibilities

20 min

Step 1: Identify the characteristics of your favorite leader

Pair activity

10 min per partner, 20 min total

Now that we have started to identify our strengths, how will we use them to live into our purpose? In this next exercise, we visualize ourselves in the future.

Break into the same pairs. One partner should be the interviewer, using the questions below. The other partner should be the interviewee, imagining herself ten years from now giving the best of herself to work and life—and feeling energized and fulfilled. As you answer, close your eyes and allow yourself to think and dream boldly.

Interview questions:

  • Complete the sentence: I am most proud of the contribution I have made to the lives of others and who I have become because I have ... and because I am ...
  • If you assume for a moment that everything is possible—without constraints and knowing that you cannot fail—what do you want to experience?
  • Standing in this ideal future and looking back, what do you need to start doing differently today to make your unique contributions and achieve a deep sense of fulfillment in the future?

Spend ten minutes on each interview, then switch roles and repeat the exercise.

One Action

20 min

The little push you need to go for it.

Step 1: Identify the action you’re going to take

Individual activity

10 min

Using this grid as a framework, identify the actions you will take (or intensify) to live into your strengths at work, home, or school. Then decide how you will free up time to make these actions a reality.

For example, you might say: “To live into my strengths of curiosity and love of learning, I am going to reserve thirty minutes twice a week to grab lunch with a colleague to learn what she or he is doing. I can accomplish this by scheduling the lunches, since I have to eat anyway.”

Reflect for a moment and select the One Action that you’re committed to take before your next meeting.

Step 2: Share your One Action with your Circle

Group activity

1 min or less per member

One by one, go around your Circle and complete the following statements:

  • One action I commit to take this month to live more into meaning is...
  • One thing the group can do to support me in this commitment is...

Move quickly from member to member, and consider cheering on one another as you go.


10 min

What’s next, and a few final words.

Step 1: Finalize logistics of your next meeting

Group activity

10 min

Before you break, make sure you have the basics covered for your next meeting: day and time, location, food and drink. Decide what you’re going to do when you get together or who’s going to send out ideas. You may also want to talk through what worked—and what didn’t—in today’s meeting and brainstorm improvements going forward.

Step 2: Close on an energetic and inspirational note

Group activity

2 min

To punctuate the end of this meeting, go around your Circle one by one and complete the sentence below:

  • After our Peer Support Power Hour, I am feeling . . .