I recently interviewed Hallie Thompson, who is about to receive her PhD in Plant Sciences and currently running for U.S. House of Representatives in Missouri, about her #1 strength, Woo. Gallup defines this strength as “loving the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over, deriving satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection.” See my previous blog for more details on using and working with Woo.

Remember, Woo doesn’t define you. It is a powerful strength that can be used to connect with others and make your passion, skills and true self shine!

It may be an unfair stereotype, but we often don’t associate Woo with being a scientist. What is that like? How does it help you?

My top strength is Woo. As a scientist with this strength, projects and collaborations are really easy to get started and difficult to wrap up. Having Woo as a strength can make popping in to a professor’s office easier when inquiring about a study as well as make tracking down a long lost protocol easier. It is also helpful to use my Woo perspective to give a unique piece of insight on an outreach project. With a number of different approaches to scientific study, we are all better off.

Can you give an example of how this strength assisted you on a project in your role as a leader?

Collaborative lab work and field projects requiring teams are extremely rewarding. As the team lead on a field-based research project, I found that Woo enabled me to walk into a room of new summer research assistants and get them excited for the day of work ahead. In turn, this also helped me to recruit volunteer help with projects that otherwise may have been difficult to recruit.

Does your Woo ever cause you problems when it needs fed?

Sometimes, the manifestation of this strength breaks my concentration in finishing up a project. In my afternoons, compared to some of my neighbor graduate students in the agriculture building, my productivity wanes because my tendency is to wander. I stand up from my desk and seek out conversations at shorter and shorter intervals.

How does Woo work with your other strengths?

Woo works with my Maximizer to increase my ability to work a room in a networking session. I’m well acquainted with who the people I want to meet are, and I have a way to make that happen! I can also find people that will want to meet each other, which is a great strategy for moving from one conversation to another in a social setting.

The way Woo works with Competition: Competition is one of the few tools that I have to combat the impact of Woo on my productivity directly. When focusing on a project, my progress, as compared to my former self or to a colleague, is a strong driving factor for finishing. In a social setting, Competition can also help hone Woo in on a particular outcome if directed the right way. For example: I go into a conversation with the goal of handing out 20 business cards, but I must have substantive conversations with each person that are actionable. This practice helps to make events outcomes measurable and to ensure I slow down and learn from each interaction.

What do you love most about having Woo?

The enjoyment that comes with learning more about a group of people and the potential new networks that open up for the future. There are so many people out there with unique perspectives on the world.

What frustrates you the most?

Not feeling content through reflection. I know how important reflection is for growth, but it remains challenging.

How do you get even better at Woo? Any tools or suggestions you have for others?

Organization: it is important to have a system of reflection because this can be a difficult practice. Setting up an easy way to make sure it gets done is key. What I have found most useful is a section of my planner dedicated to weekly feedback. I make it a goal to do this weekly, which has proven challenging and helpful!

Empathy (which is not one of my top strengths): appreciation of Empathy can warm up interactions with others and slow down these conversations. This orientation also ensures that I am asking more questions and driving the conversation in a more balanced manner, resulting in more positive interactions.

Any last suggestions for others with Woo?
Choose when to use Woo most strongly. There are times where the gravity of Woo can be very damaging for productivity and others where this strength shines! It is important to know one from the other.


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    Loriana Sekarski is founder and president of BONSAI, a consulting company that transforms leaders (and businesses) into the best version of themselves. As a leadership coach, Loriana teaches leaders how to hone soft skills, spur workplace engagement, and achieve untapped levels of potential. Outside of BONSAI, Loriana serves as an adjunct professor at Washington University’s graduate student program. Additionally, she's fine-tuning her passion project, TakeFlight, a division of BONSAI that launches organizations, churches, and marriages to boldly live out their purpose by leveraging their strengths to achieve their God-given destiny. TakeFlight has just developed Revealing Hidden Shackles, an innovative curriculum that examines domestic violence within the Christian community.