Open the Door Workshop: Tap into your strengths

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Last year, I was very fortunate to take part in a Lean In Circle close to where I live in Delft, The Netherlands.  As I write regularly about on another blog, Professional Parents Network, I am a seeker and advocate of family, work, balance.  This group, inspired by the Lean In book by Sheryl Sandburg was one of around 22,700 Lean In Circles in 110 countries.  If you are a career woman – with or without children – I’d highly recommend checking these out.  Led by friends of mine, Manuela Damant and Sarah Brown, I met some wonderful women and got to understand others I already knew much better.  Most of all, through these discussions, I came to realise the specific challenges women face at work and learnt strategies to deal with this positively.

Once we completed a cycle of thought-provoking topics and sharing stories and experiences, Manuela & Sarah, along with Molly Quell, who was also a member of this group, went on to organise TEDxDelftWomen, a fantastic and inspiring event held in May 2015.

Now, Manuela and Sarah have used their great skills and talents to embark on a project called “Open The Door Workshops”.  Held monthly in Delft, The Netherlands, each session focusses on a different topic or challenge relevant to career women or those running a business.

Last week (16 July 2015) was the first time I was able to attend, and the topic was “Tap Into Your Strengths“.  They used three practical and very interesting examples to facilitate the discussion with the group.  We were also sent some pre-workshop information and had read an article and watched a couple of TED talks.  We were asked to ponder the questions:

  • Why are so many of us disengaged?
  • How do we motivate ourselves and others?
  • When did I last feel truly engaged?  Why?  What was I doing?

Part of the great atmosphere created in these group is a safe space to share, meaning “what happens in the workshop stays in the workshop” but I don’t  mind sharing some of my own personal insights here, and no doubt you have your own if you stop and think about these even just for a few minutes.

Particularly on that evening, I was feeling tired and – dare I say it – disengaged – but by discussing these (or other) topics under the expert facilitation of Manuela or Sarah at these events, it really literally “opens the door” to new ways of looking at your own perceptions and consider whether or not these are serving you well in your career and life.

It’s also really useful to have some specific and practical resources and tools to use.  One of my favourites recommended by Manuela is by Marcus Buckingham and is called the “Stand Out Assessment”.  This link below actually gives you a code for free access to this:

Sure, there are lots of different assessment tools out there, but at the very least, if you’re wanting to feel more engaged, this video is not difficult to watch and he really does know his stuff!  I’ve found the process and resource helpful myself, even by spending only limited time on it.   I’m a “provider/connector” and if you take the test and watch your inbox, you will receive regular tips on how to make the most of your natural strengths.  This description below sounds very much like me and funnily enough, until recently I didn’t even recognise this as a strength, I really just thought “but everyone does that, don’t they?”.

Like Marcus says, doing things that make you feel STRONG are your strengths, regardless of whether or not you feel you are very good at them (initially at least) and those things that make you feel WEAK are your weaknesses (even if you’re great at them!).  Very interesting insight, isn’t it, as many of us have been taught that what we are good at are our strengths but that’s not always the case. Those things may, instead, leave us feeling drained and disengaged.

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We also discussed Daniel Pink’s concept of DRIVE and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s research on FLOW.

Coming back to the point of MOTIVATION, I have been quite alert to this recently.  I am finding that almost everything in life – everything we choose to do (or not) comes down to TIME, MONEY and/or MOTIVATION.  If there is something you want to do (or think you want to do) but aren’t – it’s always lack of one of those things standing in the way.  However, I feel that if the motivation is strong enough, you will usually find a way to overcome the time and money obstacles.

Another, perhaps unorthodox technique I have of dealing with lack of motivation is putting something off to kind of “check” it’s urgency/importance.  I know some organisational experts say “tackle the things you don’t particularly want to do first”.  Sure, there are many things in life we have to do but don’t particularly want to.  But, especially as a busy working mother, I’ve found that a lack of motivation isn’t always a bad thing. For example, those things you may often think are important and urgent like housework and buying groceries but are totally unmotivated to do, instead of forcing yourself to do it when you really don’t want to, waiting a little (a matter or hours, days or more) can work well.  It may sound funny, but if there were no major dramas caused by waiting a while, it wasn’t as important as you may have thought.   Things that ARE really important (like when we’re totally out of milk) will then kick in the motivation.  Otherwise, it can simply wait!

Thanks also to Jasmina, who provided some delicious food to keep our bodies nourished while we were busy stretching our minds and exploring our strengths!

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Thanks to Manuela & Sarah for organising and all the other lovely attendees there as well, gorgeous group 🙂

If you’re in the Delft area, I’d highly recommend checking out the Open the Door Circles.  You can find them here on Facebook:

or via the website:

If you can’t make a meeting in Delft, but are elsewhere in the Netherlands, you can also contact them about

If you have any thoughts on this post, I’d love your comment below!


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