Life Coach Helps Create Children’s Adventure Kit after Taking Her Own Profile
Karen Van Riesen first discovered Leading From Your Strengths profiles in 2008 when she trained to become a Christian life coach. The profile assessments were listed as a helpful resource to use with clients, so she completed one for herself first. The impact was overwhelming. “For the first time in my life I valued who I was,” said Karen. “What a difference this would have made if I had known this information about myself as a child and if I understood my children’s strengths while I was raising them!”
The profiles were so transformational for Karen that she became a profile certified trainer – and then set about with fellow educator Betty Good to partner with profile creator Rodney Cox to build a child’s version in a kit form.
Together she and Betty produced the Incredible Creatures Live Adventure, released in 2010. In this two-part experience, children discover their strengths by identifying with one of four animal protagonists and then learn how to use those strengths well. The adventure is based on the science behind the Lion, Otter, Beaver, and Golden Retriever behavior personalities, first made popular in the Leading From Your Strengths profiles by Ministry Insights partner Dr. John Trent.
The kits are now used worldwide in schools, churches, and camps to help more children to find out how God made them and discover their God-given strengths.
As Karen and Betty began to share the adventure with education and home school colleagues they discovered the powerful impact the profiles can have for children. “My son is autistic and doesn’t pick up on much,” said one parent, in tears. “But he understood that adventure. And now he understands himself.”
Entire classes are transformed. One large Canadian Christian school facilitated the adventure for its whole staff and student body, inspiring a third-grade teacher to repeat the experience every year with her new students. As she leads her students through the adventure, the teacher hangs posters on classroom walls depicting the four behavior types and their corresponding animals (Lion, Otter, Beaver, and Golden Retriever), posting each child’s name with his or her most dominant behavior. The teacher and her students refer to the posters throughout the year as they work together to communicate and understand each other. “Once my child participated in the Incredible Creatures Live Adventure, his relationship with his teacher turned around completely – for the better,” said one parent.
Benefits for Teachers and Staff
While teachers who lead the adventure have access to their own profile assessment (allowing them to understand their own strengths and how to interact with students), Karen has found that the profile process transforms entire staffs, too. One school team working with Karen discovered every person on the staff had a Golden Retriever bent – easy-going, quiet, diplomatic, relational – with the exception of one member. “No wonder we’re not growing,” the principal said to Karen. “We are all getting along so well that we’re not reaching out. I need to hire an Otter with that warm, outgoing, enthusiastic personality to promote the school.” After a profile-driven hiring process, the staff grew. Soon, the school did too, so much that they have moved into a bigger facility.
Benefits for Families
The 2012 release of the kit’s family version, Incredible Creatures Family Adventure, has been a boom to homeschoolers. “The adventure helps homeschooling parents know what each child and his behavior style need in order to learn best,” says Karen. “Then I help them create a plan that will ensure each child gets to be in his ‘natural habitat’ at some point during the day.”
Data from the Family Adventure increases cooperation in families beyond the homeschool environment, allowing parents to understand their own behavior as well as their children’s bent. “It’s a fun way to discover each others’ strengths and weaknesses,” said Donna, a parent of two boys. “Learning our styles gives us a chance to see where we all need more of a balance.”
How to Maximize Benefits for Children, Staff, and Families
Karen has found that the people who need the profile process most may discount its value. Leaders who are task-oriented, for instance, may not value the “people” part of the equation and thus may not embrace the process, diminishing its impact.
Yet for those who recognize the need to understand others’ strengths can benefit tremendously, whether in hiring different personality strengths to fill gaps on their team, cultivating those whose strengths differ from their own, or simply validating the strengths in others.
That’s why the profile process remains central to Karen’s ministry, whether she facilitates an Incredible Creatures Live Adventure with churches, schools, homeschoolers, and families, empowers leaders and teachers through the adventure’s leadership resources, or uses the Leading From Your Strengths profiles when coaching clients and teams.
“Before I completed the profile process for myself, I had limited respect for those who are different from me. I simply thought they had something wrong with them,” says Karen. “Now I welcome those differences because others have so much to teach me. And they learn from me as well.”