Perspective: It’s a Perfect Fit

– by Frazer Donahue

How do you make decisions?  How do you understand a new situation, deal with an issue or meet new people?  For me, it always comes back to Context.  Anytime I have a decision to make or I am faced with a new situation I have a need to understand what has happened previously before I can move forward.  My wife calls this procrastination and will sometimes become frustrated with me about the time it takes to make a decision, but I have to understand prior events or decisions in order to feel comfortable moving forward.  For me, the past provides perspective to the current situation.  Once I understand why things are the way they are I can then see a path to the desired future.  I can use the knowledge and answers I gain from the past to make choices that will lead to the preferred outcome.  The more information I have about the situation the more effective I become in my decision making.  As a person with a strong Context theme I have an ability to understand the link between where we have come from and where we want to go.  I often reflect on what has been done and why it was done which allows me to understand the reasons for the current situation, what could be improved on or done better and from there I can envision a path forward to reach the goal. 

There are a few things to be aware of when you have a strong Context theme.  To others, it may seem that you are constantly focused on the past and may be viewed as old fashioned or resistant to change.  You will need to explain to others that through your process of gathering information from the past it allows you to ground yourself in the facts and provides you with a platform from which to move forward.  Another would be that in new situations or meeting new people it may take some time to orient yourself and become comfortable as you collect the needed information to give yourself the context you need.  You need to give yourself this time to become comfortable but some may interpret this time as you being withdrawn or maybe even standoffish or rude.  Be open and engaging with the people in the situation as you collect the information to help alleviate their potential concerns. 

For me, I have always been drawn to understand the past.  I have always loved understanding and learning about the past, it always provided me with a strong understanding about why things are the way they are today. Now that I know my number one strength is Context I completely understand why I became a history teacher.  It is the perfect fit for me to share my love and understanding of the past to help others understand our world through a strong understanding of why the present is the way it is and how we can move forward to a brighter future.

Context: Lessons Learned

Have you ever looked at a blueprint and known immediately what was worth keeping, what was missing, and what needed to be changed? Do you like to read about the past? Are you happy when you hear the words “best practice”? If so, your strength might be Context. Context is a strategic thinking theme that relies on understanding the past in order to chart a better way to the future. Those with the Context strength see learning opportunities in both success and failure. Often, they love to tell stories about these past experiences. Basketball player Michael Jordan said:

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Michael Jordan

This is Context. The ability to look for and understand what can be learned from the past is imperative to success in organizations. When coupled with enduring values, relevant information, and a desire to improve, Context becomes critical.

Another advantage of the Context strength is that the individuals are able to sort chaos into order. Because they are curious and caring, they bring worth to projects by asking critical questions before proceeding. Teachers with Context are often excellent planners, especially when using backward design.

Teachers and leaders can assist students and colleagues with Context by helping them to respond favorably to change as it can be easy for the Context individual to become trapped by a “but we’ve always done it this way” mindset. Be certain to recognize the past journey. It is important to affirm the value of past work by helping individuals to see how it supports proposed transformation. Furthermore, if something has been done multiple times and worked, leaders and teachers must take time to ask why and how something worked – what were the key processes, what were the metrics used to calculate success, what were the best outcomes? Then, help these individuals to learn how to communicate these in clear, succinct means by developing outlines, bulleted lists, diagrams, and graphic organizers.

Context helps us to move forward by avoiding past pitfalls. Be certain to bring it to the table to ensure future success.


According to Clifton StrengthsFinder, people exceptionally talented in the Developer theme recognize and cultivate the potential in others. They spot the signs of each small improvement and derive satisfaction from evidence of progress.

March 19th is the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. St. Joseph, who was a carpenter, was a developer. Developers are naturally thoughtful and patient. They know that tomorrow will always be better than today. For them, everyone is on a path to getting better at something. Developers are relationship builders. They meet people where they are at, invest in them, and then help them to grow. The best developers are able to see and celebrate small improvement rather than waiting for big changes or end results.

Saint Joseph said yes in a way that few men of his time would. Through faith and love, he remained with Mary and raised God’s Son. His devotion as a developer and his recognition of better things to come resulted in our salvation.

Developers are devoted to each learner and their colleagues. They seek improvement and are talented at knowing how to support incremental growth. They encourage others easily and will thrive when they feel encouraged too. Developers do not give up easily. As a result, they might need assistance in learning when it is appropriate to give up and move on. This is not easy for them because they yearn for everyone and every project to be successful.

When forming teams, look for developers. They see potential, they focus on growth and a better future, and they celebrate victories.