Assessment | character strengths, via survey


to the VIA Survey

This afternoon, I took a break from filling out business forms and reviewing supplier diversity certification processes. This afternoon I completed a free, on-line character strengths assessment – the VIA Survey. The VIA Survey is from the VIA® Institute on Character (where VIA stands for Values in Action).

After nearly 30-minutes of self-identifying how I relate to various statements (see VIA Survey Sample(.pdf)), not only are my top five character strengths provided but also the ranking of the full 24 character strengths, which are part of six classifications or virtues:

  1. Wisdom and Knowledge – Cognitive strengths that entail the acquisition and use of knowledge
  2. Courage – Emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external or internal
  3. Humanity – Interpersonal strengths that involve tending and befriending others
  4. Justice – Civic strengths that underlie healthy community life
  5. Temperance – Strengths that protect against excess
  6. Transcendence – Strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and provide meaning

Results of VIA Survey, My Character Strengths

After taking the survey, a .pdf of the rank order of the 24 character strengths is reported. Of my top five strengths, four are part of the virtue of Wisdom and Knowledge (i.e., creativity, love of learning, curiosity, perspective) and the fifth is part of the virtue of Courage (i.e., honesty).

top5 charac strengths

More description about each strength  – Creativity, Love of Learning, Honesty, Curiosity, Perspective – is included at the site, along with key concepts and suggested exercises for how to boost a given strength.

Assessments Shmassessments

While I have a love/hate relationship with different types of assessments, I have had my share of them (e.g., Myers-Briggs, DISC, etc.), especially when I worked in a traditional workspace. Earlier in the year, I completed StrengthFinders 2.0.

Out of curiosity, I found a Psychology Today blog post that compared VIA Survey and StrengthFinders, with the following as a main difference (in my opinion) –

“The VIA Surveys and character strengths interventions are peer-reviewed, whereas StrengthsFinder is not. This means the VIA work has withstood the criticisms and challenges of science and has benefitted from the observations of many researchers around the world. The StrengthsFinder work is only studied by Gallup-employed scientists. As StrengthsFinder is promoted by a for-profit organization, Gallup does not reveal trade secrets and various scientific data. The VIA Survey publishes its data, research, and emerging practices on its site, and researchers studying the VIA Survey publish their findings in scientific journals.”

Interesting. Very interesting.

As I quickly poked around the site, this caught my eye in the drop down section “What is Character?” 

In the early 2000s, scientists began to bring character to the laboratory to study it. A 3-year project involving 55 distinguished scientists devoted to studying character traits throughout time was launched. This resulted in the VIA Classification of character strengths and virtues (Peterson & Seligman, 2004), a classification of positive traits in human beings. Since then, hundreds of peer-reviewed articles have been published across many cultures. One of the key findings about character is that each human being has a constellation of character traits (character strengths) that make him or her distinct or unique. Character strengths cannot be boiled down to one trait or a handful of traits; in addition character strengths are idiosyncratic and expressed in degrees and combinations based on the context one is in. Said in another way: character is plural.

journal paperRead a newly published article, Through the Lens of Strength: A Framework For Educating the Heart, describing a practical “descriptive” approach (involving exploration) to working with character strengths that offers a paradigm shift to the popular, prescriptive approach (involving instilling specific traits) mentioned earlier.

If you took the VIA Survey, what were your top five character strengths and the associated virtue categories? In reviewing the remaining 21 characteristics, do you agree with the results, for the most part? If not, why not?


Intersect | improv, engineering, behavior design

SHORT VERSION. I am going to speak at a Professional Development Conference (March 2016) for Safety Engineers. My in-the-works presentation title – Who’s Building Healthy and Safe Habits, Anyway? – hints at the use of improv. And as suggested by a friend –

… would put more emphasis on the use of improv techniques to effect healthy habits, rather than focusing on BBS itself, and that it would be interactive, insightful, and very much fun.

(BBS is Behavior-Based Safety, on wikipedia)

Intersection (or Mashup)


L-R: me, Debbie

Debbie is correct. I have created one way to bring improv and engineering together – Building Environmental Health & Safety Habits. That one way is my use of behavior design as the bridge connecting engineering and improv.

Knowing the health and safety related goals for safety engineers + various improv warm-ups, exercises, and games, behavior design is the landscape to link the fun of improv and improv mindset to the nitty-gritty of safety first.

LONG VERSION. Here is the long version, thought process of how that intersection (or mashup) has evolved in my mind –

  • (late 1994) starting my energy and environmental consulting practice to serve air quality permitting; power plant siting, construction and operations; regulatory compliance; project management; and environmental management decision-making;
  • (late 1990s) serving as a project manager and being involved in select tasks involving compliance documentation for risk management programs, process safety management, and regulatory deviations;


  • (early 2000s) spending some time at power plant construction sites where daily meetings and check-ins happen, not to mention the emphasis on safe procedures and activities (and learning about different types of accidents);

30a_NH3inj piping fr NH3 tank

  • (late 2007) re-entering a traditional cubicle workspace (aka cubeopolis) and putting my consultancy on-hold to eliminate conflict of interest (on LinkedIn)
dressdown shirlJPG

Two months into cubeopolis, after deciding to put my thirteen year consultancy on hold

  • (early 2011) becoming a student and performer of improv and becoming a student of servant leadership through the Greenleaf Center (about the Center)
  • (late 2011) trying out Health Month (about Health Month)
  • (early 2012) testing different approaches for friends to shift behaviors toward healthier habits and toward productive workspace interactions
  • (summer of 2012) attending three conferences – the 22nd Annual Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership Conference in Indianapolis; the annual Applied Improvisation Network World Conference (see AIN storify) in San Francisco; and BJ Fogg’s Behavior Design Boot Camp in Healdsburg (about Boot Camp)
  • (late 2012) realizing that because I not only enjoy environmental work but I also enjoy the practice of being an improviser and servant leader, I also want to create something that allows me to learn, practice, and share about my areas of interest
  • (early 2013) attending my first Camp Improv Utopia West (about camp)

camp improv utopia

  • (summer 2013) speaking at the 23rd Annual Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership Conference, co-presenting Who’s a Servant Leader Anyway? (on SlideShare, presentation)



Shoes: Fluevog, Choice family

  • (late 2013) becoming a Certified Coach for Tiny Habits® method (about coach program)
  • (early 2014) quitting my job


  • (early 2014) leading an improv-dance activity for ~ 60 participants at the 2nd Annual Design for Dance conference hosted by Stanford’s Persuasive Tech Lab in Palo Alto (my blog post about event)

(Dress: Stella Carakasi / Two Star Dog; Shoes: Fluevog, Hopes | Promise)

  • (early 2015) speaking at the 18th Annual EUEC (Energy, Utility & Environmental Conference) (presentation) in the early morning session on the last day of the conference, where I included a very brief improv-inspired warm-up


  • (early 2015) figuring out different ways to interconnect what I enjoy learning and doing by bringing an improv mindset to the workspace

Make sense? I am basically applying the principles of behavior design (including creating tiny habits) toward applied improvisation (e.g., the practice and philosophies of improv in a non-performance context) for the environmental health and safety industry sector. This is a similar to what I have done/am doing for servant leadership.

And a bonus of this – select activities are part of my business endeavors.

What are you interconnecting and mashing up that have not traditionally co-existed?

Listening | as improvisers, as workspace colleagues

REBLOG. See original at

Listening – As Improvisers, As Workspace Colleagues


From Vince Vaughn’s quote (above image) about listening when improvising –

  • unexpected information

  • staying true to your character, who you are

  • reacting honestly

  • discovering a different direction

– it is my observation (and experience) that these four things also happen to varying degrees in the workspace. In fact, here is Vaughn’s quote when replacing the words improvising with interacting in a workspace and scene with workspace 

The main thing about interacting in a workspace is listening so if something happens that wasn’t expected and you know your character, you know what has to happen in the workspace, you can react to that in a way that is honest and it might take you in a different direction to go the same place.
– Anthrocubeologist
(plagiarizing-ish from V. Vaughn)

About this post

As a follow-up to Feedback – As Improvisers, As Workspace Colleagues , for which listening is an important skill for receiving and giving feedback, this post presents –

As a specialty coach for An Improv Mindset in the Workspace, trained to help people change behaviors and easily develop habits, I understand how to translate improv practices and philosophies for use in a non-performance context – specifically, for the traditional workspace.

In a follow-up post, I will include an opportunity to be a habit detective for listening, e.g., observing, gathering information, speculating on other practices for listening. For now, consider the following for listening in the workspace.

Simply Listening, Listening Simply

One of the key practices of every improviser is listening. I shared in Feedback that workspace interactions are not too different from the relationship-based interactions between two improvisers performing a scene. Listening is not only important for performing improvisers but also for anyone involved in workspace interactions among peers, management, customers, community stakeholders, shareholders, and competitors.

As an improviser, I practice making the four choices in progression, while listening to my scene partner –

  • hear

  • understand

  • react

  • respond

Choosing to hear, then understand, then react, and then respond serves as the foundation for exercising one’s listening muscle. As an improviser, what I co-create in an on-stage, performance-based scene with my scene partner is contingent upon my listening skills.

Here is an improviser Paul Vaillancourt’s The Four Step Process – Improv Tip #3, which addresses how to listen better and listen with a purpose.

  • What did they say? What were the words – literally – that they said?

  • What do I think that means?

  • How do I think and feel about what they just said?

  • What am I going to say and do about that?

(This post is a stand-alone post specific to listening and separate from the two improv tips Vaillancourt references in his video – What They Just Said – Improv Tip #2 and Playing Paranoid #1.)

Listening with An Improv Mindset in the Workspace

Workspace interactions are not too different from the relationship-based interactions between two improvisers performing a scene. How does listening as an improviser – hear, understand, react, respond –  translate for those in the workspace? Consider this approach.

Did I hear (physically) what was said?

Hear. If not, be honest. You can say that you did not hear what was stated and that would like the person to repeat what was stated. In fact, how often do you ask (and care) to acknowledge what you heard?

Do I understand what I heard?

Understand. If not, take a breath, ask questions, and check-in. You can ask for clarifications. You can check-in to confirm your understanding, state what you understood, and if you would like, include your interpretation of what was stated. Likewise, how often do you ask (and care) to make sure you understood what was said, as well as what was intended to be heard?

What is my reaction – physically, emotionally, intellectually – to what I heard?

React. Be your own research scientist or detective. Start collecting data about yourself. Be self-aware. Do you have a physical tell, make a sound, start processing what you are going to say, check-out, or some other reaction or combination of reactions? Does your reaction change depending on the environment?

Subtext. Something to be aware of – subtext. In a performance context, subtext is the underlying meaning created by the speaker, whose manner of speaking may be conveying an additional meaning of what was spoken. In a non-performance context, such as the workspace, subtext also exists. (For this post, subtext is not addressed.)

Which communication option(s) will I use?

Respond. It is your turn to interact. Traditional approaches for responding include verbal responses, written responses (electronic, old school pen to paper), sign language responses, and in some cases (for whatever reasons) no responses. And for the first three approaches, the timing of responses can differ from choosing an on-the-spot, immediate response to choosing a response after some time has passed.

That said, how do people in your world listen to each other? What are your observations and experiences? As a non-improviser, I would love to know the following –

What qualities do you think make one person a better listener than another? Is listening a habit that you actively practice? If so, what practice(s) do you have? If not, what would you like to practice?

– – – –

I am gathering and sharing my thoughts as I evolve ANTHROCUBEOLOGY – INSPIRED by IMPROV, a CATALYST for WORKSPACE CULTURAL SHIFTS through TINY CHANGES.