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Baskerville: Use your strengths
Speakers inspire area professional women at the 19th annual Leadership Colloquium at the University of Mary Washington.

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Date published: 11/10/2012


People figured Viola Baskerville was just a doctor's wife when she ran for a seat on Richmond's City Council in 1994.

But Baskerville, now the interim CEO of Commonwealth Girl Scouts, knew she had a key advantage over her opponent, a former mayor.

She was 2 inches taller, she told the 165 women attending the 19th annual Leadership Colloquium for Professional Women on Thursday at the University of Mary Washington's Stafford County campus. So she decided to pull on her "power pumps," a pair of 3-inch heels, when they were onstage together.

"The visual was priceless," Baskerville said. "I won that election. From that day on, whenever I made a public presentation, I wore 3-inch heels."

Her keynote address at the daylong program was, appropriately enough, titled "Power Pumps: Leading With Your Strengths." In it, she referred to "StrengthsFinder 2.0," a book and online test by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie that helps people pinpoint their leadership qualities.

"Your strengths equal your talents and any investment that you may make in them," she said. "Your talents are your natural ways of thinking, acting and believing."

Baskerville said she discovered that her strengths include individualization and being able to relate to others.

"StrengthsFinder 2.0" defines individualization as being intrigued with the unique qualities of each person and having a gift for figuring out how people who are different from each other can work well together.

Baskerville said that when she was named to her current post, she asked for the job descriptions and talents of her employees, and then met with them individually. That helped her to realize that one employee was miserable because her current post was a bad fit. Baskerville tailored a new position just for her.

"After two weeks, her whole demeanor changed," Baskerville said. "It was evident that she needed a reassignment."

Baskerville said that as a "relator," a "StrengthsFinder 2.0" term, she enjoys close relationships with others, and finds satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve goals. She said she prefers to associate with those she termed "balcony people," supporters who cheer her on.

"Stay away from 'basement people,'" she advised. "They pull you down."

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