The Highlands Company Blog

Finding Calling in the Chaos: Dr. Chip Roper at NYC’s VOCA Center

Since 2014, Dr. Chip Roper has served as the Executive Director of the VOCA Center. The VOCA Center is based in New York City and equips individuals to find and follow their workplace calling. The VOCA Center serves a broad audience, from students to mid-career professionals to executives in a wide variety of industries.

With doctoral training in counseling, leadership development, and performance measurement, Dr. Roper is uniquely equipped to lead the initiative. He has worked with hundreds of individuals and multiple teams and never tires of seeing people and organizations find their calling. The Highlands Ability Battery (HAB) is integral to the work that he does, especially in its unique capability of objectively identifying people’s natural strengths in order to strengthen “fit,” leverage their talent, and increase engagement and enjoyment.

Passion and ability don’t always align, which is what makes an objective report so valuable. According to Dr. Roper, “People need to know not only what they are passionate about, but also what they are naturally equipped to do.”

Even in the hectic and high-pressure culture of New York City, Dr. Roper has found several ways to create an engaging atmosphere that speaks to a wide variety of audiences and inspires them to find their calling. Keep reading to learn more about how Dr. Roper’s programs use the HAB and the Highlands Whole Person Model to further the vision of the VOCA Center.

The VOCA Center: Programs and Initiatives

Over the past year, Dr. Roper has initiated several new programs and offerings at VOCA. Offered 4 times per year, The Calling Workshop, held in Manhattan, includes a reception and a one-hour interactive presentation that helps mid-career professionals answer the question, What work should I do? Using a combination of interview, presentation, and Q&A, these workshops are designed to help people walk away with two things: hope that their work can be better and insight into how to make that happen. Many participants sign up for a one-on-one coaching program called The Calling Discernment Program, a focused, structured process resulting in action. The foundation of the program is clear, objective knowledge about capabilities measured by the HAB.

At the executive level, VOCA offers three distinct programs: The Executive Summit, which is similar in format to The Calling Workshop but geared towards executives; The Executive Program, which provides individual coaching for executives, also built upon self-awareness of HAB-measured capabilities; and The Executive Circle, a peer mentoring group that meets monthly to share business cases from each member’s current situation. The group provides support to help process the issue and determine action steps, as well as accountability to complete the steps before the next meeting.  

In the corporate space, VOCA offers Team Building Workshops. During these workshops, groups of five to 20 participants begin with taking the Highlands Ability Battery (HAB). Using the results, they then map their profiles against key outcomes for which the team is responsible. Oftentimes the members of a team will have similar strengths as the leader. By understanding how different strengths provide leadership in different areas, leaders can begin to intentionally build a team with diverse skill sets and team members can learn to appreciate one another’s strengths.

For pastors, VOCA offers tools to help members of the clergy understand how their people are thinking about their work. They also do a vocational intensive for clergy members that includes the HAB and provides a safe space for a pastor or clergy person to understand how they’re wired and how that contributes to the role.

Using the Highlands Ability Battery (HAB) and the Highlands Whole Person Model

Unique to any other type of career or personality assessment, Dr. Roper values the HAB for the unbiased and objective assessment it provides of a person’s natural abilities. “There’s nothing else like that out here,” he says. “It’s one of the questions I throw out at my workshops: Do you really want to do something that you’re not wired to do? Wouldn’t you rather know and have some objective frame for what your proven capabilities are?”

Dr. Roper wants participants of all VOCA programs, no matter their career level, to consider four key questions:

  1. What are my proven capabilities? The HAB is an invaluable asset to objectively measure what someone can do well.
  2. What are my passions? Passion is a continuum from what interests you to what you feel compelled to do, no matter whether or not you get paid to do it.
  3. What are my boundaries? This includes limitations and values, from geographic boundaries to things a person simply will or will not do.
  4. What are my real options? More than wishful thinking, this question moves people to talk to practicing professionals, do research, and find out what’s really possible.

These four questions overlap with the Highlands Whole Person Model in that they encompass all the critical factors that make up a person instead of focusing only on skills, interests, or abilities.

Overcoming the Imposter Syndrome

The objective evaluation provided by the HAB is crucial for helping people overcome what’s known as the “imposter syndrome.” Dr. Roper regularly sees people in his workshops who project an image of success and capability, and yet, in a safe setting, quickly reveal their insecurities. Many don’t feel they have a right to be there—that they shouldn’t be doing the job they are doing.

After taking the HAB and realizing how their natural abilities align with their current job responsibilities, people find new confidence. Says Dr. Roper, “It’s powerful to use the HAB to show them ‘Yes, you do have a right to be doing the job that you’re doing. You’re really on the right path, it fits with who you are.’”

In addition to confidence, people always come away from the HAB with new insights—things about themselves that they never knew. One of Dr. Roper’s favorite parts about holding workshops is to witness the “aha!” moments people experience once they start to unpack the HAB results. Laughter always ensues as light bulbs go off. It’s a relief for people to understand why some tasks can be so draining while others are fun and don’t require much effort.

From Checkers to Chess

For team leaders, those insights are especially valuable when it comes to understanding how all the different members of a team operate. Dr. Roper encourages leaders to become more strategic, and more specific, with how they view their team members.

“The key to putting together high-performing teams is for leaders to start thinking of their team members as chess pieces, rather than checkers,” says Dr. Roper. “In checkers, every piece is the same, but people are more like chess pieces. Everyone has different wiring.” When leaders are aware of those different abilities, they can be more strategic with how responsibilities are divided as well as which new team members are hired.

With all that he has accomplished since heading up the VOCA Center, Dr. Roper has more plans for the future. He is passionate about helping people in New York and beyond discover their true calling, and believes the HAB to be an indispensable step to get at that truth. To learn more about his programs, you can visit the VOCA Center online, or contact Dr. Roper at