It’s easy for us to get sucked into focusing on what we’re not good at. By doing this we give attention to the negatives which hold us back, rather than focusing on what can move us forward.
It’s the same with the people around us. We can easily focus on what people can’t do, rather than what they can do.
As Albert Einstein said:
Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
This frequently plays out in organisations. People can quickly get labelled, boxed or categorised in a certain way, resulting in them not being their best at work.
Research, conducted over the last 30 years, shows that taking a strengths based approach leads to greater work satisfaction, engagement, and productivity. This is evidenced in Tom Rath and Barry Conchie’s book, Strengths Based Leadership, where they detail how working with strengths helps leaders be more effective.
As a leader you play a crucial role in bringing strengths to life at work – for both yourself and your team members.
It starts with you understanding your own strengths and how you can best use them at work.
The next step is to help your team members:
- Appreciate the strengths they bring to their role, and
- Recognise and value the strengths their colleagues bring to their role
If you want to understand your and your team member’s strengths where do you start?
Undertaking a strengths based assessment across the team can help. There’s a couple of options you can use. The two I recommend are the VIA Survey of Character Strengths and Tom Rath’s Strength Finder tool.
The VIA Survey of Character Strengths is a self-assessment that helps a person understand their core characteristics. There are 24 characteristics and the resulting report lists those characteristics in a person’s order of strength. That is, the highest strength is listed first, and the least is listed last.
The insights generated from this report can be useful in a variety of settings – not just the work environment.
Tom Rath’s Strength Finder survey is based on four domains of leadership strength: executing, influencing, relationship building, and strategic thinking. Taking the survey helps a person understand what leadership approach they take.
No style is characterised as better than another. In fact, healthy and balanced teams will have a mix of strengths present across the team members.
This is a great activity to do as a team. Once each person has undertaken the selected assessment you can have a conversation about how each person uses those strengths at work.
It’s as simple as asking each team member to share back: “I am at my best when…’. And they describe the work environment or situation that brings out the best in them.
It’s a lovely way to increase understanding across the team and to increase the level of rapport, trust and connectedness.
Author of the best-selling book, ‘Start with Why’, Simon Senek said: Spending too much time focused on others’ strengths leaves us feeling weak. Focusing on our own strengths is what, in fact, makes us strong.
Change happens. Make it work for you.
Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian. Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them accelerate progress. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’. For more information: www.michellegibbings.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.