Yesterday, I was running a workshop and noticed how two of the participants were interacting. One of them was speaking, the other was listening. The speaker was positively shining: His eyes lit up, he gestured, his face was animated. The listener was fully engaged in the conversation. Both of them were Right There, and it occurred to me that only a thunderclap could bring them back into the room.
What had their task been?
They’d been asked to tell each other about that one thing that they love to do. A thing that is easy for them, one they learn really fast, that they do almost effortlessly.
The energy now makes sense, doesn’t it? They were talking about their strengths.
Strengths are your natural talents: They engage your best self
Workplaces that allow people to maximise their strengths tend to be workplaces that feel authentic.
This feeling emerges because, when you are using your strengths all day, it’s energising for you rather than draining. When you enjoy what you’re doing, you do it better, and you feel like you’re working towards your potential.
This is backed by research, which tells us that when you use your strengths, you are happier, less stressed, more resilient, and more engaged in your own self-development.
A Gallup study found that strengths-based workplaces grow faster
In 2016, the Harvard Business Review published the results of one of the world’s largest studies of strengths-based workplaces.
The study involved 49,495 business units, 1.2 million employees, across 22 organisations in 7 industries and 45 countries.
It focused on six metrics, from profit to employee engagement. The business units focusing on employee strengths showed the greatest improvement.
Here are the figures from the study:
- 10%-19% increase in sales
- 14%-29% increase in profit
- 3%-7% increase in customer engagement
- 9%-15% increase in engaged employees
- 6- to 16-point decrease in turnover (in low-turnover organizations)
- 26- to 72-point decrease in turnover (in high-turnover organizations)
- 22%-59% decrease in safety incidents
This data is significant, not just because of the results, but because it gives you a cross-cultural perspective.
It’s an indication that a strengths-based culture can work for you regardless of culture and location.
How to discover your unrealised strengths
Grab a pen and do this with me right now. I want you to think about the strengths that you might not realise you had.
On a scrap piece of paper, write down:
- What do you remember doing as a child that you still do now, but likely much better?
- What gives you an energetic buzz?
- When do you most feel like yourself?
- What is easy for you?
- What do you learn fast – almost effortlessly?
- When you think about your conversations, what topics make you shine with passion?
- What are you doing when you say ‘I love to do…’, or ‘it’s great when…’
- What feedback do you get from others about what you’re good at?
Now: Go and look at your to-do list. What’s always falling off the list? They’re probably not in line with your strengths.
Those things that you’re always getting done probably reflect your underlying strengths. You’ll never be asked twice to do them.
Now, go back over the list. Can you identify strengths that you didn’t know you had?
Start developing a strengths-based culture
Significant benefits are attached to learning your team members’ strengths. When you learn your network’s strengths, you are better able to accomplish key objectives.
In the UK, one investment management company developed a network of internal strengths champions, who helped employees to leverage their unique strengths in service of key objectives. Even though this company’s market was competitive and fluid, the company and its employees quickly exceeded performance goals. Now, it’s a leading player in the UK and has bested many of its competitors.
You might not be in a position to build a network of champions. You might not even be able to influence the culture as a whole.
What you can do, however, is look at your own team, and your own projects.
- building project teams based on complementary strengths
- practice strengths-spotting as part of feedback to your team members
- encourage your team members to speak to each other in terms of their strengths – and lead by example.
Shaping feedback can be as simple as saying: ‘One thing I appreciate you is that you have a real strength in this thing, which I notice when you do that thing.’
By doing this, you are leading from the front, which is where all cultural change begins.
Kickstart your strengths-based culture with The ORANGES Toolkit
The ’S’ in ORANGES stands for ’strengths’: It’s the last in a series of seven workshops delivered over just two days, as part of The ORANGES Toolkit. This toolkit is the most effective resilience and wellbeing program in Australia.