A very natural tendency for the human mind is to focus on problems and what needs fixing. If we are given feedback that is mostly positive, we still gravitate towards the one negative in the mix. The mind is a problem-solving apparatus and zeroes in to resolve the ‘incomplete” or unresolved.
In our work, with the ever expanding “to do” list and multiple projects on the go, it is easy to ignore what is working well and acknowledge milestones and progress made. In the pursuit of the incomplete, we easily overlook the complete!
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This is not to say that we overlook the risks or what else may need addressing but more that we acknowledge and build on the strengths. That we have that as a strong reference point to build on rather than the default negative weakness focus.
In our careers too, we are much more effective when we are driving off our strengths and putting these to good use in the service of others while also gaining a sense of personal fulfillment.
A colleague asked me, “How do we get organizations and managers recognizing and acting on the strengths concept, rather than the negative weakness focus we see so regularly?”
As a manager or leader of a team, here are ten ideas to consider:
1) Having right people in the right job/role so they can use their key strengths has to be a start.
2) Be mindful and continuously ask yourself, your team and significant others, “What is working well for our team, organization and or relationship?”
3) Ask routinely, “What do we well which we need to keep doing?” How can we build on this?
4) Do a strengths-based check. How much of your daily work time is spent using your strengths? What things could be better done by someone else so you do more of what you love, enjoy and are good at?
5) We are not always clear about our strengths. Get feedback and specific examples on what others perceive as your strengths. We can be too close to it and or take it for granted.
6) For leaders to commit to fostering a culture that values innovation and creativity and enables individuals within them to utilize their strengths and “push the envelope” without feeling they will be penalized. Clearly leaders in organizations have to be supportive of a strengths-based approach otherwise it can be all uphill.
7) Check regularly and tune in to where your own cognitions and feelings reside. Where is the “default” setting? What do you spend more time thinking about – problems or the desired future, solutions, possibility, current strengths and capabilities and what could be?
8) For managers and leaders to acknowledge, praise, notice and give feedback when they notice people using their strengths. This can be a powerful reinforcement as it makes the recipient feel good and also increase their levels of engagement.
9) All of this has an assumption that people are still enjoying using their strengths. There is thing called overused strength! (Not being negative here in this strength-based piece!) Just acknowledging though that overused strengths which can lead to burnout is not what we are referring to here.
10) As Mary McGuiness said at the last Australian Association of Psychological Type Conference I attended, “make sure you use your strengths in ways that you enjoy outside of work things.” This really struck a chord as this is such an essential part in our balance and restoration.
Jasbindar is a leadership coach and speaker who helps executives harness the best of themselves and their teams.