Do you get to play to your best strengths at work? For two-thirds of us, the answer is “no” (see the last few paragraphs of the Gallup webpage).
But imagine what innovation and energy we could unleash if most of us could answer “yes”. Now that’s exciting. So, what can we do to move toward using our best strengths at work?
As an employee, challenge yourself to reframe
First, do you know what your strengths are? If not, there are several online resources that can help (VIA is free; Realise 2 charges a modest UK fee; Strengthsfinder is available with the purchase of the book), plus getting feedback from others who have an informed view. Triangulate based on a variety of sources and, most importantly, your own view.
Second, figure out how you could reframe your own thinking and/or your role to use these best strengths in your work. It may be as simple as shifting the mindset from which you approach your work, or emphasizing one aspect over another. For example, if you are a strategic thinker could you help the team make better decisions by asking “what if” questions and finding ways to expand the group’s thinking beyond “the way things have always been done”? Perhaps there are strategic projects that you could take on within your current role? On the other hand, it may require an actual shift in your responsibilities, in which case it’s important to incorporate that in your dialogue with your managers.
Third, take charge. You know your strengths best, so take responsibility for making them known to your organization and help them find ways to make use of these strengths for mutual benefit.
As an employer, challenge yourself to know your team
What are your team members truly capable of? Are they in the 67% of underutilized people in the Gallup poll? And once you know, what will you do?
Focus on how best to use these strengths in the context of the mission at hand – maybe a different approach to the existing work, or a potentially innovative project that otherwise wouldn’t be attempted? Simply having the discussion about someone’s strengths and how to apply them moves the dialogue in a positive direction.
In a resource-constrained environment, we all win if we can harness the best in every person. And remember, this is a shared responsibility, so it is fair game to ask your employee to come up with ideas for leveraging their strengths as well.
Finally, if you are between roles
Take the opportunity to design or pursue the work that you uniquely are meant to do: work that demands bringing your best strengths to work every day.