Tag Archives: strengths

Discovering and deploying strengths at work

One of the easiest and most effective way of ensuring that you feel happy and productive at work is to make sure that you are able to deploy your strengths at work everyday. But what exactly are your strengths, you wonder? Well, in this lesson we will be talking all about strengths and how to leverage them at work.

  1. Focusing on strengths: Strengths, in simple terms, are the feelings, behaviours and thoughts that come naturally to you and at which you are good and can use them to your advantage. However, in the workplace, the focus is typically on addressing weaknesses. The world, and especially your manager, is obsessed with what you lack and where you need to improve, to the exclusion of  ever considering what you are good at. However,  research by Gallup and other organisations, has clearly shown that your most impactful growth happens in your areas of strengths and you cannot become like anyone else, but by focusing on your strengths you can become the best version of yourself.  Because strengths are a natural, authentic expression of yourself, using your strengths and being in the strengths zone leads to more happiness and productivity.
  2. Identifying strengths informally: You can reflect on times when you were at your best, energised by what you were doing rather than feeling depleted,work that you look forward to doing again, work in which you exhibited rapid learning, work during which you lost track of time and work which was deeply satisfying.  Reflecting on such work incidents will make you figure out what strengths you were using in those situations and which come naturally to you. You can also use the positive 360 degree method we discussed earlier to figure out your strengths.
  3. Identifying strengths more rigorously: You can use a formal strengths framework and tool like Gallup’s the Clifton StrengthsFinder2.0 assessment to figure out your top 5 or all 34 strengths. While using such a tool it’s important to be focussed on developing your top strengths and not get distracted by your lower strengths and getting obsessed with them as weaknesses to be worked upon. Another popular tool and framework is the VIA survey of character strengths.
  4. Leveraging strengths:  Pick up one strength at a time and work on it. Try to use it in novel situations or in new ways in familiar situations. Try to use it more intentionally and consciously. Create a strength habit or ritual at work. Use the cue , routine , reward framework to create a healthy strengths usage habit. Build complementary partnerships with others where you lack a particular strength .  Be creative in how you use your strengths.

Discovering and deploying strengths is a powerful new framework that increases both happiness at the workplace and also everyday productivity.  In the last lesson we will look at how to lead others positively.

Factors underlying exceptional expertise and creativity

I am a Strengths Coach and I firmly believe that exceptional creativity and expertise is demonstrated only when you are working in your strengths zone.

What do we mean by strengths? Gallup defines  Strength as “the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance in a specific activity”.  This is distinguished from Talent, Knowledge or Skills required to perform well that activity or in that domain, and even from Investment or Commitment to that particular activity or domain.

To make it simple, lets take a (self-reflective) example ; assume the activity is niche blogging in the domain of leadership development. What would exceptional creativity and expertise look like: would a blogger be able to cement his / her reputation by a just one blog post that went viral; or to be acknowledged as an expert blogger he needs to consistently churn out viral posts on a day -to -day basis? Also the blogging ‘strength’ or muscle is developed over the years due to following factors:

  1. Talent: The blogger simply has a way with words or is naturally gifted in simplifying and communicating lucidly complex concepts . Perhaps he has the ‘communication’ theme as one of his signature themes as per Gallup CSF assessment.  Also, maybe growing others and developing them comes naturally to him, aka he has ‘developer’ as one of his Gallup CSF themes, which provides him an undue advantage when developing leaders .
  2. Skills: Perhaps he has practiced writing on a daily basis and words come easily to him when he sees a blank page/ screen; he need not suffer from writers’ block because he has made writing daily a part of his routine and has practiced the craft of writing beautifully and eloquently well.  Maybe he has attended multiple creative writing workshops that have enabled him to acquire the writing skill. Equally important he may have spent time facilitating leadership development (his niche topic) and has some practical skills and experience related to that domain.
  3. Knowledge: The blogger perhaps has a lot of knowledge about how to blog, how frequently to blog, when to blog to drive traffic etc (this is knowledge related to blogging) ; he has perhaps a lot of knowledge related to his domain of leadership development too that gives him material for his posts on a constant basis.
  4. Investment/ Commitment / Diligence : Perhaps the blogger is doggedly determined to make best use of his writing/ leadership development talent by investing systematically in learning and acquiring skills related to the same .

Only if all the four factors come together in the same blogger, will he have a chance of him consistently producing almost-always-viral posts.

The above can apply to performance in any domain, be it dance or music or academics or sports.

Elucidating the process further, what we note is that instead of falling in the trap of whether expertise and creativity is elicited from Nature (Talent) or Nurture ( acquired Skill/ Knowledge) or Effort (Investment/ Diligence);  we need to take a holistic approach where innate factors (about which we can’t do much)  like Talent may also be important and  agentic factors (which are more or less in our control)  like Commitment and Diligence may also be important.  Similarity, expertise will typically constitute of some ratio of  learned knowledge and some practiced and acquired skills.

I consider Talent as an Aptitude to Learn and Practice in a domain; Skill as the sum total of (experiential) Practice in the domain; Knowledge as the sum total of (at times theoretical/ cerebral) Learning in a domain; and Diligence/ Commitment as an attitude to Learn and Practice in a domain no matter what the odds.

So real Strength consist of having the right aptitude and the right attitude towards learning and practicing in a domain to provide consistent near-perfect performance.

We can summarize it with two equation:

Expertise/ Creativity = Developing Strengths and being in the Strength zone

Strength= Talent x Skills x Knowledge x Diligence.

The above also correlates with my ABCD model whereby Talent is innate like Affect; Skills is more Behavioral in nature; Knowledge is Cognitive while Diligence relates to Motivation/ Drive.

So if you want to develop your strengths muscle don’t stop at just identifying your talent; after identifying your talent, acquire skills and knowledge related to the domain and become passionate/ committed about mastering that domain.

As as Strengths Coach, helping the client discover his talents is just the first step: then comes the long path to encouraging the client to become passionate, skilled and knowledgeable about his chosen domain of excellence.