Thriving Together Series: Working with Strengths
by Christie Michals, Development Associate, Safe Children Coalition
Everyone is uniquely gifted with various talents and characteristics that develop our personal strengths. In a time of social distancing, changes to our daily lives, and the endless challenges of living in a global pandemic, we all could use a reminder about what makes us special and valuable.
Strengths at Work
George Mason University offers access to CliftonStrengths for both students and employees to learn about themselves and improve self-awareness. By focusing on strengths, this resource is used in our community to acknowledge individual traits and enhance development.
It is beneficial to empower others to pursue and explore their strengths at work. Gallup shows that “people who know and use their CliftonStrengths are more engaged at work, more productive in their roles, happier and healthier.” When encouraged to grow in your abilities, you are more likely to find joy and satisfaction through your workplace performance.
Effective people understand their strengths and behaviors. Gallup reports that “strengths-based development helps workgroups realize up to: 29% profit increase, 19% increased sales, 72% lower attrition, 7% higher customer engagement.” Mason supports the use of the CliftonStrengths assessment through team mapping, 1:1 coaching, and interpretations that help students select both majors and career paths.
Understand Your Strengths
In addition to Mason’s Strengths Academy, tap into your personal and professional networks to familiarize yourself with your strengths. When I began to explore my CliftonStrengths, I shared my top 5 strengths (Individualization, Relator, Arranger, Achiever, Responsibility) with trusted colleagues that I frequently work with. By discussing our results together, we began to notice and identify occurrences when each of us displayed the use of our strengths.
Start to understand your unique talents and uncover the ways your strengths show up in your actions. What do your top 5 CliftonStrenths say about you? Who can you share strengths-based conversations with? The more aware you are of your strengths displayed in action, the better you can become at using them as your superpowers.
Strengths in Others
When you learn and grow in your own strengths, start encouraging others to develop their strengths too. This may take time and practice, as it contradicts the traditional weakness-centered approach to feedback.
In this ScienceDirect article, Anguinis, Gottfredson and Joo explain why it is most effective to build other people up by using a strengths-based approach and by praising good behavior. Their findings show that positive encouragement serves as reinforcement for others to continue using their strengths.
While weaknesses do need to be addressed from time to time, more employee engagement, motivation, and job satisfaction occur when a strengths-based approach to feedback is predominantly used. The authors suggest using a 3:1 ratio – that 3 positive pieces of feedback should be provided for every 1 negative feedback.
Strengths-based feedback is not exclusively reserved for those in management positions. Supervisors and colleagues alike can encourage and applaud other people’s good works. By acknowledging the strengths that each person possesses, you can offer valuable perspectives through positive feedback to help your environment grow.
Positive workplaces that focus on strengths can lead to happier and more productive environments. Spark your new year by affirming the unique abilities you present to this world and to your work. Foster supportive conditions to praise each other’s accomplishments through specific strengths-based feedback.
Start by taking the CliftonStrengths assessment to discover your top 5 strengths. Then, explore growth opportunities presented by working with your strengths. Consider the following questions:
- What do you enjoy most about work?
- What tasks or skills come naturally to you?
- What draws you in or excites you each day at work?
- What accomplishments are you most proud of?
- What do you receive the most praise or compliments for?
- In what ways would you like to apply yourself more at work?
Maybe you also find an accountability buddy to review these questions with. It can be helpful to learn about your self-awareness by sharing your answers with a trusted colleague who can provide you a different perspective about your strengths. Together, let’s move Mason to go and grow further faster.
- Find out about your own strengths here: strengths.gmu.edu
- Learn about strengths-based feedback in this Harvard Business Review article: The Feedback Fallacy by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall
- Enroll in the Strengths-Based Leadership program to optimize your leadership
- Develop positive change in your organization through the Leadership Coaching for Organizational Well-Being
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