Good leaders are aware of their strengths and harness them in order to fulfil their potential and enjoy their work more. They know what their preferred strengths are, have confidence in them, and recognise when they are applying them. Good leaders are therefore able to optimise their strengths to help them to reach their goals and desired outcomes.
Research has shown that using a strength-based approach is positively correlated with employee performance, engagement and retention at work. Individuals who are more aware of and utilise their strengths tend to be happier, more confident, have higher self-esteem, experience less stress and are more resilient at work. People who harness their strengths at work have also been found to be more effective at developing themselves and growing as individuals than people who do not.
Our preferred strengths help us to understand how we naturally think and feel and why we behave the way that we do. When we work in organisations and on tasks which are aligned with the strengths that are important to us, we are more likely to feel motivated, energised and engaged at work. In contrast if our work requires us to draw on our least preferred strengths in order to deliver what is required, then we are likely to struggle at work, compared to our peers.
When managers emphasise performance strengths of the individuals in their team, the performance of those individuals tends to increase. However, if they focus in on weaknesses, this tends to result in reduced performance. To get the best out of your team, ensure that the way you communicate in team and one-to-one meetings, focusses on building individual and team strengths, as opposed to focussing on problems or weaknesses.
The purpose of a team (the reason it exists) will ideally be something that allows team members to play to their strengths. In other words, if the purpose of the team requires a particular strength and this isn’t a preferred strength of any of the team members, then it is going to be more challenging to achieve that purpose. Knowing one another’s strengths, values and motivations, as well as weaknesses, is also important for people to work well together. Setting priorities and clear goals which take into account the strengths and weaknesses of the team is necessary if a team wants to be able to deliver on its purpose. Ideally a team will be able to ensure that its action plan plays to the strengths of the team as a whole, but also to each individual’s strengths.
While there are benefits to being aware of your most preferred strengths and harnessing them to improve your performance at work, there can also be a downside to strengths if they are overplayed. The ‘dark side’ of these strengths is likely to work against you and come out during periods of extreme stress or pressure. Unless you know what to look out for, you may be completely unaware of the impact this is having on your behaviour and in turn how it is affecting the people around you, their perceptions of you and the way they relate to you. It is therefore important to develop awareness and understanding of your strengths. Both how you can develop them and harness them to enjoy work more, but also to be aware of the risks of overplaying them as this can work against you and derail you from performing well at work.
For example, I know from psychometric assessments that my top strengths are being methodical, meticulous and striving. Whilst these strengths help me to deliver work to a high standard, there are positive and negative sides to each of them. For example, being methodical and meticulous means that I am very organised and structured. I take a lot of pride in my work and in delivering it to a high standard and I am able to provide structure to others. However, when I am feeling stressed and things aren’t going to plan, I can be in danger of spending a lot of time trying to get things perfect. When these strengths are overplayed, they may also put me in danger of coming across as overbearing and this is likely to demotivate people – which is the last thing I want to do! So, during particularly pressurised times, I may need to remind myself of the importance of being more flexible, optimistic, encouraging and motivating to the people around me.
Being aware of my strengths and the potential pitfalls associated with overplaying them has helped me to understand that I need to keep an eye on them and keep them in check, especially during periods of extreme pressure. I am now more mindful that whilst I will always try my best to deliver work to a very high standard, I also need to accept that sometimes ‘good enough is good enough’. While it is important to be aware of our core strengths and how we can develop them further, there can also be potential pitfalls for underusing any strengths, so being aware of these and being able to attend to the warning signs is also very useful.
Are you aware of your most and least preferred strengths, how to enhance them, and the characteristics of underplaying strengths or overplaying them?
In my Executive Leadership Coaching Programme, one of the six key areas that we focus on is your unique personal strengths. Through a combination of reliable and valid assessment tools based on neuroscience and strengths-based psychology and 1-2-1 coaching sessions, you will discover how to draw on your skills, knowledge and experience to increase your energy, engagement and productivity at work and achieve your full potential. Contact me to book a no-obligations discovery call and find out whether this programme is the right fit for you and/or your team.
Accredited Coach, Coaching Psychologist and Consultant