30 May Playing to Your Strengths in the Workplace
If you wander through the Business section of any bookstore these days, you’ll see several titles dedicated to finding your strengths to be a better employee and leader, and how you can develop your innate talents for career success…
Research suggests that focusing on developing your strengths (rather than your weaknesses) can make you happier and more successful at work. Yes, we all have flaws; no-one is perfect – but it makes more sense to spend your time maximising your strengths than struggling to improve in areas where you’re weak. According to Tom Rath, author of international bestseller, Strength Based Leadership, “If you spend your life trying to be good at everything, you will never be great at anything.”
Play to your strengths for professional success
Until now, the workplace has been built around ‘opportunities for improvement’ – and we’re naturally wired to dwell on the areas where we fall short, but, if we really want to excel, we should be leveraging what we’re already good at. According to Lea Waters, the founding director of the Centre for Positive Psychology at the University of Melbourne, focusing on what you’re good at can boost self-esteem, energy levels, and ultimately, happiness.
The first step is to identify your strengths. There are many online assessments and surveys which can help you with this, but often the people who know you the best (personally and professionally) see you more clearly than you do yourself. Whether it’s your colleagues (past and present), family, or friends, ask them for honest feedback – what do they think your strengths and talents are, and do they have specific examples of when you’ve used your strengths to your advantage?
It’s likely that certain qualities and strengths will come up again and again, which should help you assess what you’re good at, and give you a sense of where your talents lie. The results might even surprise you! For example, if you know that your colleagues appreciate your point of view, you’re much more likely to share your thoughts and opinions with confidence.
Put your strengths to work to achieve your potential
According to Waters, another way to identify your strengths is to ask yourself what gives you energy. When you know what tasks energise you, versus what leaves you feeling drained, you’re more likely to feel engaged at work. “It’s a sweet spot,” Waters says. “It gives you internal rewards and the sense you’re truly being yourself at work.”
Once you understand your natural strengths, you can start to build on them.
You might not have been using your talents to their full potential, so it’s important to find ways to use these skills more regularly in your daily role – don’t let them go to waste! For example, if you’re a natural leader, put yourself in positions to work in a team, where you can exercise this skill.
Invest your energy into what you do best, be intentional about identifying the tasks and situations where your skills are most valuable, and then work hard to improve even further in this area. If you’re good in front of a crowd, volunteer to take the lead on doing presentations to clients. Honing your strengths and leveraging them in your daily work is key to job satisfaction.
We all want to feel like we are succeeding and growing, both in our careers, and as a person. In playing to your strengths, you’ll find yourself feeling more engaged, passionate and motivated – which makes for a great workplace culture.