Can you recall your last performance review at work? If you do, did your supervisor focus on how you could work on your areas of improvement or did they try to find new ways to use your strengths for the organization’s goals?
I dare to say that in most cases, the focus was on the areas of improvement, or weaknesses. The things you should fix or do better. And I don’t blame you or your supervisor if that was the case. Many of us have learned to focus on weaknesses when it comes to personal and professional development. We should be more analytical, more social, or get more training on a certain topic that we don’t master. I have definitely been there. And I know many talented professionals who do their best to fix their areas of improvement and to help people around them to become better by identifying and improving these.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes working on our areas of improvement is absolutely necessary. We can become better professionals, better friends, and better spouses if we are able to recognize what we should improve.
However, if we focus heavily on fixing what is wrong with us, we might end up ignoring our biggest potential and what is right with us: our strengths.
It might sound counterproductive to say that we should develop the things that we are already good at. However, an increasing body of research shows us that putting more focus on strengths might actually be really beneficial. Here are two reasons that illustrate the importance of focusing on strengths:
Reason #1: Using Our Strengths Makes Us Happy
When we are doing something that we are good at AND we enjoy (=strengths), we are happier than when we do something that we don’t feel we are good at or don’t particularly enjoy doing (=weaknesses). If you think about your work tasks, you can probably identify quite easily the ones where your strengths play a key role and the ones where you need to use your weaknesses to complete the task. It’s no rocket science to determine which ones make you happier.
Strengths have also been one of the main topics of research in Positive Psychology and many scholars have concluded that using our signature strengths, that is, the character strengths that are the most natural ones to us, increases our well-being. For example Martin Seligman and his colleagues discovered that finding new ways to use strengths increased happiness levels and decreased depression symptoms.
Reason #2: Using Our Strengths Leads to INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY
Employee happiness is of course valuable to organizations on its own. Happy employees have more energy to serve clients better, they are more committed, productive, and also healthier. All these points obviously impact the organization’s bottom line.
However, there is also a more direct connection between strengths and the orgaization’s results. When employees use their strengths, they perform better compared to using their weaknesses. According to the VIA Institute on Character, using our character strengths at work improves our performance. Again, not a rocket science. When something is natural to us, we will perform better than when something is diffcult or just not our cup of tea. Fixing a weakness also takes way more resources than becoming really good at something that is natural to us. By working more on our strengths, we can become great, instead of good.
Can you think of new ways to use your strengths at work so that they would benefit the whole team more? You could bring them up in your next perfomance review with your supervisor.
And if you are leading a team, could you help your team members to identify their strengths and to use them in new ways to reach the common goals? Feel free to have a look at my workshops if you are looking for tools to unleash your team’s potential!