6. Leverage Strengths – An outline of why employee engagement needs to be strong stuff.
(Part 6 of an 11 part series on how managers can improve employee engagement)
Let’s get strong in 2012.
Engagement is strong stuff. When you know your strengths, live your strengths, and leverage your strengths in the service of others you will have increased engagement, happiness, and well being. To bring out the strengths of others we must be aware of our own strengths. Powerful managers “spot” employees’ strengths and make strength training and strengthening routines a daily endeavor.
Strength Based Leadership. I have been a student of strength based leadership for 7 years. If you go back and read blog posts on this site from 5 years ago you will see most of them had a strength based leadership focus. In fact, this specific blog was started November 11 2005, the day Peter Drucker died. I dedicated the website to his legacy and encouragement of a strength based approach to work. I have taken inventories of my strengths, taught strength based approaches, encouraged thousands of employees to learn more about their strengths and believe that strengths are a foundation cornerstone in the pyramid of employee engagement. Overtime I realized that strength based approaches for work were best subsumed under the broader perspective of employee engagement.
5 pathways to strengthen your engagement and work:
- Don’t be a sucker, heed the advice of Peter Drucker.
- Follow Martin Seligman’s strong path towards happiness and well being.
- Gallup along with your strengths, your winning combination is 40-22-1.
- Set aside your trombone and find your strengths by looking at what engages you (Marcus Buckingham).
- See your best reflections as others offer you your reflected best self.
Don’t be a sucker, heed the advice of Peter Drucker. Peter Drucker was a prolific management writer who focused intently on strengths at work in his final years. In 1999 in an article in managing our own career Drucker said we have to place ourselves where we can make the greatest contribution to our organizations and communities. And we have to stay mentally alert and engaged during a 50-year working life, which means knowing how and when to change the work we do. It may seem obvious that people achieve results by doing what they are good at and by working in ways that fit their abilities but Drucker believed very few people actually know–let alone take advantage of–their fundamental strengths. He challenged each of us to ask ourselves and hold conversations with others at work about:
- What are my strengths?
- How do I perform?
- What are my values?
- Where do I belong?
- What should my contribution be?
Accept yourself. Don’t try to change yourself, Drucker cautions. Instead, concentrate on improving the skills you have and accepting assignments that are tailored to your individual way of working. If you do that, you can transform yourself from an ordinary worker into an outstanding performer. Today’s successful careers are not planned out in advance. They develop when people are prepared for opportunities because they have asked themselves the above questions and rigorously assessed their unique characteristics.
Follow Martin Seligman’s strong path towards happiness and well being. If Drucker is the dean of management then Seligman is the dean of psychology and leader of positive psychology. Seligman is a cautious academic, former head of the American Psychological Association, and a true difference maker. He was instrumental in turning psychology toward a balance of the positive and the negative. Starting with Learned Optimism and then moving to Authentic Happiness Seligman created a constructive and positive foundation for psychology. In regards to strengths the single greatest resource Seligman was involved in creating was the is the VIA Strength Survey of Character Strengths – measuring 24 character strengths. Of all the strength assessment inventories available I recommend this one the most. It has a universal perspective, it can be applied both inside and outside of work, and best of all it is free. Research has gone on to demonstrate that is you know your top 5 strengths, use them on a daily basis, and leverage them in the service of others you will have a much higher level of happiness and well being.
My top 5 VIA strengths going back to November 2004 were: humor, creativity, curiosity, love of learning, and perspective.
Gallup along with your strengths, your winning combination is 40-22-1. As an organization Gallup has been at the forefront of helping individuals and organizations bring strengths to work. The third question in their famous Q12 survey of employee engagement is: At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day. Marcus Buckingham and now Tom Rath have created powerful and popular books and resources for strength based work. Their primary strength-based assessment is StrengthsFinder 2.0. You can take the online assessment after purchasing one of their books related to strengths at work and entering the code at the StrenghsFinder website. Gallup does an impressive job of creating helpful information and resources to learn more about your strength and how to put them to work. They offer a number or resources in addition to StrengthsFinder 2.0 to get the most from your strengths.
My top 5 StrengthsFinder 2.0 strengths are: maximizer, strategic, positivity, ideation, and empathy.
Set aside your trombone and find your strengths by looking at what engages (Marcus Buckingham). Marcus Buckingham worked with Gallup and is now a very popular independent strength based speaker, writer, and coach. He has just developed yet another strength assessment tool for work in StandOut – designed to help you find your edge and win at work. His assessment is okay but I believe his best contribution was in the book Go Put Your Strengths to Work and the video, Trombone Player Wanted. I especially appreciated how, at that time, Buckingham encouraged us to find out strengths not in an assessments or inventories but by paying very close attention to what we looked forward to doing each day at work, what fully engaged us at work while we were there, and what gave us our greatest sense of satisfaction. In other words, we looked at what engaged us to determine our strengths and then we maximized these activities and roles to enhance our engagement. There was no need for an inventory or test. I think his delightful video series on Trombone Player Wanted was a great way to help a team build strengths by watching the videos together, having conversations about the applications and implications of what he said, and holding each other mutually accountable for bringing their best to work each day.
Here is a sample video from that series:
If the video does not load in this window, click here.
See your best reflections as others offer your reflected best self. The University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship developed the Reflected Best Self Exercise to use stories collected from people in all contexts of our life to help us understand and articulate who we are and how we contribute when we are at our best. These stories collected from people who know us can strengthen and connect us to others, help us experience clarity about who we are at our best, and refine personal development goals so that we can be at our best more often. I think the strength of this approach is the social element and as opposed to the anonymous feedback of a 360 evaluation it offers triggers for further discussion and elaboration from the people who let us know what we were like when we were at our best. Many of us have blind spots or lacunas about our strengths and the reflected best self exercise can fill in the holes.
Seven strong suggestions:
- Ensure you go beyond taking a test and saying you’ve “done that strength thing.”
- Don’t merely reduce strengths to a list of 5 attributes.
- Be mindful of what truly engages you and work backwards from engagement to strengths.
- Notice other people’s strengths and give them lots of strength based feedback.
- Develop a daily structure or reminders so that you don’t lose your strengths in the flurry of demands and activities.
- Be disciplined about your strengths and turn your strength based work into the foundation of your work.
- Gain additional strength perspective and insight by taking another popular assessment for strengths at work: Strengthscope.
Consult these 5 sources to enhance your engagement and put you in the moment:
- Peter Drucker, Managing Oneself.
- Martin Seligman, Flourish: A Visionary new understanding of Happines and Well-being
- Tom Rath, StrenghtsFinder 2.0
- Marcus Buckingham, Go Put Your Strengths to Work
- Marcus Buckingham, Trombone Player Wanted (Video)
Building the pyramid of employee engagement. Review the 7 previous posts listed below as we build the 10 block pyramid of employee engagement actions for managers:
- 12 Keys to Achieve Results with Employee Engagement
- 6 Ways Managers Can Maximize Performance through Employee Engagement
- 7 Significant Steps to Employee Engagement Progress
- 4 Ways Managers Can Build Relationship BACKbone into Employee Engagement
- Don’t Blink: How to Foster Recognition for Employee Engagement
- 6 Powerful moments of employee engagement
Next post in this series: Make meaning.
David Zinger built the 10 block pyramid of employee engagement to help managers bring the full power of employee engagement to their workplaces. If you would like to arrange to have this course or workshop for your organization or conference contact David today at 204 254 2130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bonus Trombone Player Wanted Guide
Here is a free e-book I created for the Trombone player video series which includes a review of StrengthsFinder 2.0. Click here to read or download.