Imagine a workplace where women are playing to their strengths and not focusing on trying to change their weaknesses. What would that world look like? People would likely be happier, more productive, more engaged and less likely to be looking for another job, right?
Women just might be better suited to do this than men. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema states in What Women Do Right that women tend to focus on the development and mentoring of others along with their individual needs. Women are also optimistic and enthusiastic about their organization’s goals and want to inspire others to feel the same. This aligns well with concentrating on strengths and can be applied to both women and men on your team.Here’s a plan for how – so you and your team can determine and embrace their strengths.
Assess Your Strengths
You’ll need to go through the exercise of assessing your strengths. This can be achieved in a formal or informal way.
There are many assessments that can be used – some require a fee and some are free. Predictive Index, Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 and VIA Institute on Character are just a few. A simple online search will show you some more.
Or you can take the less formal route – on a sheet of paper write down what you’re good at. If you’re doing this in a group session then also ask your colleagues to write down two things that each person does well. Doing the second part of this exercise may uncover a strength that you didn’t realize you possessed.
The takeaway from this exercise: a list of your top three to five strengths.
Embrace your strengths – it’s who you are. Don’t spend time trying to change them or be something different. There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to your strengths.
Take a look at your short list and write down a few examples of how you use those strengths naturally every day at work. While you’re doing this, consider how often you’re already employing the talents you’re good at. Also think about situations where you may not be using them. Would the outcome of the not-so-good situation change if you were to harness the energy of a strength?
It’s also a good idea to reinforce your strengths. Pick a strength and focus on it for a week. As with anything once you shine a light on it, it becomes more obvious. Repeat that exercise for the next four weeks – concentrating on a new strength each week. If you’re meeting as a group take the time for each person to share how they used their strength that week.
As a manager you now have a tool that you can use to better match up work with people’s talents. This can help you as you tackle a new project or restructure responsibilities. Perhaps you have three people doing the same job. Are they all good at all pieces of that job? Likely not. What if you restructured the responsibilities to play to each person’s strengths? Instead of being a marketing manager who researches new ideas, writes copy and analyzes results for a given suite of products why not have one person who loves to write copy do that for all product lines, the person who is passionate about research do that for all products, etc. Divide up the work based on what people are good at and you’re likely to see stronger results.
You can implement this in your daily interactions but also when doing reviews. Suggest that each member of your team talk about these specifically identified strengths during their review (written or verbal). This further helps to reinforce them.
Just like developing muscles at the gym takes time it also takes time to develop your “work” muscles. The more you master them in both yourself and others the more productive and satisfied your team will be.
Use Progressive Women’s Leadership’s Build Up Your Strengths Worksheet to embrace and work on your strengths.