Have you ever found yourself stuck in a job you really weren’t enjoying? Perhaps you needed the money? Or maybe you needed to stay for your resume? Or possibly you weren’t sure what else you wanted to be doing?
Several years ago, my boss asked me to take on a project I really didn’t want to be doing for a host of good reasons: it wasn’t work I enjoyed; the team’s morale was at rock bottom; and it had already failed twice. Unfortunately, being promoted to the job of my dreams required me to deliver this project successfully.
Desperate for an effective way through this project, I decided to see if working from our strengths—those things we were good at and actually enjoyed doing—would make delivering the expected results any easier.
You see, a growing body of research is finding that people who use their strengths more at work:
- Are happier—studies have found they report lower levels of depression, higher levels of vitality, and good mental health.
- Experience less stress—studies have found they report higher levels of positivity; and in particular the character strengths of kindness, social intelligence, self-regulation, and perspective appear to create a buffer against the negative effects of stress and trauma.
- Feel healthier and have more energy—studies have found that greater endorsement of character strengths is associated with a number of healthy behaviors including leading an active life, pursuing enjoyable activities, and eating well.
- Feel more satisfied with their lives—studies have found individuals who are satisfied with life are good problems-solvers, show better work performance, tend to be more resistant to stress, and experience better physical health.
- Are more confident—studies have found that both strengths knowledge and strengths-use are significantly associated with self-efficacy, self-esteem, self-acceptance, and self-confidence.
- Experience faster growth and development—studies have found that positive self-monitoring and strengths building are particularly suited to circumstances when you’re learning something new, something difficult, or something perceived as difficult.
- Are more creative and agile at work—studies have found that the feelings of authenticity, vitality, and concentration created by developing strengths help people to better adapt to change, engage in more creative and proactive behaviors, pay more attention to detail, and work harder.
- Feel more satisfied and experience more meaning in their work—studies have found that people who use four or more of their top character strengths at work are more likely to experience job satisfaction, pleasure, engagement, and meaning in their work.
- Are more engaged in their work—studies have found that employees who have the opportunity to regularly use their strengths at work each day are up to six times more engaged in what they’re doing.
And managers who focus on people’s strengths experience improved team performance and greater success. Studies have found that leaders who focus on the strengths of employees benefit from lower levels of staff turnover, higher levels of productivity, more satisfied customers, and greater profitability.
Developing our strengths wasn’t a requirement mentioned in any of our job descriptions, but by finding small ways each day to do what we did best we were able to start feeling more engaged and energized about this dreaded project.
There was nothing expensive or difficult in our approach; we simply learned to value and work to our strengths. For example, we channeled our strength of curiosity to find more effective ways to communicate; we unleashed our strength of creativity to better connect with people’s hopes around the project; and we focused on our strength of gratitude to attract more resources and supporters for what we were doing.
As a result, not only did we manage to deliver the project on time and on budget, but we exceeded every independent measure of success that had been set for employee engagement and customer satisfaction.
Each of my team members still describe this project as one of the highlights of their careers. As for me, I scored the job of my dreams and went on to teach thousands of other employees across our organization how to use their strengths at work.
What might you achieve if you—and your team—had could find small ways each day to do what you do best?