Written by Ros Toynbee.
The old adage “play to your strengths” is one we are familiar with. And twenty years of research in the field of positive psychology provides us with a body of evidence that confirms that leaders who do are happier, more confident, have higher levels of energy and perform better at work.
But what is a “strength”? Most people will say “it’s something I’m good at”. But they miss what strengths are really about, which is energy. Strengths are underlying qualities that energise us and we are great at. In other words when you are using a true strength, you get that buzz, that feeling of the “real me” coming through. You leap out of bed in the morning excited to go to work. There’s that sense of “this is what I was born to do”.
Compare this to competencies or skills. If you’re good at something but it bores you, it sucks the energy from you, it’s not a strength, it’s a “learned behaviour”. We develop them because we get rewarded at work for doing them – the pat on the head, the promotion, the pay rise. And our performance might be good enough. However, used excessively, and over time, we can and will burn out.
Many clients come to me to clarify what their next career move should be. They know they are super capable people who can turn their hands to many different things, yet there is a huge difference between knowing what you have to offer (your learned behaviour often) and what you would like to, or what would be most energising to you to offer, in your next role. The key is always in knowing what your top seven strengths are, and the combination in which you would like to use them, to maximise your personal fulfilment and performance going forwards.
There are many ways in which you can identify Strengths and in our “Find Your Strengths for Career Success” Masterclass on 02 December 2015 we’ll be using the world’s leading Strengths tool, Strengthscope™ to accurately identify yours. But you can start by reflecting on the activities that give you the most buzz, the places where you feel the “real you” and the tasks that come most effortlessly to you.
The key to avoiding burnout? To know your strengths, but more importantly to use them well. This means finding or shaping roles that play to your natural strengths and allow you to play to the ones you haven’t used lately, as well as harnessing the strengths of your team and others which complement yours.