Have you ever received a performance review or prepared an evaluation for others? When I worked in the corporate world, I would not particularly look forward to upcoming performance reviews. It meant spending time writing self-evaluations and as a manager, coming up with various ratings and assessments for people in my group.
The whole evaluation process seemed to focus a lot on pointing out weaknesses and trying to suggest methods to improve different areas to achieve better performance. But research suggests that it makes more sense to focus on our strengths rather than our weaknesses. In “Strengths Based Leadership”, Tom Rath and Barry Conchie argue that leaders who strive to be competent in all areas become the least effective leaders overall.
We often think that in order to be successful, we have to be exactly like the leaders we see around us. The truth is that we all work and lead in different ways. In fact, after 3 decades of research, involving more than 20,000 interviews with people in leadership roles across almost all industries and occupations and looking at their actual performance, Donald Clifton found that there is no definitive list of characteristics that describes all leaders. What he found instead was that great leaders truly know their strengths – and can call on the right strength at the right time.
Using our strengths not only makes us better leaders, it also makes us happier! Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychological Association, explains that the key to finding activities that are fulfilling and gratifying is to know our own strengths.
Using our signature strengths every day brings us deep emotional satisfaction. It doesn’t matter what area in life we use our strengths in, it can be in our work, our relationships, when raising children, when pursuing hobbies, etc.
How do you find your strengths? Martin Seligman provides a free “VIA Strengths Survey” on his Website that focuses on core character strengths. Another option is the Clifton Strengthsfinder that is used in workplace assessments (this test requires a code from the Strengthsfinder 2.0 or Strengths Based Leadership book.)
Once you know your strengths, use them as much as you can! It is empowering to understand what you are really good at and can point you toward living life with more meaning and purpose. Your combination of signature strengths is what makes you unique and will enable you to shine and be happier in your work and your life!