Putting Your Strengths to Work

Here are some tips to help you become more fulfilled and happier in your (work)life:

1.  Identify and learn more about your top strengths

In a previous post here, I discussed how important it is to understand your own top strengths. Don't just assume - take the time to truly assess and understand what your motivations are and what makes you fulfilled. Without these lessons, you will be like a ship without a captain.

2.  Assess your environment and your key activities 

Do your workaday environment and work role give you the chance to be you - to fully, regularly express, develop, and maximize your top strengths? Write down ways in which you already use your top strengths at work. Then try to think of new ways you hadn't yet considered, and add them to your list.

3.  Talk about it

While how, when, and how much you will be able to talk about strengths will vary from job to job and depend highly on the context and the situation, each of us can find opportunities to share our strengths with those we spend a lot of time with at work. Talk about your strengths with your manager, your staff, and your peers. Be curious about their strengths and encourage open communication about what makes each of us unique and powerful. Talk about what supports you would like to have or new opportunities you would like to explore that you've identified as ways to further leverage and develop your strengths. Be open to other ideas and explore suggestions from your colleagues. The more external support and understanding you can gain, the more successful you will be at infusing your work with opportunities to use your strengths.

4.  Make a development plan and follow it

To change behavior, you must create an action plan and specific goals or else nothing will really happen. Know exactly what you want to change, why, and how to do it. Then mindfully and consistently implement your plan.

- What do you need to do more in order to really leverage and develop your strengths at work? 

- What do you need to do less of in order to allow your strengths to grow?

- What needs to change? Who needs to support you? What resources will help you in your quest?

- How will you track your progress? What are deadlines and milestones to focus on?

- How will you celebrate small and large accomplishments of these goals and milestones?

5.  Assess your progress regularly

Schedule a regularly occurring appointment with yourself to check on your progress - once a month, or once a quarter, depending on your preferences and situation. This may simply mean setting aside a block of time to focus and journal about your experiences, or it may be a time to discuss them with a trusted mentor, coach, or colleague. Be sure to consider some of these questions:

- What were your goals? What progress have you made?

- What worked and what didn't?

- What obstacles inevitably arose and how did you handle them?

- What are some potential future obstacles and what can you do to plan around them or overcome them?

- What are new goals, tasks, and deadlines that you will work on to keep your plan active and alive?

- When will you schedule your next self-assessment?

What if My Current Job Doesn't Allow Me to Maximize My Strengths?

If your assessment of your current situation shows that you have a deficit in your ability to use and grow your strengths, you need to shift something. There are a few ways to do this:

  • Change Your Approach
  • Change Your Perspective
  • Change Your Role
  • Change Your Environment

In my next post, I will discuss these ideas in greater depth. I would also love to get some input from you about ways you have shifted your situation to allow for your strengths to shine - write your thoughts in the comments!

Photo By Xavier Fargas via Flickr Creative Commons