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Imagine the last time you started to work on something and the next time you looked up several hours had passed. What were you doing?
Positive psychologists call that state flow. It is a feeling of energized focus and it indicates engagement and enjoyment in the process of the activity. Wouldn’t it be great to have more of those types of activities in our day-to-day work?
We often make the assumption that the tasks we enjoy are tasks that are universally enjoyed by everyone, but that isn’t always the case.
For some, dealing with an angry client might be a miserable experience, but those with a strength for relating to people might see it as an exciting challenge. For some, writing a technical document might be a boring and onerous task, but those with a strength for communication might see it as an opportunity to write a story that brings the study results to life. For some, a spreadsheet filled with thousands of data points might seem overwhelming and uninspiring, but those with a strength for the analytical might see it as an invitation to discover the patterns that lie within the cells.
As leaders and team members, we can harness the power of our teams by understanding our own strengths and the strengths of those around us and using those strengths for increased engagement and performance at work.
But how do we become aware of and capitalize on our strengths?
It starts with a belief that each of us is unique. The particular combination of our personality, history, interests, and beliefs mean that we see the world in a way that isn’t quite like the way anyone else sees it, and we may be surprised that the things we love to do are dreaded aspects of work to those around us.
It also takes a whole lot of reflection. It takes looking back on our past jobs, and identifying the aspects that we most enjoyed. It involves thinking about how we spend our personal time, and why it is that we find those activities fulfilling. It involves engaging in authentic conversations with our family and friends to understand what about us they appreciate and see as unique.
It can also involve assessments. The free character strengths assessment available through the VIA Institute on Character is a great place to start (http://www.viacharacter.org/www/). If you are interested in going deeper, the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment available through Gallup is also an incredible resource.
Both VIA and Gallup have been administering strengths assessments for several years and have collected and analyzed the data to improve understanding of the most abundant and rare human strengths and the diversity of strengths within various populations. The findings of the studies by VIA and Gallup have shed some interesting light on the importance of gender diversity in teams.
In general, women and men share many strengths, however there are some differences that become important when considering the effect on workplace teams. I want to emphasize that the results are generalizations, and may not reflect your own personal strengths.
In general, VIA found that men weighted highest on the strengths integrity, hope, humor, gratitude and curiosity while women weighted highest on the strengths integrity, kindness, love, gratitude and fairness (Brdar et al., 2011). In general, women scored higher than men on the humanity strengths (VIA, 2017).
Gallup found that men and women shared four of their five top strengths including responsibility, input, learner, and relator. Where men and women differed is that men ranked higher in achiever while women ranked higher in empathy (Gallup, 2016a). In general, men scored higher on Strategic Thinking themes such as context, analytical, ideation, deliberative, competition and strategic while women scored higher on Relator Themes such as developer, includer and empathy (Gallup, 2016a).
Although these results are generalizations, the natural strengths of women to cultivate relationships, read emotional signals and engage others in collaboration make women excellent managers capable of engaging and drawing on the strengths of their teams. In a world in which only 13% of the global workforce is engaged (Gallup, 2016b), more female leaders may be just what we need.
What are your strengths?
How, as a leader or team member, can you draw on your strengths and the strengths of others on your team?
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts! Share with us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
Brdar, I., P. Anic, M. Rijavec. 2011. Character Strengths and Well-Being: Are There Gender Differences? The Human Pursuit of Well-Being. pp. 145-156.
Gallup. What Strengths Tell us About Men and Women. Accessed on July 15, 2017 at http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/198287/strengths-tell-men-women.aspx
Gallup. The Worldwide Employee Engagement Crisis. Accessed on July 15, 2017 at http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/188033/worldwide-employee-engageme...
VIA Institute on Character. Psychometric Data for VIA Survey-240. Accessed on July 15, 2017 at http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Research/Psychometric-Data-VIA-Survey-240
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