Why Focusing On Your Strengths Is A Leadership Game Changer
A few years ago, I remember stumbling across the concept of taking a strengths focus and for some reason it was quite revolutionary. Essentially a strengths focus is using the strengths that come easily to you rather than focusing on what you are bad at. Rather than thinking about what you are bad at instead thinking of strengths that come easily and strengths that require more effort. Over the last 4 days I’ve been in the USA, meeting with people who work with young people similar to what we do at Burn Bright and the topic of strengths has come up over and over again. Imagine a future where young people across the world know their strengths and know how they can focus on using them!
WE DEFAULT TO THE DEFICIT
As human beings, we naturally default into the deficit mindset. This is where we look at a situation or a problem from the perspective of what is wrong or bad right now. Essentially, we go to the ‘glass half empty’ approach to thinking. Looking at everyday life through a deficit mindset, we approach a situation and only see the negative elements, which often causes us to miss a potential opportunity.
If we constantly operate out of a deficit mindset, it can negatively shape how we view and react to situations, resulting in making us stressed and anxious and prevents us from seeing the joy, happiness or a way forward in situations.
The goal here isn’t for us to be so blindly optimistic that we fail to acknowledge the full spectrum of emotions we feel but more so to reframe our thinking to provide a way of moving forward, to learn from a situation and to develop resilience in the face of adversity.
KNOWING AND USING YOUR STRENGTHS
Knowing and using our strengths is a step in creating a deliberate focus to the positive aspects of who we are and how that impacts upon how we feel and behave – they are part of the picture to living your best life or being your happiest self. The way for us to reframe our thinking out of a deficit mindset is to firstly catch ourselves thinking negatively by being aware of our deficit mindset and secondly to consciously apply our strengths to a situation.
My two top character strengths (according to the VIA Institute) are curiosity and hope. I really see these two strengths come into play when I travel, my ability to use both of these strengths come so naturally to me and I get to explore the world and imagine the possibilities of the future!!
It is one thing to know your strengths but using them is a conscious choice that we can make in any given situation. During my schooling, math and I just did not go well together. I viewed it as something that I was bad at and was never going to improve upon. Imagine if I was able to reframe that thinking and say to myself ‘how can I apply my character strengths of curiosity and hope?’, every time I walked into a math class. I could have adapted my thinking and used my curiosity to explore how my learning math could be related back to the world and combined it with a hope about how we could use mathematics to impact the world around us. Maybe it could have been a totally different outcome to my 8.5/80 grade on my year 10 maths test. Now as the CEO of Burn Bright the irony is that maths is a significant part of what I do on a daily basis. Thankfully using my character strengths I can reframe the financial mathematics as thinking about how this impacts the future (my hope strength) and how we can find ways to do things more efficiently with more impact (my curiosity strength).
WHEN WE COMBINE OUR STRENGTHS
Recently I was having dinner with some friends and the idea of strengths came up and we started to share what each of our strengths were (that’s normal right?) and naturally as humans we started to compare and contrast whose strengths were better than others. It’s funny how programmed we are to go back to that deficit mindset. These friends had strengths in judgement and self-regulation and their thinking instantly went to how their character strengths are boring and that in affect makes them seem boring and mine were so exciting. Again, it was a moment to apply my ‘hope’ to help them see that their strengths are about being their best self and feeling in flow in the situations they find themselves in, not about what is good or bad or right or wrong. For me, I believe both of their character strengths require a lot of work to put into action, but that is the beauty of building that self-awareness.
Just for a second, imagine a team of people where every person had hope and curiosity as their top strengths, we would dream a lot and probably solve the world problems (figuratively) but never get anything done! As leaders, we need to deliberately build teams that have people who have different strengths. Teams in flow are teams where everyone can use the strengths at their best ability and everyone can contribute to the overall team vision. Not only does this help us all to succeed, it also helps us to work on the strengths that don’t come as easily to us and maybe learn a thing or two along the way.
WHERE TO LEARN MORE
Here are two places where you can work out what your strengths are and learn to proactively apply them to your life.
VIA Character Strengths
Gallop Strengths Finder