During the week I took the dog for a walk in the forest in the local mountain ranges. It was cold and a bit wet, but as soon as I stepped out of the car and in amongst the trees, felt and heard the wind, smelt the fresh air and looked up at the tall trees towering over me, I was alive! I walked with a big smile on my face, soaking in all of my surroundings.
Year after year, when I take the Via Strengths Survey, Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence comes out as my top strength. Walking in the forest that morning, noticing the beauty and being energised by my surroundings was most definitely a case of my top strength at play.
Can you recall the last time you were really engaged and energised? What were you doing? Chances are good that during that time you were using at least one of your top strengths.
Our signature strengths are those that seem to come naturally, they feel like us, we are good at them and we feel good when we are doing them. But because they seem to be so natural to us, we are often blind to them.
As a leader, a strong foundation for knowing and leading others is the ability to know and lead ourselves.
We now know, thanks to research into strengths, that knowing and using our strengths helps us feel happier and healthier, and experience less stress and more satisfaction with our lives. Using our strengths also impacts our wellbeing at work, with greater confidence and better job performance.
If those sort of positive impacts on your work performance and wellbeing are compelling for you, then it’s worth getting to know your strengths and finding deliberate ways to apply them.
As a leader, there’s a bonus to knowing and playing with your strengths.
The better you get to know your own strengths – how they show up, how they can boost your performance or sometimes get in the way – then the better you’re going to understand that others have their own set of strengths that both help and sometimes hinder them.
When we are under pressure we move fast, always racing the clock and the to-do list. And when we are in a fast-paced environment like a school, it’s easy to default to a pattern of find the problem, fix it and move on. That’s efficient. And, it gets things done.
But in our relentless quest to try and get on top of our to-do list, we miss so much. So many opportunities for connecting, building relationships and developing people, pass by in our flurry of action and getting things done.
This week in schools I’ve been starting my team coaching sessions with a focus on strengths. Team members have identified just one strength they see in their colleagues and have appreciated them for it. Such a simple action, yet what meaningful interactions we had and the positive, warm, connected feelings lasted well beyond our coaching session.
As leaders, what might it be like if we consciously slowed down a little, recognised the strengths in others, in teams and in our organisation and made the time to tell our colleagues what we saw?
This article aligns with the first step of The Authentic Leaders Roadmap: Discover. Get your own copy of the Roadmap here