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Do You Know Your Team’s Strengths?

November 7, 2017 by ·

Can you map the top five character strengths of your team members off the top of your head?  This is a challenge we regularly set leaders, and given most of them struggle to remember their own signature strengths it probably won’t surprise you to hear that they rarely feel very confident about identifying their people’s strengths.

Peter Drucker suggested that: “The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths in ways that make a system’s weaknesses irrelevant.”  But how can leaders hope to pull this off if they can’t remember what the strengths of their team members are?

Given studies suggest that the purposeful application of strengths can enhance performance by up to 36 per cent, we frequently encourage leaders to take a few minutes to accurately map their teams strengths.  Here’s how we do it:

  1. Have leaders complete the VIA Strengths Team Table and ask them to try and identify the top five strengths of their team members. The new Signature Strengths Survey is a great way to make this task easier.
  2. Then have their team complete the free 10-minute VIA Survey and map their actual top five strengths onto a second copy of the strengths table (we often also encourage leaders to allow people to add up to three additional strengths they may also want opportunities to develop).
  3. Now compare the two charts. What did you see?  What did you miss?  What does this tell you about how your people’s strengths are being utilized in this team?  What does it tell you about how this team might work at it’s best?  What does it tell you about the strengths gaps this team may need to mindful of?

We encourage leaders to keep the Strengths Map somewhere they can regularly see it.  In some cases teams even decide to enlarge this map and put it somewhere they can all see it.

What happens next?

We find simply having a heightened awareness of people’s strengths helps leaders to more consciously look for the best in their teams and find more opportunities for them to put their strengths to work.  In addition, leaders and teams often find it valuable to:

  • Record under use and over use – Where there is trust and a growth mindset culture we encourage people to add: a tick next to the strengths they feel they are using well; an arrow pointing down for any strengths they want to dial down due to a tendency for over use; and an arrow pointing up for strengths they want to dial up due to a tendency for under use. Not only is this an interesting exercise in self-awareness but it can also make it easier to focus in-the-moment feedback where it is most useful for team members.
  • Create strengths habits – research has found that one of the most effective ways to make a change is to create a small daily habit to practice. Encourage team members to select the strength they want to focus on and harness their brain’s neurological habit loop by creating a cue to trigger off the habit, a routine to use their chosen strength for at least ten minutes or more, and then remind them to reward themselves immediately for their effort so their brain learns to love this routine.

For example:  “When I arrive at work, then I’ll spend ten minutes developing my strength of curiosity by reading something new and my reward will be getting my morning cup of coffee.”  For more than 70 different strengths habits your team can try join us for the free Global Strengths Challenge.

  • Align strengths to roles – no matter how boring someone’s task might be they can always find ways to bring their strengths to an activity, conversation or routine to improve their engagement. Help them list the five things they do most frequently at work, it could be filing, leading team meetings or emailing clients. Write done one way they can use any of their top five VIA strengths for each of the five work tasks.  For example, it might be using creativity to end each team meeting with a new quote.

How can you help your team do more of what they do best at work each day?

-Michelle McQuaid

Michelle McQuaid is a best-selling author, workplace wellbeing teacher and playful change activator. With more than a decade of senior leadership experience in large organizations around the world, she’s passionate about translating cutting-edge research from positive psychology and neuroscience, into practical strategies for health, happiness, and business success.



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