Have you ever tried to motivate someone to realize their potential at work? How did it go? Did they magically start listening to your words of wisdom and behaving differently? Or did your insights and advice end up sitting on the "maybe one day" shelf?
Let's face it helping people to realize their potential can be hard work. The truth is most of us lack the knowledge and skills to support someone in making lasting changes when it comes to the way they think, feel or act at work. And yet management guru Peter Drucker suggests, "Leadership is lifting a person's vision to higher sights, the raising of a person's performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations."
So how can we consistently bring out the best in others at work?
"Strengths coaching affirms our untapped potential rather than the limits of what we can do. The job of a strengths coach is to amplify, reflect and facilitate strengths, while generating strategies and solutions for the person being coached," explains Fatima Doman, executive coach and author of Authentic Strengths: How To Maximize Your Happiness, Performance & Success with Positive Psychology Coaching.
"When we help people to discover what's strong, rather than just what's wrong, researchers find people are often less stressed, and more engaged, energized and resilient in their work," she said. "By helping people to explore how their character strengths have enabled success, empowering them to set strong goals and encouraging them to engage their strengths on a weekly basis - all while honoring the strengths in others - I've witnessed people make astonishing transformations."
Of course this doesn't mean when we coach someone to realize their potential we simply tell them to use their strengths more. Researchers suggest this blunt approach can give us a false sense of competence, result in over-used strengths becoming toxic and ignores our weaknesses at our own risk. Rather Fatima suggests that when we coach someone around their VIA Survey character strengths results we help them to explore:
- Their signature strengths - their highest rated character strengths (usually the top four to six) that represent their most authentic self. These are the strengths that come naturally to us and leave us feeling energized and satisfied when expressed. And when others see them in us, we feel understood in an important way.
How can you bring out the best in people by exploring these different dimensions of strengths?
In her new book Authentic Strengths, Fatima recommends the following approaches:
- A Strengths Life Sketch - After taking the VIA Survey have people create a "Life Sketch" which visually depicts the peaks and valleys in their life or their career, noting the times when a person felt they were thriving (expressing strengths), withering (suppressing strengths) or facing a life challenge that reignited a forgotten or untapped strength helped them to grow. This makes it easier to see patterns that have enabled prior successes and considering how to recreate those conditions. It's also possible to find potential strengths overuse, collisions, or hot buttons.
Which strengths tool could you draw upon to make bringing out the best in others easier at work?