One of the most challenging things facing marketing and communications leaders today is the need to champion a cohesive and dynamic team, capable of dealing with the pressures of a complex, disruptive and innovative sector.
When it comes to building and fostering a solid working team, surely a focus on individual and collective strengths is the answer.
As the media and communications sector continues to face massive technological (and physical) disruption, now is a great time to take stock of what your team has – and what it needs. A strengths-based workplace is a great way to shift into this gear.
According to the Gallup Strengths Center, “strengths are the unique combination of talents, knowledge, and skills that every person possesses. People use these innate traits and abilities in their daily lives to complete their work, to relate with others and to achieve their goals.”
But the benefits don’t stop there. “People who focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs,” according to Gallup. This enhances both individual and team productivity levels, resulting in a workforce made up of people who are three times as likely to say they have an excellent quality of life.
Here are just a few reasons why a strengths-based workplace could be the right choice for you:
1. Strengths are not performance-based
Strengths-based workplaces focus on taking the raw or underlying talents of their staff and developing them into ways of working that are highly effective, says Paula Cowan, general manager at Filtered Media.
“Identifying strengths allows us to see our colleagues in an extra dimension than simply their work function,” says Cowan. “By finding out what someone’s strengths are, we’re able to appreciate new aspects of the way people work together within organisations.”
Establishing a strengths-based workplace requires a combination of strategy, relationships and execution, says Cowan. “Rather than obsessing over how to correct areas of weakness, a strengths-based workplace encourages partnering with colleagues who exhibit complementary capabilities,” she adds.
2. Strengths explain ways of working
Knowing and understanding the strengths of those around you is great for unpacking bewildering colleague behaviour – and, let’s be frank, we’ve all been there. It can help you answer those niggling questions you’ve got of your colleagues, like “Why does she keep interrupting me?”, or “Why aren’t the rules clear and fair?”.
“Insights like these help to reframe problems,” says Cowan, whose role entails heavy HR lifting and a lot of interpersonal communication. “When you understand that behaviour is often driven by a person’s preferred way of working, you’re able to turn an issue around and frame it as a strength. You get a very different outcome.”
Consider, for instance, a situation in which your boss is always looking for more than you thought you could deliver. “Chances are that person is a maximiser, someone who sees your excellent results as a starting point for something even greater,” Cowan says. “You can choose to view it as under-appreciation, or you can get excited by the prospect of pushing your work to much greater heights.”
In contexts such as this one, taking simple and measured steps – such as allowing more time for your boss to review and make suggested edits – will have fruitful outcomes for both of you.
3. Strengths showcase diversity
Fostering a strengths-based workplace promotes a dynamic working culture that showcases different strengths and personality types. Without these individual strengths, we’d all be much the same.
According to Cowan: “Homogeneity can be really, really dull and in any thriving workplace you need a mix of strengths: people who keep morale up, people who know how to translate vision into action, people who derive satisfaction from ticking off the to-do items, those who thrive on studying detail, those who push others to do better – I won’t list all 34, but you get the picture.”
4. Strengths can measure cultural fit
A strengths-based workplace becomes a lot easier to understand when you identify your own strengths. You’ll also start to notice patterns between your strengths and those around you.
In the communications line of work, common strengths include positivity, individualisation and strategic. “These strengths are perfect in an industry that’s pedalling hard to keep pace with technological advancements, audience behavioural changes and blending disciplines,” Cowan adds.
“Also, at the pace we work at (lightning), we don’t tend to cultivate deliberative strengths where people like to slow down and do things in a highly methodical way. Of course there are professions in which that is critical, take regulatory affairs for instance, just not ours.”
5. Strengths lead to happy and motivated staff
By far the biggest payoff of any strengths-based workplace is a positive culture in which people know how to build on what they’re already good at, says Cowan. This is certainly backed by the numbers, as people who know and work to their own strengths are three times as likely to say they have an excellent quality of life, according to Gallup.
“I’d like to think that research and understanding of the benefits of positive psychology in the workforce will make strengths-based coaching more common,” Cowan adds.
It may not be an easy transition to make, but the benefits of coaching a strengths-based workplace team will pay dividends for your team, and your individual workers, well into the future. I should know, I have the futuristic strength.