“Success does not lead to happiness.  Happiness leads to success” was the thread of my Strengths workshop at a recent team offsite event.  A great team of investment bankers exploring their common and different strengths and how to leverage them for individual happiness and greater team success.

We don’t often talk about our strengths. Most people are not even aware of what they are! Social norms require modesty, so we focus on weaknesses. We believe that weaknesses are our greatest areas of growth.  However, focusing on strengths and the 80% that works (rather than 20% that doesn’t) leads to greater satisfaction and greater productivity.  The question of “What is the problem and how can we solve it?” becomes “What does success looks like and how can we achieve it?”

According to Alex Linley, when we use our strengths, we are in the “presence of performance and energy”.  And that’s exactly how we all felt at the end of the session, excited and energised.  When you talk about what you are great at and share it with your team, whilst your team members tell you what they think you are great at, the room gets charged with lots of positive energy. And “managing your energy, not time, is the key to high performance and personal renewal” – J. Loehr and T. Schwartz.

The top 3 strengths of this team, according to Martin Seligman’s VIA character strengths test were: Fairness and Justice (60%); Kindness (53%) and Honesty (47%). Not unusual for a team of investment bankers to be driven by fairness, where most members are not swayed by personal feelings and expect everyone to work hard and long hours, regardless of personal circumstances! However, more unusual to find a kind and honest team, keen to help each other and valuing clarity and transparency.

We discussed the concept of over-used strengths becoming weaknesses.  Those too fair and too just, perceived as not showing emotion and compassion and potentially lacking empathy; those too kind, maybe not assertive enough, soft and not dealing with conflict and performance issues; and those too honest, possibly too direct and not sensitive to others’ feelings!  Knowing when to dial up and dial down your strengths is key to high performance.

And knowing that your strengths lie in your differences, not just in your similarities.  This team has a complete outlier as a leader – someone whose top strengths were completely different than the majority: 1) enthusiasm & energy to mobilize his people towards a common vision; 2) curiosity to forge consensus through participation and 3) humour, to keep things light when the tough gets tougher. Great strengths to leverage on, when leading your team forward.

Appreciating how their individual and collective strengths affect and energize each and every one of them has enabled them to create harmony, build emotional bonds and come up with actions to improve performance. They just need to remember to do it more often!

And working with such a great team reminded me of why I love my job. Experiencing the high energy associated with positive emotions.  And the contagion effect of those positive emotions, which lead to great results. Help your employees and team members to use their strengths and systematically rejuvenate their energy and you will find that the benefits go straight to your bottom line!

ADA, Feb 18