This is the second blog post of a series by our guest blogger Laura Sly.
In the first part of this series, I described the “missing piece” for most people when they’re thinking about how to feel happier at work, or looking for a new job. I called the post How to Find a Job you’ll Love (that will love you back). This missing piece is knowing your “strengths”. Knowing your strengths means that you are better equipped to enjoy your current role more; or to make a wise choice about your next one.
To recap, strengths are more than what you are simply good at (I’m sure you can think of things you are good at that bring you little joy!).When you’re using your strengths you feel good. “Good at and good for you” is an easy way to remember this. They are also integral to your personality and so work differently to skills you might have learned along the way. They are part of who you are, and energise you when you use them effectively.
Let’s use the strength of compassion to explore how knowing and managing your strengths equips you to love your job more (and how it will show you more love in return):
If compassion is one of your significant strengths you will be energised by situations where you can show your real concern for others. If people are feeling distressed or confused or isolated or neglected or sad the chances are that you really “come into your own” around them and the more you feel you can help them, the more energised you become. Chances are, that if compassion is one of your key strengths, you will also spend some time contemplating how other people seem uncaring or dismissive of other people’s wellbeing. It comes so naturally to you to care that it seems odd that other people don’t grasp the caring opportunities that you do.
You feel good about yourself when you’re feeling and showing compassion. This is important to know.
It might be helpful to remember that whilst many not-for-profits seem inextricably linked to compassion and helping others, your day-to-day experience of work might consist of spreadsheets or internal meetings or social media campaigns. So whilst the “cause” could have everything to do with compassion, you feel quite distanced from it. Look for opportunities to use your compassion strength regularly – whether with your clients or supporters you’ve never met, someone you meet from a partnership organisation, or the person sitting next to you in the office.
If you’re having an “off” day at work, simply looking out for someone to help could give you the lift you need to get you through the afternoon. Small acts of kindness can start to alter cultures at work. And you will feel energised by showing you care.
You can’t show too much compassion, right? Well…from what we know about strengths, you can! Effective use of strengths so that they work for you and others includes knowing when enough is enough. Because our strengths often become our “default” setting, we often overuse them – too intensely and/or in the wrong situation.
Let’s see how this could play out with compassion. You have the reputation for being someone people go to with their problems. The thing is, some of those people start to take advantage of your compassionate nature – demanding more time and attention than you are able to give. Some of them get a bit dependent on you. You start to feel weighed down by their sharing of everything they are struggling with. If you lead a team, when your compassion strength goes into “overdrive” you find it difficult to delegate because you worry you will overwhelm people, or you worry that one team member will start to feel aggrieved because they were not offered an opportunity that one of their colleagues was (even though there were fair grounds for this) so you put off making a decision. Maybe you offer to do unpopular shifts or cover someone’s absence or let them take annual leave at a time you had wanted it because you understood their needs and the needs of the team but now you’re starting to feel resentful…
Let’s lighten up! The good news is that keeping any eye on how, when, and why you are using your strengths means that you can get the balance right. When are they working for you and others – and what are your warning signs that it’s all out of whack? Learning to use your strengths mindfully and effectively will have an immediate impact on how much you love your job (and how much it loves you back). Try it! Try it in your current role; or look for a new role which gives you greater opportunities to use your strengths.
Laura Sly works with individuals and organisations to help them improve wellbeing as well as performance. One way she does this is by sharing simple tools (including Strengthscope®) that identify people’s strengths, and exploring ways to use them more effectively. Her “significant 7” strengths are: Compassion, Detail Orientation, Developing Others, Emotional Control, Empathy, Self Improvement, Strategic Mindedness
firstname.lastname@example.org @lausly www.ylsltd.com
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