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 integral to your personality and so work differently to skills you have learned along the way. They are part of who you are, and energise you when you use them effectively.
So far, in this series, we’ve looked at compassion and optimism. Let’s use the strength of critical thinking this time 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 critical thinking is one of your significant strengths you will be energised by situations where you can show how you break down information systematically and evaluate it objectively. When there is a problem to explore or a proposed solution to consider, you come into your own, and the more energised you become.
Chances are that if critical thinking is one of your key strengths, you will also spend some time contemplating how other people seem to offer ill-thought-out solutions or only “scratch the surface” of problems.
You feel good about yourself when you’re using your critical thinking strength. This is important to know.
Look for opportunities to use your critical thinking strength regularly. If there is a problem your team is facing that feels “too big” and most of your colleagues are avoiding it, see if you can take it on and start making progress by breaking it down. See if there are opportunities in meetings to offer to play “devil’s advocate” in order to increase the quality of the discussion and the outcome reached. Maybe a role where where you need to go beneath the surface, examine data and find how different issues relate to each other will keep you feeling fired up!
Organisations and teams can’t get enough critical thinking, right? Well…from what we know about strengths, they 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 plays out with critical thinking. In overdrive, critical thinking can slow projects or meetings down because of the desire to “unpack” everything and check it. To others, it can be perceived as “nit-picking” and negative because it feels like the brakes are being put on ideas, or that “good enough” solutions are being rejected. Whilst identifying potential problems will energise you if it is your strength, this behaviour will start to drain others.
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