I am sure you can recall those moments in your career, and life in general, when you felt that your individual qualities weren’t good enough, which is why, you fell short of the ‘number one’ spot. I too can relate and, in fact, I have had many of these moments. For one, back in my beauty pageant days, I made it to the top 12, in the country’s most prestigious beauty pageant, and sadly for me (at that moment), I didn’t come first place.
In the moments directly after this, I was consumed with feelings of inadequacy, but more so, feelings that made me overlook what it was about ‘me’, that made me beat out thousands of other girls across South Africa, in the first place, to cement a spot in the pageant finals – a first, for a young woman from a rural village in Venda. In other words, not winning made me overlook my strengths.
I have also experienced this throughout my career and in the workplace, in instances where I look at some of the strengths that my colleagues have, in admiration. For example, I work with women who write better (‘compiling a high-level thought leadership article in one-hour’, better), handle pressure easier (I’m talking the ability to remain calm and confident when Rome is burning), better at a strategic level thinking than I am and fight for what they truly believe in (and, yes, I have my moments where I secretly wish I could be as great, in whatever it is that they excel in).
See, the thing is that you spend a great deal of time within your office space every day, and why spend the moments you are there, being so fixated on the strengths you don’t possess, instead of elevating those you have?
Sounds easier said than done, right?
Well, research done by Gallup indicates that employees who apply their strengths daily, are 8% more productive, 6 times more likely to be engaged at work, and an Oprah ‘aha’ moment for me – are 3 times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life! These findings prove that when we put our strengths to use, this not only benefits the company, but more importantly, this contributes to your individual growth and overall contentment.
But, what is it about speaking out about our strengths that makes us so uncomfortable? I, for one, believe this is due to the fact that the world is always telling us what’s wrong with us – what we did wrong, what we didn’t do – and dare you speak up about what you actually thrive at.
Now, don’t get me wrong, in no way I am encouraging people to become boisterous and overly proud about their strengths. Instead, I strongly believe that there is a real need for employees to start reflecting on our individual strengths and identify ways to put these to good use. When you know how to do this, you are able to make a far greater impact, as you understand ‘when’ and ‘how’ to apply these.
Gone are the days where everyone in the workplace was expected to fit a certain mould, communicate in a certain way or even act in a certain way. Nowadays, the modern workplace celebrates individuality and at the heart of this lies elevating individual strengths.