In this, the third in a series of blog posts delving into character strengths, our July Guest Blogger, Ruth Pearce, continues her exploration of what they are, how they show up – for you – how they show up in others. She will explore how to collaborate with others who have top strengths that complement yours. She will also practice strengths spotting AND develop a practice of spotting strengths in others.
Using Character Strengths as a Pathway to Goals!
Goals. We all have them – things we want to achieve or acquire. We have big goals and small goals. We have short-term goals and longer-term goals. The thing they all have in common is that they require some sort of plan of action to reach them. Whether it is a project for work, a personal goal or a family undertaking, reaching goals is important and tough.
All too often we focus on planning the “what” – the tasks, the dates etc. – and forget the “who”. We forget to consider who we are at our core, what attributes we have that will help us achieve a goal and which attributes may create an obstacle. Character strengths play a big part in achieving goals! Here’s how.
When developing a character strength IS the goal.
Sometimes our goal is to cultivate a strength. It may be to use a top strength in a new way or to build a strength that is lower down in our profile that we want more of. For example, we may want to cultivate Hope in order to see a brighter future or reduce depression. Or we may want to increase our use of Social Intelligence to increase collaboration at work. Whatever strength we want to work on we have some powerful tools in our toolbox!
- We can use Perspective to help us remember that we all have at least a little of the strength we want. We all start with something to build upon. And we can use Curiosity and Judgment to explore when it is we use the strength the most and how we feel when we do so.
- We can use Creativity and Curiosity to explore how our signature strengths can help us bring other strengths along in what Dr Neal Mayerson describes as strengths “towing”.
- We can use Curiosity, Teamwork and Appreciation to see what the strength looks like in others – using role modeling to help us develop the behaviors that support that strength. And we can use Humility and Honesty to fairly evaluate how much we use the strength today.
When character strengths are the pathway to another goal
Often, we have a wider goal that we want to achieve, and our character strengths can help us get there!
One of the biggest challenges that we face is making the goal so big that it is overwhelming. James Clear in his book Atomic Habits explores how making incremental changes builds new habits that lead to achievement of big goals.
What might this look like?
We have an example in Mary who had taken her VIA Character Strengths Survey and was so excited by what she learned she wanted to bring it to others in her workplace where she had observed that people seemed disgruntled and disengaged. Her top strengths were Curiosity and Kindness and Self-Regulation. And she used all of these to help her with her goal.
Her initial goal was “to increase engagement in the workplace”. She thought about this for a few days and felt more and more overwhelmed!
Then she took a workshop on character strengths and one of the exercises that was shared in the workshop was the practice of noticing a character strength in one person in any meeting she was in and then telling them about it afterwards.
She was nervous, because she thought she might get it wrong, but she decided to set herself the goal of spotting one strength in one person a day for one week. This meant she might only have to notice five strengths all week! She took the list of strengths with her to every meeting and watched and listened carefully so discover a strength in a colleague.
She found this was a great first step because she could use her curiosity to look out for the strength in the other person, she could use her kindness to give them the positive feedback and she could use self-regulation to stick with her plan even when she was uncomfortable.
This is what Mary noticed:
- Because she was being so attentive in meetings, she was hearing more of what was said and colleagues noticed.
- Telling one person one strength was a little nerve wracking the first time, but once she had done it once she was hooked. They were so pleased to hear her feedback, and no one said she had it wrong! (Her workshop leader had already reassured her that you cannot really get it wrong because we all have all the strengths!)
- By the last day of the week she noticed that other people were starting to show more appreciation. They were not always using the language of strengths, but they were taking time to express appreciation to each other.
- Once she formed the daily habit it was easy to keep it going.
- By focusing on her signature strengths, she maintained her sense of purpose and motivation as was able to overcome some potential obstacles such as nervousness.
- Over a few weeks the mood in the office seemed to lift and people seemed to be smiling more.
By setting the smaller goal of giving strengths feedback to one person she made it manageable for herself and inadvertently made progress toward her original big goal of increasing engagement in the workplace!
And by focusing on who Mary is by taking into account her top strengths and how to align them with her goal, she made it easier to accomplish.
How will you leverage your top strengths to achieve an important goal?
What are some of the strengths that are around you – in team members, stakeholders, customers – that can help a project get completed?Take your free survey here and see YOUR strengths ranking. http://projectmotivator.pro.viasurvey.org
We ran a Zoom live with Ruth on 22nd July 2020 to explore character strengths. You may watch the recording if you weren’t able to catch the event live:
Ruth fem. proper name, biblical ancestor of David, from Hebrew Ruth, probably a contraction of reuth” companion, friend, fellow woman.”
Ruth (N) “sorrow for the misery of another; repentance, regret,” c. 1200, ruthe, from Old Norse hryggð “ruth, sorrow,” from hryggr “sorrowful, grieved”. Or else formed in English from reuwen “to rue” on the model of true/truth, etc.
Ruth is passionate about the future of those who lead projects as influencers, and forces for positive change in organizations and teams. Her purpose is to build engaged teams who will run through walls for each other, led by an impassioned, empathic, socially intelligent project or program leader.