How to Apply Character Strengths at Work

The key to being happier and more productive at work is already in your pocket, or more specifically, it’s already inside of you. It’s your character strengths. Your character strengths, when used to their full potential, can improve your wellbeing and help you thrive at work.

Character strengths have been extensively researched in the positive psychology field, and as well as increasing happiness and wellbeing for individuals, applying them in the workplace can also make organisations more successful.

How do you recognise a strength?

A strength is not just something you’re ‘good at,’ it goes far deeper than that. A strength in the context of positive psychology is a positive character attribute you possess, like bravery or kindness.

Discovering what your character strengths are

Research shows that humans share the same 24 character strengths, though whether we possess more or less of a particular strength does vary.

The VIA Character Strengths test helps us identify our strongest and weakest attributes. Character strengths are divided into six ‘Core Virtues’ and each virtue is divided into its related character strengths. You can find out what your top character strengths are at the VIA website.

 How do you know when you’re using your strengths?

When you’re using one of your key character strengths, you’ll feel happy and energised, and you’ll perform well. You probably aren’t using your strengths if a task or activity bores you or drains your energy.

The benefits of using character strengths at work

As you imagine, when you’re making the best use of your character strengths at work, it leads to better outcomes. Research has found that there are many benefits of applying character strengths in the workplace, including:

  • Better work performance
  • Better stress management
  • Greater workplace harmony
  • Increased likelihood of being able to do meaningful work/pursue a calling
  • A more positive experience of work in general
  • Feeling more engaged at work
  • Increased likelihood of continuing to use your strengths

How to apply your character strengths at work

  • Once you’ve identified your key character strengths:
  • Work out which ones will benefit your team
  • Ask your manager to help you align your key strengths with your work tasks where possible
  • Make a habit out of using your main strengths every day
  • Look for character strengths in your colleagues
  • Tell your colleagues which of their character strengths you appreciate or admire and why.
  • Find new ways to use your top character strengths

 

Maureen O’Callaghan is a Member of the Chartered Management Institute and has an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches. She works with organisations, teams, and individuals to create less stressful working environments, improve team working, enhance performance and productivity and develop leadership and management skills.  For more information visit www.mocallaghan.co.uk or e mail maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk

How Character Strengths are Developed

When it comes to character strengths, everyone has a different profile of strengths like bravery, kindness, and integrity. Research has shown that getting to know our strengths and knowing how we can best use them every day can help us flourish.

Many of us think that focusing on our weaknesses is the way to go, and that working at the things we’re not so good at will help us become better versions of ourselves. This may be true, but focusing on our weaknesses and forgetting about our strengths can fast become exhausting and demoralising.

Which strengths should we focus on?

All of our strengths are important, but it’s best to focus on what you consider to be your main strengths. These are the strengths that come naturally to you. For example, are you a very kind person who likes to spread a little kindness wherever you go? Start here, and soon you’ll find that it’s easier to start working on your other strengths too.

How to develop your character strengths

  • First, find out your strengths by completing a survey, such as the one at viacharacter.org/survey. You’ll then get to know what your top five ‘signature’ strengths are. Start by focusing on these top strengths.
  • Make a list of your top five strengths and have it somewhere where you can see it or look at it regularly like on your computer or in your diary.
  • Each day find ways to use your top five strengths. So if one of your top strengths is kindness, look for new ways to be kind daily.
  • Be a role model for your colleagues and other people around you. Once you know your strengths, and you’re putting them into practice every day, you’re more likely to notice other people’s character strengths. You can even help colleagues identify their own strengths; be the manager who focuses on strengths, not weaknesses and problems.
  • At the end of each day, reflect on how you used your character strengths and what went particularly well for you. For example:

If you wanted to use your bravery, you had that difficult conversation with a colleague and it went well.

If you wanted to use your kindness, you made time to meet up with a friend who’s going through a difficult time.

Using your character strengths at work-My experience

Discovering your own character strengths and learning how to use them to make your daily life happier and more fulfilling is a fascinating and very rewarding journey. Work is a huge part of life for many, and all too often, I meet people whose work leaves them emotionally exhausted and physically ill.  The joy has gone out of their work.  Don’t let that happen to you. Identify your strengths, recognise when you perform well and look for ways to ensure that this happens more often. Ask yourself:

What does your best feel like?

When are you most energised and engaged?

When are you so absorbed in what you are doing that time just flies by?

When do you experience repeated success and gain the respect of others?

I learned that to be a success I needed to recognise what my strengths were and to find ways to use them in my work. Obviously, there were areas where I needed to improve but I figured that focusing on my weaknesses wasn’t going to get me very far in the short-term.  It wasn’t going to be much fun either. It was the right decision, by focusing on utilising my strengths I achieved much greater job satisfaction, I was more motivated, I was more willing to share my knowledge and skills with others, I was more creative and I also earned more.  And I like to think I achieved some longevity as I am still doing what I love.

 

Maureen O’Callaghan is a Member of the Chartered Management Institute and has an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches. She works with organisations, teams, and individuals to create less stressful working environments, improve team working, enhance performance and productivity and develop leadership and management skills.  For more information visit www.mocallaghan.co.uk or e mail maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk