Happiness and strengths

Happiness and strengths

From David Pollay

August 27, 2007

Bosses: Start With What’s Good and Focus on Strengths

Imagine that you arrive home after a long day at work. Your spouse is waiting for you. He asks you to grab a cup of coffee and to meet him in the home office. You do what he asks, and you find him sitting across the desk waiting for you to take your seat. You sit down and he says, “I”ve been thinking about your performance over the last six months and I”ve come up with a list of things you need to improve. Let me run down the list and let’s come up with a development plan.”

And what would be your response? “What the – #?@! Are you kidding me?! After all I do around here, this is how you show your appreciation! You have a ê¢__‘–list” for me?!” If you”re like anyone I know, you wouldn”t be happy.

The question is, “Would this ever really happen?” The answer: It happens in companies every day. Most managers focus on what’s bad about employees, not what’s good about them. For many managers, it’s not all their fault. This is what they have been taught: Focus on the weaknesses and an employee will get better.

Well, they”ve been taught wrong. Why would this strategy succeed at work and fail miserably at home? It won”t. We resent unbalanced feedback, and we feel shortchanged and unappreciated when our managers or loved ones put the spotlight only on our faults.

This is a serious issue in business. Do you know why most employees leave companies? If you answered money, try again. Money consistently comes in third place or lower. Research shows that this is the number one answer: “I left because of my boss.”

The late Don Clifton, former CEO of the Gallup Organization, and Jim Harter, Gallup’s chief scientist, discovered in their research that “the greatest gains in human development are based on investment in what people do best.” Martin Seligman, co-founder of the science of Positive Psychology, has found in his studies that people who engage their strengths are more successful – and they are happier.

Consider the Miami Heat, the 2006 champions of the NBA. Shaquille O”Neill is one of the worst free-throw shooters in the history of the NBA, yet he led the Heat to their first championship ever. Did Miami win by O”Neill increasing his free-throw shooting percentage by just under 1 percent (he went from 46.1 percent to 46.9 percent), or did they do it by leveraging his talent and letting other players, like Dwayne Wade, bring out their best game?

We know the answers. Success comes when people do what they do best. If you don”t get this, you”ll be the reason your employees leave your company. You”ll be the reason your children don”t want to be around you. Focusing only on weaknesses leads to bad results.

So what can you do right now if you”re a manager or a parent? Start by looking for what your employees, or your children do well. What do they love to do? When do they succeed? What strengths do they use most? Then give them more opportunities to use these strengths. Look for ways they can apply them. Partner them with people who can help them do their best even better, and work around their lesser strengths. And don”t forget to tell them, “I know what you do around here and I appreciate it.”

Imagine what your company would be like, and what your family would be like, if everyone focused first on what’s good.

Focus on strengths.