Since 1950, Charles Schulz's "Peanuts" characters have delighted millions of children and adults. The comic strip's hero, Charlie Brown, is a gentle and kindhearted character often depicted as shy and full of anxieties. In one memorable scene, Charlie states, "I've developed a new philosophy. I only dread one day at a time!"
Charlie's mindset can be found in many workplaces. In a 2009 interview, Tom Rath, coauthor of Strengths Based Leadership, stated, "On average, spending time with your boss is consistently rated as the least pleasurable activity in a given day." In the words of "Peanuts" character Linus: "Good grief!"
The good news, according to Rath, is that in organizations with leadership that focuses on the strengths of employees, the odds of being engaged go up about eightfold. He then states, "So it's important that leaders focus on employee strengths because maybe the most critical part of their job is helping others uncover their strengths."
In Strengths Based Leadership, Gallup looked at its 20,000 in-depth interviews with leaders, studied more than 1 million work teams, and examined 50 years of Gallup poll results about the world's most admired leaders. The research team also studied 10,000 followers around the world, asking people to say why they follow someone they consider the most influential leader in their life.
The No. 1 finding from this monumental project is that the most effective leaders are always investing in their employees' strengths. When employees soar with their strengths, they do not "dread one (work)day at a time." On the contrary, engagement has a direct link to business metrics and well-being. Ekaterina Walter, a bestselling author and business thought leader, wrote in Forbes, "The simple truth is that if we stop trying to 'fix' our employees and rather focus on their strengths and their passions, we can create a fervent army of brand evangelists who, when empowered, could take our brand and our products to a whole new level."
Ask yourself: Do your clients get to do what they do best every day?
The Gallup 2017 State of the American Workplace report outlines building a competitive brand and the importance for leaders to focus on their employees' talents. Almost 200,000 employees nationwide were surveyed. It was revealed that:
- Sixty percent said the ability to do what they do best in a role is "very important" to them.
- Female and male employees as well as employees of all generations place the greatest importance on this aspect of the job.
In fact, when Gallup asked how important certain attributes are when considering whether to take a job with a different organization, the No. 1 attribute was the ability of employees to "do what they do best."
Simply put, employees do their best in roles that enable them to integrate their natural talents into their roles. Engagement translates into real-world business metrics like productivity, safety, turnover and well-being. Engaged employees enjoy coming to work, share closer relationships with their leaders and rarely "dread one day at a time."
Discover these practical ways leaders can positively impact the "Do what I do best" attribute:
- Leaders and organizations must make it clear to employees that they value individual strengths and that they hire and develop people based on what they do well.
- Leaders and organizations have to develop a systematic approach to identifying the right fit and assimilating individuals onto teams where their strengths can be optimized.
- Leaders and organizations can use the CliftonStrengths assessment throughout the organization in order to have individual and team conversations about how each person's talents are used as strengths.
In 2008, author J.K. Rowling, in a commencement address at the Harvard Alumni Association, said, "We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: We have the power to imagine better."
When talents become strengths, they are magical. The power of talent is unleashed in each employee when leaders invest in, focus on and drive organizational change through strengths development.