If we reach someone's heart, we have an opportunity to change their thinking. If we can change someone's thinking, we can change their actions. If we can positively change actions, we can impact the world. This chain reaction sounds intuitive, but for some reason, 70% of our workforce remains not engaged or actively disengaged. My gut tells me this is because people don't have an opportunity to play to their strengths every day, which can be traced back to our childhood. Instead of sharing research, I want to engage in nostalgia. Think about when you were a kid for a moment. Let's imagine that you brought home a report card that looked like this:
Physical Education A+
Creative Art C
How did your parents react? Perhaps it was one of these most frequently used approaches to discussing your grades.
Parent Type 1: The Enforcer.
Parents: Why did you get a D in Math? And a C in Art? Did you not do your homework? You spend too much time in front of the TV and not enough time studying!
Prior to any discussion, this is what I've seen happen with kids who are worried about what their parents will say: a) they hide their report cards, b) they don't share negative results with parents, and c) in some cases, they manipulate report cards to show better results. Once they are in a discussion with their parents, these are some typical responses:
Kids: My friend always distracts me when I'm trying to do my work in class. Or, I don't like Math and Art. And the classic, It's not my fault, the teacher sucks!
Result: Kids are normally forced to see a tutor and do extra work to improve their Math and Art skills. School becomes less enjoyable for them and studying becomes a dreaded task.
Parent Type 2: The Encourager.
Parents: Wow, you got an A+ in Phys-Ed and an A in Science … nice work! Tell me what you did in those courses that helped you get such high marks.
Prior to any discussion, very little is required by the child, since they know their parents aren't going to yell at them. Once they are in a discussion with their parents, these are some typical responses:
Kids: The teacher lets us play games and makes everything fun. I love sports and science, so I pay attention and do all my homework. And if I don't understand things, I ask the teacher or talk to my friends about it.
Result: The kid's brain has been sparked with positive energy, and now they're open to new ideas and suggestions for improvement in Math and Art.
This is an oversimplified example to show that when we focus on strengths, we're likely to stimulate a positive emotional response, which ultimately translates into positive behaviors. Most of us have grown up in the world of the Enforcer, which drains our energy. As leaders, managers, and community members, we have an opportunity to make a positive impact on others by embracing the Encourager. Gallup's wellbeing research shows that the more hours per day that Americans get to use their strengths to do what they do best, the less likely they are to report experiencing worry, stress, anger, sadness or physical pain "yesterday." Fifty-two percent of Americans who use their strengths for 0 to 3 hours a day are stressed, but this falls to 36% for Americans who use their strengths for 10 or more hours per day. Reducing these negative emotions and increasing what we're naturally wired to do translates into increased happiness. By consciously focusing on strengths, the opportunity to change lives and impact the world becomes limitless.
Gagandeep Anand's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Maximizer, Strategic, Relator, Positivity and Ideation.