Using our strengths to do our best
Think of a moment in your work life when you did great work. It was perhaps so good that the results surprised even you. Remember how that felt? Energized. Excited. Delighted. You wanted to throw your fist in the air, talk about it to others, and savor the moment. With new energy you looked forward to the next day and were ready to take on more challenges.
Research shows that doing our best work is our greatest motivator. It may surprise you but it does not happen because we have the biggest title, the nicest workspace, or the easiest task. Rather it seems to happen when tasks challenge us to do our best, when our strengths match the task, and when we are supported in our work by our boss and colleagues. The absence of these factors leads to workplace disengagement. We end up settling for less than our best and consequentially miss out on the energy it brings. If there is no challenge, we become bored. If we are not supported, we shrug our shoulders and ask why put forward the effort.
It is also only when we work within our own strengths that we do our very best work. A friend recently told me that he hated sticky note messages left on his computer to call back about a problem. He was not good at it and put off returning the call as long as he could. He knew the situation required ‘harmony’ but that was not his strength. He was miserable. Then he discovered that his strength was ‘learner’. That changed everything. He began to see each call back as an opportunity to learn something new about the system. He shifted from dread to curiosity and inquiry. He became excited and as a result was more successful in his job. We want to do a great job. We enjoy being successful. Experiences like this motivate us to do our best. And doing our best makes these experiences happen more frequently.
David S Penner, PhD. Loma Linda University