How to Help Employees Find Their Strengths and Passions
22 June, 2022
Lack of Self-Reflection is Highly Commonplace
A lot of people don't know their passions and strengths. Moreover, individuals tend to underestimate the value of their strengths. When something comes easily to them, they think that their work is of lesser value because "anyone can do it." But that's often not the case. It's because they're either passionate about the subject or have a knack for it (or both).
It's essential to identify and leverage your unique strengths to:
- Be motivated and happy with what you do.
- Get noticed and become more successful in your role.
A while ago, one of my reports wanted to get a promotion. She thought she needed to achieve exactly what her teammates were doing– so she tried to copy everyone else. This led to her feeling burnt out and dissatisfied with her job, so much so that she considered leaving. I worked with her for around six months, helping her discover her passions and strengths. We saw tremendous results.
As a result of our combined efforts, she developed significantly and came up with projects that seriously impacted the company. She worked on things that she was passionate about– things that she was good at. Eventually, she got noticed by her leaders.
Let me share what I did as her manager.
Helping Employees Find Their Strengths and Make an Impact
I'm going to go over these four thinking points:
- The importance of knowing yourself.
- How to help employees discover their strengths and passions.
- How to help them find opportunities where they can make the most impact.
- How can you, as a leader, create an environment where people can shine?
Knowing Yourself, Getting Your Team to Know Themselves
Individuals need to ask themselves: "Why am I an engineer?" Or, "why am I in this X role?" They need to pinpoint what elements in their jobs make them happy.
I like to use two valuable tools to help my team members with their self-discovery: the 16 personality test and the CliftonStrengths assessment. This also helps teammates get to know each other better, thus working in greater harmony.
Some other questions that people should consider:
- What are your values?
- What is important to you?
- What elements create boundaries at work for you (between you and your team, the company, or customers)
- If you're a manager, what is your leadership style?
Creating an Exploratory Environment
In order to grow, progress in your career, and make an impact, you need first to know who you are. Therefore, as a leader, it's important to create a pressure-free environment where people can explore new ideas.
I try to allocate 80-90 percent of my team's time to build on their strengths. I look for opportunities that are most aligned with the individuals in my team. The remaining 10-20 percent is for exploring new areas, developing skills, and stretching out of their comfort zone.
Let your team members choose which projects they'd like to contribute to. Together, consider their top five Clifton strengths, analyze the results, and devise a plan where they can leverage their strong points in the context of your organization's goals. From a business perspective, everyone still needs to fulfill the basic expectations of their roles – but in my opinion, providing the time for individuals to explore and think is just as important.
Why Passion and Strengths Matter
Projects take a long time in large businesses, so you need a lot of energy to lead that effort. If your work doesn't align with your priorities, you will quickly feel burnt out and unable to deliver effectively. On the other hand, building something important to you gives you a lot of energy. What you do, what you prioritize, should come from a place that evokes passion in you.
Two of my colleagues said things that have stuck with me:
- "Nothing is important until you make it important."
- "Don't choose any battle; choose the battles you want to fight."
Weekly 1:1 sessions are the ideal opportunity where you can go over the available opportunities with your teammates, discuss whether or not it's of interest to them, and examine if the ideas are feasible. When you reach a point where individuals start to come up with opportunities on their own – that's where the magic happens. They begin to have an impact on both the company and on their lives.
Failure: What It Might Mean
When faced with difficulties or failures in a project or initiative, I've heard people say, "Maybe this isn't for me. Maybe I shouldn't be a manager. Maybe I should go back to an IC role." Some people abandon their projects, resign from their roles, or leave the company. There's a critical question that needs to be addressed:
Is the reason for this failure or difficulty a knowledge gap, or is it the sign of something bigger? Is the individual passionate about their work?
If yes, then the problem is probably a sign that the person needs to learn new skills, change their methods, or sometimes change companies (especially if there is a culture misalignment).
While doing something that we're passionate about, difficulties or failures aren't defeats. Rather, they are opportunities to learn new methods.
As a simple example, take a manager who wants to create a great environment for his team. He envisions meetings where everyone is very involved, open, in a great mood, and actively brainstorming. However, in practice, most of the team is silent, their cameras are off, and the manager needs to call on people by name to get a status update. Does this mean that this position isn't for him? Or does he simply need to change his methods and explore ways to involve his team?
Passion and Success Come Hand in Hand
- If something comes easily to you, it's a telltale sign that you're good at it. Leverage this and create opportunities out of it.
- Promote a company culture where people are encouraged to explore their interests and passions inside working hours.
- Be mindful that working on something you're passionate about always delivers better results– build your management style accordingly.
- If you fail, it can mean several things: either you're in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing, or you have a gap in knowledge or skill that you need to address.
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