As the head of Human Resources for our company, I have a vision for our employees. It comes down to five words. We want to be:
Here’s what I mean.
One of my goals for this year is to read ten books on employee engagement. In Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Truth About Employee Engagement, he writes about the three causes of job misery.
One of them is anonymity—the sense that at work, you are unknown as a person. What a sad thing! Being unknown at work makes you feel invisible, uncared for, and generic. When you feel unknown, you become miserable and disengaged. That’s not the way to work. Since work affects your home life, that’s not the way to live either.
Your loved ones will be negatively impacted if you’re miserable at work, and so will your own quality of life. What you do at work echoes at home. Be miserable at work, you’ll be miserable at home. You do not want to look back on your life and realize you were a crabby curmudgeon because of your job. What a waste!
Instead, we want you to be known at work. One of the things we’ll say a lot this year in Human Resources is this:
Personhood is more important than performance.
Embracing personhood at work can mean:
Personhood is more important than performance. What you do springs from who you are. You can’t think of improving your work without thinking of improving yourself. You can’t win at work if you don’t win at being yourself.
Often “recognition” is thought in terms of contribution—what you did—but we’d like to include “who you are” when it comes to recognition.
According to Tony Stoltzfus, there are three types of recognition:
Celebrating progress is recognizing what someone has done. Expressing belief is showing confidence in what someone will do. Naming identity is affirming who the person is in their core being.
As you move from 1 to 3, you move from actions to identity, from performance to personhood. Try recognizing coworkers from all three levels.
One of the important things about our company is that we’re a strengths-based company. We do lots of things around strengths to build a strengths-based culture:
With all these activities, you’d think strengths is the end goal. But they’re not.
The end goal is greater engagement—the sense that you’re giving your best because you’re emotionally connected, feel a sense of purpose, and are dedicated to your work and workplace.
When you’re engaged at work, you have a higher quality of life, produce better work, enjoy your coworkers more, switch workplaces less, attend work more, and so forth.
Research shows that working in your strengths drives engagement.
Focusing on strengths is a means to greater engagement.
We’re a strengths-based company not to be a strengths-based company but because we’re an engagement-focused company. When you’re engaged, everybody wins.
And that’s not the only win. Strengths also promote personhood—the talents and strengths of each employee are pointed out and everyone is treated as an individual. And it improves self-awareness.
So, let me say, strengths are not the ends, they’re the means to the ends, which is that sense of purpose, connectedness, and dedication, which is engagement, and also enhanced personhood and improved self-awareness.
There’s an engagement expert named Kevin Kruse who recently surveyed folks about how many CliftonStrengths they can remember about themselves or other people. I was interested in this topic because I’ve heard from some of you that it’s hard to keep the strengths in mind because there are 34 of them.
So, on average, how many people’s strengths can most people remember?
The answer is 1.8.
That’s like, “Well she has achiever, and maybe responsibility, or was it restorative? I can’t seem to remember many of them.”
When information gets complicated and complex, we tend to let it go. But I don’t want us to let go of strengths awareness due to complexity. I want us to be aware of how people show up, keep some insights in our heads as we’re relating with one another.
The way Dr. Dave White introduces strengths is to talk about the four types of people first, so you start to understand if someone is more influencing or executing or cerebral or relational, then narrow into the 34 strengths.
I’ve tested this out and it seems to work, rather than jumping into the 34 strengths first. The types become a sort of short-hand in how folks show up. It’s easier keeping in your mind one or two types rather than 34 possibilities. So, for example, “She likes to get things done, but she’s also focused on relationships.”
To make the domains memorable and fun, we’ve tied them to the four elements of earth, wind, fire, and water. So rather than thinking “she’s influencing,” you can think, “she’s Fire” or rather than “he’s executing,” you can think, “he’s Earth.”
We all need a starting place. We hope publicizing these icons at work and using the four types will help with your awareness of yourself and others. As you go deeper, you’ll find the full 34 CliftonStrengths reports on everyone’s intranet profile page and team reports on the team pages.
Now that we’ve talked about being person-centric but performance-minded and about being strengths-based but engagement-focused, we can move onto self-awareness.
In our job interviews, we often quote the great management expert Peter Drucker, who believed that workers should know three things about ourselves:
By knowing these things about ourselves, we’ll know two other vital things: where we belong and what we can contribute. (This is from the Harvard Business Review book called On Managing Yourself.)
Drucker writes, “It’s up to you to carve out your place in the work world…you’ll need to cultivate a deep understanding of yourself.”
Drucker is talking about self-awareness, and he believes it’s critical for workers to know ourselves. Developing your personhood depends on self-awareness.
At our company, we do a lot with strengths, but self-awareness is larger than strengths. Understanding your strengths is part of self-awareness, but it’s not the whole, because there’s more to you than your strengths.
You get the point. The realm of self-awareness is broad and vast, just as you are fascinating and deep. Growing self-awareness develops your personhood, which comes back to being known and being engaged at work.
At our company, we developed an engagement strategy called ROSTER™. It’s a framework to drive engagement and involves company culture, managers, and employees.
The ROSTER framework is:
We’ve been growing self-awareness of strengths through CliftonStrengths and behavioral traits through RightPath. We’ve also done training on feedback, and I know individually, employees are growing in self-awareness through weekly check-ins and other sources.
Some of us are embarking on a journey to understand ourselves through the Enneagram, which has become an indomitable force of self-awareness in my life. The Enneagram is an ancient personality typing system of nine personality characters.
I love it and I hate it because it has become a mirror to see the good gifts in me to bring more of, and the unhealthy behaviors in me to change. Whether it’s these tools or others, the point is, there’s always more.
Drucker says, “carve out your place in the work world.” We do this by knowing ourselves.
In our company, we’ve got a vision for Human Resources that can be described by five words: person-centric, performance-minded, strengths-based, engagement-focused, and self-aware. The hard part is building the culture and practices to back it up, but we're on our way.