I've said that employee engagement is the responsibility of the organization, managers, and employees. Employees ought to know what personally drives them to feel engaged, what factors cause them to give their discretionary best. If something is amiss at work, they can explore what’s missing. The same goes for talents and strengths.
What I mean is, employees ought to know what feeds their engagement. Just as one employee may feel most connected at work if she has a best friend there, another employee may feel most connected to the mission. Putting names and faces to customers may drive engagement for one, while charting personal growth may be vital for another.
We’re all individuals, and different factors drive our individual engagement. Why take a wholesale approach?
As I said, the same goes for talents and strengths. The goal is to grow them. What is fertile soil for one talent to grow, may be bedrock for another to wilt. You must set the right environment for your talents and strengths to thrive. If not, they won’t have the chance to become what they could—you won’t have the chance to become what you could.
Give your talents and strengths the attention they deserve. Plant them in good soil, water them, nurture them. Watch to see how they’re doing. You do this by exploring what they need to thrive.
For example, let’s say one of your talents is being competitive. You're hellbent on winning.
How do you set the right environment?
If you’re competitive, and your competitive talent drives great results, you’re going to want an environment that fosters and rewards competition. You’re going to want access to data so you can measure how you stand against others. This visibility will cause you to rise above your current state and use your competition talent well.
But on the other hand, if your environment discourages competition—rewards everyone equally and dissuades tracking progress against others—then you will not rise above your current state. You will wither.
Here are four ways to create the right environment for your talents and strengths:
You can do this by taking a talent assessment like CliftonStrengths or paying attention to signs of talented behavior like achieving extraordinary results, getting lost in time, and having a sense of satisfaction and desire. You may not be able to identify your own talents without the help of others because often talents come so naturally, they’re almost automatic and involuntary—doesn’t everyone do this? (The answer is no.)
After you identify your talents and strengths, seek to understand how they work. For example, what do they need to thrive? What inhibits them? If you like to be trusted to deliver a project on your own, you will need clear expectations, a timeframe, resources, and autonomy. That’s what will help you thrive. On the other hand, a foggy scope of work, inadequate resources, and micromanaging will not help your talent.
Once you understand what motivates and demotivates your talents and strengths, assess your environment. Become an investigator, leave no stone unturned. What factors are helping your talents? What factors are hurting your talents? Is the environment friendly for what you bring and who you are? Or is it hostile? Ask lots of questions and evaluate. Get curious about both types of talent factors.
Up to this point, you’ve identified your talents and strengths, explored what they need to thrive, and assessed the environment for positive and negative talent factors. Now you’re ready to change the environment for optimal growth by building up the motivators and removing the demotivators. Of course, be appropriate—change what is within your ability to change. For factors beyond your ability, ask for help.
Take responsiblity for growing your talents and strengths. If you don’t look out for them, who will?