Finding Energizing Tasks At Work
We’re almost at the end of our STRENGTHS series, where we discuss a total of nine concepts that will help you implement strengths with your team at work. In this episode, we'll explore one of the most interesting topics in this series: Honored and Insulted.
This topic always generates the liveliest conversations. Why? Because people generally have this special keenness over what might honor or insult their talent themes. If you're a manager and you assign energizing tasks at work, imagine what it could do for productivity and employee engagement. Win-win!
Read on to learn how to keep your team motivated using the strengths perspective. If you know what honors their talent themes, then you likely know their personal values. When they work on a team where they can see the fit between the work and their values, they feel more motivated and energized.
Imagine a pyramid-like structure, where strengths are at the top, natural talents come next, and values form the base. Strengths are the talent that you've already developed well, while natural talent is how you think or feel or act in your default situation.
At work, there are situations (or entire cultures) that either insult or honor your talent themes at a human level. We don't meet many teams that talk much about personal values.
The thing is, if your values are insulted, work can feel like soul-sucking drudgery. On the flip side, if your experience at work feels totally aligned with your values, you'll feel pumped. It actually acts like a fuel to keep you motivated and performing at your best. Energizing tasks at work - the concept might seem doable, yet it might seem far from your current situation. Hang in there because it is totally possible, regardless of your role.
How To Keep Your Team Motivated: Know What Might Insult And Honor Their Talent Themes
Within a team, there are lots of small moments that can suck the energy from you. You know them: draining tasks, things you procrastinate, or people who wear you out. Worse, these scenarios could make you want leave your job if you're not actively addressing them. These are sneaky de-motivators.
Let’s look at these examples. If you're a people manager, definitely look at these examples. Think about your team members and what energy takers might be foiling their plans to show up as a top performer. This is a super practical way to apply CliftonStrengths at the office. In fact, the energizing tasks at work might spill over into energizing responsibilities at home. The more you find these energy makers, the more you can bring them into your life.
1. Leading Through CliftonStrengths Responsibility. Imagine that you lead through Responsibility, and you’re working on a team where people are constantly showing up for meetings 5 or 10 minutes late. Because it's part of your DNA that you do what you say you're going to do, these people who disrespect other people’s time annoy you big-time. In general, no one likes it when someone misses a commitment, but it’s a different (deeper) level of insult to someone's talent of Responsibility.
While you learn to get over it after a while, and rationalize that it's just how the working world seems to be, you also might tag these moments as your “red line” or “red-faced” moments. They lead you to wonder why people can be downright flippant about it. That's an example of an energy taker for those who lead through Responsibility. These are the de-energizing tasks at work, or in this case, the de-energizing moments and interactions that can drain you and make work feel like the hardest of hard work.
2. Leading Through CliftonStrengths Analytical. Imagine leading through this strength and someone regularly pulls random anecdotes out of the air. You would, of course, wonder if this person ever fact-checks or uses reasoning skills. “Do they ever vet their comments to see if they're actually true?”
When you keep encountering moments like this, it can get to your nerves. When people seem to be making decisions that feel highly emotional, this would be insulting your talent theme of Analytical. When teams work on problems that come from things like, "this doesn't feel right" you will expect them to validate that gut feeling before investing gobs of money or time on something that might not be a an actual problem. Maybe it's just that one vocal customer's opinion - not an experience shared by others.
Imagine how helpful it would be to know that your talent theme of Analytical is getting insulted. You can say, "Aha - no wonder this meeting is always so frustrating for me. Maybe I can spin that around by offering to vet or validate the gut feelings that come up so often."
3. Leading Through CliftonStrengths Includer. Imagine you’re leading through this talent theme. You’re really good at identifying who among the team a) has given a voice, b) has not said anything, and c) might want to comment but hasn't been given the chance.
But when people talk over each other and ignore what one or two other people have to say, it would be an insult to your talent theme. This could feel quite rude to you even if you’re not the person that’s not being included. Consequently, you develop this dislike and distrust of the people who are excluding those others and their ideas.
These are just some of those “red line” or “red-faced” moments that might happen when your talent (or values) are insulted. These may be small but they can add up over time and lead to feelings of disillusion, until you think, “Ah, I'm not valued here.”, or “This culture sucks. I don’t want to be a part of this team.”
These are the kinds of conversations that can put you in a dilemma of whether to deal with it or leave, as far as your talent theme is concerned.
That's exactly why it's so important to honor your talents, and also learn to honor the talents of teammates. When their strengths and values are honored, they can show up at their best. They can contribute something the team needs, and it may not be easy for others to do that thing. If you're a people manager, you can assign them as their most energizing tasks at work. They literally act like a fuel.
Your Team Challenge: Acknowledge Each Other's Talents
This is where strengths-focused conversations, done consistently, become very useful. It's a practical way to apply StrengthsFinder. Over time you build the trust that allows you to share with the team what honors your themes and what can make the workplace feel ideal or “the best.” Your team members will be able to avoid the difficult dilemma that can make them decide to leave their job. When values and strengths are in alignment, the team feels motivated and valued.
Even if this isn't part of your team culture today. You can be the person who helps the team begin to notice (and say aloud) what already works well. These small acknowledgements help every person understand what puts their teammates at their best. With some conscious effort, you can slowly shape your job description toward these energizing tasks at work.
Go Beyond 'Give And Take' When You Apply StrengthsFinder
Lisa, our founder, once shared that her troublemaker talent is Maximizer. At the same time, she also works closely with someone in her team who leads through Activator. So, while being a Maximizer, Lisa would pore over her work and polish things to make them better. Those are energizing tasks at work for her - making things better and better and better.
On one side, the Activator talent would wait on her and prod her to “just move on with it” or "just ship" the product. Lisa understood where the input was coming from. In some cases, where the quality output was high-stakes, she acknowledged the person by saying, “This is going to kill your Activator, but I need one more day on this.” In other cases, when good (and done) was better than great, she'd do the hand off. It all depends on the business outcome that the team agrees upon. This is where you can apply CliftonStrengths to get the best business results.
Of course, there are times when give and take is the reality. Although it feels good to live in your personal strengths panacea, you can't let your personal preferences trump the business priorities. You should constantly be looking for ways to get better results by using your strengths.
At the same time, be careful to not let them be an excuse. It would be unhealthy to be so obsessed with finding energizing tasks at work that you refused to do things that drain you. If you did that, you'd appera selfish and not results-oriented. Strengths get more powerful when you think beyond yourself. It makes total sense. Strengths work in relation to other people and other contributions being given on the team.
Practicing “give and take” comes handy within your team because when you become familiar with each other’s talent themes, you have a short code language to use. But you can also extend it to your stakeholders, your customers, and your colleagues outside of the team. You may not know what their talent themes are, given your much shorter engagements, but imagine how much stronger your working relationships would be if you start getting a feel for what honors them or what insults them.
Internally on our team, we find a regular flow of #goinput or #thatwasmyrelatortalking type of hashtags to keep it lighthearted and acknowledge the good sides and the dark sides that can come out from a talent.
3 Reasons To Apply CliftonStrengths Conversations Regularly and Informally
This whole concept of exploring what honors or insults talent themes is important for 3 key reasons:
1. To get a well-rounded team. In any given team, there’s a clash of perspectives that are not discovered until they are actually talked about. Suppose you brought your whole team of 10 direct reports together to apply StrengthsFinder in a virtual strengths discovery training.
Imagine watching their conversation in the chat box about the things that honor or insult their talent themes.
You’d probably realize that some of the things that drive them crazy, you yourself are doing sometimes. Is it an "Oops, I'm frustrating you and I'll stop" moment? Is it an "Uumph, that really drains you, yet it's a reality of our team's responsibility" moment where you try to mitigate the pain or impact? Regardless of the type of insight, the important part is that you're talking through them so you can address the situation with mutual respect.
You have opposing views of things because, for example, what you would view as common sense may not come as common to how others think. What would come easy for you may not come as easily for others.
It’s also the reason why some people don’t bother letting their strengths out because they don't think those contributions are a big deal. If you can find those hidden gems and let them out, the whole team is better. With that strategy, you get a well-rounded team and you can stop obsessing over being a well-rounded person who is good at every possible thing under the sun.
2. To get your job matched to strengths. Conversations like these also allow you to discover what aspects of one’s job could lead to that person disengaging from that job.
If you apply StrengthsFinder to uncover what honors a person's talents, you'll uncover their easy buttons for performance. You'll find that a job matched to strengths feels easier to perform. A job matched up to talents also brings energy to the person doing it. In fact, if you're using your natural talents, the work can even feel easy. At a minimum, it's easier to get into flow.
Contrasting that, if your job is not matched to strengths, it will likely feel draining. You can usually do the work. You can get the results, yet it will feel effortful. You may procrastinate or feel drained and you can't figure out why. If you've been feeling that way, ask yourself if you've been working out of your weakness zone, or out of your non-talents. Often, it's an unexpected cause of burnout. As our colleague TyAnn often says, when your job is matched to your weaknesses rather than strengths, it can give you "a case of the Sunday nights."
3. To get more energizing tasks and get fewer draining tasks at work. Conversations like these become an opportunity to turn a “Man, this culture is awful” experience into a “So, if this is what other people value, which runs against my values, then here's how I'm going to cope.” So, think of what strategies you can come up with to convert a workplace experience into a positive and enriching one.
You can't always pick your responsibilities on the job. Of course, you want a job matched to your strengths. And you want energizing tasks at work, but sometimes the role is the role. Even if you can't to a lot to shape the job description, you can adjust the way you approach the work. At a minimum, you can adjust the meaning you make out of it. This might sound like a Jedi Mind Trick (and maybe it is), yet it's effective at bringing your energy and motivation back.
Key Things If You're A People Manager Applying CliftonStrengths
Here are key pointers to note before conducting a conversation with your team on what might honor or insult their talent themes.
- Make sure the conversations are well-facilitated as you apply CliftonStrengths. Sometimes, these team chats can result in a venting session about all of the "other annoying departments" or issues at your company. We're not saying you should squash or hide issues, yet it does take some skill to keep the conversations aimed at specific performance - and the things you can actually control or influence. Aim it right and lead the team to productive conversations.
One useful tip is to ask them to list 3 energizing tasks at work and 3 draining tasks at work. We call it the "yucks and yays" list. That makes things specific, and it helps you cover both the Honored and Insulted. In this case, because you're trying to uncover their deeper values and reactions, focus the yucks and yays on situations rather than job duties. For example, someone might feel honored (or insulted) by the situation of an urgent interruption. But if they said "customer calls" you wouldn't understand why it's a yuck or a yay.
- Be specific as you work toward the goal of getting their job matched to strengths. Get to the in-depth scenarios and situations that happen in an average work day. Apply StrengthsFinder using some of the tools and language behind them, as modeled by our examples involving the Responsibility, Analytical, and Includer talent themes. For example, the difference between, "I hate all of the emotion in our ops meeting" and "I'd love to help us pinpoint the depth of the problem we identified in the ops meeting" is night and day. The first one is venting. The second one is getting the job matched to strengths. It's action-taking for Analytical. It's volunteering and contributing the talent to a team who needs it. It's practical application of CliftonStrengths at work.
Ready For The Final Concept?
Now that you're loaded with energizing tasks at work, let's get to the next topic. Up next is the last in this series of nine core concepts: the Starved And Fed Continuum. See you there!