Focus On and Use What’s Working


Do you dread the annual performance review process? You walk in knowing your boss is going to tell you a few things you do really well and then the focus turns to the “areas for improvement.” It’s not that we shouldn’t focus in those areas, however what if we looked at and focused on our strengths as a way to actually get better in our areas of struggle? One tenant of Positive Psychology is to look at what we are doing well. Martin Seligman describes positive psychology as “the scientific study of what makes life most worth living.” Can we actually use what we naturally do well in situations or tasks that we find difficult?

We are putting this to the test this year at CEEK as we #CEEKaBetterWay to review. We recently decided to move away from the Annual Performance Review. We encourage immediate feedback so we will conduct more formal quarterly Performance Development Conversations as a way to celebrate what we are doing well and learn how to apply our strengths to areas where we want or need to improve.

I often get feedback around accountability. When it comes to my internal CEEK tasks, such as creating the Employee Handbook, I tend to procrastinate and push the task further and further to the right. I have many reasons for this and some are legitimate prioritization but if I’m being honest with myself, I also know this procrastination comes from internal thoughts about this task that encourage me to put it off, like not having the energy or not wanting to write in HR jargon I find uninspiring.

However, if I begin to look at my strengths as identified through the VIA Character Strengths Survey, I can ask myself how I might tackle this Employee Handbook task using one or more of my top strengths. My top strengths in VIA are:

  1. Love of learning
  2. Leadership
  3. Kindness
  4. Perspective

The two strengths that will help me to tackle this task are Leadership and Perspective. If I use my strength of Leadership, I can look at this task as a way to engage others who might be able to truly make the Employee Manual make sense to our team based on our culture. If I use my strength of Perspective, I can make this manual make sense, easier to read and comprehend. I can determine how to encourage people to read it.

My “weaker strength” is Self-Regulation (i.e., Discipline) so in order to become more engaged in this take, I asked a colleague who has Self-Regulation as a strength. By using her organization and discipline strengths, we setup a deadline for completion that did not feel overwhelming. I used Leadership to collect ideas from others on how to be more creative in developing this handbook, which led to a creative alternative to the classic Word format– Trello. By using this tool, we made the Employee Handbook easier to read and highlighted areas that are most important to our organization. Lastly, I used Perspective to ensure we didn’t leave out important need-to-know pieces because I understand that my definition of important may be different from another CEEKer’s. While our Employee Handbook will always be a work in progress, I’m happy to say it serves its purpose and is more engaging than other handbooks I have read.

How can you use your strengths to tackle a difficult task or to work in an area that is new to you? I suggest taking the VIA Character Strengths Survey for free. Once you know what your strengths are, utilize them regularly. When tackling difficult tasks or when working in areas where you feel you aren’t using your strengths, take a step back and get thoughtful about how you might use your strengths to complete the task at hand. You might be surprised at the renewed energy you have in the task or just a desire to knock that task off your plate. Always, CEEK a Better Way.