Living up to your potential? Lead with Your Strengths in 2015

Are you using your strengths every day on the job? If you have to think about your answer, then you’re probably like most employees: You have so much more potential, and you could be much more satisfied in your work life. Asking 1.7 million employees “At work do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?” the Gallup Poll reported that only 20% surveyed felt that they even used their strengths on the job. This response starkly differs from the idea of confidently leading with your strengths. The Daily Gallup Poll reported that of employees surveyed during the week of December 30, 2014 to January 7, 2015, just 32.5% were “engaged at work”, meaning they were “involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.”

With the beginning of 2015, it’s the best time to reassess your current situation. Ask yourself: Are you using your strengths every day on the job? Do you know what your strengths are? “Strengths are not activities you’re good at, they’re activities that strengthen you. A strength is an activity that before you’re doing it you look forward to doing it; while you’re doing it, time goes by quickly and you can concentrate; after you’ve done it, it seems to fulfill a need of yours,” explains strengths-based professional development advocate and researcher Marcus Buckingham, author of Now, Discover Your Strengths with Donald Clifton, Ph.D., and Go Put Your Strengths to Work, two of my favorite professional development books.

The value of living up to your potential and using and maximizing your strengths results in a beautiful state: “flow”. The father of the “flow” concept, Mihay Csikszentmihalyi, Ph.D., author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Performance, explains “flow” as the “way people describe their state of mind when consciousness is harmoniously ordered, and they want to pursue whatever they are doing for its own sake.” Anyone who has experienced this state knows it’s synonymous with satisfaction.

As someone who utilizes my strengths the majority of every day and teaches students and professionals how to understand their strengths and then lead with them, I was surprised when one of my students recognized this “flow” state in me. During the last week of my Business Communication course in December, I asked a student if he needed me to help him edit a final paper. He laughed and responded: “You love to edit.” I laughed in response: “Well, yes, I do.” That work–those edits, those significant discussions about an individual’s career choices and path, those creative and analytical discussions about writing, college essays, personal statements, employment, research, and legal writing topics–drives me into a state of “pursuing what I’m doing for its own sake”. Even though the paper in question had been revised several times, it was the last week of classes, and I had helped students edit too many papers than I would want to count, I still made those “extra” offers to help.

Achieving your potential and using your strengths every day shouldn’t be something prescribed for a lucky few–it should be a prerequisite. Let’s develop a new mantra for 2015: Lead with your strengths and achieve that flow state. Here’s to a wonderful 2015 from an Achiever-Developer-Individualization strengths advocate.

Cheers to a year of leading with your strengths!