10 Ways to Celebrate Strengths in the Workplace

By Dr. Ryan Niemiec

How Strengths-Spotting Helps Employees Flourish

One of the easiest ways to get started with character strengths is strengths-spotting. In my travels, 95% of the people I’ve met have reported it’s easier to spot strengths in others than themselves. What a great opportunity to share the power of character strengths!

Identifying and Celebrating Strengths with the “SEA” Model

I have developed the SEA model as a helpful way to remember and apply strengths-spotting in the workplace. When you follow this approach, you learn to “SEA” the best qualities—character strengths—of employees and teammates. This acronym stands for:

  • S – Spot/label the strength
  • E – Explain by giving a short rationale of the behavior you observed
  • A – Appreciate or recognize the value of the person for their strengths use

For example, think about the impact of a co-worker who practices random acts of kindness each week, or your boss who uses creativity to spark new ideas, or perhaps a subordinate who demonstrates perseverance on a challenging project. Now share that feedback with them, and you’ve put SEA into action.

Recognizing Employee Strengths Makes a Difference

Research and anecdotes from organizations across the globe reflect the benefits of these three core steps of strengths-spotting. One study found that employees who felt appreciated by their employer were 29 times more likely to flourish than those who felt unappreciated. Could underappreciation of character strengths be part of the reason why 87% (yes, 87%) of workers report they are disconnected/disengaged with their work? I think it’s likely.

"One study found that employees who felt appreciated by their employer were 29 times more likely to flourish than those who felt unappreciated."

10 Exercises to Apply Character Strengths Spotting at Work

As employers and colleagues, we have great potential to grow in celebrating each other’s strengths. Start introducing character strengths spotting techniques to your workplace with these 10 practical approaches:

  1. Real-time Public Feedback: Spot character strengths spontaneously in front of team members. Try naming strengths as you see them being used, “Caleb, I a appreciate your zest for this new work initiative – your passion is infectious!” and “Sandra, you’re showing a lot of bravery today by your willingness to make those phone calls to our most difficult customers.”
  2. Real-time Private Feedback: Share one-on-one with someone after you see their strengths in action. For example, “Kevin, I wanted to point out that you asked so many great questions at our team meeting. I really appreciated observing your curiosity in action as it seemed to help our team think through the best way to handle that company problem.”
  3. Email: The next time you send an email, think about how you might express some strengths appreciation to the customer or co-worker you are contacting. Brief recognition or acknowledgement can make a big difference in how they feel valued.
  4. Social Media: Whether on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram or other social media, these tools provides a unique (and sometimes positively contagious) opportunity to comment on character strengths in action. Two recent studies of Facebook and Twitter revealed that our character strengths can be accurately predicted based on what we write and post.
  5. Phone Calls: Get reengaged in conference calls by using the one-dimensional (audio only) element to your benefit—by spotting character strengths that you hear. Recognizing strengths during a phone conversation can be a confidence-builder and a strengths-language-builder to feel more equipped in face-to-face situations.
  6. Connecting to Your Mission: One-on-one or as a team, consider how each of your employees’ strengths contribute to achieving your organization’s mission and vision. You may even brainstorm new ways employees can use their strengths to serve the mission. This is also a way to boost what work researchers refer to as “organizational citizenship behavior.”
  7. Employee Reviews: Include character strengths as part of your quarterly or annual employee reviews. When combined with feedback on productivity, tasks, work goals, and growth areas, character strengths can help employees see a fuller picture of themselves and how they present themselves in the workplace.
  8. Character Strengths-360: Adopt a new approach to your 360-feedback with a five-minute, two-step method where each person checks off the 5 strengths they have observed most in you and offers 1 concrete example for each strength they’ve checked. This approach has been used to develop insights, positive relationships, and well-being for employees across the globe. A downloadable copy of the Character Strengths 360 form is available here.
  9. On Your Own: Practice strengths-spotting when you’re alone, thinking. Using quiet time to reflect on the highest character strengths of others works as “resource priming” to get you ready for strengths-spotting when the time comes. It also sets a foundation for your positive actions.
  10. Create Reminders: Some managers find it helpful to use cues that remind them to use strengths-spotting. They write down the top 3-5 signature strengths for each person they supervise or core team member. Then, they place the reminders in a place they will be seen in their day-to-day work—near their computer or inside the cover of their planner—so others’ strengths can be easily accessed at all times.

Our character strengths are a part of us wherever we are, both inside and outside the workplace. They describe not only who we are but how we can best act. When we recognize the strengths of others in the workplace, it transforms how we treat each other and how our teams and organizations run.

Exploring these strengths and the hundreds of ways to apply them will help you become equipped to make a real difference wherever you work and with whomever you work with.

To learn more about each of the 24 character strengths and how these strengths are your best-kept secret for boosting well-being, I hope you will check out my book The Power of Character Strengths: Appreciate and Ignite Your Positive Personality

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