When you lead a team, consult with a department or work in human resources, you are often asked how to improve your group’s engagement, collaboration, or communication. But with each teammate responsible for their own tasks and working in their own style, finding a way to bring everyone together can be a challenge.
Understanding and applying character strengths—the positive parts of an individual’s personality that impact how they think, feel and behave—can help. When individuals know what’s best in them and can spot what’s best in those around them, they are better equipped to face challenges, work toward goals, and feel more fulfilled both personally and professionally. When entire teams know their strengths, they can experience greater engagement, greater wellbeing, and a sense of empowerment.
When considering a strengths-based approach to team-building, common questions I hear from leaders are:
- How can strengths improve engagement and a sense of belonging on my team?
- How can I encourage collaboration between teammates with complementary strengths, and be inclusive of the team’s diversity of strengths?
- How can I teach my organization the skills to quickly build rapport with internal and external partners?
For the last eighteen months, I have been privileged to facilitate live character strengths webinars for audiences ranging from counselors to government employees, project managers to interns. Each has had a unique perspective, a new need, and a different environment in which they plan to apply character strengths. And yet, there were 3 common ways these diverse organizations tapped into character strengths to benefit the group and each member.
1) UNCOVER A SHARED PURPOSE
In a webinar I facilitated with a large group of project managers, we explored how they could use character strengths to build team engagement, a sense of belonging and a shared purpose. The group came to understand how character strengths are the heart of who we are, and that when our character strengths are not valued, we feel disconnected. When our strengths are valued, we feel seen, engaged, motivated, and committed.
Consider: How does your group contribute to the organization’s mission? Does each member feel a connection between their talents, their work and each other? VIA’s Meaningful Work Webinar guides groups on how to align character strengths with tasks to find more meaning and purpose at work.
2) EXPLORE HOW SHARED & UNIQUE STRENGTHS SHAPE THEIR ROLES
In several webinars, I have led workgroups and law students to explore the character strengths they share as a team—and what those strengths have to do with their chosen professional roles.
Each group explored some of the areas where they might want to engage strengths that do not come as naturally and how to partner with others whose strengths are complementary to theirs. For example, one participant named Jessie was high in humanity and justice strengths—such as kindness, love and teamwork—and realized she could benefit from a strengths partner who offered wisdom and courage strengths—such as judgment, perspective, and perseverance. After the webinar, Jessie and her teammate Stephane were inspired to work together on their next project.
When people see that they can partner with others to access character strengths, it reinforces how character strengths can bring us together and how character strengths diversity within the team is helpful for all of us.
Consider: Each member of your group has a unique constellation of strengths. How do those strengths come together when the team works together? How might an individual’s strengths shape their role and responsibilities? VIA’s Getting Started with Character Strengths Webinar explores individual and collective strengths to improve team dynamics.
3) CREATE AN APPRECIATIVE ENVIRONMENT
With new ways of working that may include some people working remotely, it can feel like a challenge to engage team members who are not “in the room.” By practicing character strengths spotting, your group can quickly build rapport with anyone, anywhere.
Strengths-spotting is a practice that focuses on seeing and appreciating what is best in others. People can practice while watching a movie, reading a book, or picking up groceries at the local store. Each VIA webinar includes strengths-spotting experiences, in pairs and from outside stories, to develop this skill. When a group is able to appreciate individual and collective strengths, deeper connection and more effective teamwork follow.
Consider: How is your organization adapting to a remote or hybrid workplace? How can understanding strengths improve communication? VIA’s Building Positive Working Relationships Webinar and Character Strengths and Remote Working Webinar teach teams how to use their strengths to foster effective collaboration and improved workplace well-being.