We're also aware that this can just sound like the latest management 'blah blah' speak! So, is this really important and what is it about?
As the conditions in which we work become more pressurised and stressful, so our performance tends to decrease at a corresponding rate. When we work in positive, energising environments, our performance increases accordingly. What is going on?
Simply put, stressful conditions cause us to feel anxious - levels of stress hormones (particularly cortisol) increase and the short term effect on the brain is to negatively affect our cognitive thinking ability. Our ability to process information, make decisions and to make judgments is impaired (when we are highly stressed our IQ is said to temporarily decrease around 10 points which is quite a drop when you consider that the average IQ is always 100). In the longer term, sustained exposure to high cortisol levels is associated with heart disease, stomach ulcers, and increased abdominal fat, among others. So, conditions of negative stress are not good for us in terms of well-being, are linked to poor performance, and are not a particularly satisfying or rewarding way of working either. We are simply not at our best when under these conditions.
When we are at our best however our brains are influenced by (and influencing) different conditions. When levels of hormones such as seratonin and dopamine rise they help to reduce cortisol levels and are also associated with an increase in critical thinking capacity, decision making and judgment, and creativity. The ease and speed with which 'information' flows around our neural pathways is optimised This is when we do our best work. Associated with this are lower stress levels, lower rates of heart disease, quicker recovery from illness, increased confidence and greater happiness. [See Shaun Achor's TEDTalk about the "Happiness Advantage]
Let's make it easy...So the question for leadership teams is, how do we create these positive conditions in which we and our teams may flourish?
This is where the strengths approach comes in. Evidence shows that using our strengths more and focusing on our weaknesses less, helps to create those optimal brain conditions. People who use their strengths more:
- are happier and more confident
- have higher levels of energy and vitality
- experience less stress and are more resilient
- perform better at work and are more engaged
Our strengths-based team work starts with an assessment of individual and collective strengths with follow-up feedback to ensure understanding and awareness. We then coach and facilitate individuals and teams in strategies and actions to harness their strengths to maximum advantage whilst at the same time minimising the impact of weaknesses. Our experience in this work repeatedly confirms the performance benefits of creating optimistic, energised, positive working environments and doing away with negative, highly-critical and even hostile working conditions. And, by the way, this does much to enhance job satisfaction and happiness too...
We believe that life can be complicated enough. Let's make our work performance, and the personal fulfilment that results, as easy as it can be.