How to avoid stress in the workplace and practical steps to help you and your teammates own your strengths and skills in order to perform your best.
Written by Charlotte Wiseman. Published by Executive Science, October 2019
We all know that too much stress is not only detrimental to our physical health but also inhibits performance. It reduces our creative thinking and our ability to make decisions, limits our focus and obstructs communication. It is also the fast-track to low morale, high staff turnover and burnout.
However, during this time of “stress management training,” it is often overlooked that some stress acts as a catalyst for great learning. A degree of stress can enhance performance and enable an individual to produce their greatest work and enjoy a sense of deep fulfilment.
In fact, a recent survey of our candidates at Give A Grad A Go identified that graduates’ biggest career concern was taking a role with no opportunity to develop and progress, and indeed, research shows that challenge is essential if we are going to facilitate career opportunities.
While we can give people the tools to bounce back after a set-back or adapt to new challenges, my work as a leadership and wellbeing consultant and researcher focuses on building true resilience so that individuals can not only bounce back but grow as a result of every challenge they face.
Focusing on building resilience can improve employee motivation, enhancing engagement and performance in a way that they can sustain for the long-term. As a result, a more positive, adaptable and stronger workforce will be built.
Promoting growth whilst supporting teams
How do we navigate this fine line between motivating a persevering spirit, promoting growth and supporting teams to look after their well-being?
Research collated by Gallup in 2010, highlighted that building on people’s strengths in the workplace, rather than trying to eliminate their weaknesses, led to a 12.5% rise in productivity, a 14.9% reduction in staff turnover and an overall increase in profitability by 8.9%.
This evidence has been replicated in countries around the world with some studies showing up to a 41% increase in staff retention. An in-depth analysis of this work shows that not only is building on strengths the most effective route to enhancing performance and promoting commitment, but it also reduces stress, subsequently enhancing health and happiness and building more resilient organisations.
With that in mind, it may surprise you to know that most individuals are not aware of their key personal strengths or how to use them effectively and very few organisations are doing anything to address this.
So, if you are looking to motivate your new recruits, boost resilience and build a more positive workplace culture, here are some steps to incorporate with your team.
1. Make time to have a one-to-one with your new team members and help them to identify their strengths. You could do this by inviting them to complete this free online survey.
Note: It is important to acknowledge that strengths are not the same as “skills,” which are learnt. Strengths are the “qualities” that an individual uses in any given situation. For example, an individual may have a strength of compassion or humour, which they use when selling.
Another team member may have a love of learning or curiosity, enabling them to be innovative and solve problems. Character strengths are the aspect of us that come to light when we are at our best. They come to us naturally and when we use them, we are energised, motivated and committed to whatever we are doing.
2. When you have identified the individual strengths of your team members, compile a list of their top five. Now help them to identify times when these will be useful in the context of their role and times when these might be less appropriate to use. For those times when these qualities will not be useful, or may even inhibit performance, which other strengths could they use to counteract that?
For example: An individual who is curious and sees outside of the box can be an asset to a team. However, at times, perhaps when a deadline is approaching, we need all our team to focus on ‘doing’ more than analysing or asking questions.
In those moments, the team member may need to adapt their skills to draw on to their strength of taking perspective and ‘zoom out’ to see the bigger picture. This may enable them to focus while still using one of their key personal strengths.
3. To conclude this conversation, discuss which strengths they could be using more. You may want to explain that when we use our character strengths as well as our skills, we show the best part of who we are. We learn more and get more fulfilment from our work and our lives. Encourage them to focus on being more aware of their strengths and suggest that they take a moment each week to consider which strengths they have used, how these have impacted their work, ability to collaborate and overall wellbeing.
As you work through this process, it is important to adopt an attitude of “coaching,” letting them do the thinking and talking without directing them.
Ask powerful questions to inspire them to reflect on their strengths and the contexts in which these can be most beneficial. This process enables individuals to gain deeper awareness, transforming thought into positive action.
Building resilience in the workplace has never been an easy task. In all industries, from PR to construction, building resilience continues to be an evermore challenging task. But a team that knows their own, and their colleagues’ strengths, can work together more effectively.
This knowledge can drive morale, commitment and sustainable performance and build stronger companies. And the best thing is that navigating it starts with a conversation.