It's a typical day in the office. Meetings are stacked back-to-back. Deadlines loom. You eat lunch at your desk while you work. Emails nag for your attention. There's little to no time for casual conversations with colleagues. Work can drain the energy and enthusiasm necessary for high performance.
There is an anecdote to these circumstances, a secret of sorts. And top consulting firm Deloitte has been leveraging it in developing its future leaders-strengths.
Strengths as a Secret to High Performance
Strengths are often assumed to define what a person is good at. This is only part of the truth. Strengths are also what energize you: It's work that lights you up when you get to do it. This work may be strategic in nature. It may be creative. It may rely on your ability to be empathetic or compassionate. Whatever your strengths might be, and you have many, strengths-based leadership can be a counter-balance to the daily grind inherent in your work.
Next generation leader at Deloitte, Jason Flegel, explains that knowing your strengths helps you think about your vulnerabilities, an essential ingredient to your learning and growth. According to Flegel, a fair amount of self-reflection is necessary to learn about your strengths. This means challenging assumptions that you may have made about your leadership and your strengths.
The Science of Strengths and High Performance
Knowing your strengths brings an awareness of where to apply your talents. According to Deloitte's Flegel, this creates an energy so strong that it gets you out of bed each morning, positioning you to feel eager to take on the day.
The logical question is, how do strengths help fight the daily grind and contribute to your high performance? This is where the Yerkes-Dodson law comes into play.
The Yerkes-Dodson law explains that our performance improves when we are mentally aroused. Doing work that aligns with strengths increases our mental arousal rate. In addition, eustress, or good stress, helps you raise your performance level. Yerkes-Dodson law finds that when we reach a certain point of stress, or mental arousal - and it's different for each of us - work feels like it flows. We lose our sense of time. Our thinking is at its best. Strengths contribute to this optimal state of high performance.
Strengths Are Like Super Powers
The combination of competency and being energized, strengths are your super powers. When you know them and use them, they help neutralize the negative effects of those influences that can be drainers at work.
In our recent interview, Flegel advocated that strengths "help take you to the next level and show you can carry your own weight." In a high performance environment like Deloitte, this future leader is onto something. "It's not just about hitting your numbers, it's being willing to look at yourself and grow. Your technical skills aren't enough. You have to figure out what your [career] path looks like and make it personal."
These are wise words-make it personal. Your high performance is a choice. You don't do it for someone else. High performers, like Flegel, use their strengths to rise above mediocrity and discover for themselves what would make work energizing. Going a step further, high performers look to where they can have the greatest impact and lean on their strengths to help make a difference.
While Deloitte is a major corporation, the company's use of strengths to develop its future leaders is a talent strategy all companies, from start-up to major corporations, can use.