If I asked you to name your top five character strengths – those qualities that reflect the very best of who you are – would they easily roll off the tip of your tongue? Or would you feel stuck for words? Or just unsure of what they really were?
Don’t worry, researchers estimate at least a third of us have no idea what our strengths are. And yet a growing body of evidence also suggests that developing your character strengths each day at work can you feel more confident, energized and happier. So it makes sense that discovering your strengths is definitely the best place to start when it comes to improving the way you feel and go about you work.
One of our favorite tools to help people get started is the ten-minute VIA Survey. Created by a team of leading social scientists who scoured the world for ways to identify, measure and develop what is “good” in people, the VIA Survey identifies your character strengths. These positive personality traits reflect what is good (moral), practical (valued outcomes) and authentic (existential) about you. The 24 strengths fall under six broad virtues, including:
- Wisdom (strength of head): Creativity, Curiosity, Judgment, Love of Learning & Perspective
- Courage (strength of heart): Bravery, Perseverance, Honesty & Zest
- Humanity (strength of others): Love, Kindness & Social Intelligence
- Citizenship (strength of community): Teamwork, Leadership & Fairness
- Temperance (strength of self): Forgiveness, Humility, Prudence & Self-Regulation
- Transcendence (strength of spirit): Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence, Gratitude, Hope, Humor & Spirituality
They are “how” you like to go about your work, regardless of whether anybody pays you or recognizes you for it, because they’re aligned to the values you hold. It’s also important to note, that while your strengths exist within you, they are also shaped by the situations you find yourself in, so they will move around a little bit.
In the past, researchers have found that focusing on your top five strengths – your ‘signature strengths’ – can be particularly beneficial. However, new research suggests that taking a more balanced approach that recognizes the benefit of developing our middle strengths (those we can draw upon but tend to use less often) and our lesser strengths (our bottom five) may help us to better adapt to the demands of different situations.
Your character strengths are also shaped by context and don’t operate in isolation from the settings you find yourself in. This means it’s worth retaking the survey annually, or whenever big shifts are going on in your life such as changing jobs, moving city, or welcoming a new arrival into your family. When you do this year after year you’ll find many of your strengths remain fairly consistent, but several move around depending on your current context and the strengths you’re drawing on most in these situations.
VIA give you three options when it comes to reporting on what your strengths are:
- VIA Survey Results – is a free survey that provides your rank order list of the 24 strengths.
- VIA-ME! Report – gives you a more comprehensive report with details of your signature strengths, and an overview of your middle and lesser strengths. You’ll also benefit from activities, quotes, benefit statements and more to help you put your strengths to good use.
- The VIA Pro Report – allows you to explore yours or others strengths more deeply. It can be used by individuals, managers, coaches, consultants or educators who want to bring out the best in others. The report provides helpful graphs, the latest research, and also explores issues including the overuse/underuse of signature strengths. Also there’s a free Practitioner’s Guide to assist practitioners move beyond the what of a report, to exploring ways to apply the knowledge that includes key issues to consider, cautions, practical tips, general interventions, and strength-based models for practice.
How To Get The Tool?
Visit the VIA Institute at www.viacharacter.org.*
What Have Researchers Found?
The VIA Survey has been found to have psychometric validity, reliability and consistency.
Researchers are finding that when we develop a general awareness of our strengths; explore ways to mindfully think about their development and; then apply them by setting goals and taking action, there are numerous benefits for ourselves and our workplaces.
- Sense of flourishing – being aware of your strengths and regularly using them at work has been found to make you more likely to regard yourself as flourishing – experiencing positive emotions, feeling engaged in what you are doing, having good relationships with others, having a sense of purpose and being satisfied with your achievements.
- Feeling happier – finding ways to use your character strengths has been found to increase your feelings of happiness, alleviate depression and bolster your mental health. It can also improve your self-perceptions as a good person, and increase your feelings of hope and satisfaction with life.
- Being more engaged – finding ways to use your character strengths at work has been found to increase your engagement and positive emotions which in turn can improve your productivity, job satisfaction and commitment to your organization.
- Energizes you – using your strengths has been found to improve you vitality and energy levels.
- Gives you a sense of purpose – people who use their signature strengths have been found to be more likely to see their work as a calling and derive a stronger sense of meaning from their work.
- Coping with stress – using your strengths has been found to help you cope better with work-related stress, and to develop resilience to stress. Studies suggest the use of kindness, social intelligence, self-regulation, and perspective in particular appear to create a buffer against the negative effects of stress.
- Boost your work performance – using your strengths improves your attention to detail, commitment to tasks, sense of vitality, concentration, and harmonious passion for what you do which can improve your performance
And it seems the effects for using your signature strengths are greater, the more strengths you use. Studies have found that people who use four or more of their top character strengths at work are more likely to experience job satisfaction, pleasure, engagement, and meaning in their work.
How could you use your character strengths to move from functioning to consistently flourishing in your workplace?
*Please note we do not receive commission on this tool and are sharing it as we believe it is a valuable resource for practitioners.