Thursday, November 15, 2018

How to get the Most of people by understanding and activating their strengths - Practical Wisdom for Busy People Episode 5

Today I am going to share with you an idea that will help you get the most out of people.

So – are  you completely happy with how you interact with everyone in your family and at work?  Is there any scope for improvement?

If so, here’s an  true story  which I still find rather enlightening.

Years ago I worked with someone, let’s call him Tom, who was in most ways a really nice guy -  except for one thing.

It was part of our  office culture to make rounds”of tea  for each other. Now Tom liked   his tea as much as the next person. He was a very willing beneficiary of the  system. Months passed yet Tom had never made tea for anyone else. He was a free rider.  After a while we started to notice and whispers began  about whether we should stop making tea for Tom. He appeared completely  oblivious to this resentment. He wanted to do as much work as he could and would probably have said he was far too busy to make a round of tea

One day this all of this changed when the technical whizz-kid in our team devised an on-line system which recorded tea rounds. You scored a point for every tea you made. You lost a point for every tea that was made for you.  You would be plus or minus depending on how many rounds you made

Obviously, after a day or two, Tom was bottom of the league table, Once his lowly league position was brought to Tom’s attention, a dramatic change took place. Whereas before it had seemed as if Tom knew neither the location of the kitchen or the tea tray, now he and the tray were seldom parted.

Tom made two or three rounds every day and  before long he leapt to the top of the tea-makers table.

A key question. What do you think was Tom’s dominant strength?  You guessed it, Competitiveness.

The moral? If you want to change someone’s behaviour, think about their strengths and how to activate them. Once Tom’s competitiveness strength was activated, his behaviour changed dramatically and in a positive direction

This works  with other strengths too
If his strength had been leadership, we could have put him in charge of finding a fair system for making tea.
If it had been kindness, we could have framed making a cup of tea as a random act of kindness to brighten up his colleagues’ day.

I’m sure you You get the idea. If you want to know more about strengths, have a  look at Chapter 4 of my book Achieve Your Potential With Positive Psychology or  visit the via website at

One final thought. This absolutely is not about manipulating other people for your own benefit, its about finding solutions that work best for you and them.
It’s about finding  what the legendary self-help writer Stephen Covey called win-win solutions.Tom benefited - he enjoyed being top of the table. And we all enjoyed the tea he made. It was a win-win.

So why not when spend a few minutes  now thinking about the strengths of someone you interact. It could be a family member, it could be a work colleague. 
Then spend  a moment or two thinking about their strengths. What are they good at? What are their character strengths? Which strengths energise them?

Finally, reflect on how you can activate their strengths perhaps by redesigning or reframing a task.

We got the most out of Tom by activating his strength. Who can you turn from villain to hero?

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