How to Spot Strengths to Boost Engagement & Results

by Scott Crabtree

Spot Strengths: A Story

Adam was a few months into his new job as a Technical Lead. Fortunately, both he and his boss, Chris, thought he was doing pretty well.

However, Adam felt a bit concerned about his tendency to ask questions about how different decisions would play out over time. Every time a colleague described a possible choice, Adam would ask how its advantages and disadvantages compared to other options.

Often, he wondered if he was annoying his colleagues with all his questions and concerns.

Chris, who knew how to spot strengths, sat down with Adam for a one-on-one meeting. She started by saying, “Adam, I’ve noticed in meetings that you often ask how alternative choices might play out over time.”

“Oh…yeah,” Adam replied. “Is that annoying?”

“Annoying?! No, it’s great! You clearly have a strength in Strategic Thinking. Your brain wants to look for patterns and issues and consider how everything will unfold. It’s part of why I hired you as the Technical Lead for this project! I want my leads thinking strategically. Please keep doing exactly what you are doing. It’s valuable.”

At that moment, Adam felt so appreciated and energized; he had never been recognized in this way before. He returned to work with a spring in his step and renewed enthusiasm to keep thinking strategically about the project.

The Science

According to data, about 3 of 4 of people are highly motivated by recognition. An even higher percentage say they don’t get enough of it at work.

Having someone see you at your best and appreciate your strengths is one of the most specific and powerful forms of recognition. Furthermore, developing and using strengths results in more happiness and engagement at work.

Apply It: How to Spot Strengths

Here’s how to spot strengths: Look for your colleagues’ moments of peak performance⁠—plus watch their energy. You’re looking for examples of things people are good at that also seem to energize them. What are they doing (or discussing) when the pitch of their voice goes up and they talk more quickly? What makes them “light up?”

Then, tell your coworkers about the strengths you see in them. Encourage them to develop and use those strengths. You can even use these free Happy Brain Science strengths spotting cards to remind you and others to spot strengths.

What about you? Do you have any suggestions on how to recognize and develop your own strengths? How do you spot the strengths of others? Let us know in the comments!

This post is part of a series about science-based solutions presented in our card game & facilitation tool, Choose Happiness @ Work.