Interview with Ryan Niemiec
How often do you feel you’re hitting your power zone at work? You know those moments when you feel like you’re on fire – you’re doing work you find interesting, you’re developing your strengths and you’re learning and growing whilst delivering great results. We’ve all had these moments (even if they were fleeting) but can you intentionally create more of them and hit your power zone at work more often?
“You step into your power zone when you’re aligning all your strengths,” said Ryan Niemiec, the Education Director of the VIA Institute on Character, and leading author on Character Strengths, including his latest book Character Interventions: A Field Guide for Practitioners when I interviewed him recently. “And using them for their optimal benefit in meeting the demands of your job and achieving what matters most to you.”
You see, you have a range of different strengths that you can draw on to use at work each day: your talents – things you do naturally well and develop with practice; your skills – what you’ve learnt to do; your interests –the passions you choose to do; your resources – external supports you draw upon when you need some extra help; and your character strengths – that you use to put your core values, what’s in your head and your heart, into action.
“It’s your character strengths that act as the fuel to make your other strengths rise,” explained Ryan. “These are an expression of you at your best and most authentic self, and expressing them powers all your other strengths up to the next level.”
For example, your job may require you to use your abilities to present training workshops, which may use your talents and skills at connecting with an audience, and your interests to give you real passion for your topic. But it’s when you mindfully link these and use your character strengths of curiosity and creativity to shape ‘how’ you deliver the workshop that you’ll feel at your most powerful.
So how can you use your character strengths to fuel more of your performance at work?
The first step is identifying your signature character strengths by taking the VIA Character Strengths Survey. Then you can try Ryan’s three favorite strengths interventions to feel more engaged, energized and happier at work:
- Subtract a signature strength – Start by choosing one of your signature strengths and picture it in action, noticing how important it has been in your work –to build relationships, to complete tasks, to deliver great outcomes and to feel happy and satisfied. Now imagine that you're not allowed to use that strength at work for the next month. For example, if you choose curiosity you can't explore or investigate new ideas, places or activities, ask questions, try new experiences, meet new people, or search the Internet. Consider what work would be like, and how you would feel. Note down your observations. Now savor the fact that you get to use this strength every day, and find more ways to put it to work.
- Character strengths appreciation – Identify the three top character strengths in a close colleague, your boss or a client. Note down some thoughts about a recent admirable incident in which they displayed each of these strengths. How were you seeing the strength expressed? Then show them some appreciation by sharing with them what you observed (or even what you wrote), explaining why their use of this character strength is important and valued by you.
- Strengths alignment – You can align your top strengths with any activity, conversation or routine to improve your engagement and sense of calling at work. No matter how mundane, you can bring your best qualities to that particular task. List the five things that you do most frequently at work, it could be filing, leading team meetings or solving wicked problems. Write down one way you can use your top five VIA strengths for each of the five work tasks. For example, it might be using creativity to lead a team meeting by ending it with a new quote each time to inspire people or make them smile.
Ryan’s new book – Character Strengths Interventions: A Field Guide for Practitioners includes an amazing seventy interventions that you can choose from to apply your character strengths more each day.
What can you do to be more consistently in your power zone?