I was an emotional child. I felt my emotions and those of others around me deeply. I remember thinking, it will get better as I grow up, but it only grew stronger over time. When in private, or with people who were close to me, I was free to be myself. But in the workplace, that wasn’t possible; emotions were taboo in a professional environment.
I worried about how others would interpret my emotions, so it was easier to bury them. I felt like a phony. I wouldn’t stand up for what I believed in for fear I’d cry. My soft approach was often interpreted as being a pushover. When I got this feedback at work, I overcompensated by becoming a fearmonger supervisor. Employees did what I asked because they were terrified of me. Not exactly the look I was going for!
Things began to change when I was an HR generalist. An employee was killed in an accident on her way to work. I not only shared the news with her colleagues, I shared their grief. We sat together and cried. This brought us closer and led to more than one discussion months later about how much their colleague was still missed. I realized that emotions are necessary because work is about humans.
It took me a long time to recognize that my strong emotions are my superpower. It’s part of what makes me relatable; it allows me to connect with those I work with on a deeper level. I’m often seen as a trusted confidant, someone others seek out to discuss difficult, and often emotional situations. Many times, it’s work-related, other times it’s personal. With help from a coach, I’ve learned to better understand my emotions, recognizing that I control them, they don’t control me. That doesn’t mean I won’t cry when I hear a beautiful piece of music, but I’m able to channel my emotions more productively.
My discovery enabled me to realize just how important it is to find your strengths and make use of them in your job. This is critical for both employees and employers to create a more engaged and productive workplace. I advise clients to ask themselves what excites them and their employees? What are their team members’ unique superpowers? Do they have the opportunity to use them each day? What can they do to cultivate their team’s superpowers?
The following tips will help you and your team harness their unique strengths:
- Start with one employee. Identify a key employee who is struggling and you don’t want to lose. Help them explore their unique superpower before expanding to the rest of your team.
- Focus on outcomes. Let employees have the autonomy to get the job done using their unique strengths in a way that works for them.
- Foster psychological safety. Create a safe space for employees to share ideas, pose questions, and discuss mistakes and concerns without fear of repercussions.
- Engage your employees. Have an open discussion with your staff about what they love and loathe at work. Is there a way to provide more opportunities to work on what they love? People want to be seen, heard, and understood. An open discussion provides an opportunity to do just that.
- Show appreciation for the work that’s being done. Recognize staff on a regular basis.
- Collaborate with your employees. Work together to develop opportunities for them to use their superpower every day.
I am lucky enough to have discovered my extraordinary gift. I hope the tips included here will help you and your team on your own journey of discovery. We have supported other teams in uncovering and leveraging their superpowers. We’d love the chance to help you, too. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.