by Philip Wilkerson, George Mason University
We say we encourage strengths in the workplace, but do we really adhere to this philosophy in practice? Only 32% of U.S. workers have reported that they can do what they do best every day at work. I work at George Mason University (GMU), and I will go on record and say, “yes it does happen here.” I get to use my strengths most of the time. It would be unrealistic to believe that I get to do what I do best 100% of the time, but I believe that over half of my time is used in ways that utilize my strengths.
At GMU we strongly encourage the community to take the CliftonStrengths assessment. This commitment is so strong that it is offered for FREE for anyone who is affiliated with the University. To date 23,641 faculty, staff, and students have taken the assessment.
People at Mason wear their strengths like a badge of honor. We end our email signatures with our top five strengths. We rock t-shirts. We discuss strengths in our first meetings with new community members. We use our strengths to build hashtags on twitter. I recently organized a meeting of Woos during Strengths Appreciation Day. We used the hashtag #WOOOOOTANG for our photo.
For us, this is a relatively normal part of the way we work as a community. I recently interviewed Dr. Beth Cabrera on my podcast, Positive Philter. Dr. Cabrera is a senior scholar at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. She shared that strengths allow us to move away from a deficit perspective. In other words, if we know that the extroverted Woo in our office enjoys going out and meeting with new people, then we should honor that strength and position them in places where they can do outreach. We should allow the individual the space to engage their strengths, while also learning new skills. When we do performance reviews, it’s easier to focus on what the individual is doing wrong or what needs to be fixed. When we use a strengths-focused evaluation, we can use a lens of continuous improvement of ones strengths.
If you are interested in discussing how strengths apply to the world of work, please join me on twitter for a #EACE twitter Chat on Tuesday June 11th at noon. We will discuss the simple ways we incorporate strengths into our daily lives. Please mark your calendar and join us.
Philip Wilkerson is a higher educational professional with a diverse background in career preparation, academic strategies, admissions, recruitment with nearly 10 years in the field. He has been described as a peer influencer and an emerging leader who is always eager to learn and soak up best practices on how to combine positivity and well-being with professionalism. He tries his best to help students find the intersection between chasing their dreams and making a living.
Top Five Strengths: WOO | Positivity | Empathy | Communication | Developer
 Reflects % reporting they have “opportunity to do what they do best every day at work”; from Gallup 2007 global database, referenced on p. 12 in Strengths Bad Leadership, Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, Gallup Inc., 2008.