How to Love at Work
Love at the office? These days especially, workplace love sounds like a dangerous proposition. Men and women alike may quickly conclude that love at work leads to trouble. I suggest that it depends on the definition of love that’s in play. Let’s use this one:
love: tender feelings towards another person based on regard or shared experiences or interests
Tender feelings towards another is the essence of love. Have you noticed that there aren’t enough tender feelings towards others in the world today? Have you noticed the same at work?
Right now you’re probably picturing your most annoying coworker. The bombastic Emily who screams into the phone in the open office and crunches chips like a machine. She rarely goes along with the group and often contributes ideas that others consider to be unattainable. I’ll bet you’re thinking that it would be impossible to conjure up a tender feeling towards Emily. You’re probably right that it would be impossible, except that creativity once again comes to the rescue.
You: A Starting Point
The above definition of love hints at a potential starting point. It says tender feelings toward another can be based on shared experiences. As it turns out, creativity is the ultimate shared experience. We all have it, we all use it, and we each have our own unique constellation of creative strengths—the traits which support new, novel thinking and action. Creative strengths also provide a window into deeply knowing and respecting another person.
To love your annoying coworker more, you don’t even have to start with her. Begin with yourself. When we understand ourselves through the lens of creative strengths, we begin from a position of wholeness and confidence. Knowing our own creative strengths places us on a foundation that keeps us from sinking into destructive comparisons, jealousies, and feelings of inadequacy. When we’ve defined ourselves in a strengths-based light we’re in a stronger position to use the same approach to define others.
How to Love Yourself
Once you’ve identified your own creative strengths profile, it will be easier to see others’ creative strengths. You will be more familiar with the strengths themselves and therefore more apt to spot them and find ways to apply them. I’ve created a free tool, the Creative Strengths Spotter workbook, to help you pinpoint your own creative strengths, identify how you use them, and think up ways to apply them more fully.
In the Strengths Spotter, you’ll find a selection of 16 characteristics that support creative thinking, such as originality, independence, and perceptivity. You will have the opportunity to choose those that resonate most strongly with you—the strengths that you’re most proud to call your own. You can choose one or you can choose 16, but ultimately you’ll whittle your list down to one to three strengths that you believe you express most vividly. Then, I’ll take you through some exercises to more closely examine how you already use those strengths in daily life. Finally, you will think up ways to apply them even more deliberately.
How to Love Others
Once you’re clear about your own creative strengths, you can print another copy of the Strengths Spotter and complete it with a colleague in mind. I always suggest choosing the person who is most irritating and annoying. This is an exercise I’ve suggested to teachers many times; identifying creative strengths for their most challenging students is a game-changer. It’s the same at work.
After you’ve completed the Strengths Spotter on behalf of a colleague, follow these five steps to activate creative strength at work:
- Begin thinking about the person through the strengths lens. When you think of Emily, connect her with her creative strengths. “Emily – original, independent, energetic.”
- Dig deeply to understand what the creative strengths words mean and what they imply. People who are original may come up with outlandish ideas. This means they have the propensity to think differently, which carries with it the possibility of coming up with just the right different thoughts to keep your customers happy and make your business the frontrunner in the industry.
- Figure out ways to leverage creative strengths. Think about how you might apply them to daily work tasks, including products, services, and processes like meetings. How might Emily’s originality help your team think differently to position your organization as a leader in the marketplace?
- Find ways to reinforce the importance of creative strengths in small ways and comments. “I respect your originality, Emily. You’re always able to bring a fresh perspective.”
- Encourage your co-workers to complete the Strengths Spotter. Suggest that they do it for themselves and for their most annoying colleague—which may, in fact, be you!
Seeing people through the lens of creative strengths is one way to love. Awareness of these characteristics that we all have in common builds our affection and provides real avenues for application and growth. It helps us respect the very core of our own and another’s being.
Kathryn Haydon helps you maximize your creative strengths so you can do your best work. Through keynotes, workshops, and consulting, she trains individuals, leaders, and teams to find the unique spark that leads to deep engagement and productivity.