Save Us From Our Strengths – via The Energy Project

Save Us From Our Strengths – The Energy Project.

I can see it now. Like in a dream. In the not so distant future, workplaces will be more efficient than ever.

Imagine a scenario when newly hired employees are pre-assessed, assessed again and then surveyed about their strengths before their very first day.

When they pull their hybrid hovercraft into the parking lot and shuffle through the doors, perhaps they’ll be handed t-shirts to wear that display their pre-determined strengths… “Superb Listener”, one organic shirt might say.

Okay, maybe this is overkill…besides, hovercrafts are SO 2050… but Tony Schwartz and The Energy Project make a serious case that spending so much time and effort on building “strength-based” organizations “narrow[s] attention to the preferred aspects of ourselves [and] vastly oversimplifies who we are, what stands in our way, and what it takes to operate at our best.”

“So, too, for strengths. The missteps we make and the damage we inflict on others is less the result of failing to fully utilize our strengths and more the consequence of overvaluing and over-relying on them — precisely because they come more easily to us.”

Are we afraid to let weaknesses enter the picture, for fear that no one will take the time and effort to change? 

The challenge in developing strengths is not to over-emphasize them or to use them to pigeon-hole your workforce. Instead, as The Energy Project indicates  it’s to learn flexibility, adaptability, balance, and empathy so then we can dial up or down our strengths at appropriate times and moments.

“No strength is reliably a strength by itself. Too much passion eventually becomes overbearing, but too much sober moderation leads to boring blandness. Too much introspection devolves into self-absorption, but too little results in superficiality. Confidence untempered by humility turns into arrogance. Tenacity unbalanced by flexibility congeals into rigidity. Courage without prudence becomes recklessness. Charm ungrounded in authenticity is simply disingenuousness.

To make the most of what we’ve got, we must instead take on the messy whole of who we are. That means making the best possible use of our strengths, but also slogging away at the weaknesses they can serve to reveal.

We don’t need leaders who’ve got it figured out. Rather, we need ones who feel confident in and clear about their strengths, but are also courageous enough to recognize and take on their shortcomings. It’s a paradoxical challenge we all face: to hold ourselves fiercely accountable for becoming more of what we’re capable of being, but to simultaneously accept ourselves exactly as we are.”


This just in… emotions are contagious – via The Energy Project

Emotional contagion spreads quickly and fills the air of your environment. Can you put out the fire?

Take this warning (story) from Energy Project CEO, Tony Schwartz, and his lessons learned…

Emotional Contagion Can Take Down Your Whole Team – The Energy Project.


  1. The emotions people bring to work are as important as their cognitive skills, and especially so for leaders.

  2. Because it’s not possible to check our emotions at the door when we get to work — even when that’s expected — it pays to be aware of what we’re feeling in any given moment. You can’t change what you don’t notice.

  3. Negative emotions spread fast and they’re highly toxic. The problem with the executive we let go was not that he was critical, but rather that he was so singularly focused on what was wrong that he lost sight of the bigger picture, including his own negative impact on others.

  4. Authenticity matters because you can’t fake positivity for long. It is possible to put on a “game face” — to say you’re feeling one way when you’re actually feeling another — but the truth will ultimately reveal itself in your facial, vocal, and postural cues. We must learn to monitor and manage our moods.

  5. The key to balancing realism and optimism is to embrace the paradox of realistic optimism. Practically, that means having the faith to tell the most hopeful and empowering story possible in any given situation, but also the willingness to confront difficult facts as they arise and deal with them directly.

Embracing What’s Wrong to Get to What’s Right – via Tony Schwartz

The Tony Schwartz fan club is back in action today, to share a post of his that encourages us to not discard our negative emotions but to use them more productively.

Here are 5 important reminders about our “negativity bias” and what we can do about it.

1. Focus on the bright spots – train yourself to focus on what’s going right – realize that yes, it’s easier to remember and dwell on the negative events, but we can train our brains to be more positive.

2. Remember that much frustration is the result of unmet expectations. What expectations do you have that are setting you up for disappointment?

3. The negative state you’re in is temporary – some of it may be outside the realm of your control – but the perspective is entirely yours. Work on ways to let the negative emotions fade quicker and hold tight to the positive emotions.

4. Emotions are contagious – surround yourself with those who lift you up and won’t take withdrawals from your energy bank. In turn, remember that your emotions affect those around you. Many of us seek shelter in our negative emotions by befriending those with similar viewpoints.

5. Your negative emotions can serve a purpose – use them to push you in a direction towards what you really want and how to get there. Be productive with your emotions by finding a way to be heard, and work with others who will help facilitate positive change and positive discussion.

Embracing What’s Wrong to Get to What’s Right – Tony Schwartz – Harvard Business Review.


The price and science of wellness (via Tony Schwartz)

Readers of my blog know I am a huge fan of author, speaker and CEO Tony Schwartz. In his most recent article in the Harvard Business Review blog, he wonders – if companies know investing in employee wellness is imperative to the health of their organization, why don’t more companies follow through?

Take this startling research:

Research conducted at Harvard found that the savings from wellness programs in organizations averages $3.27 for every dollar spent

So if we know what is good for us, why don’t we follow through?

Schwartz conducted an informal poll of CEO’s at the World Economic Forum last week. They unanimously agreed employees perform better if they are happier and healthier at work. However, they also agreed the amount of time, energy and money invested in wellness at their company was very little.

The value can seem hard to measure, and the ROI can take years. In order to move forward and increase the health of an organization, Schwartz points out we must imagine the future consequences of our actions, and sacrifice more in the short-term to generate more value in the long-term.

We must re-wire our thinking in order to achieve this goal. Schwartz conversed with two neuroscientists who have demonstrated that our brains have “extraordinary plasticity”. From the article:

“It’s possible, they’ve found, for human beings to systematically train the regulation of negative emotion and to increase our capacity for calm reflectiveness in the face of high stress. MRI scans can measure, for instance, brain activity associated with empathy and compassion — and people can cultivate those attributes through deliberate practice”

It is possible to train our brain through practice, to develop habits (many developed through Applied Improvisation) that can help increase our well-being, happiness, and it turns out, productivity at work. In the same respect, CEO’s and decision makers can train their brain to be less short-term focused in their perspective and to work on imagining and preparing for the future.

Resistance to spending on training and wellness at work is also attributed to a fear that employees will take their new skills elsewhere. However, by investing in employees, demonstrating concern for their well-being and enhancement of skills, it becomes easier to retain and attract employees.

What can your company do to increase wellness?

Read the full article here.