Lead Through Strengths

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths


Today’s episode features Michelle McQuaid, the author of “Your Strengths Blueprint: How to be Engaged, Energized, and Happy at Work.” During this engaging interview, Lisa Cummings chats with Michelle about her personal experience using her unique Strengths. Michelle shares practical examples about how she made huge changes not only at work, but also throughout every aspect of her life. Today, Michelle is flourishing and providing guidance to others via her books, coaching, training, and through her annual Strengths Challenge.  In 2016, the strengths challenge is September 6 – 12, and we hope you'll join the next one!

If you are interested in adding new tools to your Strengths toolbox, then this is the episode for you! Listen for several tips and tools to improve your work and home life, and perhaps learn a Dr. Seuss rhyme along the way.


Michelle and Lisa’s Strengths

Michelle’s VIA Character Strengths: Creativity, Hope, Love, Love of Learning, Perseverance

Lisa’s VIA Character Strengths: Creativity, Humor, Curiosity, Hope, and Zest

Michelle’s StrengthsFinder Talents: Strategic, Learner, Maximizer, Achiever, Activator

Lisa’s StrengthsFinder Talents: Strategic, Maximizer, Positivity, Individualization, Woo


What You’ll Learn In This Episode

Michelle was in an executive role. She had achieved her career goals, and everything looked great on paper. However, she had a nagging, unhappy feeling about work, and she found herself dragging her feet into work each day. One day, she was watching a popular tv show, and saw a segment on “positive psychology.” This segment would forever change her life. Michelle found one of Martin Seligman’s books. He’s the guru in the field of positive psychology. As she read (and later studied directly with Seligman), she realized that our goal should be to bring out the best in ourselves and others more consistently. The more we use our strengths in our jobs, the more engaging, energizing, and fulfilling our lives can be.

Michelle started with the free VIA Survey, and found that her #1 trait was Curiosity. That led to her Ah Ha moment – the reason she was unhappy was because she wasn’t learning anything at work any more. In an effort to fulfill he need to learn new things, she implemented this plan:

  • Read one new thing about positive psychology each day for 10 minutes. Michelle found that this exercise had a positive ripple effect throughout the rest of her day. It shifted how she felt at work.
  • Each Friday, she emailed her boss 3 things she had learned through her reading that week. Later, she found out that he had been forwarding her emails to other people. At her 9 month review, he noted that the company hadn’t been using her strengths as effectively as they could be, and asked if she’d like to teach these ideas to others. This gave her a chance to put her strengths to work every day.
  • The moments that people were able to actually see her strengths led to new career opportunities. In essence, Michelle ended up crafting her new career path.

VIA is a a system that “diagnoses" the best in people. It’s a list of 24 character strengths that are consistent across cultures and history. The goal is to focus on the top 5 character strengths that light you up the most.

Because we are affected by situations around us, Michelle recommends taking the survey every year. If there is a character strength you want to move up the list, there are methods to follow (but Michelle notes that it should only be because it’s something you value, not because society desires it). Here are 4 steps:

  • Determine which strength you want to build
  • Harness the natural part in your brain to create new habits (good or bad). Make sure you have some cue to work on that strength each day. For example, putting a book on your keyboard for the next day, or listen to a recording about this strength each day on your way to work.
  • Try and use that strength when you are in a state of flow (when you can focus)
  • Reward yourself each time you work on this new habit; it needs to be something you really want. For example, have a cup of coffee after your 10 minutes are up.

Check out the resources below, because Michelle offers a free e-book on her website to help you be in your zone of greatness. It’s an excellent aide to improving yourself and creating new habits.

Tool: Appreciative inquiry

It’s a strengths-based approach to change, where you build on things that are working well. There is a positive effect on the company and the team.

Spend 80% of your time on your strengths, and 20% on our weaknesses. You want commitment not compliance.

Be realistic about how to get the best return on investment.


Resources of the Episode

Here are ways to reach Michelle: Website Twitter Facebook LinkedIn YouTube

Your Strengths Blueprint: How to be Engaged, Energized, and Happy at Work by Michelle McQuaid and Erin Lawn

What Good is Positive Business? By Robert Dauman and Michelle McQuaid

Books of Interest by Martin E.P. Seligman:

Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment

Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being

Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification (by Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman)

Michelle's Article with Shane Lopez.

Take the free Character Survey from VIA Institute on Character.

Michelle’s eBook resource: Can You Do More of What You Do Best?

Learn more and register for the Annual Strengths Challenge, which is September 6 – 12, 2016.



To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from the website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.


StrengthsFinder Mini-Course For Managers

If you’re a people-manager and you want to sharpen your strengths based support, come join our monthly mini-course. We don’t charge for this because we want to help you keep the StrengthsFinder momentum going. Teams who receive strengths feedback have 8.9% greater profitability. Yowza! Sounds like a great reason to join. Source:  Asplund, J., & Blacksmith, N. “Strengthening Your Company’s Performance.” Gallup Business Journal.


Go Live Your Talents

Remember, using your strengths every day at work makes you a stronger performer. If you’re always focused on fixing your team’s weaknesses, you’re choosing the path of most resistance. Go claim your talents and share them with the world!


Direct download: 030-Michelle-McQuaid.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT