Library Leadership

35. Utilizing Our Authentic Strengths to Improve Ourselves, Our Teams, and Our Organizations with Fatima Doman

Fatima Doman

We all want to feel positive and engaged in the workplace. However, have you ever wondered how you can actually wake up on Monday morning excited to go to work, as well as foster this same excitement in those around you? On today’s podcast, we talk with Fatima Doman author of the book Authentic Strengths. 

She teaches us how we can create improved happiness and effectiveness in the workplace using positive psychology that capitalizes on our unique strengths. If we work in ways that utilize what we do best, we really can feel excitement about our jobs and appreciate the attributes that our colleagues bring to the table. Fatima shares a system to Explore, Empower, and Engage with our strengths to increase personal effectiveness and create success in our libraries.

Transcript

This podcast is brought to you by the School of Library and Information Management from Emporia State University, where library leaders are created, with program sites in Las Vegas, Nevada; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Denver, Colorado; Salt Lake City, Utah; Portland, Oregon; Boise, Idaho; and Emporia and Overland Park, Kansas; and by the Park City Library, making film and podcasting possible with green screen and sound recording resources.

Adriane:

This is Adriane Herrick Juarez. You’re listening to Library Leadership Podcast, where we talk about libraries, and leadership, and speak with guests who share their ideas, innovations, and strategic insights into the profession. 

We all want to feel positive and engaged in the workplace. However, have you ever wondered how you can actually wake up on Monday morning excited to go to work, as well as foster this same excitement in those around you? On today’s podcast we talk with Fatima Doman, author of the book, Authentic Strengths. She teaches us how we can create improved happiness and satisfaction in the workplace using positive psychology that capitalizes on our unique strengths. 

If we work in ways that utilize what we do best, we really can feel excitement about our jobs and appreciate the attributes that our colleagues bring to the table. Fatima shares a system to explore, empower, and engage with our strengths to increase personal effectiveness, and create success in our libraries. Enjoy the show!

Welcome to the show, Fatima.

Fatima Doman:

It’s a pleasure to be here, thanks for having me.

Adriane:

Question #1: I saw you speak recently at a library conference, and it was so inspiring. Your book focuses on what comes out of positive psychology. And I think, sometimes in professions we try and fix problems, or focus on things that are going wrong. But your work focuses on strengths, and positives. So, can you tell us what that’s all about? 01:43

Fatima Doman:

Sure. So positive psychology has been around since the early 2000’s. And, the reason that this new science was created is because a lot of psychologists felt there needed to be a counterbalance to, you know, the focus on disease, and illness, mental illness, and so forth. So they created what they call, the character strengths and virtues classification, which catalogs human flourishing. It catalogs our strengths of character. 

They created a whole science around this, and obviously the science of positive psychology has expanded over these past decades. But, what I focus on is the science of character strengths. That’s what I’m most interested in. Because, I think that reflects our human—highest and best selves, our human nobility, so to speak.

Adriane:

Question #2: I love it. And, I went online and I took the positive strengths test. And, I found out a lot about myself, which made me happy. Because, it’s really speaking to what I love to do, and that I can bring into the workplace. So, thanks for that. Do you want to share where people can go if they want to take your particular strengths test that you advocate for? 03:17 

Fatima Doman:

Of course. So, the strengths survey is created and provided by the Via Institute on Character. I have a link to their website to take that strengths inventory on my website, which is Authentic Strengths.com, and strengths is plural with an s, https://authenticstrengths.com/. So, you can take it for free there. Just log on to our landing page at authenticstrengths.com and scroll down and you’ll see a button that says, Take the Free Strengths Survey. It will give you an immediate two-page report that shows your top strengths all the way down to your middle and lesser strengths.

And by the way, the lowest strengths do not mean that you do not have the capacity to use those strengths well, it just means that you get more energy, more engagement by using your top strengths. So, all of this is different. Our strengths profile is like a unique thumbprint. It’s a unique fingerprint that shows how we prefer to express our strengths. There are twenty-four character strengths, by the way. 

Adriane:

Question #3: Tell us about this concept of strengths. So, basically this says to get the best out of work in life there are character strengths and virtues. Can you tell us about those? 04:37 

Fatima Doman:

These character strengths and virtues, they have really four key aspects. They are universal. Scientists who catalogued these twenty-four character strengths studied wisdom, literature, and cultures from around the world. They found that these twenty-four strengths can be found in every culture. They’re learnable, which I think is the most exciting part—that we can choose to build any one of our strengths at any time. 

They are expressed at different degrees. You might express your strength of love of learning differently than I might express mine. And then also, they really give us energy, and passion. If we were unable to use one of these strengths, that is one of our top strengths, we might feel disconnected. We might feel like we are withering inside. 

They’re core to who we are, you know, our authentic selves, really. Those are just some key understandings about character strengths. Today there have been over 500 global research studies on these character strengths that show that when people use them, that they experience greater resilience. They experience greater energy and engagement, and they also experience higher achievement levels.

These character strengths are correlated to many positive benefits. That’s why I think it’s really important for all of us to first discover our character strengths and then also understand how to use them optimally so that we can get the most benefit from our strengths of character.

Adriane:

Question #4: So, let’s go through the three important steps that outline, in your book, the maximization of strengths. So, the steps are: explore; empower; and engage. So, can you start out telling us about empower? 06:32 

Fatima Doman:

Let’s start with explore, and then move onto empower. With explore, what we do is we discover our strengths. So, we go on this self-awareness journey of discovery. The first thing to do, obviously, is to take your strengths inventory and then to really study it and understand—think about the time you use your strengths.

One of the things that I like to do with my coaching clients is to do what we call, a best self experience, and have them think about a time when they felt that they were their highest, and best self. A time when, maybe, they accomplished something that they feel really good about. Or, they felt just in the zone. They felt like they were, you know, really connecting to their own authenticity. I ask them to think about that time and think about what, maybe, made that happen for them. And invariably, people connect to strengths of character to bring that high point to life.

So, I think that’s a key understanding. That our character strengths are part of our best experiences, because they infuse anything that we do with energy, and passion, and happiness is highly correlated, and life satisfaction with the utilization of character strengths. So, I think that exploration helps you to come to really understand yourself.

And then, we move onto empowerment. What I mean by empower, I’m talking about empowering our goals with our strengths. Empowering ourselves with our strengths. 

You know, I was just reading a quote yesterday from someone who said that, The way that we see ourselves in the world is directly correlated to our self-worth, our self-esteem, our well-being, in general. I thought how true that is. What if we could begin to connect to our strengths of character and see ourselves in that way. See ourselves for our strongest and best selves, because so many people have created an identity out of seeing themselves, maybe for the problems that they have in their lives, kind of a victim mentality, in essence.

A lot of us have identified with problems, rather than with our strengths or with solutions. I put forth in my book that I really believe that understanding how to use your strengths is the key source to creating solutions in our lives. 

I’m writing a new book about resilience, and it’s really focused on this—how to bring about the solutions that so many people are seeking. I mean anxiety, and depression, and disconnectedness, and apathy at work, and all of these things are at an all time high in history. So it bears saying that, it’s a time in history where we really should be exploring our best selves. We really should be learning to pattern after human flourishing. I think that positive psychology has an important role to play in today’s world.

Adriane:

Question #5: And we all bring unique attributes to the workplace, and we should be able to capitalize on that. 10:05

Fatima Doman:

Yes.

Adriane:

Question #6: So, first you explore, you find out about yourself, you find out about your teammates. Then you empower, and finally you engage. 10:12

Fatima Doman:

So, engage is where you learn to use your strengths consistently on a daily basis. Research has shown that people who know how to use their strengths consistently, every day, rate themselves six times higher than their co-workers at feeling engaged at work, at feeling excited about their work, feeling like they’re achieving what they want to do at work. So, it directly correlates. 

What’s important about learning to engage your strengths is that it’s easy to think about and conceptualize using your strengths, but it’s in interrelation with other people that sometimes it can be a little bit tricky.

For example, my strengths might be different than your strengths. Your strengths, for you, might be hot buttons. And my strengths for me, might be hot buttons. So, we value our strengths so much that when someone else doesn’t value them the way that we do that’s where the term hot button comes from.

What we teach in our workshops is that there are ways that we can learn to avoid what we call strengths collisions at work. For example, someone who might be very creative and also very full of zest, and brave. You know, these are three different strengths, right? Creativity, bravery, zest. And this person might be like, Oh, I have this great idea. Let’s try it tomorrow! Right? And they’ve got so much passion and energy around it. And then, they might be working with someone who’s very prudent, which is a synonym for cautious, right, someone who likes to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s. 

Can you see how those different character strengths profiles might conflict? What’s important is to come to understand one another’s top strengths, and to appreciate them. Because if I understand yours, for example, it’s so great to see your strengths inventory. You know, your top strength is love of learning, and then you’ve got perspective, appreciation of beauty, and excellence, social intelligence, and zest. Those are your top five strengths. If I express appreciation for those and genuinely appreciate what you bring to the table, you will be more likely to in turn, appreciate my unique strengths profile and want to leverage our differences, perhaps.

I think that the key to what we call workplace collaboration is to come to understand one another’s unique strengths profiles and to honor them. And then also to understand that it’s actually in all of our best interests that we’re not all cookie-cutter, the same.

So, when I really need someone to edit, or research something with me, I look for someone who has the strength of prudence, which is not one of my highest strengths. Or, maybe the strength of perspective. So, I look for someone who has strengths that are a little bit different than mine for particular needs. 

What if we all came to understand that and also, what if when we’re working on projects we said, as a team, Okay, what do you feel most passionate about doing on this project? You might find that people will raise their hands to things that you were dreading doing.

Adriane:

Question #7: We all have things that we just naturally gravitate towards. What if we let people raise their hands and say what those things are, and have a choice in it? So, we can gain a lot of benefits when we employ positive psychology, and utilize strengths in our lives as leaders. How can we apply them broadly in the workplace? So, if we want to bring positive psychology into our workplaces, or our teams, or our committees, or our projects, how can we help do that and value each other’s strengths and bring that as a kind of cultural revolution into our workplace? 14:20 

Fatima Doman:

I love that. I love the idea of a cultural revolution. You may not be aware, but last year the world health organization reported that the number one reason for workplace disability worldwide is depression and anxiety. When you think about that—and they estimated that about 500 million people are depressed or anxious worldwide, and it’s keeping them from showing up for work. What if we created workplaces of cooperation, and mutual respect, and appreciation for the uniqueness that we bring? Would we create workplaces that are more conducive to contribution, this idea of really bringing your best efforts to the table?

And I know Google’s done a lot of work with this creating a work environment where people feel safe enough to have differing opinions, and to be very honest and real with the contributions that they’re making, rather than feeling like they have to fall in line with the perceived expectations, you know, This is the mold that you have to fit into.

I think that that could really help us in creating more, you know, productive work environments. If we could first understand and honor one another’s strengths, and help people to feel actually seen. That’s another concept that’s really important, I think, in leadership. I call it illuminating strengths in the people that you lead. Shining a light on their strengths. When people feel like they’re really seen for who they are, and the contribution that they can uniquely make, they tend to rise to that occasion. 

I worked for Steven Covey for over twenty years, and his organization. He often would say, People will rise to the level at which you see them, and treat them. So, why not start to have a focus on strengths at work, rather than on weaknesses? I think that’s a big shift in consciousness that needs to happen.

Adriane:

Question #8: I think it is too. And, I like what you say about shining a light on those good things and letting people rise to that, and knowing how much you appreciate them for their special strengths. Is there anything else? 17:17 

Fatima Doman:

I’m really passionate about sharing this message of strengths because I believe that it’s the key not only to, you know, achievement, and performance at work, but also to human flourishing in general. I think that we can use these concepts in our workplace, but we can also apply them at home, and with the people that we love and care about the most.

There’s just so much to talk about when it comes to strengths. But, you can learn a lot if you’d like to visit our website.There’s some free resources there, and videos, instructional videos that you can learn from. 

There are many people who are writing about strengths. I love the work of Dr. Ryan Niemiec, as well. He has written several books about character strengths and really deeply understanding them. So there’s a lot to explore here, and it’s definitely not a boring thing to look into. I think you’ll find insights about yourself and the people that you care about the most, and the people that you lead that will benefit your life.

Adriane:

Question #9: That’s so great to know it’s not just the workplace that benefits the whole person, including family and friends, and everything outside of us that can start to feel this positivity and we bring it into our lives. 18:32

Fatima Doman:

I think so, too. That’s important. And really, we are whole people, and we live whole lives. So, why not make the workplace conducive to that? I think that you’ll actually see greater output, greater productivity. You’ve heard many times, I’m sure, the adage, I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care. That people will give their highest and best efforts to leaders who they feel truly have their best interest at mind.

Adriane:

I know I feel that way. I think we all do.

Fatima Doman:

I think so, yeah.

Adriane:

Question #10: So let’s just say theoretically, we have a project we’re working on and a piece of that project is, maybe not at the top of our strengths. How do we overcome, let’s say when we need to push into areas we’re not as strong in? 19:24 

Fatima Doman:

That is a great question. I’m glad you asked that. I’ve experienced it in many ways in my own life. What I suggest to the people that I coach, the executives that I work with, is to pair one of your top strengths with that strength that may not be one of your top strengths, but you need to bring it forward. If you pair a top strength with it, we call that strength combinations. It can infuse that strength that you’re trying to use with more energy and more engagement. An easy example here would be—I mentioned earlier that prudence is not one of my top strengths. Prudence is really necessary when you’re writing a book where you’re quoting a lot of research, and you’re having to get that information correct, and you’re under time pressures, and that sort of thing. 

I remember when I was writing my last two books, I had to spend a lot of time alone doing very careful and tedious work in the book writing. One of my top strengths is social intelligence and teamworks really high. I like working with people. So, being alone in an office was excruciating at first. Then I thought, why don’t I just find ways to pair one of my top strengths with this task. I’ll probably enjoy it more. 

So, I collaborated with an editor who was very high in prudence. And, I actually really enjoyed working with her. It became a friendship. It became, you know, energizing for me to do that type of work with her. I also started interviewing people for the book. I felt like, you know, I need more of a relational experience in writing this book. Through those interviews I was exposed to some really profound thought processes that the people that I interviewed offered, that I think brought a lot of wisdom to my book through having interacted with them. And, I enjoyed it, and it infused me with energy to sit and write more. 

Those collaboration efforts, I think, by bringing in my social intelligence, and my teamwork helped me to get through those high demands, and actually, it took years to write these books. So, it was long periods of high demand of strengths that were not as energizing to me. Does that make sense?

Adriane:

Question #11: It does. And, it’s great to know that we can think of it in a new way of pairing a strength with a perhaps, weakness, and bringing out our best. And clearly, you did that in your book, and the way you made that come to life with your strengths. And, putting that with other people who brought out the best in you. Good. Anything else? 22:20  

Fatima Doman:

I would encourage everyone to first, just to discover your strengths profile. I mean, it’s really motivating to get this two-page report and just see, Oh, yeah, that’s why. You know, That’s why I gravitate to certain things, and other things aren’t as energizing for me, and I kind of avoid them, or put them off as long as I can. That’s why I’m experiencing these things.

Then also, it helps you to understand how to energize yourself, not just in your work, but in projects personally that you’ve taken on. There are a lot of benefits from that self-awareness. I would encourage everyone to start there. And then to, maybe, learn more about, you know, I talk in my books about understanding the shadow side of strengths. I think that’s important as well.

Did you know that you can learn how to use your strengths optimally? We can overuse a strength. We can underuse a strength. That’s very important for people to understand because, you’ve probably heard the saying, He who is good with a hammer comes to think everything is a nail. If you have a top strength, and you want to use it in every scenario you might be at risk of overusing that strength. It may not be appropriate to bring that strength forward in certain scenarios. Or, you may just express it so strongly that it might be off-putting to others. 

So, understanding how to use your strengths optimally is very important. Then also, there are people who tend to underuse, maybe, some of their top strengths. Their current profession, maybe, doesn’t call for one or two of their top strengths, but that can lead to withering. 

So, it’s very important if we want to stay engaged in our work to understand what our top strengths are and then to look for opportunities to bring them forward, consistently, so that we maintain that level of energy and enthusiasm for our work.

Adriane:

Question #12: So, both knowing them and knowing how to utilize them well. 25:53

Fatima Doman:

That’s right, it’s key. So, there’s a chapter with all of that information that you can really delve into with more examples that I think might be helpful.

Adriane:

Question #13: Thank you for that. And, I really loved getting my top strengths. It was some good ah-hah moments for me like, Yes, that is why I’m gravitating toward that. I think anybody who has a moment to do this assessment online really should, because it does give you wonderful insights about yourself. 25:07

Fatima Doman:

It does. I think also, you know, if your spouse or your significant other—it’s really illuminating, also, to see their strengths profile. And then, to understand how to better appreciate and honor the strengths in each other. And there’s actually new research coming out that’s showing that it contributes to happier and healthier relationships. 

Adriane:

Question #14: Now, you already mentioned a book, was that the book you wanted to share with us today, or did you have another one? 25:49 

Fatima Doman:

I love the books that I mentioned but, also I like Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence at Work. It’s kind of a go-to. I read it many years ago, but I go back to it consistently because there are so many insights in that book. It’s just full of research and information that helps you to better understand how to be more emotionally intelligent at work.

I believe that an awareness of our strengths is a huge contributor to developing emotional intelligence. And as you know, emotional intelligence is highly correlated with success, you know, at work. And, personally, as well, so…

Adriane:

Question #15: In closing, what is important for you about libraries, personally? 26:41 

Fatima Doman:

Oh, so much, so much. I think libraries fill a need that is just absolutely essential in society, I do. Because, when you think about this repository of beautiful knowledge, just a vast array of knowledge. I think about having come to this country—my family fled a war and we came to this country as refugees, seeing how access to free education and free public libraries is so critical to anyone’s life progression.

Everyone’s welcome in a library. You can go there, and you can learn, you can expand your mind. You can learn tools, and skills that can help you find a better job. There’s just so much in personal development that libraries provide. I think they’re absolutely essential to society.

Adriane:

I wish everybody could be in the studio with us today to feel this positive energy. Thanks for sharing this. And I know everybody out there in the library world is going to benefit from it, so thank you for being here.

Fatima Doman:

Thank you. It was my pleasure.

You’ve been listening to Library Leadership Podcast. I’m your host, Adriane Herrick Juarez. Our producer is Nate Vineyard. More episodes can be found at libraryleadershippodcast.com, where you can now subscribe to have new shows delivered right into your email inbox. You can also find the show on Apple iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you for listening. We’ll see you next time.

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