Monday, September 26, 2016

Skillful Means: Patterns for Success

The book Skillful Means: Patterns for Success by Tarthang Tulku is powerful read about the motivation underpinning human work.  

Here is an excerpt: 

"Skillful means is a three-step process that can be applied to any situation in our lives. The first step is to become aware of the reality of our difficulties, not simply by intellectual acknowledgement, but by honest observation of ourselves. Only in this way will we fin the motivation to take the second step: making a firm resolve to change. When we have clearly seen the nature of our problems and have begun to change them, we can share what we have learned with others. This sharing can be the most satisfying experience of all, for there is a deep and lasting joy in seeing others find the means to make their lives fulfilling and productive."

"When we use skillful means, we directly approach our work, take immediate action to solve our problems, and uncover the strength of our natural abilities. Each of us has this potential, and if we realize it, we can then share our insights and appreciation with others. Eventually, we may be able to bring benefit and enjoyment to all of humanity, so that all will learn to lead satisfying lives."

Excerpted from Skillful Means: Patterns for Success by Tarthang Tulku (Nyingma Psychology Series). Copyright © 1991 by Dharma Publishing. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

24 Signature Strengths

Back in 2001, while working at my cool counseling job in Florida, I worked with a supervisor named Brenda Dawkins. This amazing woman stood out to me because she introduced our team to strengths-based counseling.  At that time, we were all still skimming the surface on this positive approach, but I remember how empowering it felt to be with a leader who "noticed" strengths in us, and then how awesome it felt to work with clients by talking about their core strengths. 


Seligman's 24 Core Strengths

This is just an intro post and is not meant to be exhaustive. I am sharing it because I invite leaders, supervisors, and managers to look for these strengths in their employees. 

Too often we only point out flaws and we forget to identify and reinforce strong areas. 

 When we help employees see more of their core strengths, it can have an uplifting and edifying rippling effect. Discussing strengths can help build a relationship with the worker, which then allows for more unity when discussing areas to improve. 

Employees often feel vulnerable when flaws area exposed. This is a natural human response. Sometimes high achievers can become the most insulted - or workers might misunderstand the process of discussing areas to improve and it becomes a source of stress.  Discussing weak areas with workers is a layered issue and many managers have seen major upsets after mentioning areas to improve. Many times the upset could have been prevented with a better delivery. 

I do not want to even go there with the topic of "appraisals" (another time for sure) but keep in mind that all people respond better when they feel valued and understood.   

You can help your employees feel valued and understood by discussing some of their core strengths areas.  And if you do not know any of their strengths, I encourage you to have your workers go HERE to learn more about options. Parents can also use this list because "all leaders" who have "others" under their care will benefit from being in tune with individual strengths and unique wiring. 

Key Takeaway: 
If we fortify people by noting strengths and affirming talent, then they might be more confident when it comes time to discussing "areas" to improve. 

~~~~24 Signature Strengths 

Strengths of Wisdom and Knowledge: Cognitive strengths that entail the acquisition and use of knowledge

1. Creativity [originality, ingenuity]: Thinking of novel and productive ways to conceptualize and do things.

2. Curiosity [interest, novelty-seeking, openness to experience]: Taking an interest in ongoing experience for its own sake; exploring and discovering.

3. Open-mindedness [judgment, critical thinking]: Thinking things through and examining them from all sides; weighing all evidence fairly.4

4. Love of learning: Mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge, whether on one's own or formally.

5. Perspective [wisdom]: Being able to provide wise counsel to others; having ways of looking at the world that make sense to oneself and to other people.

Strengths of Courage: Emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external and internal

6. Bravery [valor]: Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; acting on convictions even if unpopular.

7. Persistence [perseverance, industriousness]: Finishing what one starts; persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles.

8. Integrity [authenticity, honesty]: Presenting oneself in a genuine way; taking responsibility for one's feeling and actions.

9. Vitality [zest, enthusiasm, vigor, energy]: Approaching life with excitement and energy; feeling alive and activated.

Strengths of Humanity: interpersonal strengths that involve tending and befriending others

10. Love: Valuing close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated.

11. Kindness [generosity, nurturance, care, compassion, altruistic love, "niceness"]: Doing favors and good deeds for others.

12. Social intelligence [emotional intelligence, personal intelligence]: Being aware of the motives and feelings of other people and oneself.Strengths of Justice: civic strengths that underlie healthy community life

13. Citizenship [social responsibility, loyalty, teamwork]: Working well as a member of a group or team; being loyal to the group.

14. Fairness: Treating all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice; not letting personal feelings bias decisions about others.

15. Leadership: Encouraging a group of which one is a member to get things done and at the same maintain time good relations within the group.Strengths of Temperance: strengths that protect against excess

16. Forgiveness and mercy: Forgiving those who have done wrong; accepting the shortcomings of others; giving people a second chance; not being vengeful.

17. Humility / Modesty: Letting one's accomplishments speak for themselves; not regarding oneself as more special than one is.

18. Prudence: Being careful about one's choices; not taking undue risks; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted.

19. Self-regulation [self-control]: Regulating what one feels and does; being disciplined; controlling one's appetites and emotions.

Strengths of Transcendence: strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and provide meaning

20. Appreciation of beauty and excellence [awe, wonder, elevation]: Appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in various domains of life.

21. Gratitude: Being aware of and thankful of the good things that happen; taking time to express thanks.

22. Hope [optimism, future-mindedness, future orientation]: Expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it.

23. Humor [playfulness]: Liking to laugh and tease; bringing smiles to other people; seeing the light side.

24. Spirituality [religiousness, faith, purpose]: Having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose, the meaning of life, and the meaning of the universe.


Linley, P. A., Nielsen, K. M., Gillett, R., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2010). Using signature strengths in pursuit of goals: Effects on goal progress, need satisfaction, and well-being, and implications for coaching psychologists.International Coaching Psychology Review, 5(1), 6-15.

Seligman, M. E., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American psychologist60(5), 410.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Article Abstract: Investigating Employee Needs

Name of Researcher: Yvette Prior  Dissertation Title: Investigating Extrinsic and Intrinsic Employee Needs in Hospitality Workers   Year: 2015
Maintaining employee motivation continues to be an important issue for most organizations, and improving motivation is especially important in the hospitality industry because more than half of the workers are unmotivated. The specific problem is that ongoing low motivation can impair success for both the worker and organization, but before effective motivational strategies can be developed, more information is needed about workers’ needs. Previous research findings have contradictory outcomes about reward efficacy and the purpose of this qualitative, holistic case study was to explore extrinsic and intrinsic needs of employees in the hospitality industry. 

The participants for this study included 12 employees from four different restaurant settings on the East Coast of the United States. Purposive criterion sampling was used to collect data from participants with at least three years of experience in this industry via face-to-face interviews. Data analysis was done with NVivo 10.0 software in order to identify themes from the transcribed employee interviews. 
The themes for extrinsic needs were: (a) sufficient income and (b) customized incentives. The themes for intrinsic needs were: (a) autonomy (b) growth and (c) supportive supervisors. A third research question emerged from the data and two additional themes for absent extrinsic rewards identified were: (a) lack of sufficient income and (b) lack of enjoyable experiences at work. Based on the study findings about intrinsic needs it was recommended that hospitality managers aim to come across as supportive while they help workers fulfill needs by providing a variety of reward options that cater to the changing needs of workers. Based on the study findings about extrinsic needs it was recommended that managers customize rewards because not all workers value the same incentives. It was also recommended that managers use pay and tangible job perks (extrinsic activities) to prevent employee job dissatisfaction, and then use trainings, interesting work activities, and autonomous opportunities (intrinsic activities) to improve enjoyment at work and employee motivation. 
Suggestions for future research included focusing on the managerial perspective of reward management, exploring the needs of workers from different job sectors, and the use of additional quantitative inquiry to expand current findings. This research contributed to the literature on work motivation and findings can be utilized to develop and improve incentive plans for restaurant employees. 

The full dissertation is available at ProQuest.
Upcoming articles from Dr. Yvette Prior will be posted here and linked on the Research Page on this blog.