June 11, 2007
Name a Strength and
Make a Difference
Show me the trunk of your car. Hand me your luggage. Step back. I’ll
find a way to fit it all in. Why? Because I’m a good packer.
car, no mini-van, no SUV scares me. I can squeeze anything in no matter
what you drive. You can call my trunk-packing a sort of strength. I can
do it consistently well and I enjoy doing it. Over the years I’ve
volunteered to pack the family trunk thousands of times. And I’ve been
called in for the most difficult of jobs. I’m the “go-to” guy of
Now, of course, there’s a beginning to every success story. Here’s mine.
One day my Dad – everyone called him Big Lou – was having trouble
finding a place in the trunk for one last bag. As he stepped back to
take a better look, I stepped forward, adjusted three bags and slipped
the final bag into place. I felt like I had just laid down the final
piece of a jigsaw puzzle. I looked up at Big Lou. Big Lou looked down at
me, and said, “David, you’re a good packer.” I swelled with pride. I was
nine years old.
Martin Seligman, co-founder of Positive Psychology, and Christopher
Peterson, a leading Positive Psychology researcher at the University of
Michigan, found in their research that by simply naming a strength in
someone you amplify it. My dad named my strength over three decades ago.
And he did more than that. Like a good leader, like a good father, my
dad turned that experience into a story and he told everyone. And he
made sure that I could hear him telling it.
Think about your employees. Think about your children. How many times
have you named their strengths? And how often have they heard you
proudly telling others about their strengths?
The best leaders know that their belief in their employees’ strengths
has a positive impact on their performance. It also affects the goals
their employees set. Stanford Psychology Professor Albert Bandura found
in his research that “the goals held for others convey to them a belief
in their capability to fulfill them.”
the next time you notice your employees, your spouse or your children
doing something very well, consider naming the strengths you see. Watch
them light up. Watch how much more they use their strengths. They’ll
apply them often and they’ll do it with pride. You’ll have made a
Recently I stepped out of my car in the Toys R Us parking lot and I saw
a young boy, his mother and his grandmother trying to squeeze his new
bicycle into their car. I stopped and offered my help. Why? Because I’m
a good packer.
For 10 minutes the boy and I struggled to find a way to get the bike in
the car. We came close many times. But, finally, the mother called the
boy’s father and said that they might not be able to bring the bike
home. But I wouldn’t give up. Why? Because I’m a good packer.
few minutes later, I paused and thought we might not actually be able to
get the bike in the car. I stepped back and the little boy saw my face
and said, “Wait.” He reached in, grabbed the front tire, moved it ever
so slightly and said to me, “Push.” And I did. The bike slipped right
saw him light up with pride. I smiled, walked over to him, put my hand
on his shoulder, and said, “You’re a good packer.”
© 2007 David J. Pollay.
Distributed by North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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