Strengths-Based Leadership | Cultivating Joy As The HR Imperative

Cultivating Joy As The HR Imperative

By Saj Shah

Saj Shah, founder of global consultancy Joynetix — which advises organisations on strategies to generate thriving, joy-fuelled cultures at work — says that to get the most out of staff, we need to focus on their core strengths rather than pulling them up on their weaknesses.

Through his consultancy, Joynetix, joy tsar Saj Shah helps global companies generate thriving, joy-fuelled work cultures that expand employee well-being, optimise performance, elevate productivity, and spark innovation.

In the dynamic tapestry of today's corporate arena, the age-old management mantra often resounds: ‘diagnose the deficiencies, repair them, and predictably await performance peaks’.

However, as the corporate landscape evolves, this entrenched philosophy finds itself on the precipice of a paradigm shift. Now, more than ever, HR professionals and business leaders stand tasked with the challenge of critically evaluating and reorienting their strategic compass.

Marcus Buckingham, a vanguard in the realm of strengths-based leadership, brings to light a compelling organisational ethos. As he reveals in his book Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance, while some 61% of people were found to believe that our most pronounced development comes from addressing our weaknesses, Buckingham's research paints a different canvas — our pinnacle moments of innovation, growth, and success are birthed when we tap into our core strengths.

Nestled within this revelation lies a salient truth about human psychology: although criticism tends to anchor deep, genuine transformation is ignited by a recognition of strengths, which invariably engenders joy.

A recent Gallup's State of the Global Workplace report underscores this narrative with startling clarity: nearly 90% of UK employees are disengaged from their job and are either quiet or loud quitting.

With their passions and talents simmering beneath the surface, untapped and underutilised, it is creating a significant joy gap in the workplace — the difference between the employee's expectations for experiencing joy versus their actual experience of joy at work.

The challenge for HR professionals and business leaders? To reignite that latent fervour, transitioning beyond mere engagement metrics to cultivating an ethos of genuine joy.

A Harvard study offers additional food for thought. Alarmingly, our minds, in the everyday hustle, tend to wander around 47% of the time we are awake, not being in the present moment with the consequences of detracting from the immediacy of tasks and eroding our intrinsic joy and productivity.

The study’s researchers, Killingsworth and Gilbert, capture this sentiment succinctly: “A wandering mind is an unhappy mind.”

Such cognitive drifts, often overshadowed by recurring self-doubt, invariably distance us from our tasks, leading to a heightened experience of stress and anxiety and a diminished experience of joy in the moment.

How, then, can HR professionals strategically tap into these insights, translating them into tangible organisational dividends?

The linchpin, as it appears, rests in discerning and celebrating an individual’s ‘character strengths’ — those positive facets of an individual's personality that profoundly shape how one thinks, feels, and behaves.

These are not just attributes; they are the very touchstones that unlock an individual's zenith of joy and potential.

Drawing from a vast pool of knowledge — encompassing literature, science, philosophy, and religion — positive psychology pioneers Dr Martin Seligman and Dr Christopher Peterson have meticulously distilled six universal virtues and 24 foundational character strengths existing throughout time and in all cultures of the world.

These are believed to underpin human flourishing. This exhaustive research culminated in the creation of the VIA Character Strengths Survey — which has become the world’s premier scientifically validated tool in the field of positive psychology that assesses an individual's character strengths.

For HR professionals eyeing transformative shifts, a two-tiered approach crystallises:

  1. Strategic Strengths Assessment: Seamlessly integrate tools like the VIA Character Strengths Survey into HR frameworks, transitioning from an ancillary tool to a bedrock of talent management.

  2. Operational Realignment: Craft roles to resonate with these identified strengths, ensuring a seamless alignment between individual aptitudes and organisational aspirations.

Strengths-based leadership, as many in the HR community are realising, is not a fleeting trend but the dawn of a new HR era.

Integrating individual strengths with organisational goals forges a harmonious corporate climate. While critiques might spotlight performance gaps, it's a strengths-focused approach that truly crafts organisational champions.

HR professionals now have the baton in their hands. By accentuating strengths and fostering a culture rich in joy, the dividends are manifold: unparalleled morale, heightened productivity, and a distinct competitive edge.

In the intricate matrix of HR strategies and policies, the embrace of joy, underpinned by strengths, emerges as a seminal differentiator.

In summary, a strength-centric, joy-fuelled ethos offers a triad of benefits:

  • For Employees. Elevated job satisfaction, enhanced mental well-being, and a profound alignment with the company's vision. A Gallup poll showed that when managers focus on employees' strengths, 61% of workers are engaged and only 1% are actively disengaged.

  • For HR Professionals. A pioneering approach that prioritises talent retention and overall organisational agility.

  • For Organisations. A demonstrable uplift in engagement levels, diminished attrition rates, and bolstered organisational outcomes

Saj Shah is the author of bestselling guide Joynetix: Unlock Your Joy Potential. Joynetix is your roadmap to overcoming stress, anxiety, and burnout, and cultivating a workplace where joy thrives. This comprehensive, science-backed book will help you discover a new way to work—one filled with joy, purpose, and balance.

For those in HR who seek empirical validation of this approach, the data resonates with clarity. Organisations that have embraced this strengths-based methodology consistently outshine their peers.
The distilled essence? When strengths become the focal point, weaknesses naturally recede into the periphery.

As HR professionals embark on this transformative journey, the blueprint is lucid: pivot from the traditional deficit-focused model to a contemporary, strength-driven approach that activates joy in the workforce.

The culmination of recognising joy not merely as an aspirational metric but as an HR cornerstone is an invigorated organisation, propelled by inspired employees, all primed to tackle tomorrow's multifaceted challenges.

Joynetix: Unlock Your Joy Potential by Saj Shah (Balboa Press) is out now on Amazon in paperback and eBook formats, priced £12.95 and £1.99 respectively. For more information, visit You can also follow Saj Shah on LinkedIn.

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