When was the last time you sat down and thought about what your team does well? Like, exceptionally well? After all, you hired each one of them for a reason.
Besides the basic skills needed to complete their job description, every person brings unique perspectives, talents, and strengths to their team and organization. At Campfire, we call these identifying traits workplace superpowers.
Identifying and then doubling down on your team’s superpowers is a discipline that managers and company leaders should develop if they’re serious about attracting, retaining, and upskilling current talent. In this blog, we’ll break down the what, why, and how of leveraging your team’s superpowers — leaving you feeling empowered to bring your team’s strengths to the next level.
What Is a Workplace Superpower?
Simply defined, a workplace superpower is whatever each employee does best. It’s any ability that is enjoyable, applicable, and that sets that employee apart from the rest of their colleagues. It could be the “it factor” that made the employee stand out when you first hired them, or a trait that has developed since you brought them on the team.
Importantly, workplace superpowers aren’t necessarily hard skills, like coding or writing or analyzing data. Rather, most workplace superpowers have their roots in deeper human elements, like successfully managing relationships or bringing optimism in the face of challenges.
To give you an idea of what to look for, consider breaking down your employee’s superpowers into four categories: Envision, Design, Build, and Operate.
This category of superpowers includes traits that push your team to think outside of the box and explore things you might not have tried before.
Envision superpowers include:
This category of superpowers is more concerned about bringing the facts to the table and helping the team plan their next move.
Design superpowers include:
This category of superpowers is more about the process of how — how to scale, build, and improve on your work activities.
Build superpowers include:
Finally, the Operate category of superpowers relates to the employees on your team who are more concerned with the people they’re interacting with and how their work impacts others.
Common Operate superpowers include:
Ideally, you’ll have a mix of superpowers on your team already. And of course, don’t limit your list of superpowers to this list! A workplace superpower could be any trait you’ve noticed that your team member brings to the table.
Simply bringing a conscious awareness to your team’s traits will give you a new perspective on who they are and how you can best serve them as a manager.
Why Acknowledging Work Superpowers Is Crucial for Leaders
Why is it so important to identify and then acknowledge the workplace superpowers of your employees?
Pointing out superpowers is a great way to help your employees feel both empowered and valued at work — two major indicators of workplace satisfaction and retention. Not to mention, pointing out strengths is a great way to help your employees learn and receive feedback more effectively.
Lastly, identifying your team’s superpowers is kind of your job. You’re not only their manager and mentor — in many ways you’re also their coach. Taking an active role in your employees’ development and progression not only benefits them, it also benefits you as your encouragement improves morale, relationships, and, yes, business outcomes.
Not convinced yet? More and more evidence is emerging behind the power and importance of sharing positive feedback at work.
Acknowledging Superpowers Improves Employee Engagement & Retention
Consider this: A 2022 study found that, while 91% of employers believe that their employees feel empowered at work, 52% of employees see themselves as “easily replaceable” — more like a cog in a wheel than the person shaping the wheel itself.
A recent Gartner survey found that the pandemic has irrevocably changed the way employees feel about work. According to their research, employees “want acknowledgement, growth opportunities and to feel valued, trusted and empowered.” To do this, employers need to start providing value to their employees on a human level — pay increases won’t cut it any more.
Post-pandemic, there’s never been a more crucial time to connect to your employees on a human level by recognizing the specific strengths they bring to the table and why your work would be impossible without them.
Reinforcing Superpowers Improves Learning
Another benefit of identifying and leaning in to your employee’s superpowers is that it encourages learning.
Rather than pointing out negative areas and trying to have your employees learn that way, research has proven that positive reinforcement does more good than pointing out mistakes. According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), learning best happens when we understand what we’re doing well, not what we’re messing up.
“Learning is less a function of adding something that isn’t there than it is of recognizing, reinforcing, and refining what already is,” the HBR team writes.
Why? Our brains are literally wired that way. We’re able to grow quicker in areas where our neurological pathways are already formed.
Additionally, bringing attention to strengths acts as a catalyst for learning, whereas criticism “inhibits access to existing neural circuits and invokes cognitive, emotional, and perceptual impairment.”
If you’re serious about helping your employees feel empowered, start by giving them more positive feedback that identifies and reinforces their existing superpowers.
How to Identify & Develop Your Team’s Superpowers
So, what does a tried and true process look like to empower your team to develop their superpowers? We’re so glad you asked. Our three-step framework was built for business leaders to implement and scale with their teams so you can help your team do more of what they do best.
The first step is to identify what your team’s superpowers are. As we mentioned above, there are a range of different categories their superpowers could be classified under.
Help your employees identity their own superpower by asking them the following questions:
- What fills you with energy or passion?
- What things do you look forward to doing?
- What is something you did that made you feel accomplished or proud?
- What do people ask you for advice about?
These questions will get the gears turning to bring their hidden superpowers to the surface. A tip here — it’s completely possible to have more than one superpower. If more than one trait comes to mind, roll with it! The more superpowers the merrier.
Next, a key step for you as a manager is to validate your employee’s superpower(s). Again, by providing positive feedback, both in the moment and retrospectively, you can reinforce that superpower in them.
Here are two examples of how you can validate a superpower on your team:
- “You really shined when you did (insert superpowered activity here). I think you’re great at that. Do you agree?”
- “What do you see on our team that could be more (insert superpower here)? Will you help us with that?”
Your positive reinforcement will get those neurological pathways firing, making it more likely your employee will keep using their superpower for good. Think of it like a workout for their brain (no blood, sweat, or tears necessary).
Lastly, turn your team’s budding strengths into fully-fledged superpowers by keeping the cycle of identification and validation going. As their manager, you should provide them with the best environment to test, build, and even develop new superpowers as time goes on.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Match responsibilities, tasks, and projects to their superpowers.
- Invite them to teach their strengths to others on your team.
- Help them find new ways to use their superpower.
- Giving them additional challenges or higher level responsibilities in their superpower.
By taking an intentional approach to your team’s superpowers, you’ll be able to unlock your team’s full potential.
To bring it all together, your team is full of superheroes. Each one has unique attributes and strengths — superpowers — that they bring to your organization. As a manager, if you can effectively identify, validate, and grow those superpowers, you’ll unlock their full potential. By helping them feel empowered and seen at work, you’re more likely to have employees that are engaged, satisfied, and ready for the next challenge.
What about developing your own potential and superpowers, you may ask? Never fear, Campfire is here. Not only do we help budding leaders develop their own strengths into superpowers, we do it in a way that’s fun, engaging, and applicable from day one.
We tackle management development through a hybrid learning approach that’s perfect for remote or hybrid teams. Whether you’re in HR, management, or executive leadership, we’ve got your back. Learn more about what we do here.