Using strengths for positive change

Using strengths for positive change

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Using strengths for positive change


Do you ever ask the question “Why is that person so good at that when I really struggle with it?” Or maybe it is “Why does that person struggle with something that I find to be easy and fun?”

Every day in our jobs or otherwise in our lives, there are things that each of us enjoys doing and things that we don’t ….. and they are different for each of us. Or maybe it is that, while we might do the same tasks, we might go about them in different ways and some of us get more fulfilment from completing those tasks than others.

Why is that?

It isn’t just about the education, training and experience or the natural physical, social or intellectual capabilities that each of us has, albeit that they are important for each of us.

In the early 2000s, scientists started exploring what it is that helps people to be at their best. 50 scientists led by luminaries Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman looked across countries and cultures and thousands of people for those qualities that are universally considered to be the strongest parts of being human (Refer: “The Power of Character Strengths: Appreciate and Ignite Your Positive Personality” by Ryan M. Niemiec & Robert E. McGrath). From that research, the VIA Classification of Character Strengths and Virtues was created.

Character strengths are basic elements of our identity and each of us is stronger in some strengths than others. It is when we are able to use the signature strengths that we are likely to be at our best in performance, in relationships and in personal wellbeing and happiness. Similarly, when we have to deploy our lesser strengths to perform a particular task, we can find that a struggle because it doesn’t come naturally to us and we have to work harder at it.

The VIA Classification comprises 24 character strengths grouped under 6 virtues as depicted in the graphic below.

You can undertake a free survey to identify your character strengths profile at

Why might you want to do that?

I’ll tell you what doing this survey and understanding my character strengths profile has done for me:

  • I have a much clearer sense of my own personal identity and how I can be at my best
  • I now know why it is that I struggle with some tasks and I can manage that better
  • I have improved my wellbeing by doing stuff that fits with my signature strengths every day
  • I have also been more mindful of and compassionate to myself when I have had to exercise my lesser strengths (and rewarded myself for getting through the struggle)
  • I better understand how I can make my best contributions for others – essentially by being who I am and leveraging my signature strengths for their benefit
  • I am happier and more resilient

Additionally, understanding the character strengths of others (clients, friends, colleagues, family) has helped me to better understand how I can best support them with my character strengths and draw on their character strengths in a positive way for themselves and others including me.

That is why the practice of character strengths is such an essential element of positive psychology and a key ingredient in the consulting work that we do today.

If you haven’t done the VIA Character Strengths Survey, give it a go – there is only upside. Here is the link again


Author: Peter Maguire



Ridgeline Human Resources Pty Ltd
Abn : 24 091 644 094

6 Ellesmere Ave, Croydon Victoria 3136

Peter Maguire : 0438 533 311

Monday - Friday 9am - 5pm


You can’t outsource TRUST!

You can’t outsource TRUST!

The recent report on the National Workplace Wellbeing Survey 2020 by The Wellbeing Lab in conjunction with the Australian Human Resources Institute asked a couple of questions that we want to explore. The first was : “Do your workers feel psychologically safe enough to talk honestly with each other about their wellbeing?” So what does “psychologically safe” mean? According to Wikipedia: “Psychological safety is being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career (Kahn 1990, p. 708).[1] It is “a condition in which you feel (1) included, (2) safe to learn, (3) safe to contribute, and (4) safe to challenge the status quo- all without fear of being embarrassed, marginalized or punished in some way.”(Timothy R Clark, 2019)[2] It can also be defined as a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking.[3] In psychologically safe teams, team members feel accepted and respected. It is also the most studied enabling condition in group dynamics and team learning research.” Given that definition, it should come as no surprise that, according to the survey results:

  • People who are prepared to talk about their wellbeing challenges first go to someone they trust who is most commonly a friend or family member outside work (ie the people they have the closest relationships with).
  • For those who would raise it with someone at work, it is most commonly a team member or their manager (ie the people they have the closest relationships with at work).
  • Conversely, outsourced support (EAP Programs) and institutional support (HR Departments) are the least likely places that people will go for wellbeing support (each of those was reported as the place people would go to in less than 3.5%  of respondents).

This just reinforces the fact that a key ingredient of psychological safety is trust and you can’t outsource that. When you think of it in those terms, it is easy to understand why the results are what they are. People are most likely to speak with people whom they know and trust. Perhaps that is also why so few people would go to HR or EAP – because they don’t know them well enough to trust them? That leads us to their second question: Do your workers feel psychologically safe enough to talk honestly with each other about their wellbeing?” The challenge for any organisation is to do two things:

  1. Enable a psychologically safe work culture and environment where people will open up about any challenges that they are having with confidence and feeling supported and
  2. Equip and empower line managers and people generally to provide caring and practical wellbeing support to individuals, with teams and across the organisation as a whole.

For larger organisations, the repositioning of HR Departments to be focused on building strong, trusted and valued relationships with people across the organisation should be a priority. For smaller businesses, look for an external HR consultant who brings that wellbeing capability and the trust factor along with the rest of the HR toolkit that you might need for process and compliance. All of this is consistent with another piece of advice from the report: “Caring for workers’ wellbeing requires diverse and sustained support at the levels of ‘me’ (workers), ‘we’ (teams) and ‘us’ (whole workplace) to create a thriving workplace environment.” Of course, all organisations need external specialist supports and networks that can assist in helping employees with their support needs in relation to wellbeing. Having access to professional and community supports with medical and allied services, counselling and psychological support services at a practical level for the organisation and its people is important. Our Better Workplace Projects and our EngageMentality Coaching Programs both have employee voice and trust/integrity as central pillars of the employment relationship. If you would like to explore how we can assist in building a psychologically safe culture based on trust and wellbeing, please do not hesitate to contact us. [contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Phone’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Your enquiry’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form] [/av_textblock]

Positive People Practices #1 – Positive PDs

Positive People Practices  This is the first in a series of blogs on various tools that you can use to assist in leading and managing people and practical ways in which you can use them. First cab off the rank is the Position Description. #1: Positive PDs with 6 purposes The Position Description (PD) has been around for decades and can be found in lots of different forms if you have a look around. Have you ever asked yourself: “Why do we have PDs? What is the point of them?” That is a very good question and it can elicit a lot of different answers. The reality (something that very few businesses understand, let alone appreciate) is that the PD is arguably the most powerful multi-functional tool in your people management toolkit if it is properly structured and used. So what can you do with PDs? Here are the 6 powerful purposes:

  1. Compliance satisfaction: every employer has statutory obligations under workplace health and safety legislation to provide employees with proper instruction, supervision and training in their duties. A properly constructed PD (supported by functional communication processes) provides documentary evidence of compliance.
  2. Recruitment effectiveness: when you are looking for a new employee, you want to get the optimal return on the investment in the recruitment and selection process. This starts with giving candidates a clear understanding of the role. Added to that, you want to have a clear understanding of the attributes that you are looking for so as to gear the campaign accordingly. A well-rounded PD does this and provides the foundation for designing the selection process to thoroughly explore the required and desired attributes for the role and make an informed and evidence-based selection decision.
  3. Targeted development: understanding the skills and attributes required to be successful in a role is key to targeting training and development activity starting with onboarding and progressing right through the employment lifecycle. This is an important component of a PD that helps in the making of effective learning and development plans and activities as well as in succession planning.
  4. Structured performance management: the starting point for any performance plan should be a review of the employee’s performance against the functions performed and the outcomes expected in a role. This is central to having a proper evidence-based performance management process that is both substantively and procedurally fair (legally and in practice). It also enables balanced feedback for positive conversations about strengths and achievements as well as improvement opportunities. The detail on functions and outcomes in PDs is an essential ingredient for achieving these outcomes.
  5. Relationship optimisation: in any role, there are relationships that are important to the success of the incumbent – people who this person relies on for certain things and others who rely on this person for specific things. These can be managers or peers or subordinates or others in process chains. The better that those relationships work, the more effective (and happier) people individually and collectively will be. PDs that identify key relationships and performance outcomes provide a great basis for managing those relationships through shared understanding of and commitment to the partnerships and interdependencies involved.
  6. Better employee engagement: study after study tells us that some of the key factors in employee engagement are that people have meaning and purpose in their work and that they have clarity about their role and performance expectations. PDs structured in the right way and actively used as the multi-functional tool that they can be (as per 1-5 above) clearly support those critical engagement factors

So there is the business case – now what? What should the PD include? Before we get to the contents, let’s talk about language. If you want to have positive conversations with people, use positive language that supports emotional connection of the employee with the organisation and its goals and engagement of the employee with the role that they are employed in. Next let’s consider strategic alignment and there is a very simple and proven formula for enabling this and that is Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle Approach.

  • Why?     State the purpose and the performance outcomes required of the role
  • How?     What are the enablers of good performance – qualifications required, skills and attributes needed, key relationships, etc
  • What?   A list of the duties that the incumbent performs

Tips for developing the PD  Step 1: Draw up a table or spreadsheet with 4 columns headed:

  1. Functions
  2. Attributes
  3. Relationships
  4. Outcomes

Step 2: Make a list of all of the functions that the role performs Step 3: For each function, consider what attributes (skiils/knowledge or other qualities) are required to perform the function well and list these attributes in the second column Step 4: For each function, consider what relationships are involved in performance of the tasks involved – list the interdependencies (what the incumbent relies on someone else for and what others rely on the incumbent for) Step 5: Again for each function and taking into account all of the information in the first 3 columns, identify what the required performance outcomes are and list these in the fourth column You now have a comprehensive PD which, used properly, gives you that multi-faceted tool with which all 6 of the purposes set out above can be satisfied. Need a hand? Give Peter Maguire a hoy on 0438 533 311 or at [/av_textblock]

National wellbeing survey delivers a wake up call for employers

National wellbeing survey delivers a wake up call for employers

The Wellbeing Lab 2020 Workplace Report, the third of its kind produced by the Wellbeing Lab in conjunction with The Australian Human Resources Institute, is out, this year with a follow up piece on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the key findings were not all that surprising for example:

  • That people who experience struggle and stress can be more resilient and better able to look after their own wellbeing
  • That struggle is a part of life and normalising struggle in workplace conversations is important for supporting people’s wellbeing
  • That one size does not fit all and workplaces need a diverse approach with different ways of supporting wellbeing and not just an EAP

On the other hand, some findings were a real wakeup call:

  • Over a third of workplaces are providing no support for people’s wellbeing.
  • The most popular form of support offered by workplaces is EAPs (Employee Assistance Programs) but, wait for it…….EAPS were also seen as the least effective. In fact, just 3.3% of people said that the EAP is who they would ask for help when struggling.
  • Workers are most likely to ask someone outside work for help. Within the workplace, it would likely be a team member or their boss but, wait for it again…….they were least likely to go to HR for help (just 3.2%) just marginally behind the EAP (3.3%). Notably both of these numbers halved from the previous year’s survey.

So, based on these findings, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that the primary investments that most organisations are making in wellbeing (HR & EAP) are delivering the least return in wellbeing impact, would it? Interestingly and, from our perspective, not surprisingly, the survey found that wellbeing coaching (offered in less than 10% of workplaces) was seen as the most effective form of wellbeing support. There is a shift happening with organisations rebranding HR as “People and Culture” to provide at least an appearance of being more human-centred. However, the change from the corporate norm of a culture based on shareholder return, risk management, data analysis and process control to one which is truly centred on people is massive. At the core of that is enlightened and vulnerable leadership from the very top of the organisation, building quality relationships based on trust at all levels and across the whole of the organisation (business/teams/people) all underpinned by a common purpose and value set that is a lived experience every day. That includes how organisations, managers, teams and people manage wellbeing as a key element of managing the performance and development of the organisation and its people. So, the challenges are for the whole of the organisation and not just HR. They require a fundamentally different way of thinking and behaving and different skillsets and mindsets across the board, starting from the Board and including those working in the field of HR. How can we help? The report talks about there being 3 levels at which wellbeing needs to be worked on:

  • “Me” – our EngageMentality Performance Development process deals specifically with wellbeing
  • “We” – our EngageMentality Team Coaching process fosters team support for each other with an emphasis on positive relationships
  • “Us” – our Better Workplace Projects use a positive psychology approach to transform workplace culture and worker experience

So, the report is in – what are you going to do about it? You can access the Wellbeing Lab 2020 Workplace Report here. [/av_textblock]

A day in the life of Ridgeline HR

A day in the life of Ridgeline HR

Someone asked me what a day in the life of Ridgeline HR looks like. Well the truth is that it is a bit like the weather and we are never quite sure what that next challenge will be or where it will come from. What we do know is it could be any number and nature of things so we have to have the agility to adapt to respond to client needs. For example, yesterday, I:

  • Helped a creative design and manufacturing business with recruitment
  • Advised a hospitality business on a restructure
  • Ran a strategic planning workshop for a charity
  • Consulted to a community services organisation on classification and remuneration structures
  • Advised a transport business on an investigation and potential termination
  • Coached managers in an engineering business on values and behaviours
  • Assisted a travel agency with a redundancy
  • Consulted to a quarry on managing a chronically ill employee
  • Helped a construction business with connection to HRIS and employee engagement resources
  • Advised a financial planning practice on impending changes to modern awards

Where: Bayswater, Brisbane, Croydon (2), Geelong, Knoxfield, Little River, Melbourne CBD, Mulgrave, Scoresby. All in a day’s work at Ridgeline HR, Helping PEOPLE in BUSINESS with all manner of business and people matters in any industry anywhere. With continuously growing demand for our services and a range of exciting new services to come online this year, we are looking for HR generalists with strong workplace relations and HRIS competencies to work with us as contractors on assignments. Expressions of interest are invited. Contact Peter Maguire on 0438 533 311 or at  [/av_textblock] [av_image src=” attachment=” attachment_size=” align=’center’ styling=” hover=” link=” target=” caption=” font_size=” appearance=” overlay_opacity=’0.4′ overlay_color=’#000000′ overlay_text_color=’#ffffff’ copyright=” animation=’no-animation’ av_uid=’av-2gqpdm’ custom_class=” admin_preview_bg=”][/av_image]

Lots changed in 2019 and more coming in 2020

 As we transition in to the New Year, it is worth just checking that we are up to date with Fair Work and other changes that came in in 2019 and we are ready for what is coming. Here are some little reminders on what has already changed:

And a couple of new heads ups:

The modern award review process is still going in the Fair Work Commission 6 years after it started and we can expect more changes to awards in the year ahead. The other burning issue in 2019 was that of all of the cases of corporate underpayment of wages and the growing use of the term “wage theft”. This has prompted State and Federal Governments to explore the potential for criminal sanctions for deliberate wage theft – more coming on this no doubt in 2020. Anyone needing help with any of this or any employment matter, give Peter Maguire a call on 0438 533 311 for a free initial phone consultation. [/av_textblock]