Strengths-based Approach to Development

by Stephanie Walters

Building awareness of your strengths

We spend our working lives so focused on problems and weaknesses that we often take for granted the strengths we already have. So the first activity in any strengths-based approach is to find out what your strengths are and how you use them effectively at work.

Watch out!

Because we don’t often focus on our strengths, it can feel uncomfortable and embarrassing to begin to investigate them. Talking about strengths can seem like we are being big headed and boastful. However, there are some tools and techniques that can help here. Don’t be surprised if at first it feels difficult; it will become easier the more you do it and the more others do it around you.

Ways of discovering your strengths

There are a number of online tools and resources that can help identify your strengths. These are often self-report questionnaires that take between 20 and 30 minutes to complete. If you don’t want or are unable to invest in one of these tools, there are other no-cost ways of identifying your strengths.

Self discovery

The simplest way to identify your strengths is to spend some time answering the following questions: thinking about a successful time at work

  • What did you did well? (Identify at least three things)
  • What did you enjoy doing the most? (Identify at least three things)
  • What did others tell you that you did well?

Ask your manager and co-workers to answer the following questions:

  • What do I do well at work?
  • What do you value most about the way I work?
  • What do you see are my biggest strengths?
Top tip

When you want to start to find out and talk about your strengths, engage your manager and team to do this too. This will give you the extra support needed to make the exercise work successfully, as it will enable you all to give each other ‘permission’ to take part in the process. It will help overcome the cultural barriers we often have to talking about our strengths.

Get a coach

Getting a coach can help you to explore your strengths. There are a number of great coaches who specialise in applying the principles of positive psychology and the strengths approach.

If you speak to your human resources department, they will be able to direct you to any coaches in your organisation or the recommended external providers or coaching.

A case study

Sarah is a marketing manager, but does not have any budget to complete a questionnaire. However, she liked what she had read about the way Strengthscope and Realise2 measure what you love to do – in other words, the things that give you energy. So she explored the questions listed above to help identify these things. She also got feedback from others.

Her answers and the answers from her team, colleagues and boss to the questions about her strengths revealed that she loved to do the following things:

  • Analyse information thoroughly and explore why things happen
  • Care about people and help them find ways to overcome problems
  • Stay calm under pressure.

Her team also told her she was good at

  • Caring about them as individuals and making them feel recognised
  • Being committed to her job and the company
  • Not being fazed by anything.

Her colleagues and boss told her

  • She has a lot of knowledge about the business
  • She understands issues really thoroughly
  • She provides some well-thought-through ideas to help solve problems.