Strengths-based Approach to Development

by Stephanie Walters

Using the strengths approach to get promoted

The process involved in using your strengths to work towards a promotion is very similar to the one used when you would like to overcome a weakness or a problem. In other words, to create a strengths-based personal development plan that focuses on getting promoted, you need to go through the same three simple stages:

  1. Build awareness of your strengths and how you use them at work (see here)
  2. Prioritise a development area you would like to work on
  3. Identify ways you can use your strengths to help you in that area.

However, the focus in the last stages will be slightly different.


A case study – stage one

Sam currently works in finance as a business analyst, but wants to become a finance manager. He has decided to use the Strengthscope tool and a number of the questions listed in Building awareness of your strengths to gather feedback on his strengths.

He has identified that what he enjoys doing is

  • Meeting and getting to know people
  • Thinking about the bigger picture and the purpose of projects
  • Finding the most practical solution to problems.

His co-workers have told him that what he does well is

  • Listening and understanding their priorities and issues
  • Challenging them to think about the bigger picture implications of their actions
  • Being down to earth and easy to get along with.

His boss and senior stakeholders have told him that what he does well is

  • Use his knowledge and experience to come up with practical solutions
  • Think strategically
  • Build a great network of colleagues at his level.

Strengthscope has identified his three standout strengths (the things that give him the most energy, in other words) as

  • Empathy
  • Common sense
  • Strategic mindedness.

Prioritise a development area to work on

There are three questions to answer when beginning to prioritise an area to work on. These questions will enable you to

  1. Identify what promotion you would like to achieve
  2. Explore how ready you, your manager and key stakeholders feel you are to make that move
  3. Prioritise what you need to develop in order to get promoted.


Assuming you have identified the promotion you would like to achieve, you now need to focus on exploring your readiness to make that move.

To do this, you will need to gather feedback from your manager, your colleagues and your key stakeholders.

Top tip

The best way to ensure you get clear information from the people you ask for feedback from is to meet with them face to face and ask the three questions listed above. Simply getting them to write their feedback in an email may not give you all the information you need and also removes the opportunity for you to ask for clarity on any points.

Once you have this feedback, you will need to identify any common themes and see what stands out as a key area that most people recommend you develop.

Having briefed the people you would like feedback from on your desire to get promoted, ask them the following:

  1. What do I do already that demonstrates I am operating at the right level to get promoted?
  2. What do I need to do differently or more of to demonstrate I am operating at the right level to get promoted?
  3. What do you think is the most important area for me to focus on?
A case study – stage two

Sam’s feedback has highlighted certain areas that he needs to work on to be operating at the next level.

His co-workers have told him that he needs to

  • Challenge his boss and senior stakeholders more
  • Spend more time getting the detail right in his reports
  • Be more creative.

His boss and senior stakeholders have told him that what he needs to more of is to

  • Speak up in meetings more
  • Influence senior stakeholders better and more quickly
  • Be known better by the senior stakeholders, as they feel they don’t know him.

Sam decides that there is a theme about influencing both his boss and senior stakeholders and, because their opinion is crucial to whether he gets a promotion, he decides to focus his attention on that development area.

Identify ways you can use your strengths to help

As our case study shows, once you have identified those areas on which you need to work if you are to gain promotion, you can then work out how to use your strengths to achieve the desired changes.

A case study – stage three

Sam has had the feedback that he needs to be able to influence senior stakeholders in meetings more, as they see this as something he needs to overcome if he wants to get promoted.

On reviewing all his feedback, Sam notices that this only happens with senior stakeholders. It doesn’t happen with his colleagues on the same level as him: he is good at winning them over to his way of thinking.

Sam thinks about what could be different between the way he behaves with his colleagues and with his senior stakeholders. He realises that he spends a lot of time getting to know his colleagues by using his empathy and relationship-building strengths, so feels he has a good relationship with them. His colleagues have also told him that he seems to really understand their perspective and that he really listens to them.

His Strengthscope profile also showed that some people felt he used his empathy and relationship building strengths a lot, whereas others felt they never saw these strengths.

He had asked for feedback as part of the Strengthscope process from both his colleagues and senior stakeholders and believes the different responses are from the different groups. This has made him realise that he doesn’t spend any time with his senior stakeholders in one-to-ones, either getting to know them or letting them get to know him.

Ironically, he knows he’d really enjoy doing that, but never really thought about it before.

So he decides to book in one-to-one meetings more regularly with key senior stakeholders and use his empathy and relationship-building strengths to get to know them and for them to get to know him.