Many of our courses and team-building activities have an element of a strengths based approach within them. Why’s that? The research on strengths and their use in the workplace provides a compelling argument as to why organisations could incorporate strengths on a more regular basis. But first, what is a strength?
A strength can be defined as “a natural capacity for behaving, thinking, or feeling in a way that allows for optimal functioning & performance in the pursuit of valued outcomes” (Linely & Harrington, 2006).
It follows, then, that if we use our strengths on a more regularly that our well-being will increase as it allows us to function optimally and perform better. However, more often that not we are asked to look at our weaknesses and improve on them or are counselled to turn them into strengths. I’m not sure how you felt the last time you were asked to focus on a weakness and turn it into a strength, but my guess is didn’t feel very good. There are some sound reasons for this. According to Linley, strengths are characterised by their:
- Use – the frequency in which we use them
- Performance – how well we use the strength, and
- Energy – whether we find the strength energising or de-energisingWeaknesses are those that we perform poorly and find de-energising. No wonder we may feel less than optimal when we focus on our weaknesses to try and turn them into strengths.
Instead, imagine if we could harness our realised and unrealised strengths. They are ones where we perform well and find energising. The difference between realised and unrealised strengths is their frequency of use. Realised strengths are the ones we use often while unrealised ones are those we don’t. Linley advises that our well-being can be enhanced by maximising our unrealised strengths; using our realised strengths more and minimising the use of weaknesses.
By now we can see that using strengths within an organisation and team environment may have real benefits. The research demonstrates this by showing that teams and organisations that use strengths are able to:
- Tap into unused talent throughout the organisation
- Attract and retain more of the people it needs
- Improve individual performance
- Build employee engagement
- Develop flexibility
- Improve teamwork
- Increase diversity and positive inclusion
- Increase openness to change and the ability to deal with change
- Contribute to the happiness and fulfillment of employees
Source: The strengths book. (Linley, Willars & Biswas-Diener)
Depending on your approach to strengths, there are different ways to measure them. You can choose to use the VIA signature strengths test ; the strengths finder 2.0 or the Strengths Profile.
All three will give you a deeper understanding and appreciation of your own strengths and some guidance about how to use them in your professional and personal life.
So we encourage you to take the first step in your strengths journey by gaining an appreciation for what makes you unique and build your well-being personally and professionally.