Psychology SymbolOne of the biggest breakthroughs in both psychology and management and leadership thinking over the last few years has been in the area of strengths.

In terms of developing people, this approach recognises that there is more to be gained by building on our strengths than trying to improve our weaknesses. Many performance management programmes focus far too heavily on the latter. This focus on weaknesses may partly explain why so many people are unhappy in their work. There is substantial evidence that focussing on what we are naturally good at produces better results than constant attention to what we don’t do well.

All training and coaching programmes delivered by SMART PD use Strengths as an initial focus to ensure individuals work in a way best suited to them.

So, what does it mean for Performance Development?

As a leader, if you understand and use your own strengths, you are more likely to enhance your own performance and to motivate and manage your team effectively. Also, by understanding the strengths of your team, you will have a significant influence on their performance which results in success across the board.

An approach based on developing strengths has been shown to deliver improved individual and organisational performance. The culture of an organisation is linked to the climate and this can have an enormous impact on performance. A positive climate is evident when individuals have clarity about their role, is set reachable standards, given recognition for what they do, is accountable for delivering and feels part of a team. Consistently, workplace research has demonstrated that the more these things are in place, the better the motivation and the better the performance as measured by profit, turnover or customer satisfaction. Research has also demonstrated that the biggest influencing factor in building a positive climate is the immediate line manager. So, what could be more positive and motivating than having your manager understand their own strengths and to help their teams focus and build on their strengths?

Many people have difficulty in understanding their strengths. We often talk about our skills and competences but strengths are different. According to Linley (2008) there are five fundamentals of the strengths approach:

  1. The strengths approach focuses on what is right, what is working and what is strong
  2. Strengths are part of our human nature, therefore we all have strengths
  3. Our areas of greatest potential are in the areas of our greatest strengths
  4. We succeed by fixing our weaknesses only when we are also making use of our strengths
  5. Using our strengths is the smallest thing we can do to make the biggest difference

So, essentially, strengths are the things we are good at and that energise us. People who use their strengths are:

  • Happier
  • More confident
  • Have higher self-esteem
  • Higher levels of energy and vitality
  • Experience less stress
  • More resilient
  • More likely to achieve their goals
  • More engaged at work
  • More effective at developing themselves and growing as individuals