The psychology of human strengths is becoming ever more popular in businesses, maybe not as much as in the United States, but nonetheless, it is becoming an important approach to increase employee wellbeing and helping employees to perform at their best.
What is a strength?
A strength can be defined as: “A strength is a pre-existing capacity for a particular way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is authentic and energising to the user, and enables optimal functioning, development and performance’’ (Linley, 2008).
I think it is important to highlight that a strength isn’t just something that we’re good at, because we can be good at something and it can be boring or draining. If we’re energised or “in the zone” when performing well, it is often a sign that a strength is at play. Additionally, we may overlook our strengths as we think that everyone can carry out such an activity well. For example, a friend of mine shows the strength of self-regulation by the way that he is very disciplined in his work and makes sure that he cuts out distractions to get his work done. He was bemoaning his colleagues who like to spend time having meetings to generate new ideas, when I explained that they had the strength of creativity and how both his strengths and theirs both served a positive purpose to the company. His esteem grew about his own strength and he was also more accepting of his colleagues’ strength, so that they worked together more harmoniously.
Why a strengths approach?
There is a growing body of research into the application of strengths, which is showing a positive impact on the workplace for both employees and employers. A strengths approach is being introduced into companies as it has been shown to increase:
• Employee engagement
• Job satisfaction
• Achieving goals more effectively.
Employees are also reported to have fewer sick days, which is becoming increasingly important with the rising numbers of employees being signed off due to stress or burnout.
How often have you heard the phrase, “play to your strengths” and then the exact opposite has happened, i.e. there has been a focus on what your weaknesses are and then trying to rectify them? Before I started researching about strengths and applying them, I was guilty of focusing my management style and staff appraisals on what was going wrong and needed to be fixed. Little did I know that I was setting up my staff to be competent and not to be flourishing.
Now, I’m not advocating that we forget about weaknesses and only concentrate on strengths, because if your car had a puncture I would recommend you fix it. However, if you want to get somewhere, I’d advise you to make sure that the tank is full, the oil has been checked and you select the best route to get there. I am more suggesting that we spend more time focusing on our own and our colleagues strengths than weaknesses. This strengths approach is our best opportunity to perform at our best.
So if you’re wanting to find ways to improve performance at work then look at what your strengths are and those of your colleagues and look for opportunities to use these strengths more at work. In one of my upcoming blogs, I’ll talk about strengths spotting and how it can enable you and your colleagues play to your strengths and really thrive at work.