Dealing with common myths about strengths development

Strengths-development

Applying a strengths-based approach to development is neither a management nor an HR fad. The strengths-based organisation selects on strengths and trains in skills and knowledge; it recognises strengths so as to deploy them effectively, combining them in innovate and robust strategies to develop and deliver results.

Conventions, myths, assumptions and stereotypes abound wherever people interact but a focus on strengths provides an effective way to improve performance and engagement.

People know their strengths

Writer and management guru Peter Drucker observed “most people think they know what they are good at. They are usually wrong and yet, a person can perform only from strength.”

Clarity and confidence around strengths and weaknesses actually takes some analysis, reflection and a level of self-awareness, and for a variety of reasons we may not always be clear-sighted about our own strengths and may take for granted aspects of our strengths and mastery.

Even those who do understand their strengths may have reservations about discussing them, perhaps through fear of appearing complacent or arrogant. In contrast, most people, especially those with more work experience, tend to be familiar with their weaknesses.

Using Strengthscope® we help employees learn how to combine their strengths, skills and abilities to achieve work and career goals whilst mitigating weaknesses and other risks to performance; this enables them to challenge limiting beliefs and to achieve peak performance. The key lies in time spent reflecting on strengths and deliberate development time focussed on how best to put them to use in pursuing aspirations both inside and outside of work.

With the strengths analysis in place it’s possible to design focused action plans that will stretch an individuals’ strengths to enable them achieve work and career goals. Managers with practical coaching skills and techniques can empower employees to optimise their strengths and skills.

Playing to strengths is the easy option

There is plenty of evidence to support the value of identifying and playing to your strengths but it’s important to recognise that, in context, some strengths may be optional whilst others are essential. You can’t always choose, and you can’t play it safe, growth depends on stretch and challenge, we learn a lot about ourselves when we deal with new situations and adjust to new contexts.

Knowing your strengths isn’t a one-stop shop, once you’ve assessed strengths using Strengthscope® you can move on to the next stage – building a strategy for personal development. Optimum performance is achieved when you operate outside your comfort zone and test yourself. To optimise one’s strengths and move from good to great takes work and application. It’s useful to consider ways in which to use signature strengths in addressing weaker areas.

Think of the performers and athletes who hone their strengths with constant practice to achieve peak performance. Carol Dweck suggests that if we are willing to learn and persist in the face of challenge we can grow strengths that may not be ‘natural’ talents.

You can ignore weaknesses

It’s natural to focus on existing and natural strengths more than we do on our weaknesses, but that doesn’t negate a need to manage those weaknesses. You can’t overlook weaknesses and it is short-sighted to assume that playing to strengths will be enough to offset them. We can work to address these areas but it would be unrealistic to expect to transform a weakness to a signature strength.

Leveraging core strengths to address areas of concern is the best option, Strengthscope® helps the user examine creative ways to use strengths in dealing with weaker areas. Armed with self-awareness about strengths we are better able to discuss our weaker area and other risks/blockers to performance. Strengths assessment can also help in building partnerships with others who have strengths in areas where we are weaker and this has the added benefit of enabling a strong team culture within the organisation.

Acknowledge weakness and invest in self-improvement. Relying solely on established strengths is too limiting and calls to mind ‘Maslow’s hammer’ – over-reliance on a familiar tool “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail”, (Maslow, 1996). We work in a volatile and uncertain environment and need to ensure we offer skills that up to date, relevant and in demand.

Management guru Marcus Buckingham claims that organisations that focus on cultivating employees’ strengths rather than simply improving their weaknesses stand to dramatically increase efficiency while allowing for maximum personal growth and success. A win-win situation!

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