In my last blog, I talked about ways to overcome self-doubt and one of the things I mentioned was focusing more on running your own race rather than overly comparing yourself to others by, among other things, learning how to play to your strengths.
There is a lot of talk lately about strengths, which is great because knowing how to play to your strengths is not only a way to learn how to ‘run your own race” most effectively, it’s also one of the fundamental wellbeing building blocks.
Schools and workplaces are starting to realise the importance of helping people gain an understanding of their strengths. In fact just this week, an international strengths expert Professor Lea Waters – came to speak at Christ’s College on this very topic.
What are strengths and how to do they differ from skills?
Strengths are natural capabilities that energise and enable optimal functioning or performance. Skills are things we do well or have learned to do well. The key difference between them is that for something to be a strength rather than a skill, it has to be energising for us. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you feel energised and engaged when you do it.
Consider the way many of us choose our careers or courses of further study at an early age – it’s usually as a result of people telling us (or us noticing through our school exam results) that we’re good at something. But think about this – being able to do something is one thing, enjoying and gaining energy whilst doing it is quite another.
I think it’s important to point out at this stage that although we might not be aware of them, we all have strengths, skills (or “learned behaviours”) and weaknesses.
Why are they important?
Using your strengths enhances both your wellbeing and your performance – personally and professionally.
Some of the main evidence-based reasons to play to your strengths include:
- Being happier
- Having higher levels of self-esteem
- Feeling less stressed
- Improving your resilience
- Feeling more confident
- Having more energy
- Being able to perform better at work
- Feeling more engaged in your job
- More likely to achieve your goals
- More effective at developing and growing
- Improving communication
And I’m sure you can imagine some of the benefits of bringing a strengths-based approach into an organisation.
Here’s some of the data around that:
- Strengths use improves relationships, communication and teamwork
- People who use their strengths every day are up to six times more likely to be engaged in their work, meaning they feel more satisfied and committed
- When leadership fails to focus on individuals’ strengths, the odds of an employee being engaged are 9%, but when they focus on strengths it rises to 73%
- When performance conversations with managers focus on weaknesses, performance can decrease by 26%, but when individuals speak about their strengths it increases by 36%
- People who use their strengths are 38% more likely to be productive
CAPP UK amalgamated research data
One thing I notice when I’m working with people who are bored, frustrated or dissatisfied, low in energy or struggling – it’s invariably because they aren’t using their strengths enough and/or they’re using their weaknesses and draining behaviours too much.
How can we find out what our strengths are?
You’re probably already aware of some of your strengths. They are things that people tell you you’re good at, and you might also be aware yourself of activities that give you energy. Pay attention any time you’re feeling engaged in doing a task or activity and ask yourself what is it about that experience that is so engaging for you.
To gain a better understanding of your strengths, there are a number of strengths assessments you can use online. The most common one used in schools and workplaces is the VIA, which stands for “Values in Action”, which helps you identify the things you do best.
However, with my clients I prefer to use an assessment called Strengths Profile. Strengths Profile assesses not only how well you perform the strength, but also whether using the strength energises or de-energises you and whether it is something you use frequently or infrequently – so it gives a 3-dimensional picture rather than a simple 1-dimensional picture.
With this tool, the three areas above are used to divide results into four quadrants, with each strength appearing in one of the following quadrants: Realised Strengths, Unrealised Strengths, Learned Behaviours and Weaknesses. In this way, it can be likened to an individual SWOT analysis:
Realised Strengths = Strengths
Weaknesses = Weaknesses
Unrealised Strengths = Opportunities
Learned Behaviours = Threats
This makes the Strengths Profile an ideal tool to help people develop self and interpersonal awareness, provide a platform for personal and professional development, aid career decision-making and to enhance wellbeing, resilience and energy.
Some of the things I work through with my clients to help them understand and apply the results of their own Strengths Profiles are:
- Which strengths do they particularly love using?
- Are there any strengths that are at risk of being overused and leading to burnout?
- How can they mitigate weaknesses by using strengths instead?
- How can they find outlets for under-utilised strengths?
- Are there any strengths that could be used together for highly effective performance?
- Are there any areas where using their strengths can potential cause conflict with other people?
- What are some career and life-change clues coming out of their profile?
- Are they in the right job for their particular blend of strengths or would they be more suited to something else?
Of course the areas discussed depend on what the results yield and the client’s intention in doing the Profile in the first place.
Strengths Profile can be used in conjunction with personal and professional development plans.
It can be aligned to personal and organisational goals.
In addition to individual Strengths Profiles, team profiles are also available, which can provide valuable insight into strengths patterns within teams – revealing among other things, collective strengths, blindspots, potential areas of conflict, areas of high performance and effectiveness, as well as untapped potential.
Understanding your strengths helps bring out the best in you!
If you’d like to find out more about Clearchange Strengths Profile programmes email firstname.lastname@example.org or give Kirsten a call on +64 21 186 9717