The psychology of human strengths is becoming increasingly popular in organisations and it is becoming an important approach to increase employee wellbeing and enabling them to reach peak performance and to flourish in their careers. A strengths approach in the workplace is having a positive impact in generating greater success for organisations.
What is a strength?
Leading strengths researcher, Professor Alex Linley, defines a strength 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''.
Often people assume that a strength if just something that we're good at, but I think it is important to highlight that a strength is much more, because we can be good at something, but it can be boring or draining for us. If we're energised or "in the zone" when performing excellently, it is often a sign that a strength is active and is present. In addition, we may be blind to our strengths as we take them for granted or think that everyone can carry out such an activity well. For example, a friend of mine displays the strength of self-regulation by the way that he is very disciplined in his work and makes sure that he blocks out distractions to get his work done. He was grumbling about his colleagues who like to spend time having meetings to generate new ideas, when I explained that this may show that the strength of creativity is present and how his strengths and theirs both served a positive intention for the organisation. His esteem grew about his own strength and he was also more accepting of his colleagues' strength, which resulted in them being able to work together more harmoniously and effectively.
Why a strengths approach?
There is a growing amount of research into the application of strengths, which is showing a positive impact on the workplace for both employees and employers. Where a strengths approach has been introduced into organisations, it has been shown to increase:
- Employee engagement
- Job satisfaction
- Achieving goals more effectively
Additional benefits have been that employees are also reported to have fewer days of sick, which is becoming increasingly important with the growing number of cases of employees being signed off work due to stress or burnout.
Play to your strengths
How often have you heard the phrase, "play to your strengths" and then when it came down to it, 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 human strengths and applying them, I was guilty of focusing my management style and employee appraisals on weaknesses and what was going wrong and needed to be fixed. Little did I know that I was setting up my employees to be competent and not to be thriving at work.
Now, I'm not suggesting that we can 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 advocating that we spend more time focusing on our own strengths and the strengths of our colleagues rather than weaknesses. This strengths approach is our best opportunity to perform at our best in the workplace and to further the success of organisations.
So if you're wanting to find ways to improve performance in the workplace then look at what your strengths are and those of your colleagues and look for opportunities to use these strengths more at work. In a series of future blogs, I'll talk about each strength at work in turn from one of the leading strengths classifications in the field of positive psychology and how you may want to apply them in the workplace.