One of the great ways to approach life, leadership, training, coaching or any other way of working with people is so called strengths based approach.
Why strengths based approach? And what is it, anyway?
In some ways, you can compare life to a cruise where you are a sailing boat. And on that sailing boat, weaknesses are like holes in the boat, while the strengths are like the sails of this boat. Just focusing on fixing weaknesses won’t take you far, but if holes are too big, the sail won’t really help. Yet, using the sails is what really takes us forward in life and provides much more enjoyment than fixing the holes. Even though we also need to pay attention to keeping our “holes” under control, sails are what really moves us towards the destination. (This sailing boat metaphor comes from by Robert Biswas Diener in his book Practicing positive psychology coaching).
Simply put, strengths based approach is approach to people from perspective of looking for their strengths and qualities, looking how to nurture these and how to engage people in a way that will maximise the usage of those strengths.
To give a bit more scientific perspective, diverse positive psychology research showed that strengths are strongly related to happiness, resilience and meaning. It also showed that focusing on strengths:
Being in an environment that supports and encourages our strengths helps us flourish and feel authentic and “at home” – in such environment we have the ability to develop our full potential, both in terms of self-development and the results we are achieving.
“Research tells us that individuals who use their character strengths lead happier, more satisfying lives. Only when you understand your unique character strengths can you begin to live a life that is engaging, exciting and rewarding to YOU.”, according to VIA Institute on character.
What are strengths?
According to the Positive Psychology Institute, a strength is a natural capacity for behaving, thinking or feeling in a way that allows optimal functioning and performance in the pursuit of valued outcomes. A strength is something we're not only good at, but we're energized by. A strengths’ perspective empowers people, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, or (dis)ability.
There are several definitions of strengths, the most used ones being
“Character strengths are the psychological ingredients for displaying human goodness and they serve as pathways for developing a life of greater virtue. While personality is the summary of our entire psychological makeup, character strengths are the positive components— what's best in you.” (by VIA institute) and “… a strength is a pre-existing capacity for a particular way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is authentic and energizing to the user, and enables optimal functioning, development and performance” (by Alex Linley).
If you are curious to dig really deep into understanding subtle nuances of strenghts and virtues, Seligman provides a detailed classification of the different virtues as well as a strengths survey that is available on his website: www.authentichappiness.org or on site of VIA Institute of Character: https://www.viacharacter.org . Or grab his most comprehensive book “Character strengths and virtues”.
What is really important in strengths based approach is the strong focus on discovering and nourishing positive sides of people and supporting them in using those sides.
For example, if working with a team, talk about strengths can be used for bringing team closer together by inviting them to share their strengths with others (assessments and cards can be very helpful tool for this – Trainers Toolbox will publish more info on these tools soon), or even better, asking colleagues to “nominate” each other for certain strength.
Alternatively, or as the next step in the session, strengths based approach can be used for the team to discuss which strengths they have as a team (bringing strengths from individuals together), and in that way encouraging feeling of many resources that the team has, innovation in how to tackle a certain problem, and promoting the feeling of pride in own team.
Ok, I am convinced. How can I incorporate strengths based approach in a training?
You can use strengths based approach in training in different ways:
Where can I learn more on how to use these approach?
For details on how to use each of these ways, you can check our following posts, which will dig deep into ways to use strengths based approach.
About author of the article
Founder of Trainers Toolbox, trainer passionate about learning, getting things done, creating great training content and delivering it in an enthusiastic and energetic way. Being trainer since 2008, Mirna developed rich knowledge in positive psychology, NLP, evidence based training, coaching, and many other innovative trainer's tools and techniques. Next to Trainers Toolbox, she is also a founder of Happiness Academy, project aimed at educating and inspiring people to lead happier and more fulfilling lives. Read more about Mirna at www.mirnasmidt.com.
Mirna , initiator of Trainers Toolbox, is a trainer in love with training tools and innovative games, positive psychology, NLP, and everything that makes learning more impactful and engaging.