05.12.2019, Lesezeit: ~5min
Companies today operate in dynamic markets, which are characterized by steady progress and structural changes. This work structure is more flexible and job security decreases. Moreover, the tasks of the employees become more complex and the pressure to adapt to new requirements grows.
Personal development today faces challenges. Qualifications should serve the company´s competitiveness as well as the employees; provide them skills that are also attractive outside the company.
Research has proven that the best way to develop people is to identify the ways in which they most naturally think, feel and behave as unique individuals and build on it.
One of the cornerstones of the positive psychology is the strength-based personal development. What is it? What is the difference between strength and talent? How can we build strengths? What is its practical use for Leaders and/or of positive psychology? What is the strategy of managing weaknesses?
What is Strengths-Based Personal Development? (SBD)
Strengths-based development (SBD) has its roots in positive psychology and forms a new, dynamic approach to personnel development that targets the achievement of exceptional individual and organizational outcomes by a process of identifying and valuing employee talents, developing them into applicable strengths and putting these strengths into practice.
“People don’t change that much. Don’t waste time trying to put in what was left out. Try to draw out what was left in. That is hard enough” (Buckingham & Coffman, 1999, p. 57).
Gallup asked the following question around the world: “Which would help you be more successful in your life: knowing what your weaknesses are and attempting to improve your weaknesses, or knowing what your strengths are and attempting to build on your strengths?” Those who choose to focus on their strengths and manage around their weaknesses were a minority in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Japan, and China - every country in Gallup’s study.
What are Strengths and Talents?
To begin, it’s important to define terms associated with strengths-based development, strength and talent.
Linley and Harrington (2006a) defined strength as “a natural capacity for behaving, thinking, or feeling in a particular way that allows optimal functioning and performance in the pursuit of valued outcomes” (p.88). Furthermore, Buckingham and Clifton (2001) clarified that strengths are not innate but must be built by combining the natural talents possessed by an individual with knowledge and skills. Once strengths are built, they energize individuals, motivate them, and give them a sense of authenticity (Govindji & Linley, 2007).
Talent x Application (Knowledge & Skill) = STRENGTH
Talent is defined as naturally occurring. Roughly, between the ages of 3 and 15, the human brain organizes itself by strengthening the synaptic connections used often, while infrequently used connections weaken over time. After about age 15, an individual’s unique network of synaptic connections does not change significantly. While this doesn’t imply that people cannot change, it does provide scientific backup for the notion that their talents, or recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior – don’t significantly change over time. Individuals can develop a heightened self-awareness, they can stabilize their values and beliefs, and they can add knowledge and skills on the way to developing their talents into strengths. Still, it seems that their greatest return on their investment into development comes from focusing on the synaptic connections that are already strong.
Less scientifically, we can say, that many people think about talents as an ominous thing that only other people possess. Maybe that’s because talent is a word with strong associations, but a talent is simply a characteristic that constantly influences how you feel, think or behave.
How to build strengths?
At the individual level, strengths-based development involves three stages:
How to lead with your strength?
Strategies for managing weakness
When we identify a weakness, we have two options:
Most people tend to focus on strategy 1. However, this strategy is the least effective one. When something is not our talent, then no matter how much we try to improve on it, we will always stay average. Without an underlying talent for that activity, we will never be able to become outstanding on a consistent basis. Hence, purely focusing on improving our weaknesses is never a path to glory.
In some cases becoming average is essential and worth spending time and effort on. For example, Tiger Woods simply cannot ignore working on his putting skills in order to be a great golfer. So sometimes, we have to improve our weaknesses if they are too much of an obstacle. However, the main focus should always be on focusing and developing our talents and strengths. That’s our unique advantage that we have to use.
Focusing on Strengths Increases:
• Individual growth
• Career satisfaction
• Engagement in work
• Staff retention
• Organizational growth
Focusing on Weaknesses Decreases:
• Engagement in work
I truly believe that living a strength and talent based life means living a more content, happy and successful life. Our society doesn’t teach us to focus on our individual talents and develop them, so we have to take responsibility for ourselves.
Strengths-based development has a potential that is just started to be realized. There is clearly a need to educate the world about positive psychology in practice and the importance of understanding and focusing on strengths.
Anita T. Németh