Playing to your people’s strengths, part 1

strengthsfinderOne of the keys to driving high performance is understanding and leveraging the strengths of people on your team. As leaders, this means we need to 1) know what the strengths are, and 2) provide opportunities for people to  use them. This post will focus on the first step, identifying strengths.

You may be familiar with Gallup’s StrengthsFinder assessment. This is a useful tool for individuals and teams to identify and support the things that we each do best.  Another list of strengths was developed by leaders in the positive psychology profession. It includes:

  1. Strengths of wisdom and knowledge such as creativity, curiosity, and perspective
  2. Strengths of courage such as persistence and integrity
  3. Strengths of humanity such as kindness and social intelligence
  4. Strengths of justice such as citizenship and leadership
  5. Strengths of temperance such as forgiveness and humility
  6. Strengths of transcendence such as gratitude and humor

These are powerful words. With our stereotypical Minnesota modesty, you may find yourself or someone you are coaching is reluctant to claim them. Here are some signs to help people identify their strengths:

  • Authenticity:  Does it feel like “the real me?”
  • Engagement:  Am I excited to use this strength, and to learn more about it?
  • Rapid learning: Does it come easily to me? Am I frequently learning new ways to display the strength?
  • Inevitability:  Do I frequently find myself in situations where I need to use this strength? Can I “not help myself?”
  • Energy:  Does using this strength recharge me rather than lead to exhaustion?
  • Intrinsic motivation:  Is an opportunity to use the strength its own reward?

Think about your team’s successes over the past year. What did it look like when you saw people using their strengths?

Dee Anne Bonebright


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