By Leading Strengths Focus Coaches, Mike Roarty and Kathy Toogood
All professionals have their particular strengths, but many are weak when it comes to identifying and developing their own strong points, and doing the same for the people they manage. This can have serious impacts on business success, as a growing body of research has shown that a strengths focus brings many benefits to individuals, teams and organisations.
The good news is that you don’t need a degree in Positive Psychology to get the most out of strengths-focused leadership. In this handy guide, we provide seven invaluable tips to boost your strengths-focused leadership style and get the most from yourself and your team.
1. Check your mindset: is it strengths-focused?
Your way of thinking and attitudes directly affect your behaviour and therefore, your results. Strengths-focused leaders hold mindsets that empower both themselves and others. Here are some questions you can ask yourself in order to provide a solid foundation for applying the tools and techniques of strengths-focused leadership:
Do you believe that you are the best leader you can be when you are being authentic and playing to your strengths?
Do you believe that everyone has strengths that can be harnessed and does it seem obvious to you that people will perform at their best when expectations are clear and also aligned with their strengths?
Do you have your own evidence that people perform better and are more motivated if they are allowed to play to their strengths?
Does it make sense to celebrate what’s working in order to find the energy to address what isn’t working so well?
2. Know, use & DEVELOP your own strengths at work
There are many ways of identifying your strengths, such as asking someone to help you pinpoint them, or using an on-line strengths identification tool. Whichever method you choose, when you get very familiar with your own strengths you can create a plan to tap into them in ways that will enhance both your performance and your enjoyment at work. Choose three to five strengths that you would like to develop and really stand out for and then create a strategy for developing them. You may also have strengths that are untapped. Find ways of applying these strengths in a way that benefits you, your team and the business. Notice the impact on your energy and performance as you work on developing these strengths.
3. Manage weaknesses from strength
Have you ever noticed that a weakness may merely be a strength overplayed or applied in the wrong context? For example, a strength of planning can become a weakness of inflexibility if applied too much or in the wrong context. If that’s the case, then it can sometimes be easy to just modify the application of the strengths somewhat. Feedback from others can help here; get people to tell you when you demonstrate too much of your strength and what they would like instead. Strengths-focused leaders don’t ignore weaknesses. In fact, if you have any significant weaknesses that, if unaddressed, will seriously stand in the way of your success then you need to deal with these first. To take a strengths-focused and, therefore, more energising approach to turning around your weakness, think about other strengths that you have that you could bring out to play in those situations where you have previously faltered.
4. Align goals and objectives with your strengths
If you already have business goals, go back and look at how you are playing to your strengths in the achievement of these goals. Think about what more you can do to ensure that you are drawing on your strengths. Whenever you are setting new goals, always check that they are aligned with your strengths and make a note of which strengths you will be able to use in the achievement of your goals. If you have development goals, make sure that these goals are focused on developing your strengths. Taking action on your development goals will suddenly be much more energising than ever before. Research proves that your development will be much more successful if it focuses on building strengths. Only focus on a weakness if it is a significant derailer. Remember that you can also use this approach when helping your team set new business and development goals.
5. Help your team members to identify and develop their strengths
Introducing a strengths focus to others can be a lot of fun, as well as a hugely positive process which leads to higher levels of energy, job satisfaction and engagement. Before anything else, you will need to decide on how you want to introduce the idea of strengths to your team: at a workshop, at a meeting, or individually. You will also need to decide on the method that you are going to use to help your team members identify their strengths. Maybe a coaching conversation with you, or using an on-line tool? Make sure you use a coaching approach to help your team members talk about their strengths and how they want to develop them.
6. Strengthen your DAY-TO-DAY conversations
There are some very simple things that you can do to ensure you take a strengths focus in your day-to-day interactions. For instance, make it a habit to always start a conversation with an outcome focus (what does success look like?) rather than a problem focus. Also, focus first on what is working already and ensure that you find ways of managing weakness through strength. Use the scripts and videos available at www.sfleadership.co.uk to get familiar with how you can add a strengths focus to typical day-to-day conversations you have with your team.
7. Hold strengths focused meetings
There are many ways to strengthen your meetings. For example, always make sure you start on a positive note by inviting people to share achievements. Celebrate and explore successes and always ensure that you are clear about outcome. When you focus on solutions as opposed to problems it will be easier to get from solution to actions. Throughout the meeting ensure that people are listened to, not interrupted, and given more appreciation than criticism. Find a way of ending on a positive note and acknowledging people’s contributions.
The Strengths-Focused Guide to Leadership: Identify Your Talents and Get the Most From Your People by executive coaches Mike Roarty and Kathy Toogood is available now