Strengths-based development

Trudy Bailey led a session at the Learning Arena on strengths-based development.  Trudy is a consultant at CAPP & Co Ltd.  She was supported by psychologist Reena Jamnadas, who took part in a live demonstration of a coaching conversation.

Trudy set out three crucial areas for strengths:

  • Performance – what we do well
  • Energy – what makes us feel good, what motivates us (the duvet question: what gets us out of bed in the morning?)
  • Use – they might be strengths, but how often do you use them?

She quoted Steve Jobs – the only way to be good at a job, is to love it.  So you have to know where your energy is coming from.

The business benefits of working to people’s strengths are obvious: including motivation, retention, great service/customer satisfaction.

You should apply a strengths-based approach across the employee lifecycle: eg onboarding, individual coaching, team development, working with apprentices, talent and career management and performance.

This doesn’t mean ignoring or being complacent about weaknesses.  We need to “minimise our weaknesses and play to our strengths”.

CAPP’s R2 model looks at 60 strengths in four quadrants: Realised Strengths, Learned Strengths, Unrealised Strengths (can be very big early in career but not only), and Weaknesses.

Under Weaknesses you also need to include: “what stops me using my strengths?”

So general advice often includes (see photo):

  • Maximise Unrealised Strengths: don’t keep them a secret!
  • Marshal Realised Strengths: you can dial strengths up and down – eg volunteering is great, until you get overburdened..
  • Moderate Learned Behaviour: recognise that they are not actually strengths – it’s not what gets you out of bed
  • Minimise Weaknesses: and also watch for weaknesses which accumulate in a team (Trudy mentioned a team where 21 out of 22 people had “adherence to rules” as a weakness

It comes down to: what do you want to be known for?

Questions from the floor: is this 360 or self-evaluation?  It’s a self-evaluation model at the moment.

I caught Trudy and Reena afterwards and asked what the biggest impact tended to be, in their opinion.  The response:

  • the “lightbulb moment” when people grasp that what they’re good at isn’t necessarily the thing that motivates them, their strength.  It’s fascinating to watch people talk about their high performance with negative body language.
  • the moment when teams realise that they share weaknesses and that they are all getting tired by the same thing.  This can open the route to solutions.
  • the accessibility of the tool – as something practical, and easier than running a more theoretical campaign about appreciative inquiry.





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