When looking at the latest research in the field of organizational and human development quite astounding results can be found in relation to why a different approach, a strength-based approach, might be the best way to ensure a competitive advantage. Research also suggests why a strength-based approach means going from traditional ideas of well-being at work to an approach which calls more for the understanding of engagement and passion.

In other words the strength-based approach is not just a feel-good approach to ensuring workplace happiness but rather a leadership approach that ensures authentic well being as well as business performance.

To be clear; a strength is not necessarily something we are good at, a strength is that which strengthens us, makes us more resilient and engaged in what we do. In other words a strength in our character is a pre-existing capacity for a particular way of behaving, thinking or feeling that enables optimal functioning, total engagement and top performance all while leaving us feeling more authentic and passionately energized.

Everyone has strengths but far from everyone is clear about what their strengths are and how to use them in a way that makes sense to themselves and their surroundings. In fact research suggests that only one third of us are able to consciously describe what our strengths are.

Research is clear

It is found that people with a higher usage of their strengths report higher subjective well-being and fulfilment in life.

People who use their strengths in a new and different way every day also report higher levels of subjective well-being as well as lower levels of depression and that effects last over time.

Using strengths more also results in higher levels of self-efficacy, self-esteem, positive energy and vitality. Furthermore it is shown that when people align their strengths with goals they are much more likely to achieve their goals. And when achieved they tended to be happier and more fulfilled with the result. 

Strengths and the brain

Organizational agility is in today’s business world one of the most crucial cultural aspects a successful manager needs to ensure, however it is highly doubtful if a primary focus on weaknesses and deficits is the best route to agility. In fact research suggests that people who leverage their strengths rather than fix their weaknesses to reach their goals reach them faster and with more joy and meaning.

The evidence for strength based goal achievement in real world organizational studies are compelling. A recent study originating from neuroscience further supports the idea. At Case Western Reserve University’s Wheatherhead School of Management researchers recently did an interesting discovery on two groups of students receiving two different types of feedback. The group who received the more strength-based feedback showed a much stronger activation of the visual cortex, which is the area used to envision the future and engage with others in order to identify the best way to progress. The other group saw practically no activation in the visual cortex but in stead much higher activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which made them become more defensive. Watch this video for more on this fascinating study

Build & Share stories of strengths

Upon identifying ones strengths through the VIA Character Inventory or the use of our Strength Cards (other tools can also be used) participants build one or more of their signature strengths. The stories related to these strengths are shared with the group and later combined into a coherent model of ones strong identity. It is also very common to let people build a model that tells a story of a strength they see in another person. Last but not least strength combination and strength usage can be explored through the Build & Share Strength Scenario process.