Friday, 11 December 2009

Partnerships Based on Strengths

If you are planning on creating a new partnership, or looking to develop an existing arrangement, don't go any further before reading Gallup's latest research on this subject. The most effective partnerships are those built around each others strengths! It is all common sense of course but is is common practice?

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The Strengths Trap?

In a recent article in the Washington Post, John Rosemond illustrates clearly a concern that often gets expressed when we work with people on developing their confidence and begin by highlighting strengths – how can I take this seriously when all my life I have been ‘taught’ to deal only with my weaknesses? Although Rosemond refers specifically to how we as parents deal with our children in a realistic manner when the overwhelming message is that we need to be encouraging and emphasise the positive; the same applies in business. It’s all very well to switch the emphasis away from shortcomings to strengths in the annual performance review, but this switch needs to include a realistic appraisal of strengths that includes a detailed review of personal achievements and, preferably, some feedback from those who work closely with the employee in question. To do anything less would surely be to fall into precisely the same trap that Rosemond highlights, wouldn’t it?

Monday, 23 November 2009

Negative Self- talk

In his recent blog post Dave Shearon tackles the issue of dealing with negative emotions within Postive Psychology head on. One way to do this, he suggests, is by 'learning to contest and re-direct negative self-talk'. As someone who has struggled with this art I thought, 'easier said than done' - that is until I came across the work of Julie Ness Bell on Performance Intelligence at Work. In this easy to read text she outlines the The 5 Essentials to Achieving The Mind of a Champion, and offers this practical model - 'Recognise, Re-focus, Routine' as process for applying our attention to the elements of performance that are more likely to help us achieve a positive outcome. She says:

...especially in today's tough economic times, many corporate leaders are stalled by fears of failure. This approach robs us of any chance at greatness, but this three-step method (R3) overcomes this challenge by creating new habits in the brain. Recognising self-talk, learning to refocus attention on different aspects of a situation, and establishing new thought routines ensures that those debilitating tapes will stop being replayed in your head.

A quick scan through related work on the web reveals an large amount of papers and texts from the world of Sports Psychology that offer similar models and ways of 'thinking'. I wonder whether Positive Psychology pays enough attention to the world of sport as it searches for new ways to bring its theories to life?

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

A Strengths Based Portfolio Career?

In their new book, And What Do You Do? Barie Hopson and Katie Ledger offer individuals the opportunity to reflect on how they might construct a portfolio career based around thier strengths. One of the ten steps they highlight builds on Bernard Haldane's work on Motivated Skills. The central premise being that a strength is not a strength at all unless we have an appetite for using it. The website for the book provides more background material, a free look at the introduction and a whole lot more.

Articulating Strengths Together (AST)

Need to discover your strengths? Then consider doing it in a group setting rather than via a computer screen. Jearald Forster, long time colleague of Bernard Haldane and strengths 'thought leader' at the University of Washington in Seattle, shows you how in his new book called Articulating Strengths Together (AST). The purpose of the AST is to guide you and three others through a series of activities that will give each participant a list of his or her most valued personal strengths. This process was adapted from the longer Dependable Strengths Articulation Process (DSAP), which was developed by Bernard Haldane during the second half of the 20th Century. The interactive process offered in the AST follows a carefully developed sequence of activities that can be completed in about three hours.

The book also explores the possibilities of identifying objective strengths through internet-based inventories. These objective approaches are compared with the subjective approach of the AST. The advantages of the subjective approach are tied to the fact that strengths articulated through the AST are anchored to personal experiences that can be recalled because the strengths were originally identified when considering real-life experiences.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Strengths and 'Narcissism'

Advocates of strengths approach in coaching have long had to deal with criticisms levelled at its ‘Pollyanna’ nature. Much of this questioning has been legitimate but has missed the point that the approach does not ignore weaknesses, rather it asks people to acknowledge them and manage them. New criticisms suggest that focussing on strengths in children can lead to a ‘narcissism’ which leads to a confidence which lacks substance.

In this article, author and Coach Chris Trout reminds us that spending time to accurately identify your strengths is the key to building confidence and resilience that will stand up under challenge.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Benjamin Zander

Last week I had the privilege of listening to and watching Benjamin Zander speak live for the first time. As a long time fan of his book The Art of Possibility I went with high expectations but was completely blown away by the experience. To those familiar with positive psychology and a strengths approach, many of his messages will not be news. However, he brings these messages to life in a unique and compelling way which leaves you in no doubt about our own potential and the possibilities for those who look to us for leadership and support.

Look here for a taster.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

A Balanced View?

In his book Curious? Todd Kashdan outlines his case for us developing a sense of curiosity over and above simply learning from our most positive experiences. He argues that we need to pay equal attention to the times when we are in our element and the times when we may feel negative and uncertain, if we are to create a ‘rich, meaningful existence’. The book is a joy to read.

You can get a look at the premise of the book in this interview. Within the piece he says:

We don’t talk enough about the value of introspection, being curious about the self. You can’t do goal-setting or strength-spotting without introspection. And you can’t get there without curiosity.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Strengths and Motivation

Self-determination theory suggests that optimal functioning and well-being results from three basic psychological needs – autonomy, competence and relatedness. Through reflecting and analysing achievement patterns and identifying strengths, people appear to develop a sense of choice in their career and a degree of confidence in their ability to deliver results in appropriate contexts.

Through a strong coaching or mentoring relationship people can also explore their career choices and construct a stronger motivational base for their endeavours. A sense of relatedness to a coach or mentor may for some be the missing ingredient in their motivational pie – the extra stimulus to take action rather remain introspective?

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Knowing Your Superpowers

Earlier this week Seth Goddin blogged brilliantly on the subject of the importance of being able to introduce yourself in a memorable way if you are interested in developing your business network. Whilst this borders on shameless self promotion he does make a valuable point. Having the confidence to do this however requires a degree of self knowledge few possess. Taking the time out to explore what you are uniquely good at, and developing the proof that these skills are real, may be the start point for developing this confidence?

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Over-Playing Your Strengths?

In the February issue of Harvard Business Review, Leadership Consultants Robert Kaplan and Robert Kaiser argue that although encouraging leaders to focus on their strengths may be a ‘reasonable approach’, it can be taken too far. This issue may be particularly prevalent where leaders rely on feedback in the form of 5 point rating scales. The final report may highlight one of their strengths as consensus building, for example, which when over-done can lead to procrastination and inaction.

Such objective measurement tools, particularly in relation to understanding strengths, appear to only provide part of the picture. Better then to ensure that data on strengths is supported by evidence found in past achievements and verbal peer feedback. A ‘strength’ that doesn’t help deliver a positive outcome and that is not valued by others, may not be considered a strength at all?

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

In Your Element?

In his latest book, The Element, Sir Ken Robinson says “One of the things that always struck me was that many adults were unaware of what their true talents might be – what they’re really capable of doing.” As I read this I was struck by the familiarity of the message and then by how few people choose to do anything about this. Bernard Haldane once said:

"Many individuals would rather not know what is strong about them, the strengths that point to growth and reveal potential. A greater degree of responsibility is required to take hold of success rather than to stay in the safe area of complacency and complaint".

Sir Ken suggests that this complacency develops as result of schools and organisations not providing the opportunity and conditions for people to find out, not just what they are good at, but what they love to do.

Watch Sir Ken outline his take on creating these conditions at: