Focussing on improving or eliminating our weaknesses is the most important aspect of personal development, right? No wrong! When we focus on our weaknesses the messages we take on unconsciously is that we are not good at things.

This  tendency to focus on our weaknesses  is not helped by the constant corporate insistence on measurement against targets. I have worked with many leaders giving feedback on a 360 degree process and in the main the first focus is  what are their weaknesses and how does this effect their performance?

I wouldn’t want to dismiss weaknesses as having no effect uponour performance however I would argue that strengths have the greater effect.

Strengths can be defined as “Underlying qualities that energise us, contribute to our personal growth and lead to peak performance.” Brewerton and Brook, 2006

If we are not aware of what these strengths are then we are unable to capitalize on them. If we focus on our weaknesses we are led down a path of negativity. We come to believe that we are not good at our work or have issues that get in the way of good performance. On the other hand if we focus on our strengths then we can rise above the negativity and consider what we are capable of doing and build upon this.

There is a positive aspect for organisations as well as individuals in focussing on strengths, as research by Rath and Conchie (2008) has shown,  that by optimizing strengths there is on average an increase in  engagement in organisations by 73%.  A blogpost
I wrote about employee engagement in 2013 highlighted how important it is to have engaged employees as they are more motivated and committed to the organisation.

James Brooke of the organisation Strengths Partnership, asserts that focusing on strengths :

  • Ensure that employees get clarity on their natural strengths so they can realise their full potential
  • Heightens their positive energy and confidence, which is crucial for performance improvement
  • Provides people with an improved understanding of how to manage their weaker areas

One way in which working to understand ones strengths changes us is that it offers a different perspective. If we have always been focussing on what we can’t do and have built up barriers resulting in a lack of confidence then this is the lens we view our world through. If we could change this, re-frame our world and see things through a positive lens, recognizing what we do well, then the change can be amazing. As Brooke states above, positive energy is heightened when recognizing strengths.

Barbara is accredited in strengths assessment and uses this in her coaching. She is also facilitating Renewyou personal development workshops for women in France which takes  a strengths focussed approach to development.