The strengths movement
One of the strongest values of positive psychology and related applications such as executive coaching is encouraging people to appreciate strengths and capabilities, not just uncover dysfunctions and disorders.
Writer Marcus Buckingham finds “the strengths movement is everywhere: the corporate world, the worlds of public service, of economics, of education, of faith, of charity — it has affected them all.
“It works better than any other perspective. The radical idea at the core of the strengths movement is that excellence is not the opposite of failure, and that, as such, you will learn little about excellence from studying failure.
Study success not failure
“This seems like an obvious idea until you realize that, before the strengths movement began, virtually all business and academic inquiry was built on the opposite idea: namely, that a deep understanding of failure leads to an equally deep understanding of excellence.
“That’s why we studied unhappy customers to learn about the happy ones, employees’ weaknesses to learn how to make them excel, sickness to learn about health, divorce to learn about marriage, and sadness to learn about joy.
“What has become evident in virtually every field of human endeavor is that failure and success are not opposites, they are merely different, and so they must be studied separately.”
From book Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance by Marcus Buckingham.
On the job: What to do with the strengths you find
Yee-Ming Tan, who provides executive coaching services and leadership development training to senior executives, says in her new Positive Psychology News Daily article that the power “is not in the identification of strengths but in the integration and the shift that come afterwards.
“Often a good debrief is required before the individuals can fully make sense of what to do with his or her strengths.”
She describes how effective that coaching can be in her article Might as well use them if you’ve got them!
Professor of psychology Jonathan Haidt says “Knowing your strengths — and weaknesses — may give you insight into why some parts of your job are enjoyable while others fill you with dread.
“If you have the luxury of adjusting the scope of your job then of course you should focus on the tasks that draw on your strengths while delegating away the parts that don’t — even if you are perfectly competent at them.
“But even if your job is defined for you by others, you can still control how you approach it and how you interact with your boss, coworkers, or customers.
“If your strengths include curiosity or love of learning, for example, you might give yourself the challenge of learning one new thing from each person you work with.
“If your strengths include gratitude or appreciation of beauty and excellence, then ‘stop and smell the roses’ more often, and remember that the roses include the people you serve, or work with.”
More in his article Know Your Strengths, Improve Your Work.