The last 2 weeks I’ve worked on two programmes at London Business School; one a custom programme for a global organization and the other an open programme available to senior managers from diverse organizations. An aspect of both programmes was to focus on a leader’s strengths, an unusual approach for a leadership development course. Usually we think of a leadership course as a means to identify their weaknesses and then work on those to close the gap and improve their performance.
The idea of looking at our strengths might not seem developmental, but it is. The reasons for focusing on positive strengths, which is part of the positive psychology movement, are:
- Feel more joy, less psychologically-identified depressive symptoms
- Lower staff turnover (less people quit)
- Higher customer satisfaction and employee engagement scores
- A 2016 study reported in the September Harvard Business Review found increased sales, profits and decreased safety incidences among workgroups using strengths interventions.
The idea of focusing on strengths is to do what you are good at more often to feel better day in and day out. Evolutionarily, negative emotions were good for survival (fighting or fleeing). Psychologically, negative emotions have a narrowing effect whereas positive emotions have a broadening effect. That means people are able to perceive more input, innovate, learn, are open to new experiences and build better relationships.
At London Business School the participants read stories written by family, friends and colleagues that illustrate their strengths (specifically they are each asked to write 3 stories describing the participant when they are at their best). The result is more than 30 stories that often result in participants sobbing while reading the positive impact they’ve had on people’s lives.
What are your strengths? How can you use them more often?