Success through Strengths

As a Mind Focus Coach I’m often approached by organisations and businesses that recognize the importance of supporting their leaders and their people, but aren’t sure of the best tool or tools to use; or simply don’t know where to start.

In an organizational context, I typically start with understanding ‘what you’ve got’. Your people are the cornerstone of your business and I believe that understanding your people, particularly their strengths, is the most fundamental starting point. Research also supports this belief – when managers encouraged people to focus on their strengths, performance rose by 36% (Corporate Leadership Council, 2002). Evidence also shows that focusing on what you naturally do best encourages better performance.

The Strengths approach

The strengths approach focuses on what people naturally do well and can do better, as opposed to the deficit model that focuses on weaknesses and what is wrong. This approach represents a significant shift for many workplaces, where the annual performance review has traditionally been based on what wasn’t done so well and how to improve these performance areas. Instead, identifying and measuring strengths as the basis of improved performance has emerged as a more productive and effective methodology.

Strengths assessments

So how do we go about identifying and quantifying strengths? A formal strengths assessment tool can help leaders identify both their own strengths and the strengths of their team members. A strengths assessment tool also provides a common language to understand strengths across your team or organisation. For example, when we identify that a team or individual displays talents of intellection, we all understand that this means they’ll need time to think things through before acting. Their insights will be deeply considered and they will bring awareness to the situation that may not have been ordinarily contemplated. Assessment tools also enable us to quantify data and make comparisons across different groups and teams of people.

There are four major strengths assessment tools that are widely used:

  • StrengthsFinder 2.0®,
  • Values in Action (VIA) Inventory
  • R2 Strength Profiler; and
  • Strengthscope®.

For a brief overview and comparison of the four tools, the Langley Group provides a great comparison chart.

Choosing a strengths assessment tool

I am trained in the Strengths Finder 2.0 tool and this is the assessment methodology I use when delivering solutions to organisational clients. I chose Strengths Finder 2.0 because it’s based on decades of research, the reports are easy for everyone to understand, and it can be applied to all areas of your life. Each assessment tool has its own merits so it’s important to consider some of the following areas when making your selection:

  1. Measurement – What does the tool measure? What does it not measure?
    Look at the outputs that are offered and consider whether the measurement parameters are meaningful to your application. Different tools draw from different strengths sets or lists and it can be useful to compare these.
  2. Integrity – what is the underlying science behind the tool and can you be sure of data reliability & validity?
    Each tool will have a methodology that determines strengths and builds the profiles. It’s important to do a little digging into the science behind the methodology and ensure that it has been suitably tested. Consider who has reviewed the tool and who has endorsed it.
  3. Domain – work only or whole life parameters?
    Some tools are designed specifically to identify work-related strengths, while others enable the participant to consider how their strengths apply at home or in other areas of their life. Some tools may be better applied to life or education contexts rather than specific workplace requirements. Consider your people and what you are trying to achieve overall.
  4. Ease of use – how simple is the tool to use? For participants, coaches, managers, and/or trainers?
    Long term this is an important consideration. What do initial insights look like? And how difficult is it to keep extracting value from the tool into the future?
  5. Delivery – how is the assessment accessed? And how is the information actually delivered?
    Some tools offer profiles for individuals and teams, while others produce only a self-report. Profiles may be accessed via an online platform or by individual reports. Some tools offer a standard selection of reports with the option of obtaining further reports for a fee.
  6. Effectiveness – does the tool ultimately help with the development of your people? Are the results useable and can they realistically be incorporated into daily working life?
    Identifying strengths is just the start of the process and it’s important to understand how the tool will help you facilitate actual change and the development of your people. Strengths are fluid so a simple snapshot at a given time may not be sufficient.
  7. Cost – as with any significant investment, it makes sense to research the costs, both upfront and ongoing. You may also need to consider the cost of practitioner training, particularly if you plan to use this assessment tool on an ongoing basis and require in-house expertise.

If you would like to learn more about Strengths assessment tools, or experience a demonstration of the StrengthsFinder 2.0, please get in touch with me.