Focusing on strengths guarantees better outcomes


Want to perform better, be happier, live longer? Then, as Monty Python once said, always look on the bright side of life. Focus on your strengths, on what works and make sure you are optimising them and you will find yourself more likely to achieve your goals.

Personal resilience, or the ability to bounce-back from setbacks and cope with day-to-day hassles/stressors, has also been found to contribute significantly to psychological well-being and health.

It’s not just what individuals focus on that’s important either. What employers prioritise in their assessment of staff is also affected by what I am going to call in this blog the ‘Life of Brian’ rule of thumb.

A strengths focus can deliver measurable business returns, both in terms of hard results such as increased revenues and reduced costs as well as having a positive impact on „lead‟ indicators of future success such as customer engagement, improved morale, discretionary effort and personal wellbeing (a major contributory factor in absenteeism rates).

So, with that in mind, why do many employee appraisals and development programmes continue to focus on what’s not working?
Conventional wisdom has held for many years that our weaknesses represent our greatest opportunities for development, and that we should focus on fixing weaknesses (our own and our teams) in order to increase our chances of success, research over the past decade has challenged some of these principles.

For example, recent research shows that:

  • Employee performance is, on average, 36% higher when line managers focus their appraisals on staffs‟ strengths and talents (Corporate Leadership Council, 2005)
  • Customer retention is 44% higher in companies where people are allowed to do what they do best‟ every day (Harter et al, 2002)
  • Teams with line managers who take a „strengths-based‟ approach are 86% more effective than teams which don‟t (Gallup, 2002).

Eleven years of coaching experience (and evidence from a corporate career prior to that) has confirmed my belief in this philosophy too. Ascentia is a strengths-based coaching company. Those who work with me know that I believe you get what you focus on.

Ascentia works with organisations to assess employee strengths and competencies and align them with organisational goals.

We do this in several ways.

  • Leadership development and coaching – which brings a keen understanding of natural strengths and talents
  • Performance management/improvement/induction – to ensure that line managers understand what energises and motivates direct reports, rather than solely focusing on problems/deficits and fixing them
  • Teambuilding – to give teams clarity on who has which strengths, help understand the team‟s natural talents and gaps and use this information in resourcing and project delivery, and increase trust, openness and respect
  • Talent development/career development/transition – to help individuals to understand the best fit for their strengths as regards future roles and formulate career decisions according to those strengths
    Organisation development – to build a resilient, appreciative, constructive culture which understands its strengths, talents and weaknesses and plans accordingly
    Selection – to select individuals who fully understand the strengths and talents that they can bring to a role and who can demonstrate where they have used their strengths to contribute value in the past.

If you’d like to find out more about how to bring a strengths-based philosophy into your business, please click here to contact Ascentia or call us on 01564 702204.