Are you Playing to Your Strengths?



Over the Easter weekend I had a long standing friend come to stay; it was fabulous to see her and many hours were spent chewing the fat over a cuppa (how times have changed!).

She was a colleague and member of my team when I worked as a primary school teacher, and she started telling me about a colleague of hers now, who in the main refused to engage with subjects she wasn’t passionately interested in. This caused my friend some angst – the whole premise of primary teaching is that as a classroom practitioner, you deliver the full range of subjects to the same class. It was something I did myself for a considerable number of years, despite the fact that there were clearly subjects I enjoyed more than others, and had a subject specialism in literature and drama.

The situation was causing my friend a degree of stress and some real negativity towards the colleague in question; the way she saw it was that additional burdens were placed on other members of staff who had to plan the other subjects, deliver them and assess them. Communication seemed to be an issue here too. As an ex-teacher I could understand a lot of her frustrations – but in my new role, I also appreciated that maybe there were other ways that this could be seen.

Maybe all that was needed to begin with was a little change in perspective?

As we talked, new ways of thinking emerged for my friend.

Was her colleague simply playing to her strengths? What could be the benefits of this?

What were the individual strengths of team members – did they know? What about across the school?

What would it be like if members of staff identified what they saw as their real strengths and played to them a little more?

What if there was  less of a focus on insisting that all staff members deliver every subject and instead allowed the staff as a whole to take a more focussed approach?

And what if they encouraged the pupils to do this too?

She left yesterday, considering how, in her team, they could begin to make small changes that may have an impact on staff and pupil performance.  Nothing will change overnight, but maybe in her team now, a change in perspective might allow a more positive attitude towards performance strengths to emerge – and who knows where that might lead?

So my question this week, is are you playing to your strengths? Do you even know what they are?

If you lead a team, what are the strengths of your team members? And how do you encourage them to make the most of theirs?

Plan and Play

The first thing to understand is exactly what your strengths are. The field of Positive Psychology has identified 24 character strengths which, in a three year study by over 50 social psychologists, were found to be universal. Here is a link to Dr Martin Seligman’s website that has links to a free online questionnaire that can help you to gain an understanding of your basic character strengths.

Then you may want to consider how often you really play to these? How have you used these strengths to get you to where you are now – and how are you planning on using them to help you move forward and progress?

What strengths are missing?

Who else around you has strengths that may compliment yours?

Another way to identify your strengths is to understand what skills, aptitudes and knowledge you have that are related to your role – and also to know what makes you happy there too! For some people, this last part can be a challenge – what is it that you really enjoy? If you had the chance, what would you spend your days doing?

Once you understand these, you can then begin to plan to make the most of them. You can learn to play to your strengths; you’ll be able to communicate them to others and help them understand how to get the best out of you – and how to manage your weaknesses too.

If you lead or manage a team, understanding the team’s strengths can mean that you will be able to harness everyone’s unique talents, increasing happiness, confidence and success.

If you work for yourself, building such levels of self-awareness is crucial to your success and survival as a business person.

So this week, what small step can you take towards making ‘strengths’ a little higher on everyone’s agenda?

I’d love you to share your ideas in the comments.

And if you are curious about your own strengths and how to build on them, then why not get in touch? I offer a free strengths finding session/call to help you begin to explore how you can make the most of yourself, and increase your happiness, confidence and success. Simply email to find out more.

Susan Ritchie, Confidence MentorI’m Susan Ritchie and I work with teams and individuals to help them be happy, confident and successful at work. I provide 1:1 coaching and workshops and am also the author of Strategies for Being Brilliant:21 Ways to be Happy, Confident and Successful, available on Amazon.