One of the great ways to approach life, leadership, training, coaching or any other way of working with people is so called strengths based approach.
Why strengths based approach? And what is it, anyway?
In some ways, you can compare life to a cruise where you are a sailing boat. And on that sailing boat, weaknesses are like holes in the boat, while the strengths are like the sails of this boat. Just focusing on fixing weaknesses won’t take you far, but if holes are too big, the sail won’t really help. Yet, using the sails is what really takes us forward in life and provides much more enjoyment than fixing the holes. Even though we also need to pay attention to keeping our “holes” under control, sails are what really moves us towards the destination. (This sailing boat metaphor comes from by Robert Biswas Diener in his book Practicing positive psychology coaching).
Simply put, strengths based approach is approach to people from perspective of looking for their strengths and qualities, looking how to nurture these and how to engage people in a way that will maximise the usage of those strengths.
To give a bit more scientific perspective, diverse positive psychology research showed that strengths are strongly related to happiness, resilience and meaning. It also showed that focusing on strengths:
Being in an environment that supports and encourages our strengths helps us flourish and feel authentic and “at home” – in such environment we have the ability to develop our full potential, both in terms of self-development and the results we are achieving.
“Research tells us that individuals who use their character strengths lead happier, more satisfying lives. Only when you understand your unique character strengths can you begin to live a life that is engaging, exciting and rewarding to YOU.”, according to VIA Institute on character.
What are strengths?
According to the Positive Psychology Institute, a strength is a natural capacity for behaving, thinking or feeling in a way that allows optimal functioning and performance in the pursuit of valued outcomes. A strength is something we're not only good at, but we're energized by. A strengths’ perspective empowers people, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, or (dis)ability.
There are several definitions of strengths, the most used ones being
“Character strengths are the psychological ingredients for displaying human goodness and they serve as pathways for developing a life of greater virtue. While personality is the summary of our entire psychological makeup, character strengths are the positive components— what's best in you.” (by VIA institute) and “… a strength is a pre-existing capacity for a particular way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is authentic and energizing to the user, and enables optimal functioning, development and performance” (by Alex Linley).
If you are curious to dig really deep into understanding subtle nuances of strenghts and virtues, Seligman provides a detailed classification of the different virtues as well as a strengths survey that is available on his website: www.authentichappiness.org or on site of VIA Institute of Character: https://www.viacharacter.org . Or grab his most comprehensive book “Character strengths and virtues”.
What is really important in strengths based approach is the strong focus on discovering and nourishing positive sides of people and supporting them in using those sides.
For example, if working with a team, talk about strengths can be used for bringing team closer together by inviting them to share their strengths with others (assessments and cards can be very helpful tool for this – Trainers Toolbox will publish more info on these tools soon), or even better, asking colleagues to “nominate” each other for certain strength.
Alternatively, or as the next step in the session, strengths based approach can be used for the team to discuss which strengths they have as a team (bringing strengths from individuals together), and in that way encouraging feeling of many resources that the team has, innovation in how to tackle a certain problem, and promoting the feeling of pride in own team.
Ok, I am convinced. How can I incorporate strengths based approach in a training?
You can use strengths based approach in training in different ways:
Where can I learn more on how to use these approach?
For details on how to use each of these ways, you can check our following posts, which will dig deep into ways to use strengths based approach.
About author of the article
Founder of Trainers Toolbox, trainer passionate about learning, getting things done, creating great training content and delivering it in an enthusiastic and energetic way. Being trainer since 2008, Mirna developed rich knowledge in positive psychology, NLP, evidence based training, coaching, and many other innovative trainer's tools and techniques. Next to Trainers Toolbox, she is also a founder of Happiness Academy, project aimed at educating and inspiring people to lead happier and more fulfilling lives. Read more about Mirna at www.mirnasmidt.com.
Feeling Magnets are playful and profound tools that support people to connect with their emotions, to express them and to understand them. They serve as conversation starters and prompts that make feelings easier to acknowledge and speak about.
As you might have guessed, they are actual magnets that are flexible and easy to move around, mirroring the fact that feelings change constantly – as the feelings change, we simply move the magnets around. Feelings don’t define us. They are not permanent and therefore much less scary.
Why use Feeling Magnets?
Feeling Magnets prompt people to find the right words for how they feel. This is really powerful. Specifically naming our feelings decreases the power of uncomfortable feelings and anchors the pleasant ones. And once people know what they are feeling, they can also respond in a more informed and conscious way. Essentially, Feeling Magnets help people train their emotional literacy, which is a key component and foundation of Emotional Intelligence.
At the same time, many people struggle to address their emotions openly as they might consider them taboo or private. Through these playful and tactile tools, emotions don’t seem so unapproachable anymore. Conversations rise to new levels, deeper connections are fostered between people and ultimately, work becomes more fun and efficient.
Ideas for application
The simplicity of the Feeling Magnets tools means they can be used in endless different ways. Users often come up with new ways to integrate them into workshops, team buildings and coaching.
Here are some of the most popular ways that the Feeling Magnets are used:
Teams & Partnerships: Draw a Venn diagram on a whiteboard with one circle for each person (up to 3 people). Put the Feeling Magnets around the Venn diagram. Each person selects the emotions they are feeling at this particular moment or in relation to something specific and places these into their circle. If multiple people are experiencing the same emotion they put move that magnet into the overlapping part of the Venn diagram. This can be done at regular intervals (ex. Hourly) or in specific moments (ex. Before big decisions, during heated discussions or in relation to challenging topics). This helps to put into context what each person is saying and also brings our emotional intelligence more into the forefront.
Meetings: Each person in a meeting has a set of Feeling Magnets and selects how they are feeling within the box. The first few minutes of a meeting are spent with each person sharing how they are feeling at that moment and optionally they can share some context if they feel inclined to do so. The same practice could be used to end a meeting. This gives everyone a sense of the emotional temperature in the room and allows everyone to feel more at ease once they have identified their own emotions.
Ice-breaker: In small teams, ask participants to sort the emotions by intensity and pleasantness. This generates quite some debate as people might not always agree and can lead to interesting discussions as people give examples from their own lives to prove their points. With the Feeling Bodies, ask the teams to identify which emotions fit with each of the figures. With various teams this can also be done as a competition.
Coaching: Begin each session with the client selecting how they are feeling at that moment and how they would like to feel by the end of the session. The Feeling Magnets can also be used during the session to explore how the client would feel if they made a specific choice or went down a particular road.
Where to get Feeling Magnets?
Feeling Magnets are available in the US via www.feelingmagnets.com and in South Africa via www.takealot.com . Coming soon to the rest of the world and if you can’t wait, contact Manuela@feelingmagnets.com
About the author of the article
A driven and determined young professional who came to realize that rational thinking alone wouldn’t bring her the life she wanted. That was when she discovered the power of emotions to guide us through life and create the life we most want. Since then she has dedicated herself to helping people discover a powerful side of themselves and to master their emotions through coaching, trainings and her company Feeling Magnets. Manuela strongly believes that education today focuses heavily on the mind and is missing the emphasis on the other parts of us (body, heart and spirit). She aims to help us fill the gaps we may have.
Mirna , initiator of Trainers Toolbox, is a trainer in love with training tools and innovative games, positive psychology, NLP, and everything that makes learning more impactful and engaging.