I am sure we all hope that as Education Leaders you really feel ‘in the zone’ at work? That space when you feel energised and engaged, stretched and challenged, hours pass like minutes, you are living life with purpose and you have a real sense of achievement or success – also known as flow!
If that’s the case the chances are that whatever you are doing you are using your real strengths. Our real strengths are those things that we do well, come more naturally to us and most importantly give us energy.
So when did you last feel like that? Today? Yesterday? Last week? Last month? Last year…?
What about your colleagues and staff around you? What about your students? How energised and engaged are they?
In my experience supporting the development of Positive Education programs in many schools I know that despite best intentions it can be hard for school leaders and staff to keep the energy up, to sustain their well-being and prevent potential burn out. There’s lots of reasons for this but sometimes a key factor is that they neglect or lose touch with their real strengths.
A raft of research tells us that when we work to our strengths we are happier and more confident; more engaged and productive at work or study; more successful in striving towards and reaching our goals; have less time off sick because we are also physically and mentally healthier and are less likely to suffer from anxiety, stress and depression. When we work to our strengths we are also much more resilient and mentally tough and therefore far better equipped to deal with the adversity and ‘tough stuff’ when it inevitably happens! (Linley, Willars & Biswas-Diener, 2010).
But the reality is that many people find it hard to identify their real strengths. We often don’t know how to recognise them and even when we do, we take them for granted with the risk of underplaying or even overplaying them. We need to know how to maxmise and marshal them – turn them up and down as needs arise.
More commonly, rather than actively develop and nurture our real strengths, we focus solely on working on our ‘development’ areas or our weaknesses. These development areas we sometimes call ‘learned behaviours’. We all have them but they can be dangerous in that we learn to do many things very well that are not necessarily a natural fit for us. We then get recognised and often rewarded for being good or even excellent at these things but in the longer term we can find ourselves de-energised, de-motivated, disengaged and at risk of poor health. How many of us know people seemingly ‘doing well’ in job roles that in reality drain them?
Our weaknesses are those things that we certainly don’t believe we do well and most certainly don’t energise us. The key question here is how ‘mission critical’ they are to achieving our goals and success? If they are we obviously need to fix them. Of course in the real world we all have to do things that aren’t natural to us and that we may not particularly like. But the key point is that we should not focus on our learned behaviours and weaknesses at the expense of finding ways to work optimise our real strengths.
This is where strengths assessment comes in. I have applied strengths-based assessments to inform many well-being programs that target whole school communities including leadership teams, faculty, students, parents and support staff.
One of the most popular for the adult community is The Strengths Profile from the Centre of Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP) in the UK. The Strengths Profile is a validated strengths assessment tool that has been designed to help people to identify and marshal their realised strengths, maximise their unrealised strengths they didn’t even realise they had, moderate their use of learned behaviours and minimise their weaknesses.
It’s a great foundation and coaching tool upon which to help individual leaders, their teams and staff to get feedback about where their energy lies and it can inform approaches to recruitment, team building, career development, performance management, leadership development and well-being.
Over the past 10 years I have regularly used the Strengths Profile myself and applied it in government and corporate workplaces, universities and schools, I know it’s power in helping individuals and teams to get into and stay in that hard to reach place of ‘flourishing and flow’ where they can both feel good and function well.
To discover, ignite and marshal your real strengths visit www.strengthprofile.com or contact me to access and receive a full debrief on the Strengths Profile assessment for yourself or for your team.
Linley, A., Willars J. & Biswas-Diener, R. (2010). The Strengths Book. CAPP Press. UK
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