On Tuesday, August 27 the third workshop of the CPA Leadership Workshop Series and Coaching Program took place in Annenberg Center for Information Science and Technology. Cecelia Dotzler and Barbara Blatz-Stone from CGU's Positive Psychology Program provided interesting insights into the strengths-based approach and helpful tools for the individual leadership development.
The workshop started with an interactive visual image exercise: The participants had to pick a picture which somehow reflected their personality in the context of leadership strengths. Afterwards some voluntary explained which trait is displayed in the image and how this reflects a leadership strength. Here the complexity of the topic already sunk in - some postdocs chose more than one card and others followed up with a discussion about whether strengths are to be understood as the opposite of weaknesses. The active exchange and diverse debates stood throughout the workshop creating a positive, exciting atmosphere.
The two facilitators Cecelia Dotzler and Barbara Blatz-Stone clearly enjoyed the interactive approach and continued to lead through the workshop. They offered a general definition of strength as the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance based on both the individual talent and investment. To further describe the strength-based management approach it was contrasted with the traditional management: Instead of focusing on weaknesses, deficits and areas where the person is struggling the strength-based approach concentrates on what is going well and how to build upon that. The aim is to optimize the overall performance using the natural abilities and to give the individual a starting point for self-awareness and to understand him-/herself as a capable leader or contributor. Cecelia Dotzler illustrated the differences using a cat and fish: Needless to say both team members are providing oppositional talents and abilities. Instead of expecting the cat to become a great swimmer and the fish to improve it's mice catching skills strengths-based leadership focuses on the natural talents thus enhancing the overall outcome as a team.
To make use of strengths you have to identify them first. A good indicator is if something causes yearning or provides satisfaction to you. But without a doubt it takes a lot of reflecting to finally develop an identity which fully incorporates the individual strengths. The two professionals introduced some techniques and tools to help with that.
For a first impression some of the free online tests can be helpful: High5Test or LeAD LABS online tools. In addition the book "Strengths Based Leadership" offers a comprehensive theoretical background since it contains the results of the 30-year globald Gallup research project about strengths and leadership. A more traditional and personal approach is to ask for feedback: As a first step you reflect about yourself and then ask others about your performance. In this context different sets of questions may be useful, either reflecting on actual behavior in the past or analyze existing strengths in general. Besides, it may be helpful and interesting to repeat the process regularly.
Altogether it is an advantage in creating a great career to be aware what you're bringing to the table - not just for yourself but also for the whole team.
Written by Carolin Merten