A long time ago I worked for and with an amazing General Manager who taught me way more than she will ever know. In my humble opinion, one of her most appreciated qualities was to explicitely validate strengths. Up until meeting her, I had not experienced such consistent behaviour from anyone in upper management. Her capacity to articulate specific strengths never ceased to amaze me. What I could perceive as me being stubborn, she would see to be discernment and certainty; I didn’t consider knowing a wide variety of people as an asset, she considered it to be a high networth network; having had various jobs with few formal qualifications, she reframed me to be a creative thinker prepared to take calculated risks and pioneer new ways.

And she never allowed me to put  myself down.

It was a fascinating experience for me having previously been an advocate for social justice and  community development worker could do what she did with my clients, but was unable to do so for myself. I had great experience at leading from within for the greater good of my clients, but for me.

And that’s where the real work began.

I knew a lot of the theory about working with clients from a strengths perspective and how to even transfer this into practice. But it was a game changer being on the receiving end of having my very own strengths validated. Intuitively it motivated me to do more and as a result, I began to feel better about myself.

Fast forward, and all these years later, I still have an enormous respect for what that General Manager taught me; the good, the bad and the ugly, of leading from within. And learn from it I did.

Little did I know however, was that there was a name for this particular technique of hers, known as Strength Spotting.

The good news about this simple technique is that it has a snowball effect. You see it gathers momentum and takes on a life of it’s own, rolling around creating a positive force for change. And who doesn’t want to be a part of positive change?

I know you want to know more about how to Strength Spot right? Well I teach my clients about this stuff and find the following tips are helpful:

  1. Become an observer of people’s behaviour and look for their key strengths.  I had a group of clients who were stay at home mums and in a session one of them mentioned her concerns about not spending enough time keeping her home tidy. She was juggling a part time business, about to enrol in full time study and had two children under 5 plus extended family obligations. I asked her if she’d ever considered the skill sets she is developing as an educator, a book keeper, time keeper, laundress, occupational health and safety officer, chef, problem solver and creator of happy memories?  She was shocked to say the least, when I reflected back to her some of the roles I saw her in. The most beautiful thing happened as she absorbed what I had said, and she laughed as she contextualised this reflection. Keeping a tidy home, she realised was likely to be more about other people’s perceived expectations on her and had been exposed for not being an evidenced based qualifier of her skill set.
  2. As you identify key strengths in others and grow your confidence, express them clearly and genuinely. It could be as simple as saying to a staff member  “Christine, I really value your time management skills. When you finished your monthly report ahead of time, I was able to read it thoroughly. I got really excited about your ideas for this project. Could we make some time to talk so I can hear more about your ideas?”
  3. Learn how to identify and value your own strengths. Remember life’s lessons that got you to this point and be grateful for what you’ve learned along the way. Practice daily reframing negative experiences into learning opportunities and look for your own strengths. 

In some ways I like to think of Strength Spotting as paying it forward.  And guess what? The more you do it the easier it becomes.

Keep Calm and Strength Spot

Keep Calm and Strength Spot

Oh and remember strengths spotting isn’t just a strategic leadership development strategy. I was in a store around Christmas last year and a young teenage girl serving me was quite grumpy in her mannerisms. When she said her obligatory “Hello how are you today?” greeting I gently replied with “More’s to the point, how are you?” She burst into tears saying she was working a double shift and all she wanted to do was go home. My response was along the lines of “Do you know what? You’re young, you look fit and healthy, and your double shift will come to an end soon. And then you can go home. Being grumpy at work doesn’t change any of that does it?” to which she shook her head and smiled. I’d like to think that the following customers got a spin off from that, but more importantly that young girl had an experience that potentially reduced her stress and anxiety, allowing her to complete her shift with greater ease.

So what are you waiting for?  Get out there and spot strengths!

If you’re already doing this, then do more!

Either way, come back here and tell me about it.