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What is a strengths-based approach?

In this article, Chris Hope takes you through one strengths-based approach for improving your overall team performance.

Taking an approach that focuses on our team members’ strengths and then helping them utilise their best talents is a useful strategy for building an energised and empowered team. This is an approach that is widely used in psychology: bringing out the best in people has many benefits and has also been adopted for use in a team setting. 

Hammond and Zimmerman (2010)[1] discuss nine guiding principles that serve as a foundation for us to take a strengths-based approach with our team. They are listed below. 

  1. We believe that each member of our team has a unique skill set that helps them to evolve and move along their journey. This includes their potential strengths and capacity.    
  2. What we focus on becomes our reality. If we focus on our team’s strengths, that’s what they’ll focus on too. 
  3. Language creates reality: we should make an effort to remain positive when appropriate.     
  4. Accepting change in our team is important and a part of the process.  
  5. We should support our team as much as we can.    
  6. Each team member is the teller of their own story.     
  7. Setting goals and reflecting on positive experiences is invaluable. 
  8. The capacity building of team members has multiple facets, and we should recognise individual differences.   
  9. We should be collaborative as leaders and value differences in our team. 

Adapted from: Hammond and Zimmerman (2010)[1]

Applying the strengths-based approach 

When we consider all of these, we can take an approach that motivates employees and gives them a sense of pride in their work. Let’s imagine an example.  

Priya is a new member of your team who feels quite nervous about her new role. As part of the standard onboarding process, you meet with Priya as her manager and talk with her about these concerns. Much of the conversation is focused on areas that Priya feels may be weaknesses for her. She is also facing imposter syndrome and feels under significant pressure to impress you as her new manager. You go away from the conversation feeling unsure about your latest employee, and the pressure continues to build on Priya as she is focused on her ‘shortcomings’ or areas of development.  

But what if you took a strengths-based approach to your first meeting with Priya? You ask her to tell you about her strengths and what she enjoys doing and then speak about how powerful these skills will be for the team. You discuss what her previous team manager praised her for, and you uncover a new skill set that you did not know about from the interviews. This skill set offers a great opportunity for Priya to be involved in some new projects. The meeting ends, Priya feels energised, and you feel good about your new team member.

Share your thoughts

Have you ever experienced a strengths-based approach in a workplace? What impact did this have on you? 
Conversely, have you ever suffered the approach that Priya first experienced in our example? What impact did this have? 
Share your experience in the comments.


1. Hammond, W and Zimmerman R. A strengths-based perspective [Internet]. Calgary, Alberta: Resiliency Initiatives; 2010 [cited 3 January 2023]. 20 p. Available from: 

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