Strength Spotting: Discovering Others’ Superpowers

Imagine that there is buried treasure underneath your house. Mounds of gold, rubies, and valuable artwork. But, you have no idea that it is there. You have no idea to even look in your own backyard.

This is the challenge that exists in our relationships at work. All too often we overlook the abundance of strengths that a team member may be able to contribute. With the right frame of thought and by asking the right questions, you might discover that buried treasure which lies within each employee, waiting to improve a meeting, a project, and even an organization.

What is Strength Spotting

Strength spotting is defined as “the act of recognizing and identify the strengths that a person may possess, through a process of naturalistic observation in day-day settings, or through more formal assessment approaches” (Linley, 2008). Everyone has a unique set of skills that can be expressed through story telling and behavioral actions. Strength spotting allows you to uncover another’s strength in order to create a wider picture of their identity.

Why This is Important

Managers can utilize their employee’s strengths as a part of performance management to improve goal progress (Linley, Nielsen, Gillettt, & Biswas-Diener, 2010). Within a coaching interaction, coaches can use strength-spotting as an easy way to elicit positive emotions in their client (Linley & Harrington, 2006). Teams can benefit from knowing each other’s strengths to increase team engagement. When teammates know one anothers’ strengths, tasks can be properly delegated. Team members can be seen as abundant resources that contribute to the shared goal because of a shared awareness of strengths. Organizations at large can substantially add to their bottom line by adopting a strengths-approach, through allocating people and resources more effectively by using collective understandings of each person’s strengths (Stefanyszyn, 2007).

How to Strength Spot

There are two types of strength spotting: (1) informal self-reflective questions and observations of others to enable you to spot loosely defined strengths, and (2) formal individual strength assessments that specifically get at drawing out strengths.

Day-to-day strength spotting.

Strength Spotting can easily be done in an informal conversation (Linley & Burns, 2010). Looking for clues in another person’s voice can spot out strengths: a sense of energy and engagement, rapidly learning new information, repeated patterns of successful performance using the strength, prioritizing tasks that require using the strength, drawn to do things that play to the strength. Here are some characteristics to recognize in Strength Spotting:

  • Tone of voice changes in pitch
  • Speak rhythmically, found a natural pace a flow
  • Sense of energy and uplift
  • Sense of confidence
  • Phrases like “I love…” or “It just fits”
  • Using rich visualization
  • Fully Engaged in Conversation

Individual Strengths Assessment (ISA)

The second type of Strength Spotting involves using a set of specific questions in a semi-structure interview style to allow the person to talk about possible strengths in an easy, natural manner as part of the conversation. Instead of asking, What are your strengths?, the ISA is aimed at drawing out great experiences that serve as a treasure map for uncovering the hidden strengths. Sample questions involve:

  • What sort of everyday things do you enjoy doing?
  • What makes for a really good day for you?
  • Tell me about the best day that you can remember having?
  • What would you describe as your most significant accomplishment?
  • What gives you the greatest sense of being authentic and who you really are?

Once you know others’ strengths you can help enable their best self by affirming their energetic talents, integrating their strengths when applauding their accomplishments, and integrating strengths in performance management goal-setting

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