Strengths-based Approach to Development

by Stephanie Walters

Using strengths to tackle challenges

To create a strengths-based personal development plan that focuses on overcoming problems or weaker areas, you need to go through three simple stages:

  1. Build awareness of your strengths and how you use them at work (see here)
  2. Prioritise a development area you would like to work on
  3. Identify ways you can use your strengths to help you in that area.


Prioritise a development area to work on

When building a personal development plan, it is important to focus on three key aspects:

  1. What do I want to change or develop?
  2. Why do I want to change or develop in that area?
  3. What will success look like when I get there?


We can often be overwhelmed when we first start to build our development plans and it can be hard to be really clear on what we want to change or develop.

This is often made worse by others providing feedback that is not always constructive or is not filled out with lots of data and examples to back up what they say. This can leave you at times confused as to where to focus.

If this is happening, your personal development plans can end up being full of lots of development points that are quite vague and have no tangible outcomes to measure. They are also probably filled with actions, such as ‘go on a training course’. While these may be part of the solution, they do not provide enough specific detail to help you know when to take the actions, what to develop in your day-to-day working life and, more importantly, how you will know when you have achieved what you set out to do.

Answering the three questions listed above will help you to prioritise an area on which to work so that you can be specific in your plan and create tangible, meaningful and measurable actions and outcomes.

Identify ways you can use your strengths to help

An understanding of your strengths can help you to improve areas of weakness or development. There are three chief ways that understanding your strengths can help you.

  1. Awareness of when you use a strength too much – the Strengths Partnership describe how strengths can often go into overdrive and have unintended consequences. An awareness of this can enable you to have more control over these strengths.
  2. Understanding where you use your strengths – sometimes we use our strengths in some situations, but not in others. An awareness of this can help you to identify opportunities to use your strengths in new or different situations or with different people.
  3. Turning up an underused strength in place of another one –sometimes we might have a strength that we always use in a certain situation, so that is where we place our focus. However, if you shift your focus to using another strength, this can often bring a different result.


For a case study showing how this approach can work in practice, see here.