Having assessed the traits of successful individuals and work groups for more than 40 years, the folks at the Gallup organization have amassed a huge database of cross-cultural and cross-industry research to buttress their contention about the primacy of a “strengths approach” to work. Gallup’s summary reports note that affirmative, strengths-focused work is a pervasive and influential part of the well-being of employees, organizations, and their communities.
This well-being positively affects the triple bottom line: people thrive, companies prosper, and the larger communities involved definitely benefit on a number of indices, including economic, emotional health, ecological, and social. In turn, the asset-centered approach these high-performing organizations employ beneficially affect customer loyalty, worker recruitment, engagement, turnover and retention, as well as productivity, profitability, and service to geographic neighbors and the ecosystem.
Further, research summarized in 2010 by the UK’s Alex Linley, founder of the Center for Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP) showed that people who used their strengths reported being happier, more confident, less stressed, more resilient, as well as having higher levels of self-esteem and energy, compared with those who do not emphasize their assets in their daily lives and work. CAPP research also notes that the strengths-inclined workers appeared likelier to achieve their goals, to perform better as they were more engaged at work, and were more able to develop and grow as individual employees.
Finally, in the world of organization planning and change, the Appreciative Inquiry approach popularized by David Cooperrider and others has grown over the past 30 years to be a widely used framework for helping organizations uncover the roots of improvement in what they already experience as their “best.” This global phenomenon has been used as a format not only for planning, but also for discovery of what matters most to colleagues seeking improvement based in possibility, not solely in problem solving. The evidence and case anecdotes catalogued at the Appreciative Inquiry Commons website at Case Western Reserve University is compelling reading documenting the efficacy of this strengths-based philosophy (http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu).
The spirit of changing for the better clearly has been imbued with a number of like-minded models and initiatives for growth and gain in many diverse arenas. In human capital terms, the various related means of seeking positive change through use of a strengths vehicle offer a highly promising and dynamic pathway to that universal goal. It is exciting to see in action and to use in individual, group, and entire enterprise endeavors. Adopting this outlook has even been “practice-changing” for many of us in the field of workplace learning and performance.