Strengths-Based Strategy

Blog - Strenghts Based Strategy - JoshA key aspect of CMOE’s Applied Strategic Thinking® Model involves determining strengths and using those strengths to create a solid strategic approach to work and life. Recent research by the Gallup Management Journal supports this step. While CMOE’s Applied Strategic Thinking Model is geared towards the individual contributor, its principles can be applied at the team, department, region, and organization level just as easily. At any level, individual or organization,

‘One of the most important foundations of performance is determining what you’re good at, what you have the potential to be great at, and bringing that [knowledge] to the work that you do,’ says Nicole Helprin, director of internal and employee engagement communications for Hewlett-Packard. ‘When people feel like they’re bringing their gifts to the workplace, they’re more productive, they’re more engaged, and they’re going to be more successful in meeting their expectations.’

A lack of clearly defined expectations is detrimental to the productivity of an organization. Worse, it’s almost impossible for the organization to be credible in the eyes of its employees if it cannot clearly articulate what employees should be doing at work.[1]

There are many definitions for the word strength, but the one I am concerned with is this: “something that is regarded as being beneficial or a source of power.”[2] So, when you identify strengths, either as an individual, a team, or as an organization, you discover and identify your sources of power. Creating a strategic approach to your responsibilities that uses these sources of power keeps your strategic plan in a place where success is not only possible but is also more probable.

Before declaring your strategic intentions, identify as many different strengths as possible.[3] Divide the list into two categories:  soft strengths and hard strengths. Soft strengths include knowledge, experience, education, ideas, etc. (intangibles). Hard strengths include money, materials, tools, equipment, etc. (tangibles).

After creating an exhaustive list of strengths, analyze the list to find the ones you lack in relation to your strategic intent and write them down next to the list of strengths. This is your list of weaknesses. This list identifies the areas that you, your team, your organization, etc. need to improve in. Until improvements are made and the weaknesses are converted into either hard or soft strengths, avoid ventures that may expose those weaknesses. Exposed weaknesses spawn problems and will likely cause you to deviate from your strategic map in order to correct the problems. When you know where your weaknesses lie, they are more easily avoided.

Creating functional strategy that is founded on your strengths will not guarantee success, but but if your strategic approach comes from areas of strength rather than those of weakness, success is more likely. The key is to have the courage to identify areas of weakness so they can be avoided. Understanding weaknesses is actually, in and of itself, a great strength. Use the knowledge as such.


[1] Asplund, Jim. “Strengths-Based Goal Setting.” Gallup, Inc. Last modified March 6, 2012. http://gmj.gallup.com/content/152981/Strengths-Based-Goal-Setting.aspx?utm_source=email&utm_ medium=032012&utm_content=morelink&utm_campaign=newsletter

[2] strength. Dictionary.com. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/strength (accessed: March 12, 2012).

[3] Stowell, Steven, and Stephanie Mead. Ahead of the Curve: A Guide to Applied Strategic Thinking. Salt Lake City: CMOE Press, 2005.

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About the Author

Josh Nuttall

Josh’s role and experience at CMOE has been supporting the development of curriculum design for a wide variety of leadership topics and organizational issues and challenges.