The obsession with failure and what does not work lies deep within the British psyche. I have to confess that I inherited it too, indeed I inhaled it as a youngster. My life contained a lot of ‘if onlys’ and ‘shouldn’ts’.
To illustrate the point, here’s a question for you. Last time you were on the receiving end of an appraisal or a 360 degree feedback exercise, or something similar, what results did you spend most time looking at? I bet it was the low scores or the so-called ‘areas for development’.
It’s quite a challenge for a Brit like me, but there is an increasing body of well-founded research evidence showing that our obsession with what does not work is in fact counter-productive. By contrast, a strong focus on what does work is connected to achievement and success in all kinds of ways.
Core to this focus on what does work is the notion of building on strengths rather than making good weaknesses. A strength is something that we do well, feels natural, and is motivating for us to do.
Research on outstanding organisational leaders shows that what they have in common is a set of existing strengths which they have worked on and made outstanding. Other research has shown conclusively that when people play to their strengths, they achieve better results than people who don’t.