Strengths: A Self-renewing Energy Source

Why Strengths?

It has become common knowledge that having an opportunity to use your strengths every day in your job leads to greater engagement. Recently, I was in a discussion of Job Fit and the different approaches that can be used when matching people to positions. The first strategy is Adapting: training and coaching people on the skills and expected behavior of the position and then managing them to ensure results on an ongoing basis. Another approach is to have people work with partners or team members who “augment” them by having strengths where the other person doesn’t not. This is the Augmenting or complementary approach, often used in personal relationships, hence “opposites attract”.

Something is lost when we make people fit.
Something is lost when we make people fit.

In the 1970s in our DISC training we talked about four approaches that could be used for matching people to positions, otherwise known as Job Fit.

  • Maximizing: the position is a good fit for your naturally occurring strengths and behavioral style
  • Augmenting: partnering people with different strengths than your own
  • Adapting: learning to use behavior’s other than your naturally occurring response
  • Blending: working in a group or on a team where there is an understanding of individual strengths and a respect for differences

Using An Energy System Approach

Today we have a better understanding of what motivates people and what energizes and de-energizes them. While we like to hold the view that all people should have equal opportunity, all people do not have the same strengths. In other words, people are not interchangeable parts. People have different personalities or temperaments and they have different strengths. However, while people are differently abled, what is likely to be true across the board is that all people thrive best when the are able to “Maximize” or “Capitalize” on their strengths. If we spend a lot of time adapting our responses to meet the needs of other people and situations, using responses other than what comes naturally to us, it will cost us energy. At some point the energy cost shifts from “how much” to “too much” and we are not able to replenish the energy drain. This is especially true if the required behavior is very different than what comes naturally. When we get to the position 180 degrees from our position on the DISC Map, the energy cost is likely to be “too much”. In other words, when we are using our energy to adpt our behavior to the required behavior, we will become increasingly depleted and unable to replenish our energy adequately in our down time.

This also impacts our ability to use emotional self-regulation, a key skill in Emotional Intelligence, commonly known as EQ. Contemporary research on will power, habit and change has clearly determined that self-regulation of emotion and behavior is a capacity that has limits. If we are using a lot of self-regulation in one environment, such as “putting on a happy face” when we are quite unhappy or upset, the depletion of the self-regulation capacity will leave us vulnerable in other situations where we are trying to restrict our behavior such as maintaining a diet or exercise regimen.

DISc and Strengthsfinder
How Much Energy Does Behavior Cost?

I used to call this “running out of cope”. I observed that under certain stressful conditions (full travel schedule, relationship challenges, illness, injury, etc.) my capacity to ‘bounce back’ from disappointment or upset was almost absent. At other times, my equanimity was rock solid in the face of crisis. During the times when I ‘lost it’ I would say jokingly that I just ran out of cope…and I was not too far off, based on the findings in contemporary self-regulation research. Behavior modification requires energy and when my energy reserve is low I do not have the discretionary energy available to modify my response so I will respond out of my hard wiring…not a pretty sight at times. The map of DISC and Strengths gives me a tool to calculate how much energy certain behavior is likely to cost me. Then, I can make a realistic assessment of whether I’m likely to have the necessary energy available in the moment. If not, I can use other methods for handling the situation such as delaying my response to another time or enlisting the aid of someone with more “cope” to handle it.

Good Enough vs World Class Performance

The other important learning from the different approaches to Job Fit is the impact on what is called “World Class Performance”. For a person to achieve WCP they have to have the necessary natural talent plus their energy focused on the desired performance 100%. If I’m using a lot of energy to adapt my behavior to a specific performance requirement or environment, I am going to have less energy available to focus on performing at a world class level. Put more simply, there are some things that I don’t have a chance at world class performance because they are so far away from my natural response (empathy for example). However, there are some things that I have a real shot at achieving high levels of performance because I have the necessary talent and temperament naturally occurring.

Intrinsic Motivation

Being able to use our Strengths and preferred behavioral style for much of our day becomes a self-renewing energy system. A self-regenerating energy system is built into the use of our natural strengths and style. We become naturally energized by using our strengths in way that leads to sustained high levels of performance. Conversely, when we are operating out of the areas least similar to our strengths, we experience depletion, with the greatest amount of depletion occurring when we are behaving most opposite to out natural orientation.

Marcus Buckingham on Strengths


Job Crafting

Psychologist, consultants, coaches, OD practitioners are all beginning to suggest we practice “jobcrafting”. At the University of Michigan School for Positive Organization, Jane Dutton and Amy Wiznewski have created an implementation approach for the workplace. Learn more in the video or preview the book.

Jobcrafting Exercise


For more background on how using your strengths can energize and improve your performance.

Positive Psychology Daily article on Strengths

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