Project Management

Finding Strengths - In You!

From the Shifting Change: Insider Tips from Project Leaders Blog
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Today's world is influenced by change. Project managers and their organizations need to embrace and sometimes drive changes to keep up with the pace in highly competitive environments. In this blog, experienced professionals share their experiences, tips and tools to manage and exploit changes and take advantage of them. The blog is complimentary to the webinar series of the Change Management Community Team and is managed by the same individuals.

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Luisa Cristini
Nic Jain
Ruth Pearce
Abílio Neto
Vitaly Geyman
Walter Vandervelde
Steve Salisbury
John ORourke
Joseph Pusz
Kavitha Gunasekaran
Ronald Sharpe
Angela Montgomery
Carole Osterweil
Ross Wirth
Ryan Gottfredson
Tony Saldanha

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Over the last couple of months, I have had the pleasure of offering two webinars exploring the use of character strengths as project managers. In the first webinar, we focused on and developing your own strengths as a project manager. We were looking at the first three phases in the SBPM model – Understand, Cultivate, Model.

There is lots of great research on the benefits of starting from what is strong rather than what is wrong. For example, we know that positive emotions make us more open to ideas – including ideas about how we might learn and grow[1][2]. Adopting a learning mentality – also known as “growth mindset” has been shown to lead to great feats[3]. Of course, talents – innate abilities – help, but they don’t go anywhere if we don’t hone them and learn to apply them effectively[4].

It is important to differentiate between types of strengths –

  • Talents – innate abilities
  • Skills – learned strengths
  • Character Strengths – positive personality attributes.

A surprise to many people is that this last category of personality is one where we can change. For a long time, we believed personality is fixed once we get past a certain age. Recent research shows that through deliberate practice, we can change our personalities – character strengths work helps.[5]

What do our strengths tell us and what do we want to do with that knowledge?

The first step is to understand what your strengths profile looks like. 365 attendees from 29 countries have taken the VIA Character Strengths Assessment to find out. For the purpose of the discussion, we looked at the results of an analysis of over 250 project manager assessments.

Facts about PMs:

  1. Overall, our profile looks a lot like other peoples’! We rate honesty, fairness, kindness, and judgment high in our profiles.
  2. Some strengths that other people don’t rank very high show up higher for us:
    1. Perseverance
    2. Forgiveness
    3. Prudence
  3. Strengths have their dark side and when used inappropriately can cause problems.

  1. Two strengths show up consistently lower for PMs than for other people. These are Social Intelligence and Perspective.
  2. Despite the overall results, some individual PMs rank social intelligence and perspective high.

I explore two questions from attendees here:

  1. What do we do about our lower strengths of social intelligence and perspective?

It is tempting to think we need to build those strengths directly, and that is certainly an option. You can grow any strength through deliberate practice. Generally, more important though is to focus on mindful use of your own strengths. Think carefully about which strengths are helpful in a particular situation. Watch out for overuse of top strengths (see above) and underuse of your middle and lesser strengths. And don’t forget to partner up with people who are higher in strengths that compliment yours!

  1. Another question raised is, “Project managers tend to rank social intelligence lower than other people, but women are different from men – right?”

Actually, wrong! This question from attendee sent me back to my data for a closer look. Anecdotal evidence suggests that women tend to be higher in social and emotional intelligence and empathy. But the data we have on project managers says that women and men in this field rank about the same. There may be some individuals who rank social intelligence high, but for the most part, we are people who rank other strengths – such as prudence, forgiveness, and perseverance – higher.


Project managers tend to agree, Social Intelligence – the ability to read and adjust to others - is a strength that does not come easily. We can build it when we pay attention to our own strengths and behaviors and when we start to pay attention to the same in others. This is what strengths spotting is all about – a topic we cover in the second webinar.

Building a strength: I am working on the strength of self-regulation through developing a mindfulness practice among other things… what strength will you cultivate?

Here is a list for you to consider:

Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, Bravery, Creativity, Curiosity, Fairness, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Honesty, Hope, Humility, Humor, Judgment, Kindness, Leadership, Love, Love of Learning, Perspective, Perseverance, Prudence, Self-Regulation, Social Intelligence, Spirituality, Teamwork, Zest.

Watch the first video here:

[1] Fredrickson, Barbara. Positivity: Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive. Crown Publishers, 2009.

[2] Lyubomirsky, Sonja. The How of Happiness: a Practical Guide to Getting the Life You Want. Piatkus, 2013.

[3] Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: the New Psychology of Success. Ballantine, 2016.

[4] Syed, Matthew. Bounce: the Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice. HarperCollins, 2011.

[5] “Do Genes Influence Personality?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers,


Posted by Ruth Pearce on: May 20, 2019 07:00 AM | Permalink

Comments (7)

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In the last year, I have been practicing elements of mindfulness with a strong dose of acceptance. Self-care is extremely important but is a concept that most Project Managers would agree with in principle, but interpersonally would shrug it off. Eventually though, when stress takes its toll a wake-up call is made, and when they read articles like your’s they realize they have choices to make that will impact their well-being.

Keep up the good work!

Love approaching projects based on team and individual strengths. I try to spin positive whenever possible and have a background in motivational interviewing. Love this stuff! Keep it coming!

I like your post. It is very useful and interesting. Thanks fors haring it.
I would like to sharp more these -Self Regulation and Social Intelligence and Spirituality .

Hi George, Lori and Shadav
Thank you so much for your comments and for taking the time to read the post.

George - I think there are many of us that miss out on self-care. At a conference last week we had a pause to consider our emotion in that moment. Several people commented that they never normally do that and it was quite illuminating to take a moment to reflect. If we can all learn to pause more think of the possibility!

Lori - the research shows that coming at things from a position of strength results in better outcomes, more creativity and improved problem-solving. That last bit is key. Positive psychology is not about avoiding conflict or ignoring problems, it is about using the tools we have available in the most effective way to achieve the results we want. We can develop new tools, but using the ones we already have the best way we can is a good start!

Shadav - you want to hone the three S's That is terrific. What is your next step?

Awesome! Thanks for sharing.

Very interesting points presented, thanks a lot!

Thanks for your words, they were very usefull for Me, change my perspective is an important matter to accomplish

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