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. Adopting a learning mentality – also known as “growth mindset” has been shown to lead to great feats. Of course, talents – innate abilities – help, but they don’t go anywhere if we don’t hone them and learn to apply them effectively.
It is important to differentiate between types of strengths –
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.
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.
I explore two questions from attendees here:
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!
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.
 Fredrickson, Barbara. Positivity: Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive. Crown Publishers, 2009.
 Lyubomirsky, Sonja. The How of Happiness: a Practical Guide to Getting the Life You Want. Piatkus, 2013.
 Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: the New Psychology of Success. Ballantine, 2016.
 Syed, Matthew. Bounce: the Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice. HarperCollins, 2011.
 “Do Genes Influence Personality?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/under-the-influence/201307/do-genes-influence-personality.