Art might be your strength

Why You Should Focus On Your Strengths At Work

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Many appraisal processes and self reflections focus on our weaknesses and we set goals based on these. However, focusing on strengths offers a more joyful way to improve our overall performance.

By Samuel Kett

For some teachers, concentrating on parts of the job that are outside of their interests and strengths, brings excitement and enthusiasm. They’ll seek professional development to build content knowledge and develop pedagogy to help them improve on areas of weakness. However, for others, like myself, this can become overwhelming and make us doubt what we are already doing; it also means we are spending a lot of time focused on stuff that doesn’t necessarily align with who we are, which makes it a bit of a drag.

Focusing On Strengths Brings Your Overall Performance Up

Often, appraisals look to identify gaps and weaknesses so that leadership can guide us towards setting goals based on these. We might feel that differentiated Maths lessons are an area we know we are weak in and so we set a goal around that and our focus hones in on improving that weakness. The problem with this is, we may have a strength in let’s say, Visual Art, but now our attention will be slightly diverted away from that in order to focus on our new goal based on a weakness. That means that we are actually going to drag down our strengths while attempting to work towards a goal that frankly, is not overly motivating for us. Probably not a goal we would set for ourselves in the real world, and are only doing it to improve in school land. In fact the findings of a study completed by the Corporate Leadership Council 2002 on Performance Management showed that by focusing on weaknesses, our overall performance comes down by 26.8%. What you will also notice is that, when the focus is placed on our strengths, our overall performance increases by 36.4%. (see graph below)

How To Focus On Your Strengths At Work

Choose Professional Development That Suits Your Interests

Sometimes we may be given a choice over what professional development (PD) we get. When this is the case, I strongly suggest you look for PD that will develop you as a person, as this will naturally help you develop as a teacher. When we are curious and interested and motivated in our own lives, our students reap the benefits. My most recent PD was a diploma in Positive Psychology which is right in line with my interests around “teacher flourishing” and is also very transferable to my practice as a teacher. I believe that our students will benefit much more from having a teacher who is learning about something of great interest to them.

Set Goals Based On Strengths, Not Weaknesses

Identify your strengths that you can apply to your teaching and focus your energy on those. Set goals around these strengths and utilise them even more. This will raise your overall performance, improving your weaknesses while focusing on something that helps you to flourish and thrive. This is what your students need, a teacher who is flourishing and thriving. Many administrative teams are beginning to see the importance of this and I have even had a Principal who brought this approach to the appraisal process. If your appraisels are more traditional, I encourage you to try and shift the conversation towards your strengths and how your strengths could help you in the areas for improvement.

Other Things You Can Try

  • Look for specialist teaching jobs focused on your strengths
  • Offer your skills to other teachers by running mini workshops
  • Bring your strengths into different curriculum areas e.g. Art into Maths, Sports into Maths
  • Have all teachers list their specialist skills and strengths and create a presentation that can be hung up so that students and teachers know who to see around the school if they need help with a particular topic or skill.

In Short

By focusing on your strengths and things that interest you, you are not being selfish. The world needs you at your best. Your students will hugely benefit if you are feeling excited about learning and working towards goals that motivate you. You don’t have to be the best teacher at everything. It is much better for you, your students and everyone you come into contact with, if you are fully realising the strengths you already have and pursuing interests that help you to thrive.

Your Turn

Have you ever felt bummed out by working towards a teaching goal that just feels overwhelming or boring? Or, are you already fully embracing your strengths in your work? Either way, it would be great to hear from you and start a conversation that could benefit other readers. Please leave your comments below.

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