The Strengths Philosophy

At its heart, the strengths-based approach to human development asserts that a person’s greatest potential resides within the development of his or her unique, God-given talents and drives. Research conducted by the Gallup Organization over the last 40 years confirms this belief and provides tools and frameworks for discovering, developing, and directing individual and team talents into satisfying and productive practices that enrich our world.

At APU, we bring this strengths-based approach to our work as educators with students, faculty, staff and outside partners. We believe this serves individuals and organizations while also honoring God through effective stewardship of people’s talents.

Why Strengths Matter

  • Identifying our strengths is the key to accessing the best of ourselves in pursuing goals and overcoming challenges.
  • Strengths are not the exclusive resources of a privileged minority or select group, but are available to every individual and group.
  • When we operate in our strengths, we are more likely to be actively engaged in our work and report higher degrees of happiness and satisfaction in our lives.
  • Understanding our strengths enables us to authentically affirm and value the uniqueness within ourselves and others.
  • Strengths offer us insights about how we most powerfully contribute in the workplace and the world.

Identifying Talents and Building Strengths

Strengths, as defined in the strengths movement, are more than those activities in which we’re simply “really good.” Though high performance is definitely a part of what makes a strength a strength, so is the intrinsic satisfaction and joy that the individual experiences when they are involved in the activity. When true strengths are in action, they cause the individual to “feel strong” when engaged in the activity and fuel the drive for further growth and performance in that activity.

The CliftonStrengths for Students assessment (also known as the StrengthsFinder or StrengthsQuest assessments) provides users with a shortcut for discovering their unique talents. The CliftonStrengths assessment also provides a common language and framework for understanding strengths development, which is being used internationally in business, education, and leadership sectors. (Over 17 million people around the globe have taken the assessment.)

The CliftonStrengths report provides users with their Top 5 Talent Themes, which are foundational to the development of personal strengths. Natural, or God-given, talents are unique to each individual, but every talent needs development for it to become a truly reliable strength. The relationship between strengths and talents can be illustrated as a formula:
(Skills + Knowledge + Effort) x Talent = Strength

Skills, knowledge, and the investment of effort are all necessary to develop talents into a strengths, but talents are the true multipliers of investment, so they play a strategically critical role in effective strengths development.

Using and Developing Strengths

One of the most natural and fruitful ways to develop strengths is to become more intentional in applying strengths in one’s current life settings. Usually, people are already using their talents to some degree, but by raising awareness about talent usage, the benefits and growth rate will increase dramatically. For example, individuals with a high Intellection talent could leverage that ability by regularly scheduling time to think and reflect and not simply fill their days with activity. Another way to develop strengths is to acquire skills and knowledge that align with areas of natural talent. For example, learning how to construct a SWOT analysis would be a powerful way to enhance the natural talents of Strategic or Analytical by providing a tool to use while employing those strengths.

Building Strengths-Based Teams and Organizations

Many of the benefits of the strengths approach for individuals are also true for teams and organizations. When teams and organizations prioritize talent identification, talent deployment, and strengths development, increases in engagement, team morale, and productivity quickly follow. One of the noteworthy and liberating findings from Gallup’s research with teams is that nearly all high performing teams consist of members with complimentary gifts working in alignment with each person’s strengths and weaknesses. Each member is a “super star” in their own way, with leaders and managers coordinating members’ gifts rather than requiring everyone (including themselves) to be great at everything.