All posts by Alex Bailey

How To Discover And Utilise Our Strengths To Boost Performance

Do you know the difference between strengths and skills? Discover what it is and how to use your strengths to your advantage.


Have you ever been so focused on a task that you completely lost track of time? Do you ever do something, and then ‘light up’ without even realising it? If you do, then it’s most likely that you’re using your strengths and that’s a good thing too – playing to your strengths is key to career performance, productivity and personal wellbeing. But if you don’t know what your strengths are, how do you discover them? And can you help others do the same? 

As an occupational psychologist, helping others discover and utilise strengths to boost their performance has been the focus of my career and most recently, the focus of my work with some of the world’s most well-known organisations through my business, Bailey and French. 

I recently shared some compelling insights with Tania Seary from Procurious, as part of the IBM Careers Bootcamp series. Here is a brief overview of what we discussed in the podcast, and why it’s a must-listen for anyone wanting to boost their own professional and personal performance: 

What are our strengths and why do they matter? 

Have you ever been asked what your strengths are? We all have. But in my experience, being able to provide an answer to that question doesn’t mean you actually know what your strengths are. In fact, many of us confuse strengths with skills, but they are fundamentally different. Let me explain. 

People often make the assumption that if they’re good at something, that represents a strength for them. But if you are good at something, that’s a skill for you. A strength is so much more than that. A strength is something that you’re not only good at, but that you also truly enjoy doing. 

Another point of confusion I’ve discovered is that many of us believe we develop our strengths at work. This isn’t true, though. We develop our strengths in a unique period of our lives. I explain more about when this is in the podcast, listen to it here.

How do we discover our strengths and how should we use them to boost our professional success? 

Online, you’ll find a myriad of tools and tests that purport to help you analyse and discover your strengths. But in my experience with positive psychology, you don’t need complex tests to discover your true strengths. The answer is much more simple than that. 

In order to discover your strengths, I usually recommend that you start keeping a diary. In that diary, over the course of a few weeks, write down all of your experiences, both positive and negative, and both inside and outside of work. Then, go through your diary and look at themes. These themes are important, as usually you’ll find that there are a lot of activities you do on autopilot, and some that really stand out as enjoyable. 

Once you’ve identified your themes, in order to further identify your true strengths, I recommend that you ask yourself the following questions: 

  1. When was the last time I was totally absorbed in what I was doing to the point I lost track of time? 
  2. What was the best day of the last week and why? 
  3. When did I last ‘light up’ or get excited when talking about something I did? 

Keeping a journal, and asking yourself these three important questions should help you discover your strengths. 

Yet in a professional setting, discovering your strengths is just one part of the puzzle. If you’re working in a team setting, you also need to do one other critical thing. Listen to the podcast to discover what that is.

How do you help others identify their strengths? 

Throughout my career, I’ve seen an extraordinary number of organisations focus on fixing weaknesses. But ultimately, this is misguided. We all stand to gain so much more from discovering and utilising our own strengths (a key premise of positive psychology), as well as helping others discover and utilise theirs. 

But how do you help others realise their strengths? 

One method I always recommend is to offer people specific feedback when you see them doing something really well. This feedback, though, can’t just be any feedback. It has to be detailed enough to help them identify what they’re truly good at. 

An example of this might be the feedback after someone has given you a report. Instead of simply saying ‘that was a good report,’ try to be more specific around what was good, for example, ‘the patterns you derived from the data in that report were extremely insightful.’

Why is this important? It’s because helping people realise their strengths is not just good for them, but it’s great for your team dynamic and for the relationship in general, for one important reason. Listen to the podcast to discover why that is.

Also in the podcast:

  • I discuss my key strength and how I personally discovered it 
  • I detail why it’s so easy to talk about weaknesses. 

And much more. 

I look forward to you joining us in my podcast

Alex Bailey’s podcast on strengths and positive psychology is part of our IBM Sterling Career Bootcamp. Designed to power your mind and help you excel, the boot camp consists of 6 electrifying podcasts with internationally renowned experts and speakers. Sign up here if you haven’t already.