• Laura Copas

Setting Sail

Updated: May 29


Mastering strengths; the key to building positive cultures, authentic leaders and stronger teams.



Over the course of our lives we will have picked up skills for effective sailing. We’ve understood the basics, we've learnt how to chart a course towards our goals and we’ve learnt how to stay afloat as the weather conditions change. But what happens when the water becomes increasingly unfamiliar and choppier? What if our sailboat has a hole and we’re taking in water? What if our boat is sinking?


At this point it’s very likely that we are going to do the logical thing; bail the water out, and fix the leak. Sometimes bailing the water feels steady and manageable and the leaks are under control. Other times its manic, desperate and potentially overwhelming. However, over time we become very adept at fixing leaks and bailing out water. Peaks of adrenaline are mixed with a sense of relief and heroism for each storm we safely pass through. The problem is that with all this time spent on fixing and bailing, are we spending any time sailing? When we find ourselves falling into cycles of crisis and reactivity, we can quickly lose sight of the direction and progress of the boat and find that we are not making progress towards where we want to go.


When it comes to our personal development, this focus on fixing the leaks and bailing out water, is akin to focusing solely on ‘fixing’ our weaknesses. Fixing a leak is fundamental if the leak is critical e.g. below the water line and large enough to cause significant problems. However, we need to use our sails, our strengths, to gain forward momentum and actually get anywhere.


The sails are our strengths, the factors that are authentic and energising to us. They enable optimal functioning, development and performance. We know what it is like to be working to our strengths because we feel energised and engaged. Everything feels easier, we’re more productive and operate in flow rather than feeling heavy and drained. As well as more productive and engaged, when we are able to work using our strengths, we are also more resilient, happier and healthier.


Yet most of us are not aware exactly what our strengths are, or that most often our performance risks are actually our strengths in overdrive rather than 'weaknesses'. In part this is because of our natural bias towards safety and reducing risk by paying more attention to the negatives (fixing leaks and bailing water) than the positives. However, this means that it is unlikely that our work, our team and the work of others have been optimised around the use of our strengths, resulting in disengagement and fatigue.


With some focus, attention and awareness we can start to make positive shifts in our energy and performance quickly. To aid this work, we're accredited in a range of strength based tools so that we can provide people with a clear picture of their strengths and performance risks at work. We've found that the Strengthscope profiles create a common language and form the basis for a series of engaging and empowering person-centred conversations. Additionally for leaders, we are able to help to develop their ‘leadership edge’ (purpose values, strengths and abilities), and continue to their development of skills giving feedback in the four key areas of; sharing vision, sparking engagement, skilfully executing and sustaining progress. Team development is also enhanced through this approach with the ability to understand the distribution of strengths and risks across the team and the touchstones for teams to succeed: clarity of goals; trust; accountability for results; change readiness and continuous improvement.


With data including the potential to increase employee engagement by 73% (Rath and Conchie, 2008), it is easy to see the benefits of this approach. More than that, people report that the focus on strengths is ‘life-changing.’ It has certainly altered my perspective on my own performance and development, and has opened up a wide range of conversations that may have previously felt out of bounds.


If you would like to talk more about how we can help you to ‘set sail’ (couldn’t resist!) then please get in touch laura@getrealchange.co.uk.

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