The Strengths Approach To Doing Satisfying Work


“The world of work keeps changing,” some people say. “It is hard to know what skills people should learn to shape their futures.”

Perhaps. As the saying goes, however, the more things change, the more some things stay the same.

Creative people throughout history have followed certain themes to earn a living doing what they love. They have built on their strengths and found sponsors – employers or customers – who hired them for doing what they did best. They then helped those sponsors to succeed.

People who develop such eternal skills are more likely to shape their futures. Let’s explore how this works in action.


Michelangelo, Anita Roddick and Steve Jobs had at least one thing in common. They did what they did best and got somebody to pay them for doing it. Some customers will always be interested in buying quality. And the best way of producing quality is to develop your top talents.

How can you clarify your strengths? One approach is to identify the deeply satisfying activities in which you deliver As rather than Bs or Cs.

You may be good at counselling, gardening, making furniture, singing, coaching a sport or developing software. You may be good at selling, customer care, nursing, leading certain kinds of teams or doing another activity.

Here are some questions you can ask to begin clarifying your strengths. You can then move on to clarifying the specific things you can deliver that will help people to succeed.


Anybody can do work they love, the art is getting somebody to pay you for doing it. Creative artists have faced this challenge throughout history.

How to find sponsors – employers or customers – who will hire you for what you do best? One approach is to start by clarifying your perfect customers or employers.

Who are kinds of customers with whom you work best? What are the characteristics of these people? When have you done good work for such people? What did you do to help them to achieve success?

If you mainly work within an organisation, what is the kind of manager with whom you work best? What are the characteristics of such a manager? What makes it good to work with them?

Here are answers that individuals give to these sets of questions.

“I work best with achievers. They love to set goals, work hard and achieve success. Being adrenaline driven myself, I enjoy working with others who like to stretch themselves to achieve success.”

“I work best with pioneering leaders. Such people often aim to be pacesetters. It is exciting to work with such people who are aiming to make the new rules for the game.” 

“I work best with people who have humanistic values. They often want to create workplaces that encourage people. At the same time, however, they are prepared to take tough decisions.”

Imagine you have clarified your perfect customers or employers. Looking at the world from their point of view, what are the challenges they face? How can you help them achieve their goals?

Imagine you are working with external customers. What are the pressures they face? What are their present and future needs? What are their professional goals?

Imagine you are mainly working within an organisation. Your internal customers are your colleagues, manager and the directors. What are their challenges? What are their professional goals?

Most employers want to improve the Three Ps. They want to improve their profits, product quality – including processes and service quality – and people. How can you help them to tackle these challenges and also achieve the organisation’s goals?

Imagine you have identified your potential sponsors. How can you reach them in a way that fits with your values system? How can you create a showcase – a shop window – for your work? How can you give to people and help them to succeed?

Later we will go into greater depth regarding how to reach people in ways that work for you. Before then, however, here are some themes you can explore to clarify your potential sponsors.


Imagine you have settled on your potential sponsors. How can you use your strengths to help them to tackle their challenges? How can you help them to achieve their goals?

Great workers provide specific services or products that help their potential sponsors: to solve problems, to have positive experiences or to achieve their picture of success.

Depending on their strengths, different people help others in different ways. They focus on what people may need or want. They then provide practical help or knowledge that helps them to achieve their aims.

A doctor may help people to regain their health. A chef may offer people wonderful food. A sports coach may help athletes to perform at their best.

A project director may ensure strategies are delivered on time. A crisis manager may solve problems that threaten an organisation. A film maker may produce films that give people pleasure.

Imagine that you have managed to meet with potential sponsors. It will be important:

To show that you understand the world from their point of view – such as their challenges and goals; 

To, if appropriate, share how what you offer can help them to achieve their goals; 

To, if they want to move things forward, make clear contracts on the specific things you will deliver to help them to achieve their goals.

To get some quick successes, provide great service and proactively keep them informed about the progress being made towards the goals; 

To do superb work, find solutions to challenges, deliver the agreed goals and then add that touch of class.

You will do this in your own way. But here are some themes it can be useful to explore on the road to help them to achieve success.

Imagine that you want to build on your strengths and do satisfying work. You also want to help others to achieve success.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to explore the following themes.


Describe the satisfying activities in which you have the ability to deliver As. These may be particular kinds of projects, tasks or other activities. Try to be as specific as possible and give concrete examples.

Describe the activities in which you deliver Bs or Cs. The B activities are probably those that you can do reasonably well but may not necessarily be satisfying. The C activities are those where you have little aptitude or desire to learn.


Describe the kinds of people – customers or employers – with whom you work best. These may be people with certain personality characteristics or other qualities. Describe the challenges they face or the goals they want to achieve.


Bearing in mind your strengths, describe the specific things you can deliver to help these people. There are many ways to define what you offer.

One approach is to answer the following question. What are the specific things you can deliver to help your customers to achieve success? If you wish, try completing the following exercise.

 My Offering

The specific things I can deliver to help
my customers to achieve success are: 




The emphasis is on what you can deliver not just what you can do. Lots of people can do lots of things, but customers or employers buy what you can deliver.

Describe the specific benefits – to the various stakeholders – of delivering these things. As the old saying goes, people buy benefits rather than features. It can therefore be useful to describe how delivering these things will benefit people.

Here are the exercises. You can use these to continue to build on your strengths and help people to achieve success.

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