The Benefits of Strengths-based Conversations

The benefits of having open and supportive conversations with team members is widely recognised. Effective performance development should encourage regular meetings and dialogue on performance between employees and their managers, as well as more periodic reviews, and in both cases should be based around useful reflection and constructive feedback.

The strengths-based approach is based on the theory and practice of ‘appreciative inquiry’ and has roots in positive psychology. Its starting premise is that people can have a tendency to focus on the negative aspects of performance. Instead of trying to fix our weaknesses, it is argued that we are more likely to improve if we attempt to build on our strengths, developing a better understanding of what we naturally do well and looking for opportunities to develop, replicate and spread these successes.

The application of a strengths-based approach to performance feedback has most notably been developed by Kluger and Nir (2010), whose ‘feedforward interview’ (FFI) is based on the ‘appreciative interview’ component of appreciative inquiry. The technique includes three key stages:

1. Eliciting a specific success story from the employee

2. Helping them articulate their ‘personal code for success’

3. The ‘feedforward question’: challenging employees to reflect on how they can apply this code in the future