VIA strengths profile 

Recognise, celebrate, and share each other’s strengths – using VIA to build a strengths-based culture at work 

This three-minute article provides tips and tools for interpreting your strengths profile results and using them to build resilience, increase energy at work and when studying, collaborate better with colleagues and build focus.

At Breathe Australia, we often use an open-source assessment of personal strengths and values in our workshops called the VIA (values in action). 

Use this article, in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania online VIA strengths assessment tool, to help you consider your top strengths and values and whether you are using them effectively. If you haven’t completed the assessment, read this article, and then view the full list of 24 VIA strengths at the end of this newsletter.

The VIA assessment takes about twenty minutes to do, and upon completion, you can review and download a ranking of your top strengths from one to twenty-four. Millions of people have used this tool over the years and found it helpful in building resilience, aligning career and personal goals with inner values, and helping integrate into a team at work.

In other strengths workshops with teams, we supplement the VIA with a workplace assessment called strengths profile from Cappfinity. VIA is a great starting point to help you understand where your strengths lie – incredibly, research points to 70% of us finding it difficult to say clearly what our strengths are.

Why is it so important to reflect on strengths?

Remember your best self – reflect upon times of growth, energy, meaning, overcoming adversity, and connection. When we do this it:

  • Creates energy- as you reflect on your strengths it builds energy and capacity in you right now.
  • Builds strong boundaries and confidence.
  • Fosters resilience – meeting your challenges with your inner strength and helps overcome a natural negativity bias.
  • Motivates – uncovering where passions lie, guiding your choices and helping understand your motives better.
  • Changes perspective – seeing others in a fresh light – helping you understand others and empathise with them.
  • Manages disagreements and conflict – being on the lookout for each other’s strengths helps us overcome working style and personality differences at work.
  • Helps overcome confirmation bias – when we experience an annoying behaviour in a friend or colleague, we become super sensitive and attuned to this behaviour. We become more vigilant to “flaws” and discount their strengths.
  • Enables people to bring their best selves into their roles and helps our colleagues understand where the best fit is for our talents.
  • Creates positivity in a team and builds a culture that celebrates individual and team achievements.
  • Creates psychologically safe spaces where people feel free to share ideas.
  • Helps us overcome our natural negative filtering bias (to catastrophise occasionally and overly focus on failure and weakness)
  • Increases team engagement and reduces staff turnover.
  • Helps people feel heard.
  • Builds a work environment that is attractive to all stakeholders and future team members to join.
  • Helps build a can-do growth mindset to personal and organisational challenges.

Using VIA and strengths-profile tools helps us build a vocabulary around strengths at work or in our studies – we learn to recognise, celebrate, share and use our strengths wisely. 

Understand where your strengths lie

It’s helpful to buddy up with a colleague and discuss each other’s strengths results. It’s often a place of learning and growth when we compare what we think our strengths are, what our colleagues think and what the VIA or strengths-profile report says.

Scan the list of VIA strengths at the bottom of this page and choose five strengths which really sum you up. Keep a note of these. 

To help you with this exercise consider the following questions and think about which strengths relate to each answer:

  • What are you most proud of from the last six months?
  • What do you want to be known most for?
  • What would your best friends say your top strengths are? 
  • Thinking back to childhood or early adulthood, what are you most proud of? What strengths do you think you were using?
  • What would your closest colleagues say about your strengths?
  • What are you most passionate about?
  • What are you doing when you feel most energised?
  • When does time fly for you – when you feel fully absorbed in what you are doing 
  • What activities at home and work are most meaningful to you.
  • How do you like to learn new things?
  • What does success look like for you?
  • Which strengths would you like to grow? For example (today I’m going to be curious etc.)

Does your self-assessment of strengths differ from your VIA results? What does this tell you? For example, does it mean that you aren’t bringing your top strengths into work?

Making the most of your strengths in life

Getting the most out of your VIA strengths results – try these techniques this month

Building resilience

Making a new habit such as the ones described below can be challenging unless you make it simple. To do this pick an existing habit and stack a positive new one on top of an old one. For example, you might set the following intention –  “as I close my laptop at work, I’ll reflect and write about three things from the day and the strengths I used”. I find this a useful exercise to do as I’m crafting a to do list for the next day.

Some people find it very helpful to keep a journal of their experiences. For others, not so much. If you are in the second group, your technique might be as follows, “as I close my laptop at work, I’ll look at a screenshot of my top five strengths on my phone and I’ll spend a few moments thinking back to the biggest moments in my day and how I used those strengths”.

Try one or both of the following techniques:

  1. Create a new end of day habit. As you finish work or your studies for the day, look at your top strengths and reflect on which ones you used today to:

  • Overcome a challenge
  • Support a friend or colleague
  • Learn something new
  • Finish a task
  • Make the most of an opportunity
  • Be brave
  • Have fun
  • Be creative

Keep a journal of your reflections for one week.

Or

b. At the end of each day reflect on three things:

  • The biggest success of the day
  • The most fun you had that day
  • How you met a challenge

And in each case, pick three or more strengths you used most in each situation. Keep a journal of your reflections for one week.

Energising your day and being focussed

Look at the whole list of 24 strengths before you start work or in your studies. Pick one strength which you think is most needed today. Do you need bravery to lean into a difficult conversation? Or do you need social intelligence to help connect with a new customer. Or is it zest and energy?

  • Now reflect on times in the last few months when you have used this strength. 
  • What were you doing? 
  • Who were you with? 
  • How did you help them? How did they help you? 

Remember as much detail about the experience as you can. What evidence do you have to demonstrate that the strength was present in that moment? What were you feeling at the time – pride, high energy, gratitude, joy, an “aha moment”?

If you find journaling to be useful, write down your reflections and make a note that you intend to use your strengths of (insert your chosen strengths).

Now turn your attention to your task list for the day. How will you meet these tasks using the strengths you’ve identified? Has this exercise changed your task list in any way? For example, have you added or removed some items? Have you realised that some of your tasks have a higher priority than others?

Connecting with your colleagues and friends using social and emotional intelligence at work

Look out for each other’s strengths

Get into the habit of observing your colleagues’ strengths. Consider which strengths they are exhibiting when they are at their best. Then, use the strengths list below to start understanding their goals, values and what makes them tick.

Time pressure, stress and preconceived ideas about a person can create barriers between people. In addition, some of our biases, such as our negative filtering bias, also impede connection. For example, we tend to focus more on negative feedback, remember adverse events more strongly than positive ones and focus on deficits rather than strengths.

Using the 24 strengths as a framework to identify your own and other people’s strong points helps us overcome many of these biases and filtered views about how we see ourselves, our place in society and how we see each other.

As we recognise, celebrate and communicate our appreciation of strengths, we create a strong bond that enables people to communicate clearly and positively. The strengths framework allows us to bring our best selves into different roles.

When talking to friends, loved ones and colleagues, compliment them on the strengths you see in them and tell them how you see these strengths working for them. Use the strengths list and these questions to deepen your understanding of yourself and those close to you.

VIA strengths list 

  • FORGIVENESS – Forgiving those who have done wrong; accepting the shortcomings of others; giving people a second chance; not being vengeful
  • HUMILITY – Letting one’s accomplishments speak for themselves; not regarding oneself as more special than one is
  • PRUDENCE – Being careful about one’s choices; not taking undue risks; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted
  • SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE – Being aware of the motives and feelings of other people and oneself; knowing what to do to fit into different social situations; knowing what makes other people tick
  • SELF REGULATION – Regulating what one feels and does; being disciplined; controlling one’s appetites and emotions
  • APPRECIATION OF BEAUTY AND EXCELLENCE – Noticing and appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in various domains of life, from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience
  • GRATITUDE – Being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen; taking time to express thanks
  • HOPE – Expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it; believing that a good future is something that can be brought about
  • SPIRITUALITY – Having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe; knowing where one fits within the larger scheme; having beliefs about the meaning of life that shape conduct and provide comfort
  • KINDNESS – Doing favours and good deeds for others; helping them; taking care of them
  • HUMOR – Liking to laugh and tease; bringing smiles to other people; seeing the light side; making (not necessarily telling) jokes
  • PERSPECTIVE – Being able to provide wise counsel to others; having ways of looking at the world that make sense to oneself and to other people
  • CREATIVITY – Thinking of novel and productive ways to conceptualise and do things; includes artistic achievement and more
  • CURIOSITY – Taking an interest in ongoing experience for its own sake; finding subjects and topics fascinating; exploring and discovering
  • JUDGMENT – Thinking things through and examining them from all sides; not jumping to conclusions; being able to change one’s mind in light of evidence; weighing all evidence fairly
  • LOVE OF LEARNING – Mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge, whether on one’s own or formally; obviously related to the strength of curiosity but goes beyond it to describe the tendency to add systematically to what one knows
  • PERSEVERANCE – Finishing what one starts; persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles; “getting it out the door”; taking pleasure in completing tasks
  • HONESTY – Speaking the truth but more broadly presenting oneself in a genuine way and acting in a sincere way; being without pretence; taking responsibility for one’s feelings and actions
  • ZEST & ENERGY – Approaching life with excitement and energy; not doing things halfway or half-heartedly; living life as an adventure; feeling alive and activated
  • LOVE – Valuing close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated; being close to people
  • TEAMWORK – Working well as a member of a group or team; being loyal to the group; doing one’s share
  • FAIRNESS – Treating all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice; not letting personal feelings bias decisions about others; giving everyone a fair chance.
  • LEADERSHIP – Encouraging a group of which one is a member to get things done, and at the same time maintaining good relations within the group; organizing group activities and seeing that they happen.
  • BRAVERY – Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; speaking up for what is right; acting

Share these insights with friends and colleagues