Tricia Palmer, HR consultant, interim director, leadership and personal coach explores how strengths based approaches may benefit employees. This article has been written in consultation with Darren O’Connor — Director of Passe-Partout leadership consultancy.

Tricia Palmer, HR consultant, interim director, leadership and personal coach explores how strengths based approaches may benefit employees. This article has been written in consultation with Darren O’Connor — Director of Passe-Partout leadership consultancy.

In his 1999 acceptance speech on becoming President of the American Psychological Association, Martin Seligman famously signalled a shift towards practice grounded in positive psychology:

“The most important thing we learned was that psychology was half-baked. We’ve baked the part about mental illness, about repair damage. The other side’s unbaked, the side of strength, the side of what we’re good at.”

During the intervening 21 years, positive psychology has become a highly influential discipline in professions ranging from social work, through coaching and counselling, to organisational development. Widely used techniques like appreciative enquiry, and popular concepts like “growth mindset”, can all be traced back to what Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi have defined as "the scientific study of positive human functioning and flourishing on multiple levels that include the biological, personal, relational, institutional, cultural, and global dimensions of life”.

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