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How Character Strengths Build Thriving Workplaces

By David Penglase

If you want a thriving business where leaders and their teams are flourishing professionally and personally, there is considerable and convincing scientific evidence that recommends training, coaching and developing your leaders and their teams to be aware of and regularly apply their ‘signature strengths’.

While arguably Aristotle is famously known for his focus on the ethics of character, Martin Seligman, Chris Peterson and 53 other leading scientists over a period of three years researched and arrived at a classification of what is now known as the Values In Action (VIA) Classification and Inventory of Character Strengths.

The research, which started back in 2000, arrived at six core characteristics that have been determined to be universally valued as morally important across most, if not all cultures and nations. They are: Wisdom, Courage, Humanity, Justice, Temperance and Transcendence.

However, looking at character and virtues at that high level, while interesting and in my opinion important, where the research becomes extremely practical and of massive value, is in the further identification and classification of what are referred to as 24 character strengths that were sub-sets of the six core characteristics.

Peterson and Seligman (2004) describe these character strengths as being ‘substantially stable, universal personality traits’ that are displayed through our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Without listing all 24 of these character strengths, in this post I will highlight the 8 that further research has shown to be the most associated with human flourishing in both professional and personal life. They are:

  • Curiosity and Love of learning (subsets of the core value of Wisdom)
  • Perseverance and Zest (subsets of the core value of Courage)
  • Social Intelligence (subset of the core value of Humanity)
  • Self-Regulation (subset of the core value of Temperance)
  • Gratitude and Hope (subsets of the core value of Transcendence).

There is a free on-line VIA Inventory of Strengths that you can complete here.

You will need to provide some detail about you, as this forms part of on-going research. The real value of completing the VIA Inventory of Strengths (remember, it’s free to do), is the report that is generated to help you understand your own core strengths and how you can maximise these strengths (while also having the choice to develop other strengths where you think they will be of value to you in your professional or personal life).

It's important to note that this is not a personality self-assessment that pigeon holes you into some relatively meaningless four letter acronym. It is a wonderful self-coaching tool, and an excellent process, when facilitated professionally, for work teams.

Again, what the research shows is that leaders and their teams who are applying their character strengths on a regular basis are more likely to be working in a place where the business is thriving and they have a personal and collective sense of meaning and purpose in their lives, and that they are flourishing.

I reckon that's a fairly important goal to pursue.

If you're a leader and would like to know more about how to apply character strengths to build a thriving workplace where your team will flourish, give me a call at our Sydney office on +61 2 9546 2492 or email me,



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