Assessing individual strengths: A quick, fun activity for teams

By Anne Sexton - Last update

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Feeling undervalued? Not sure where your strengths lie? Training activity guru Sivasailam Thiagi Thiagarajan has created a quick and fun way for team members to assess individual strengths…

Recently, I completed a Reflected Best Self (RBS) activity that involved a dozen people sending me emails with their perceptions of my strengths. This is an effective activity that helps participants to identify and leverage their strengths. You can learn more about this activity by reading How to Play to Your Strengths by Laura Morgan Roberts, Gretchen Spreitzer, Jane Dutton, Robert Quinn, Emily Heaphy, and Brianna Barker (Harvard Business Review, January 2005).

Here’s a faster face-to-face activity that I created by combining RBS, the envelopes framegame, and the psychic massage closer.

I conducted this activity with several intact work teams to help them discover and share individual strengths as well as to increase their engagement by structuring their jobs around these strengths.

  • Purpose: To create a verbal self-portrait that incorporates your strengths (as perceived by your colleagues)
  • Participants: Any number of people who work together (for example, members of an intact work team) organized into groups of 5 to 9 members
  • Time: Allow 5 minutes per each member of the playgroup for the group activity as well as 15 minutes for the individual activity. Example: If the playgroup has 7 members, the group activity will require 35 minutes. The individual activity will require 15 minutes
  • Handout: Player’s Instructions (including the list of strengths) see below.
  • Supplies and Equipment: Envelopes; Writing paper; Countdown timer; Whistle



Brief the players

First of all, organise participants into groups and ask them to sit around a table. Explain that the objective is to identify the strengths of each member as perceived by his or her colleagues. Finally, explain that the activity has two phases. The first one takes place in groups and the second one is completed by individuals.


Distribute supplies

After this, give a copy of Player’s Instructions to each participant. You should also distribute a blank envelope as well as several sheets of blank paper to each participant.


Clarify the steps of the activity

First of all, explain that instructions are included in the handout. Ask participants to skim through the handout to understand the flow of the activity. After a suitable pause, invite participants to ask questions about the activity and also answer these briefly. Finally, reassure participants that you will be circulating to help with any problems during the activity.


Begin the group activity

To begin, tell participants to write their names on the envelope and pass it to the person on the left. Set the timer for 3 minutes. Ask participants to write the strength statements. At this stage, you should also assist anyone who needs clarification. At the end of 3 minutes, blow the whistle. After that, ask participants to fold the statement and place it in the envelope (without sealing the envelope).


Conclude the group activity

Ask participants to repeat the procedure outlined in the handout. You should also continue timing each round. When the envelopes make their way to the participants whose names are on the envelopes, announce the end of the activity.


Assign individual activity

First of all, ask participants to pick up their envelope, read the strength statements, and process the information. Furthermore, tell them to follow the instructions given under “Individual Activity” in their handouts. Ask them to spend at least 15 minutes on this activity. Finally, thank the participants and send them on their way.


Handout: Player’s Instructions for Strength Envelopes (Group Activity)

Prepare your envelope

First, write your name on the face of the envelope and use block letters.


Exchange envelopes

As you pass the envelope to the person on your left, you should also receive the envelope from the person on your right.


List strengths

You have 3 minutes to complete the task. Think of the person whose name is on the envelope you received. In addition, think of three or more strengths of this person. (most noteworthy: see the list of strengths below from which you may choose appropriate ones.) For each, you should also think of a couple of specific examples of the person using the strength in action. Finally, write the strengths and examples on a piece of paper.

Here’s an example:

Strength: Reliability

This strength in action:

  1. You promised to deliver the regional sales report on May 17th. Most of us expected you to ask for an extension because the deadline was very tight. However, you delivered a high-quality report on the promised date.
  2. When people ask questions during staff meetings, you give detailed answers. The information you provide is also accurate and up to date.


 Exchange the envelopes again

At the end of 3 minutes, fold the paper and put it inside the envelope. Do not seal the envelope. Pass this envelope to the person on your left as well as pick up an envelope from the person on your right. List strengths again. You have another 3 minutes to repeat the process writing down at least three strengths and appropriate examples.

Stop the activity

Repeat the process of exchanging envelopes as well as recording three or more strengths of the person. Continue doing this until you receive the envelope with your own name as this concludes the group activity.

Individual Activity

Work alone

Collect your envelopes with the strength statements inside,and then retire to a convenient location to process the information. You may also share the information with one or more of your friends later, but for now, process the information all by yourself.

Do it yourself

First of all, before you open the envelope and read the statement, you should prepare a list of strengths that you feel you have.

Bask in the positive feedback

Now open the envelope and read the strength statements from your colleague. Savor what the others think to be your strengths. You should remember the Johari window as well as reflect on the following questions:

  • Which of your strengths are recognized by most other people—and by yourself?
  • Did some strengths surprise you (because you never realized that you had them)?
  • Which strengths did most people list?
  • Are any strengths listed by only one person? What is about your relationship that makes this person perceive this unique strength?
Create a self-portrait

Make a list of your strengths and use this information to create a verbal portrait of your reflected best self.

Create your ideal job

Figure out how to restructure your daily routine as well as your job activities so that you are able to apply your strengths more frequently and more effectively.

List of Strengths

Accountability Adaptability Assertiveness
Boldness Bravery Calmness
Caring nature Caution Cheerfulness
Cleverness Commitment Confidence
Continuous learning Courage Creativity
Critical thinking Curiosity Dependability
Detachment Dignity Diligence
Discretion Efficiency Emotional intelligence
Energy Enthusiasm Equity
Extroversion Fairness Flexibility
Friendliness Future-mindedness Generosity
Gratitude Helpfulness Honesty
Hope Humility Humour
Idealism Impartiality Improvisation
Inclusiveness Independence Industry
Ingenuity Integrity Intelligence
Interpersonal intelligence Introversion Intuition
Kindness Knowledge Leadership
Listening skills Logical thinking Long-term focus
Loyalty Maturity Modesty
Neutrality Objectivity Open mindedness
Optimism Organisation Originality
Patience Perseverance Perspective
Playfulness Proactivity Prudence
Purposeful Quantitative skills Realism
Reflective nature Relaxed nature Resiliency
Respect Responsiveness Self-assertiveness
Self-awareness Self-control Self-esteem
Sense of humour Sense of priorities Sensible nature
Service mentality Simplicity Sincerity
Social intelligence Spirit of adventure Spirituality
Spontaneity Street smarts Sympathy
Teamwork Technical expertise Tolerance for ambiguity
Trust Truthfulness Versatility
Warmth Wisdom Wit

Reproduced from THIAGI GAMELETTER. Copyright © 2009 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.

Anne Sexton

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