Strength Building exercise


To show that appreciation and being positive is valuable. 

To help people to know each other deeply

To build trust and mutual respect in a group or team

To build personal self confidence and self esteem


The participants are in a small face to face group. In a larger group when time is short, demonstrate the process with one person in front of the group. Then break people into groups of four and five.

Each person has a turn as the focus of the group.

  1. She or he describes an event in which she or he achieved something she or he felt good about. It does not have to about work. Everyone else listens intently.

  2. Each group member tells the person above two or three strengths she must have used to achieve it. The person adds one or two of her or his own.

  3. The person states the one strength of all the ones she or he has heard that she or he likes the best. If people are ready they may own this by going round the group and saying to each person in turn “I am (eg) resourceful!”.

  4. The facilitator may encourage further growth by encouraging her or him to use a clear and positive tone of voice and posture with no trace of self-deprecation.

After everyone has had a turn, ask people how they feel about themselves and the group and what they have learned.

The effects

People develop in confidence and self esteem as they discover their achievements and skills are valuable. They appreciate the depths in other people and want to know more. The shared and rather intense experience builds group cohesion and trust. People enjoy it too.

Facilitating style

I find it best to be quite light-hearted within a clear structure. I model listening and take part myself if the group is small.


Use it for team building and for increasing self esteem and mutual trust. The story below shows how powerful it can be.

A story

Joy Knudson used a variation of this method with a group of young mothers in a welfare-to-work programme.  They had a history of not working effectively in groups, whether in school or on jobs, and tended to avoid true empathy or vulnerability.  Underneath their resistance lay poor self-esteem and a lack of belief in their own abilities to cope.  Most of their conversations and energy revolved around what they -and everyone else – did wrong, and who should be blamed for it.

When Joy used the “Strength Building” exercise to have them share a time they triumphed despite their circumstances, their stories ranged from regaining custody of a baby taken away due to drug abuse to helping their children survive periods of homelessness.  They listened to each other deeply and compassionately, exchanged heartfelt, affirming feedback, and slowly realized that the ability to succeed in their stories proved they had strengths and qualities they could access in other situations.

Joy then provided them each with a card that contained the positive feedback from the other group members, plus her own comment that broadened the strength(s) shown into an affirmation they could apply in more general circumstances.  At a meeting several months later, most reported they had kept those cards, posting them on bathroom mirrors or refrigerator doors, instantly retrieving the sense of strength and pride they had experienced  Joy has since shared the exercise at regional meetings, having found it effective for both opening up communication and fostering growth with clients.

Thank you, Joy, for contributing this moving story, and doing this great work, Nick

If you would like help using this idea, or have any comments or questions please contact me. Thanks, Nick