Helping people find career positions


which maximise their innate personal strengths

as well as their acquired skills



By Alan Stretton, PhD (Hon)

Sydney, Australia


Many years ago, I wrote an article in PM World Today entitled Aspects of people management in a projectised [i.e. project-based] organisation” (Stretton 2009g). This is now reprinted in this issue of PM World Today as a Second Edition. This commentary expands a little on the major section in the latter on People Selection and Development, and particularly on the approach of Finding and building on individual strengths. We can identify two intertwined components of individual strengths. One is acquired knowledge, skills, and competence. The other, and more difficult, attribute to identify and build on, is innate personal strengths – i.e. positive attributes which come as naturally as breathing to the individual, but whose existence and nature that individual only rarely recognises. I am going to label these as “hidden” innate personal strengths.

This commentary explores the latter subject a little further. It starts with a short discussion on the nature of innate personal strengths, which still do not appear to attract much attention in the project management literature, but which we regarded as very important indeed at Civil & Civic. It then discusses difficulties in unearthing such hidden innate strengths in selection interviews when recruiting people. It goes on to expand on the organisational arrangements which Civil & Civic put in place to help people naturally gravitate to positions which evidently best suited their own particular innate strengths – an approach which worked rather well for us in practice. Examples will also be given of some other organisations which made rather similar arrangements – evidently also successfully. Finally, I will discuss, albeit in a somewhat tentative retrospective mode, one of my own elusive (to me) innate strength attributes, in the hope that my rather idiosyncratic experience with this may be relevant by some other reader or readers.


As noted in the Introduction, I have used the label “innate personal strength(s)” to describe distinctive positive personal attribute(s) which appear to come as naturally as breathing to the individual, but whose existence and nature are only rarely recognised by that person (hence my occasional addition of “hidden” to the above descriptor). In the course of a long career, I have recognised that most people appear to have such hidden innate personal strength(s). Further, most of my colleagues also have had much the same kind of recognition – and I will shortly be discussing how this was recognised and acted upon in Civil & Civic.

However, perhaps surprisingly, I have seen very little reference to the existence and importance of such innate personal strengths in the project management literature. However I must also admit to a substantial decline in my coverage of this literature in recent years – so, perhaps there are some relevant empirical data and discussion which have eluded me, but which I would certainly like to know about.

Amongst more indirect references I have come across in the project management literature are some recent comments by Wagner 2022, who, in a slightly different context, discusses “intrinsic motivations for actions”, and “self motivation” which facilitates “the development and use of acquired competencies”. Rightly or wrongly, I associate Wagner’s “intrinsic motivation” and “self-motivation” with innate personal strengths – which, as he points out, are also linked to acquiring competencies. However, in this article I will focus mainly on the former.


To read entire paper, click here

How to cite this article: Stretton, A. (2023). Helping people find career positions which maximise their innate personal strengths as well as their acquired skills, commentary, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue I, January. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/pmwj125-Jan2023-Stretton-Helping-people-find-career-positions-based-on-innate-strengths-2.pdf

About the Author

Alan Stretton, PhD     

Faculty Corps, University of Management
and Technology, Arlington, VA (USA)
Life Fellow, AIPM (Australia)


Alan Stretton is one of the pioneers of modern project management.  He is currently a member of the Faculty Corps for the University of Management & Technology (UMT), USA.  In 2006 he retired from a position as Adjunct Professor of Project Management in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia, which he joined in 1988 to develop and deliver a Master of Project Management program.   Prior to joining UTS, Mr. Stretton worked in the building and construction industries in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for some 38 years, which included the project management of construction, R&D, introduction of information and control systems, internal management education programs and organizational change projects.  He has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France).  Alan was Chairman of the Standards (PMBOK) Committee of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) from late 1989 to early 1992.  He held a similar position with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), and was elected a Life Fellow of AIPM in 1996.  He was a member of the Core Working Group in the development of the Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management.  He has published 250+ professional articles and papers.  Alan can be contacted at alanailene@bigpond.com.au.

To see more works by Alan Stretton, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/alan-stretton/.