Saturday, September 13, 2008

“Now, Discover your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton

We wrote this book to start a revolution - a Strengths Revolution
These were the opening words of the book “Now, Discover your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton.
The premise is that businesses (and people) are built on two faulty assumptions:
1. Each person can learn to be competent in almost anything.
2. Each person's greatest room for growth is in his or her areas of greatest weakness.

The authors offer alternative assumptions that sure make sense to me:
1. Each person's talents are enduring and unique.
2. Each person's greatest room for growth is in the areas of the person's greatest strengths.
Not only does it make sense, they back it up with years of research, hundreds of thousands of surveys (they are from the Gallup Organization, after all) and neuroscience to prove their assumptions.
People progress more rapidly in their areas of greatest talent than in their areas of weakness. Yet too many training and development approaches focus on making improvements in areas of weakness. How many performance reviews have you been through where the main topic of conversation was the areas in which you performed poorly and how you can get better in those areas?
Now imagine if your focus was on the areas in which you excelled - and on excelling even further in those areas.
This is the basis of a Strengths Based Performance program.
Rather than spending time and energy on boosting sub-par performance areas to an acceptable level (and ignoring areas of excellence). We do better by spending a majority of time enhancing the areas in which we are already strong.
This is not to say that weaknesses are ignored, but rather that we try to find ways to work around them. For example, we may be able to overcome our weaknesses by using our strengths (a common theme in a business SWOT analysis). Or we may be able to overcome weaknesses by partnering with someone who is strong in those areas. Or, we may be able to just stop doing those things we're not good at.
A very valid example offered in the book is that of Tiger Woods. Unknown to me, it seems that, although Tiger may be one of the best golfers to ever play, he's one of the worst at hitting a ball out of a sand trap. A true weakness for a golfer. But do you think that Tiger spent all of his time with his coach learning to better hit the ball out of a sand trap? No, he spent most of his time bettering his drive so as not to hit the ball into the sand trap in the first place. Using his strength to overcome his weakness.
Picture what would have happened if Tiger spent most of his time working on that sand trap. He'd probably get better at it. Maybe even good at it. But never great at it. And while he's spending so much time and energy on something he's not great at, he's not spending time on something that he can be great at. Thus, he becomes a mediocre golfer. Good at many things but great at nothing.
This is what we constantly do in our businesses and in our lives. We spend too much of our energy trying to fix what's wrong rather than building on what's right - and we become mediocre.
Not only do we not excel, we loose interest, we loose passion - because we're spending so much of our energy on things we're not good at and, most likely, don't like doing.
Now, imagine working every day at that which you are best; at that which matches your personal style and your inborn talents; at that which energizes you and utilizes your best strengths.
Organizational and personal development must center on talent, values, and personality. By discovering each person’s strengths, incorporating them into their daily activities, and working around their weaknesses, each individual can achieve undiscovered performance and satisfaction, become fully engaged in their work, and add to the accomplishments of their organization at levels far beyond current expectations.
Employee enthusiasm, commitment, personal responsibility, and accountability are crucial elements to the success of any business. Engaged employees are builders. They perform at consistently high levels. They want to use their talents and strengths at work every day. They work with passion, they have an instinctive bond with their company, and they drive innovation and move their organization forward.
A successful performance management plan is directed towards the individual and is centered on individual strengths. By developing plans and actions geared to drive up intrinsic motivation, and thus engagement, you will obtain your goals and reach new levels of success.
It's time to change. It's time to join the Strengths Revolution. It's time to start imagining what we can achieve when we focus on what we're good at, on our strengths and talents.
It's time to be great!

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