Discover your strengths

Here is a great article I ran across written by Connie Glaser reviewing Marcus Buckingham’s work.  If you find this article useful fee free to contact me for a strength based approach to coaching. My website with e-mail and phone number.

Discover your strengths

If you keep track of top-ranked business books, you’re probably familiar with the name Marcus Buckingham. This English motivational speaker and author has written four best-selling books designed to make employees – of any rank – happier and more productive. Buckingham’s primary message is that the business world has suffered far too long because companies have not focused on cultivating employees’ strengths.

Buckingham worked for the Gallup Organization for 17 years, all the while paying close attention to people’s effectiveness in the workplace. He has created a movement, called the “Strengths Revolution,” designed to create maximum success at work. He believes that there is a direct link between “engaged employees” and customer satisfaction, productivity and profit.

In addition to focusing on the benefit of playing to your strengths (rather than trying to improve your weaknesses), Buckingham has strong opinions about the role of good management in today’s business world. He thinks that a leader’s primary role is to turn people’s legitimate anxiety about the future into confidence. And the only way to do this is to “vividly” show others what the future will look like. A manager, on the other hand, figures out how to help people grow; that’s why good managers don’t necessarily make good leaders. According to Buckingham, most businesses are over-led and under-managed. Here’s how he defines what every business needs:

A great leader: This person knows how to help others see a better tomorrow. Optimism is more important than reality, and leaders often have big egos because they have to believe (think Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill) that they can make bright futures come about.

A great manager: This person capitalizes on the strengths of each person who reports to him. A great manager takes the time to identify and utilize each employee’s strong points, i.e., who is technical, who is efficient, who is personable, etc. A great manager’s people work harder for him than for anyone else.

A top performer: This person knows his strengths and weaknesses and avoids doing the things he dislikes. For example, golfer Tiger Woods’ weakness is sand saves (he’s ranked 61st), but his strength is his swing. When he won the British Open at St. Andrews, which has more bunkers than most golf courses, he was the only golfer during the four-day competition who didn’t hit into a bunker, even once. Woods’ swing was so accurate (his strength) that he didn’t have to worry about his sand swing (his weakness).

In his books, Buckingham tells readers that “A strength is an activity that makes you feel stronger … a weakness is an activity that depletes you.” He feels people spend too much time trying to improve their weaknesses and not enough time utilizing their strengths. In his words, “Most people don’t have a job that plays to their strengths. Our entire belief system says that we should not take our strengths for granted. We are supposed to knuckle down and improve our weaknesses.” Buckingham’s research indicates that this is a faulty thought pattern. Instead, he encourages us to:

  • Identify the activities that strengthen you and deplete you;

  • Change your time expenditure towards your strengths, rather than your weaknesses;

  • Communicate with others so that they are motivated to help you focus on what you do well and distance yourself from what you don’t.

Buckingham believes that talent is unique, enduring and hard to train, while skills and knowledge can and should be trained. He urges companies to determine where an employee’s natural talents lie and then combine them with skills and knowledge. He also believes that people who are really good at their job are simply not going to be well rounded. So accept it.

Corporate America obviously believes that Buckingham’s advice is worth following. Toyota, Coca-Cola, Disney and Yahoo have all used his programs.