Managing to Your Strengths

Now, Discover your Strengths

By Marcus Buckingham & Donald Clifton, PhD

The Free Press, 2001

The logic is attractive. Forget your weaknesses, and work on your strengths.

For centuries we’ve studied disease to learn about health, investigated sadness to learn about joy, looked at the causes of divorce to find clues to happy marriage.

And in workplaces around the world, we’ve been encouraged to identify, analyse and correct our weaknesses to become strong.

But wait – this is misguided advice. While faults and findings deserve study they say little about strengths, say authors Marcus Buckingham and Don Clifton in their book Now, Discover your Strengths.

They reckon we’d all achieve more by building on our strengths rather than trying to fix the weaknesses, and this book helps you get the best from people using their strengths.

Using research by the Gallup organisation, and the responses of 198,000 employees in almost 8000 businesses in 36 countries the pair found diversity of information on people’s strengths.

Globally, only 20 percent of workers in large organisations felt they worked to their strengths.

“Most bizarre of all, the longer someone stays and the higher they climb in the organisation, the less likely they are to agree they are playing to their strengths,” they report. “What’s alarming is to realise that organisations are working at only 20 percent of their capacity.” So think of the opportunity to double, or triple this.

How to do this?

First of all work out why eight out of 10 employees aren’t working to their strengths.

Hiring people they say, is often based on flawed assumptions: –

1. Each person can be taught to be competent in almost anything.

2. Each person’s greatest room for growth is in his or her areas of greatest weakness.

Managing to strengths

Using examples of how leaders in business, entertainment and sport engage their workers, stars and players, they show how to “focus on who each employee is, learn their behaviour and find the right language to suit their brain”.

“Each of us is wired differently, and if you want to keep talented people and spur them to greater performance you have to find how each is unique and figure out ways to capitalise on this uniqueness.

“It’s difficult for couple of reasons. First, because most organisations operate under assumptions that most people are the same and if not, they should be retrained until they are.

“Second it’s harder to individualise because it’s more time consuming than treating everyone the same.”

From their study with Gallup, the pair worked through number of characteristics of strength and they give you ideas on how to use these characteristics.

For instance:

To manage person strong in achiever theme;

• When there are times that require extra work, call on this person. Remember that the saying “if you want to get job done, ask busy person” is generally true.

• Recognise that this person likes to be busy. Sitting in meetings is likely to be boring. So either let them get on with it or arrange for them to attend meetings only when you really need to fully engage them.

To manage person strong in analytical;

• Take time to think through issues with her. She’ll want to know all the factors affecting decision.

• When defending decision, show her the supporting numbers. She gives more credibility information that displays numbers.

Each copy of the book has unique ID number which you can log on to the website and discover your top five strengths.

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