Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Lead With Your Strengths

I just finished an interesting (and quick) read – “Now, Discover Your Strengths”, by Marcus Buckingham. The premise of the book is that you will be most successful in your career and life if you are able to use your natural strengths regularly.

Most companies and individuals (especially overachievers like us!) focus on addressing “weaknesses” in an effort to bolster performance. Time, money, and energy are spent to improve ourselves through training and personal development, but with very little return in performance.

The basis for the book was research done by The Gallup Organization where they surveyed 198,000 employees and asked them this question:

“At work do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?”

Not surprisingly, few said yes - 20% globally and 40% in the US. As part of their research, they discovered that top performing companies are those that are best able to assess their employees strengths and then match them to the appropriate job or role.

As individuals, we spend much more time focusing on our weaknesses that we usually have a good handle on what those are. But our strengths are more of a mystery, and far more interesting. As part of “Now, Discover Your Strengths”, the reader is able to use the online StrengthsFinder diagnostic (the book gives you an access code), to see which of the 34 themes (strengths) he/she possesses. The exercise is similar to the Myer’s Briggs, but the book takes it one step further by explaining how people of each trait like to be managed (since good managers know that each person is different!). The important thing here is to use your strengths in what you do everyday. You’ll be happier, more fulfilled, and be more successful with less effort.

My top 5 themes/strengths are: Futuristic, Ideation, Relator, Significance, Strategic

Based on the premise of the book, I’ll be successful if I can match these strengths to a career. Interestingly, my previous career as a Strategic Planner and my current path as an Entrepreneur are both well-suited to my strengths.

  • Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
  • What are your strengths?

It’s worth buying the book just to access the StrengthsFinder test. There are other related books that also have the code for the online test, the most recent one being Strengths Finder 2.0, which is basically an update of the book I read. It's definitely an interesting way to learn more about yourself, particularly when thinking about your career.

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