If you already have reorganized your life based on reading First, Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths, you don't need this book for yourself. But if you haven't helped your colleagues make the same adjustments, you'll find this book helpful. If you've made the needed shifts in both areas, you can skip Go Put Your Strengths to Work.
Based on Marcus Buckingham's latest survey, it seems like just as few people feel they should focus on improving their strengths as before he started to write about this subject. Writing books obviously only goes so far. This book attempts to help you change your habits.
Before going too far, let me remind (or share with you) that the Buckingham definition of a strength is something that makes you feel great while you do it. Because you have this positive reaction, you'll do this activity more often, get better at it, and stay energized by your work. For me, a strength is writing about how to create 2,000 percent solutions and helping the world make progress at 20 times the usual rate.
Contrast this with something you do very well, but hate doing! For me, that's doing tax returns. I'm great at it, but I feel drained by the experience.
Most people don't work on their strengths because they believe certain myths (I would call them misconception stalls):
1. Your personality changes with age.
2. You will grow most in your areas of greatest weakness.
3. A good team member does whatever it takes to help the team.
Mr. Buckingham argues persuasively that the opposite is true in each case.
With your purchase of the book, you get access to a Web site where you can put in a code from your dust jacket to take a test called a Strengths Engagement Track (SET) that you can use to see where you are in employing your strengths and then to see how much you progress as you go through the book's process.
I cannot report on how well this process works because in my initial assessment my score was almost 100% to begin with. I'm able to read and apply what I learn and have obviously already absorbed and used the material from the earlier books.
The rest of the work-improvement process involves watching some videos and finishing a six step process which I have paraphrased below:
1. Learn the truth about those misconception stalls.
2. Identify your top three strengths.
3. Change your work to spend more time applying your strengths.
4. Reduce how much time you spend on activities that drain your energy and enthusiasm.
5. Be proactive in working with your boss and team members to refocus your work.
6. Turn the new directions into habits.
There are the usual forms, formats, reminders, and lists to help you reinforce the new, the sort of thing you get at a human resources training program. If you like those things, this book is quite detailed in that regard. Between downloading from the Web site and using materials bound into the book, you'll have everything you probably need.
To me the best part of the book came in the examples. One example goes through all the chapters and involves Heidi who is a marketing brand director for Hampton hotels. What she likes to do is to work with motivated people to improve excellence. What she does now is nag unmotivated people to do things they don't want to do. She's burning out. The story is very good for explaining how the 6 steps work. In the fifth step, there are examples built around Christine, who works for Martin, as director of program development for a training company that serves Fortune 500 companies. Martin can't follow what's going on without his people using an obscure form that Christine doesn't understand and hates.
If the book had contained about five times as many examples, it would have been a lot easier. As it is, I think most people should plan from the beginning to pursue this with a buddy. Step five includes lots of helpful solutions for what your buddy can do to help you.
Start enjoying your work a lot more!
Years ago, there was a series of television commercials that featured the "Kemper Cavalry." Each effectively communicated a message from Kemper Insurance that said, in effect, "We'll always be there when you need us most." Many people apparently believe that there is such an alternative to focus, preparation, hard work, personal accountability, patience, self-reliance, persistence, etc. For them, other alternatives include the Tooth Fairy, silver bullets, divine intervention, lotteries, and e-mails from widows, orphans, and attorneys who are émigrés from Africa.
I first became aware of Marcus Buckingham when I read First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently (1999) in which he and co-author Curt Coffman draw upon 80,000 interviews conducted by Gallup during the past 25 years. They suggest "four keys" to becoming an excellent manager: Finding the right fit for employees by getting their strengths in proper alignment with the tasks for which they are responsible, focusing on those strengths, defining the right results and making the given expectations crystal clear to those involved, and finally, hiring for talent as well as for knowledge and skills rather than merely filling a vacant position according to a job description that may no longer be relevant. Good stuff.
In this volume, Buckingham quite correctly emphasizes (a) knowing what one's personal strengths are and then (b) leveraging them to achieve desirable results, whatever the nature and extent of those results may be. He is one of several past or current executives within The Gallup Organization who have written a number of articles and books, based on a wealth of research data. Several Web sites now offer access to much of this information, notably gallup.com, BuckinghamLive.com, and strengthsfinder.com.
As Buckingham explains, he wrote this book to show "you how to take action. It teaches you a simple six step discipline to make the most of your strengths and neutralize your weaknesses, and how you can stick to this discipline despite the pressures of a company, a boss, or even a spouse pulling you off your strengths path. There are six chapters in the book. Six steps. So, what you have in this book is a six week, six step discipline. Each step constitutes a week of reading, action, and discovery, and each week builds on the one before. Don't try to read the book in one sitting. Instead, keep up this weekly rhythm of read, act, discover, and, by the end of the book, you'll know how to take a stand for your strengths and leverage them as never before. Your performance will soar, and more significant still, you'll know how to sustain this level of performance throughout the many twists and turns of your career."
It is worth noting that each copy of this book includes its own ID code. As Buckingham explains, "This code not only allows you a free viewing of the first two films of Trombone Player Wanted, it also gives you the right to take the Strengths Engagement Tack at the beginning of the book, and again at the end. This short, web-based survey first measures how engaged your strengths are as compared to the rest of the working world, and then reveals how engaged your strengths are going to be in the near-term future. If you work as part of a team, your results can then be combined with your colleagues to create a Strengths Engagement Track team score." Each copy of Tom Rath's StrengthsFinder 2.0 also has a code, one that serves as an exclusive link to The Gallup Organization's "StrengthsFinder 2.0" self-diagnostic. These access codes are substantial value-added benefits to the material with which they are provided.
Especially in recent years, many busy executives have set aside time, energy, and (in some instances their own) funds to take all manner of standardized tests, some of which identify both strengths and weaknesses (i.e. areas in which improvement is needed). The Gallup Organization's resources enable them to obtain additional information about themselves while correlating that information with information generated by hundreds of thousands of others. "Now what?"
As indicated earlier, Buckingham strongly recommends focusing almost entirely on developing one's strengths and then leveraging them whenever and wherever possible. For supervisors, he strongly recommends that -- similarly -- they focus on their direct reports' strengths, constantly helping to develop them further rather than becoming preoccupied with weaknesses, and get those strengths in proper alignment with tasks that are most appropriate to the given strengths.
"How to do that effectively?" Read his book.
on January 11, 2010
This book presents amazing tools to becoming a better person, but with like most motivational, self-improvement books, it becomes repetitive.
Although this might be a strategy to make these 6 steps be remembered and all, it becomes boring.
It also creates a lot of homework, and if the key demographic purchasing and reading this book is a mid-twenties to mid-thirties working professional crowd, it is work on top of the 40+ hour work week that already is in place.