Author: Marcus Buckingham
Publisher: Free Press
Year Published: 2001
Buy From Amazon.com
Now, Discover Your Strengths is the follow up book to Marcus Buckingham’s best seller, First Break All The Rules. It’s billed as a management book, but only the last 50 pages focus on management. The bulk of the book focuses on how individuals can uncover their strengths and manage their weaknesses.
The Gallup Organization asked 198,000 employees “At work do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?”, those employees that “strongly agreed” that they used their strengths were 50% more likely to work in a business unit with low employee turnover, 38% more likely to work in a more productive business unit, and 44% more likely to work in a business unit with higher customer satisfaction scores.
Buckingham’s book is based on how employees can discover their strengths, which, he believes, will lead to happier employees that are more productive and fulfilled in their jobs. That may be so, but I also think the concepts work extremely well for entrepreneurs who are trying to clarify who they are and what services they want to provide.
The book is laid out in three main sections: The Anatomy of a Strength, Discover the Source of Your Strengths, and Putting Your Strengths To Work. It is structured around an online self-assessment quiz that will help you discover your core strengths. The book comes with a code you can enter into the site to take the quiz for free. However, you can only use the code once, so if you want to pass the book around to your friends, they won’t be able to take the assessment without first buying a copy.
Buckingham’s core philosophy is that rather than trying to fix your weaknesses, you should focus on your strengths. It’s your strengths that make you unique. What is a strength? Buckingham describes a strength as a “consistent near perfect performance in an activity.” Basically, there are two conditions for something to be a strength:
- You must be able to consistently achieve good results (whether that be giving a speech, playing a good game of golf, or being able to form a network of supporters for a cause)
- It’s a positive activity you enjoy doing it (negative activities that you might enjoy – like poking fun of others – wouldn’t be considered a strength)
There are three fundamental building blocks for all strengths:
- Talent – defined as “naturally reoccurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior”
- Knowledge – both fact based (what you can learn from books and classes) and experiential (what you learn as you go through life that isn’t taught in a classroom)
- Skills – the steps to complete an activity (think of any “how to” tutorial or manual which lists the steps to accomplish something)
Knowledge and skills can be learned, but talents are something that are patterned within your neuro-chemistry and are difficult to change after a certain age. Talents are important because every day we make thousands of little decisions without thinking much about them – from which files to look at to whether we should do a task now or later to whether we should answer the phone or let it go to voice-mail to how we communicate with people. Talents are things like being instinctively inquisitive or competitive or charming or persistent or responsible.
Buckingham provides a list of 34 strengths that his web assessment can uncover and provides a page overview for each strength. The book also includes tips for managing your weaknesses and a practical guide for managers, though many of the tips in the practical guide aren’t all that applicable to small businesses. Finally, there’s an FAQ on the research behind the online web assessment.
Overall, Now, Discover Your Strengths is one of the better books on discovering your strengths and will be beneficial to anyone that’s evaluating what career would be best for them or service professionals who are looking to clarify what services they should offer clients.