Now, Discover Your Strengths
by Marcus Buckingham & Donald Clifton
The Free Press, 245pp
Publication Date: Jan., 2001
This is a thought-provoking book. I found myself both agreeing and disagreeing with the authors as I read along. They want to incite a revolution in which organizations will focus on employees’
strengths so that more and more employees will be able to say that they use their strengths at work everyday (currently their data says only 20% do). As a coach, I
completely agree that we spend too much time focused on weaknesses and not enough time focused on strengths.
The authors define a strength as "consistent, near
perfect performance in an activity." A strength results from the combination of talent, skills and knowledge. Of these three, talent is the most important. No talent, no
strength. What are your talents? The authors say there are 34 different talent themes that are the building blocks of all strengths. You can take an online assessment called
the StrengthsFinder to determine your talents using a special password that comes with the purchase of the book or audio program. The rest of the book describes the
34 talent themes and how to manage each of them as well as how to build a strength-based organization.
I thought the online test was a creative way to turn their
book into a self-assessment (and data gathering) tool, and I was also frustrated that the code is good for only one assessment which meant either I or my husband
could complete the assessment, but not both of us. I completed the assessment and didn't think the results fit
my self-perception. Perhaps I have bigger blind spots than I thought. Perhaps I didn't understand the questions (there are 180 of them). Or perhaps the assessment,
although designed by the Gallup Organization, isn't as accurate as they hoped. The authors say the results are reliable - once your talents are identified that's it, they don't change.
I have some reservations about the talent themes. The
authors describe 34 of them, and I can only agree with some of them. I think some of the talents are better described as values or beliefs. (One of their talents is called Belief) I also think that some talents are missing
from the list. That said, I congratulate them on looking for more distinctions around talents.
The book is a fast read -- you can go through it in a
matter of a few hours. It delivers a potent message that we need to spend more of our energies looking for our strengths and the strengths of others. I leave it to you to decide how many of its sub-themes fit with your experience and view of the world.