Discover Your Strengths

Book review

Now Discover Your Strengths

By Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton

Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (January 29, 2001)

ISBN-10: 0743201140

Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton wrote the ground-breaking "First, Break All The Rules" which described the top 12 practices of the world's best managers. Now Buckingham and Clifton have turned their attention to what they have coined as the "Strengths Movement". In this book, "Now Discover Your Strengths". Buckingham and Clifton urge leaders and their team members to focus on using and maximizing the positive impact of their strengths, rather than focusing on improving their weaknesses. 

Based on interviews by Gallup of over 2 million people this book provides you with a step-by-step process to build a strengths-based organization.

During their research they discovered that only 17% of people respond 'most of the time' to the question: "What percentage of a typical day do you spend playing to your strengths?" In other words 83% of people are spending time doing work that doesn't bring out the best in them or inspire them. What a waste!

What Does a Strength Look Like?

It looks like consistent, near-perfect performance

Which Three Ingredients Combine to Create a Strength?

  1. 1
    Talents (Innte)
  2. 2
    Skills (Learned)
  3. 3
    Knowledge (Learned)

What Does One of Your Strengths Actually Feel Like to You?

  • When you do it, you feel effective
  • Before you do it, you actively look forward to it
  • While you are doing it, you feel inquisitive and focused
  • After you've done it, you feel fulfilled and authentic

To identify your own strengths, the authors suggest you pay close attention to how specific activities make you feel. Your feelings reveal your strengths.

Each book receives a unique code that enables you to go online and take a quiz (StrengthsFinder) that identifies your Top Five strengths. Each code can only be used once, so don't buy a second-hand book if you want to take the online test. Most people would probably say that they have a good sense of their strengths, yet using their online strengths finder, you may be surprised by the results. Some people believe the cost of the book was a small price to pay to gain access to the online StrengthsFinder Test.

Ignore Weaknesses

In many organizations the focus is on trying to help people fix their flaws and weaknesses and often times ignoring their innate talents. According to these authors that thinking is all wrong. Rather than trying to mold everyone to be the same, high performance organizations focus on making use of each person's innate talents and strengths and using individual diversity to strengthen the team.

According to the book these two flawed assumptions are prevalent in most organizations:

  1. 1
    Each person can learn to be competent in almost anything.
  2. 2
    Each person's greatest room for growth is in his or her areas of greatest weakness.

According to Buckingham and Clifton, focusing on maximizing a person's strengths is far more productive than wasting time, energy and money trying to fix "skill gaps." No amount of training can turn a weakness into a talent or strength that will enable an individual to excel. Learning a skill that isn't a natural talent/strength is simply survival - it isn't the path to personal and organizational success.

Their advice for dealing with a person's weaknesses is to manage around them using these five techniques:

  1. 1
    Get a little better at what you perceive as a weakness
  2. 2
    Design a support system
  3. 3
    Use one of your strongest themes to overwhelm your weakness
  4. 4
    Find a partner with strengths in that area
  5. 5
    Just stop doing what you can't do.

Whilst this may sound a little too simplistic, they provides some terrific examples within the book of how others have successfully applied each of these techniques.

One of the underlying principles in this book, that resonates so strongly with my own experience and thinking, is that a leader must manage the individual rather than the team. In other words you don't want everyone in the team to be the same, you want diversity. This diversity means that each person will have different career and training needs and desires and the people systems you have in place must reflect this.

Within the book is a terrific guide to help you create your selection, performance management and career development systems so that you can create a strengths-based organization. When you put the right people in the right job that suits their strengths you give that person and the organization the greatest chance at success. Which really does seem blindingly obvious doesn't it?

Most people do not believe that they work to their strengths on a regular and consistent basis. Therefore, it shouldn't be surprising that most organizations are not achieving their potential. The practical and real-world examples used throughout the book, and backed-up by empirically solid research by the Gallup organization make this book a terrific tool to help you convince other stakeholders in your organization of the benefits of developing a strengths-based organization.

Buy or Not Buy?


It is a book well worth purchasing along with the newly released "Go Put Your Strengths To Work" which provides some real how-to's for creating a strengths base organization.

Have Your Say