Tracking the Development of the Strengths Movement (Part 2 of 3))

I’m taking a fresh look at the books that defined the strengths movement. Initially I felt that they were all authored or co-authored by Marcus Buckingham but I soon discovered that there were some interesting variations from that. Up front let me share the Strength themes provided by the on-line assessment tool associated with StrengthsFinder 2.0
. They are:

  1. Input
  2. Learning 
  3. Responsibility
  4. Context
  5. Connectedness

My first thought when I got them was; well, that is strange. I understood most of them, but number 4 and 5 just seemed too strange. Not long after doing the assessment, I was in a team meeting where we were sharing our themes. As we were getting into the discussion, I just felt the need to educate everyone about where this movement started with the first book First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently where twelve different questions were used to pinpoint productive teams. The whole strengths movement was based on one of these questions. As I explained this, one person pointed out that it was obvious that Context was a theme for me. Up to that point, I really thought that Context was too strange, but instead it was a part of the way I see things.

Marcus co-wrote Now, Discover Your Strengths
  The book claims that most organizations operate on two flawed assumptions:
1. Each person can learn to be competent in almost anything
2. Each person’s greatest room for growth is in his or her areas of greatest weakness.
This makes me want to nitpick about “competence”.

Marcus believes the follow:

  1. Each person’s talents are enduring and unique
  2. Each person’s greatest room for growth is in her areas of greatest strength.

 I tend to agree with the first, but the second seems to require more scientific study I think.

He shared the example of Warren Buffet who plays to his strengths.
If you can picture yourself doing it repeatedly, happily and successfully, it is a strength. This gets me thinking about how all those things we wanted to do when we were small, that we were good at. But we decided to go into something that we thought would make us better able to make a living. Maybe we should be less quick to take the safe path.

Now, Discover Your Strengths
  shares three tools
1. Explains the difference and relationship between Talent, Knowledge and Skills

Our strengths are where talents meet knowledge and we acquire the skills needed to be competent. Of the three only talent cannot be learned. Either you have the specific inclination to be a certain way, or you do not.
2. Provides a system to identify your dominate strengths (or themes of strengths)
This is where the assessment tool comes in. I found it interesting that Marcus Buckingham was a co-author of Now, Discover Your Strengths but the second book StrengthsFinder 2.0 was written by Tom Rath, even though its assessment tool is an update to that of Now, Discover Your Strengths.
The description of the 34 different themes is the same in both books, but the second book has some specific Items for Action that would serve to help us make best use of our themes.

3. Provides a positive language to describe this positive approach to self improvement.

The assessment tool, and the resulting themes are an ideal way to describe people’s talents. Instead of saying that someone is a people person, we can say they have a theme of Relator, as opposed to Individualization, even though both of them are “people skills”. Marcus asserts that being able to distinguish these themes is very empowering.

The remainder of the book has a lot of encouraging information including:

  1. How can I manage around my weaknesses
  2. How do I manage a person who has a theme of _________________?
  3. and many more

I think that Marcus Buckingham makes some important points, which are easier to think about than to implement. I say this because the paradigm of focusing on weaknesses is very hard to break.

So, do you work to your strengths everyday?

Next time I will talk about some follow-up books that continue this arc.
Please share your thoughts in the comments section

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