on November 21, 2003
This is a great book, I recommend it to all.
VERY IMPORTANT. You must buy this book new in order to take the online test. I purchased a used book through the marketplace (always and excellent experience by the way) so the code has already been used. Now I have to spend the money to buy a new one just to take the test. In this case buying used does not save you anything.
on January 25, 2001
Trying to overcome your weaknesses is a waste of time, according to Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D., of the Gallup Organization, and authors of the book NOW, DISCOVER YOUR STRENGTHS (Free Press, 2001).
"Casting a critical eye on our weaknesses . . . will only help us prevent failure. It will not help us reach excellence," they write in their thought-provoking book, the follow-up to the outstanding and best-selling Gallup work, FIRST, BREAK ALL THE RULES (Simon & Schuster, 1999).
Most organizations fail to achieve excellence, the authors contend, because they also fall into the "overcome your weaknesses" trap. Companies do a poor job of tapping the potential already present on their payroll because they try to make employees into something they're not-at the expense of exploiting individuals' innate talents.
Furthermore, Gallup researchers conclude that most of the energy, time, and money that organizations place on trying to hire, train, and develop well-rounded employees is wasted. "When we studied them, excellent performers were rarely well-rounded. On the contrary, they were sharp," the authors quip.
Internet Connection. To actually discover your strengths, you cannot rely on the book's pages. You must go online to complete an innovative web-based assessment that identifies your top five individual talent-strengths (and provides you with a brief custom report that you can print or email to someone, like your spouse or boss).
Oddly, if you like the assessment, you cannot purchase additional assessments for your staff, spouse, kids, or anyone else. For them to access the assessment, they must each buy another book.
Other Weaknesses. The book encourages managers to review and become familiar with their direct reports' strength analyses (so as to manage to each individual uniquely). But the authors provide neither a mechanism nor a process to do this.
You are told to consult the book for suggestions on managing your employees who each embody unique mixes of some 34 different strengths. Dauntingly, the authors tell us there are "over thirty-three million possible combinations of the top five strengths." A well-intending manager apparently has a lot of customizing to do. The book provides scant help for that.
Putting the Strengths concept to work more broadly in the organization is even more complex and overwhelming. Selecting and promoting people, as suggested in the book's "Practical Guide," requires profiling at least 100 employees who are all working in the same job (50 top achievers and 50 clunkers). Then you build a database of statistically significant trait patterns. Then you buy every candidate a book, give them a web connection... Then you try to do pattern matching...
The so-called Practical Guide quickly appears all but practical to all but the largest operations.
Target: HR Folk. The authors also take a swing at their firm's consulting customers-HR departments. They assail broad competency training efforts and write: "Many human resources departments have an inferiority complex. With the best of intentions they do everything they can to highlight the importance of people, but when sitting around the boardroom table, they suspect that they don't get the same respect as finance, marketing, or operations. In many instances they are right, but, unfortunately, in many instances they don't deserve to. Why? Because they don't have any data."
Unfortunately, this book does NOT provide them with meaningful solutions for closing that gap (other than, presumably, hiring Gallup consultants for large scale projects).
My Motivation. Gallup's StrengthFinder report tells me that my top personal strengths include the Maximizer tendency-which compels me to "transform something strong into something superb." And the Command strength--characterized as feeling "compelled to present the facts or the truth, no matter how unpleasant it may be."
The truth is this: One can't help but think that the well-constructed concept advanced in this enlightening and occasionally entertaining book might have gone from strong to superb. But instead, it seems to have been rushed to market to quickly capitalize on the success of FIRST, BREAK ALL THE RULES. And that's too bad. Because this worthwhile book, as is true of many of the people it intends to help, has considerable strengths undermined by what are otherwise correctable weaknesses.
This book presents an interesting description of personality that describes 34 different types of strengths that a person may have. Based on measurement of these strengths (discussed below), it is possible to identify dominant strengths that help to determine personality. The focus of the book is on describing these strengths and then arguing that it is best for individuals and managers can best develop and build upon individuals' strengths. The book makes the interesting point that it is most effective trying to build on these strengths rather trying to identify and improve upon weaknesses.
A key to this book is an internet-based test that allows an individual to obtain a measurement of their top five strengths. To take this test, you log onto a specific website and type in the unique password that is printed in thte inside cover of the book. (This means you only take the test once -- your friends will need to buy the book to take the test!). The test is based on work that the Gallup Organization has done and has (according to the book) been been administered to 2 million people in a large number of different type of organizations.
Once on the site, you answer 180 questions in which you are asked to make a two-way choice as to what word better describes you, which action you would rather take, and so forth. It takes about 20-30 minutes in total to get through these, but once you do, a report is generated on screen (along with an with the same information) that lists your top five strengths and provides a description of what they are. Many of the strengths involve how you deal with people, how you process information, and how you see yourself in the world.
The book gives short descriptions of each strength and gives short (one-paragraph)write-ups from people who have the particular strength describing themselves. The book is meant to be a management tool, in that it talks about how to manage people with each of the strength in the book and make best use of these strengths.
I feel that the book is a better popular psychology book rather than a management book. Although the descriptions of strength seemed fairly clear, the discussion could have been better when it described how to manage people. It tended to be a list of "do this" without much discussion of why a manager might want to encourage an employee to do certain things or take on certain types of assignments. What the book really lacked was a description of the downside that certain strengths might bring (e.g., a person who is deliberative may seem to take a long time to do something). A better discussion of what the strengths really mean would have been helpful.
The book is well-written and taking the test is fun. Learning about one own attributes as measured by the test is helpful, both in personal and business life. It will make you think about yourself in a constructive and stimulating way. This in itself makes the book worth buying.
The book provides some good insight into how to manage individual types of people and help them develop on the job. I found it a bit weak on management from the standpoint of what an organization should do, in that it just seemed too general beyond saying figure out what everybody can do well and encourage them to do it. It may be, however, that some of this material is discussed in the book's (earlier) companion book ("First, Break All the Rules").
on January 25, 2001
I read "First, Break All the Rules" and found its advice sound and useful. The key finding is that the best managers work hard to understand what their employees true *talents* are and then shape the job to allow the employee to perform to their maximum. It doesn't pay to focus on people's weaknesses; focus on their strengths. The message to the individual is the same, find your talent and grow it rather than spend all of your time on your weaknesses.
Unfortunately, "Now, Discover Your Strengths" makes the same point but without all the loads of useful management advice. "Discover" has you take a web based quiz to find your top 5 strengths. What if you have more than 5 strengths? Too bad, for you won't be told how you scored on the other strengths. Does "Discover" help you discover that you should focus on your artistic or writing talents? NO. Your talents in this book are "Deliberative" or "Woo" or "Context". Basically, if you want to get a take on the way you approach life and work, then this book may help you and tell you how to get your manager to treat you, but it won't find your *talents*. I fully recommend reading the first book and thinking hard about what you do well at and enjoy doing. Save your money and don't buy this book.
I see this book as an attempt by Gallup to position themselves as an integral part of the review process at major corporations and make money from every employee taking the quiz. This wouldn't be a bad thing for employees, but managers and you'd be better served by the first book by itself.
I found the quiz a bit confusing and marked an awful lot of the questions with "no preference". After reading the book, I wanted to take the quiz again (as the book implies you can), but Gallup *refuses* to allow you to take the quiz more than once. This means that your spouse or friend that you loan the book to won't be able to take the test until they fork over money for a new copy of the book. If you get a used or a returned copy, I hope the previous owner didn't take the test and then return the book!
This book represents three very ambitious efforts. One, it argues for a new management paradigm that builds from the psychological make-up of each person in the workplace to create the most effective combination of people and tasks. Two, the book presents a new psychological mapping scheme to capture those areas where a person will display "consistent near perfect performance in an activity." Three, the book connects you to a self-diagnosis tool that you can use on-line to see yourself in the perspective of the new mapping scheme. Most books would settle for pursing just one these goals. My hat is off to the authors for their ambition!
The concept of building companies around "desirable" pyschological profiles has been in application for some time. The Walt Disney organization uses this approach to locate people who will enjoy working in their company, and to match the person to the task they will be most focused on. More and more companies are experimenting with this approach. The evidence is that it works.
So the first argument simply takes that experience one step further by formalizing it a bit. The book has many persuasive examples of how people usually do not have jobs that use their best talents. This provides another perspective on the Peter Principle. So far so good.
Next, 34 patterns of mental habits are described based on millions of interviews over 25 years. These include achiever, activator, adaptability, analytical, arranger, belief, command, communication, competition, connectedness, context, deliberative, developer, discipline, empathy, fairness, focus, futuristic, harmony, ideation, inclusiveness, individualization, input, intellection, learner, maximizer, positivity, relator, responsibility, restorative, self-assurance, significance, strategic, and woo. You need to see the descriptions to understand what these patterns reflect.
The argument is that these labels capture patterns of thinking habits that condition behavior in any situation. I find it difficult to relate to all of the patterns because there are so many. Also, without knowing what patterns work well in a particular job, I wasn't sure how relevant they are. Connection of patterns to success needs to be shown as cause and effect in a given company before this will be totally useful.
Small companies may not be able to use this tool very well because they will never have enough people doing the same task to figure out which profile is best. Everyone working in that role may have a very inappropriate profile. You will just be picking the best of a poorly-fitting lot if you select around one of them.
Then, I took the personality test on-line. There were no surprises there for me in my top 5 patterns. I also suspect that there would be no surprises for you in putting me into these categories. You would probably have pegged me as an achiever, learner, relator, focus, input person from the fact that I read so many nonfiction books, write so many book reviews, and keep books and notes everywhere (just in case I might need them again). On the relator front, if you had noticed who I like to work with and how I work with them, you would have spotted me in a few days.
However, my actual job competence is a lot different from this. Most clients tell me that they find me most helpful to them when exposing them to new perspectives on their work that allow them to make faster progress. So, I was left wondering if the tool is strong enough to do the task of making people most effective in their work without more help. Someone might develop or be born with a great talent that has little to do with the psychological profile of how she or he likes to spend their time.
To state the opposite proposition to the ones in the book, complexity science would suggest that it is a mistake to overly organize the workplace in any way. You should have as much diversity as possible. When we leave lots of room for open space and time, people will self-organize outstanding solutions. Having people focused on tasks they love might make them less aware of what else needs to be done. Behavioral scientists would argue that learning continues throughout life, and that major new habits can be formed at any time. Old dogs can learn new tricks. Why cannot new psychological mindsets be learned as well. I suspect that they can. These kinds of counter-observations were not addressed in the book, and it would have been helpful to me if they had been.
So while I was impressed by the concept that the "great organization must not only accommodate the fact each is different; it must capitalize on these differences," I wasn't sure that the authors have the best method to get there yet.
I do recommend that you read the book and consider its messages. I suspect that its application will work best in focusing people on tasks that require great persistence and consistency in order to be effective. I am less clear on how well it will work to help people accomplish more in creative tasks. Time will tell.
I suggest that you take the test and discuss your results with someone else who has also taken the test. Ask each other what insights you got from your own results and from hearing the other person's results. That discussion should start to help you imagine ways to use these insights more effectively.
May you always "derive intrinsic satisfaction" from the activities you do!
on February 2, 2007
I ordered this book new from Amazon. When it arrived I tried to log into the website and was told my access code was invalid. After several more attempts, I contacted Simon and Schuster and Marcus Buckingham. I was told that Marcus Buckingham does not own the rights to the book and to contact Gallup. At Gallup I was told to buy a new book. All my emails to gallup disappeared using a recordless emailing system. Not very helpful from a company that won the Caring Institue's 2006 Caring Award.
on November 1, 2007
As so many other reviewers have noted, the basic premise of this book is logical - identify and use your strengths, minimize time and effort applied to using and fixing your weak areas. What the title promises is to help you "discover" your strengths through the use of the online testing tool. After taking the test you receive a "report" with a rather simplistic summary description of each of your top five strengths (out of the 34 possible that they identify). As one reviewer noted, this information might be illuminating to a young person starting their career, but most self-aware adults who have been in the world of work for a while will probably find that the results either confirm what they already know about themselves or as others have noted, give every indication of being innacurate. My experience was that 4 of the top 5 essentially confirmed what I already knew and the fifth (Adaptability) was only a partial fit according to the authors' description of it. My real interest was in the whole picture of the full spectrum of my strengths and weaknesses. Do I only have 5 strengths and everything else is a weakness I should avoid? Do I have other strengths that can be used in conjunction with or support of these top 5? The website offers me the "opportunity" to learn about my strengths 6-34 but only if I plunk down $550 for a one-hour (that's $550 for ONE HOUR) long call with a "Strengths Performance Coach" for an "in-depth" consulting session. So by my math, that means approximately 2 minutes per additional item - hardly in-depth. IMHO this is an outrageous amount of money to pay on top of the price of the book simply to see the complete results of the test.
Aside from that issue, the book provides superficial descriptions of the various strengths but no real content regarding what to do with the information regarding your top 5, how to map them to roles or do much of anything else with them. The only section I felt had any real practical value was about managing people with different strengths - useful if simplistic and it slightly fleshed out the profiles of the strengths previously mentioned.
This would have at least some value as a means of gaining self knowledge if one could get the full results of the test (without paying an exorbitant sum for "consulting"). Ideally this would be included in the results by default but if not Gallup should at least offer this option and at a reasonable price. Without any additional information regarding where the other 29 characteristics fall in my profile, knowing the top 5 is like having a recipe with 34 ingredients, but only knowing the proper amounts for 5 of them and no direction on mixing and cooking time. This book feels more like a sales pitch for very expensive consulting services than anything from which the average person seeking self knowledge will benefit. If you are looking for some in-depth insight into your strengths and temperment, you'll get more bang for your buck by taking the Myers-Briggs, the Kiersey Temperament Sorter or working through What Color is Your Parachute.
on April 27, 2007
Having read the many positive reviews on this book, as well as the slick high-production-value promotional collateral put out by it's authors and publisher, I hoped for something that would really help me identify and conceptualize how I could best/better apply my inherent talents and personality tendencies in the real world.
I knew I was in trouble right away when the book justified it's thesis not by scientific experiment and data, but rather by vague references to polling (the authors are employees of, or otherwise tied in with the Gallup polling organization) and anecdotal assertions about celebrities like Warren Buffet and Colin Powell.
IF you MUST know what this book actually says, I can save you the time and money required to buy and read the book by conveying it's content in one sentence: It's important to consider and apply your inherent personality traits to maximize your career success. The book is nothing but a book-length repetition of this same message. The proof it vaguely offers to back up this intuitive "truistic" assertion is shallow and fluffy. Most disappointingly, that is all they wrote.
The "personality test" is a great selling gimmick, but the information it returns reminds me of a horoscope or a fortune cookie. It is vague, and general and difficult to relate to any particular practice, nor does the book offer practical means to turn these purported traits into practical beneficial action. If you're trying to decide whether to, say, stay on as a used car salesman, or retreat to some hermitage to write your magnum opus, this book will be of no practical help. It just repeats the same message over and over, page after page after chapter after chapter. Fluffity, fluff, fluff, fluff.
I must admit that I did get ONE practical idea from this fluffball book: Apparently anyone can make a mint by taking some specious bromide, e.g. "Doing whatever you want is good for you", and stretch it into a couple hundred pages of baseless repetitive assertion of that same idea, and have it lapped up by folks willing to pay a good buck to hear what they want to hear.
on January 23, 2002
REVIEW: While I am generally disappointed with sequels, this book didn't disappoint and stands on its own (see "First Break All the Rules"). "Now" focuses on the individual (except the last two chapters) and their inate strengths. It goes into detail on the 34 different types of talents/strengths that the authors found in their research. "Now" is based on two simple themes: (1) each person's talents are enduring and unique, and (2) each person's greatest room for growth lies in their greatest strengths (not in improving their weaknesses as so much of our society is focused on). "Now" will help you recognize strengths (yours and other) which is the first step to capitalizing on them. I now find myself regularly thinking in terms of the strengths concept when making working decisions. By the way, you don't have to read "First, Break All the Rules" before reading this book. In fact, I recommend this one first! Also, "First" focused on the manager and how he/she should think and act differently in terms of the authors discoveries on talents and strengths whereas "Now" focusses on the individual.
This book was also the first book that I've read that included an on-line component. The on-line test took me about 30 min to complete and gave me my top 5 strengths. After reading the detailed descriptions in the book, I believe the test correctly hit 4 out of 5 with the 5th one a close runner-up.
STRENGTHS: The book is easy to read and full of examples. I found the concepts and content very well thought out and very effective at changing my thinking.
WEAKNESSES: I note some weaknesses, but they were at most annoying and not significant enough to prevent me from enjoying or highly recommending the book. First, as in the "First" book, no index. Second, while the book has lots of examples, a number seemed to be thrown in to touch popular or emotional topics rather than being solid support for the specific topic being discussed.
WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK: The book is probably best suited to professionals and knowledge workers with an interest in better understanding themselves and those around them. If you're interested in increasing your own effectiveness and the effectiveness of your relationships with others this book is for you.
ALSO CONSIDER: Of course, "First Break All the Rules" by Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman [either before or after this book]. "The Effective Executive" by Peter F. Drucker.
on February 26, 2001
"Concentrate on talents, not weaknesses" is a major takeaway the authors' first book, First, Break All The Rules.
Now, Discover Your Strengths deepens that message with a web-based inventory to identify basic talents. My inventory didn't reveal any surprising talents. Rather, it took personality traits so pervasive that I wouldn't even have identified them as strengths and brought them to my attention. I've already been able to use the information to understand my successes and failures in work and personal lives, and am using it to help craft my future direction.
The book itself is quite shallow. It gives you one page of detail on each of the major strengths, and one page of bullet points on "how to manage someone with this strength." There's disappointingly little on how the strengths impact other relationships. How do I work with my BOSS? How do I work with my peers? How do I make my relationship work? How do I find someone with complementary talents (how do I figure out which other talents I *want* to work with?)
Though the authors say that it's the interaction between different strengths that create the richness, they don't spend much time delving into how strengths combine beyond a couple cursory examples. Certainly in my case, it's been the interaction between my strengths that has been most powerful.
The strengths are truly pervasive, and the authors limit their discussion to a shallow discussion and narrow application.
The book seems mainly an excuse to market the web-based inventory, which you're allowed to take only ONCE for each copy of the book you buy. You can't even buy more licenses without buying the book (a nice little trick to push book sales and probably get the book listed as a best-seller, when in fact all people want is the web-based inventory).
So while I'd love to loan the book to a friend, or buy licenses to have my clients take the inventory, the need to structure it all as the purchase of dozens of books makes the whole venture seem much less worthwhile.
The inventory gets 5 stars from me, the book gets two stars, and the marketing trick of one survey per book gets a whopping ZERO stars.