on March 10, 2007
Reading this book should be a priority for any professional who wants to be more successful on the job.
The first part of the book lays out the evidence for why "playing to your strengths" instead of improving your weak points is the way to succeed. I am familiar with the author's other work and that of Martin Seligman which says essentially the same thing. I thought I had removed any lingering notions about prioritizing improving weaknesses over improving strengths. I was wrong. Reading this book and thinking deeply about my beliefs and experiences showed me that the ideal of the "well-rounded" person is deeply ingrained in our collective psyche and a book like this is desparately needed to help both employees and managers understand what really drives success.
The only reason I gave this book four stars instead of five is because it could have been easily 70 pages shorter. There is an aburd amount of repitition; several stories could be cut out and put on the website instead. There is a story about someone named Heidi threaded throughout the book. I guess it is meant to make us understand the real-world application of the concepts. It didn't work for me. I found the exercises a much better way of making this book applicable. Exceptionally eye-opening are the questions the author asks you regarding the following three myths:
Myth 1: As you grow, your personality changes
Myth 2: You will grow the most in your areas of greatest weakness
Myth 3: A good team member does whatever it takes to help the team
The last myth is especially powerful. By showing you how these myths are false the book prepares your mind to accept and understand the evidence showing that playing to your strengths is crucial to success.
Buckingham presents a very clear and easy-to-understand method for discovering what your strengths actually are. It is not necessarily easy to do but this book does make it easy to understand. Once you have a better idea of your strengths you can start devoting more time to work that is suited to your strengths. Of course, how do you do that when your boss or work environment may not be initially supportive. Fortunately, the book covers this implementation in some detail and is very realistic about it.
If you are familiar with "Now, Discover Your Strengths" it is important to realize that the results from the personality test associated with that book are NOT your strengths, but rather personality traits that are only one component of your strengths. These traits change little if at all over your lifetime, whereas your strengths actually change because they are dependent on your skills and knowledge as well as your personality. Read the book to find out more about how these concepts interrelate and how devoting more time to your strengths AND less time to your weaknesses has been shown to improve your work performance.
The research Buckingham discusses can be applied to one's personal life as well; however, the book does not really touch on that. I am suspecting that this might be the subject of a future book. If so, I eagerly anticipate its release and will buy it as soon as it comes out.
To summarize, Buckingham offers solid evidence showing that shifting your time to tasks that are suited to your strengths is a key component of professional success. In addition, the book provides you with a very realistic way to identify your strengths. To top it off, there is even an extensive description of how to actually get your co-workers and management to support your efforts at focusing on your strengths. This is not pie-in-the-sky theorizing. There are actionable steps here ready to be used by anyone who is looking to achieve outstanding professional performance.
Also, each book has a code that allows you to access the website, so if you are considering buying make sure you buy it new.
I must say that I have been a big fan of Marcus Buckingham's work starting with First, Break All the Rules. It has been refreshing to read his works due to their research-based nature. I love to read experiential writings, but I also need the "why" behind the "what". This is what the books from Buckingham have provided. This book, Go, Put Your Strengths to Work, continutes the journey of strengths development. You will learn how to develop and put your strengths to work as well as those in your team.
I think step 6, Build Strong Habits, is of the utmost importance. I read a lot of books and can easily forget the valuable lessons I learn if I don't turn them into life habits instead of momentary thoughts. Ultimately, Buckingham gives you five tasks to schedule in your calendar:
-Daily - Quickly look over your strengths and weakness statements
-Weekly - Complete a strong week plan
-Quarterly - Review your strengths-based accomplishments with your manager
-6 Months - Analyze the changes in your strengths
-Yearly - Retake the SET survey
These actions, when scheduled and performed, will help solidify the benefit you get from the strengths model of advancement.
I think there are some better books on improving your efficiency, effectiveness and abilities, but for those who read a few books a year or a decade, I would read the Buckingham series and of course this one is in that group. Placed in with the other books, I give this one five stars. All alone, I feel there will be a lot of gaps for those who haven't read Now, Discover Your Strengths.
Enjoy reading, Tom Carpenter - SYSEDCO
on September 30, 2007
Marcus Buckingham discusses six steps to identifying and putting your strengths to work:
1. Convince yourself that exercising your strengths is more fun and productive that spending your time shoring up your weaknesses.
2. Identify specific activities that exercise your strengths. For example, mine include
a. Determine true value
b. Learn and apply new and useful skills, knowledge
c. Creative problem solving
3. Build your job towards your strengths.
4. Stop / reduce time spent shoring up your weaknesses
5. Build a strong team by enabling each member to exercise their strengths towards delivering business value
6. Make a habit of ensuring that each person's activities around you are aligned with their strengths (including yourself :-)
The book could have been much shorter - the concept was repeated multiple times. More specifics on step 3 would also have been more useful.
on February 14, 2009
I saw Buckingham on Oprah. Handsome, charismatic guy, dressed smart, lounging on the couch and cavalierly telling everyone to "Forget fixing weaknesses. Do what feels good, what makes you happy. Maximize your strengths." This is the message of the GO book, only the book includes detailed instructions and a daily agenda for living this credo. It's an easy sell, sure. And perfect for the Millennial, everyone-gets-a-trophy generation. But it is also irresponsible to promote this point of view without telling the rest of the story.
Buckingham was speaking with the "authority of science," citing Gallup OPINION research. But he should do his homework. The break-set research done at the Center for Creative Leadership in the 1980s clearly showed that executives get fired when their "strengths become weaknesses" through overuse and misapplication. For instance, when Gallup StrengthsFinder Command themes become micro-management; or when StrengthsFinder Self-assurance themes comes across as arrogance. More isn't always better. In fact, there are even perils of accentuating the positive. But nowhere in this best-selling book does the author acknowledge this reality, not even as a footnote.
There is a lot more than Gallup research on the matter. For instance, the February 2009 Harvard Business Review has an article on p. 100 entitled "Stop Overdoing Your Strengths." The authors provide case after case of executives going overboard with their natural inclinations and talents, driving their companies down with them. They also show clear data that this is an endemic problem: most executives overdo their strengths, but the majority lack self-awareness about it. Furthermore, strengths overused are powerfully correlated with employee DISengagement and soft business results.
Perhaps those who aspire to leadership should hit the books, rather than get drive-by advice from a master of self-promotion. Just ask derailed leaders like Eliot Spitzer, Chuck Prince, Richard Fuld, or Stan O'Neal how smart it is to flex your strengths and ignore your weaknesses.
on July 8, 2007
Marcus Buckingham has written several books that deal with the same issues in essentially the same way. What's he's got to say is good and it's based on research. The books are all well written. But there's not a lot that's new in any one of them.
If you haven't read any of Buckingham's strengths books, read this one. The idea of identifying your strengths and building on them is a good one. You are likely to have a more successful and satisfying life if you follow it. And this book is the best one so far to help you do that.
If you have read any of Buckingham's books on strengths, there are two things that make this book the best of the pack even if most of the book will seem familiar. They may make it worth buying for you.
First, this book has examples of using strengths to put teams together. This is the big content addition and it's a good one. If you want to learn how to use people's strengths when they're part of a team you're responsible for, this is the book for you.
And, Buckingham finally did something in this book that I've wanted him to do. Previously I had trouble applying the idea of building on strength, because I found that I had things that I do well but didn't like to do. They seemed to meet the common definition of "strengths" and people told me I was good at them. But just the prospect of spending time doing them made me tired.
In this book, Buckingham tells us how to identify a strength to build on. You identify things that 1) you're good at and 2) give you energy when you do them. Other people can help you identify what you're good at. You are the judge of whether an activity gives you energy or not.
Bottom line: if you want to read a book about how to identify your strengths and the strengths of your team or if you haven't read any of Buckingham's books on the subject before, pick up a copy of this book. On the other hand, if you're read his earlier books and you don't need the specific content points I've mentioned, give it a pass.
Years ago, there was a series of television commercials that featured the "Kemper Cavalry." Each effectively communicated a message from Kemper Insurance that said, in effect, "We'll always be there when you need us most." Many people apparently believe that there is such an alternative to focus, preparation, hard work, personal accountability, patience, self-reliance, persistence, etc. For them, other alternatives include the Tooth Fairy, silver bullets, divine intervention, lotteries, and e-mails from widows, orphans, and attorneys who are émigrés from Africa.
I first became aware of Marcus Buckingham when I read First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently (1999) in which he and co-author Curt Coffman draw upon 80,000 interviews conducted by Gallup during the past 25 years. They suggest "four keys" to becoming an excellent manager: Finding the right fit for employees by getting their strengths in proper alignment with the tasks for which they are responsible, focusing on those strengths, defining the right results and making the given expectations crystal clear to those involved, and finally, hiring for talent as well as for knowledge and skills rather than merely filling a vacant position according to a job description that may no longer be relevant. Good stuff.
In this volume, Buckingham quite correctly emphasizes (a) knowing what one's personal strengths are and then (b) leveraging them to achieve desirable results, whatever the nature and extent of those results may be. He is one of several past or current executives within The Gallup Organization who have written a number of articles and books, based on a wealth of research data. Several Web sites now offer access to much of this information, notably gallup.com, BuckinghamLive.com, and strengthsfinder.com.
As Buckingham explains, he wrote this book to show "you how to take action. It teaches you a simple six step discipline to make the most of your strengths and neutralize your weaknesses, and how you can stick to this discipline despite the pressures of a company, a boss, or even a spouse pulling you off your strengths path. There are six chapters in the book. Six steps. So, what you have in this book is a six week, six step discipline. Each step constitutes a week of reading, action, and discovery, and each week builds on the one before. Don't try to read the book in one sitting. Instead, keep up this weekly rhythm of read, act, discover, and, by the end of the book, you'll know how to take a stand for your strengths and leverage them as never before. Your performance will soar, and more significant still, you'll know how to sustain this level of performance throughout the many twists and turns of your career."
It is worth noting that each copy of this book includes its own ID code. As Buckingham explains, "This code not only allows you a free viewing of the first two films of Trombone Player Wanted, it also gives you the right to take the Strengths Engagement Tack at the beginning of the book, and again at the end. This short, web-based survey first measures how engaged your strengths are as compared to the rest of the working world, and then reveals how engaged your strengths are going to be in the near-term future. If you work as part of a team, your results can then be combined with your colleagues to create a Strengths Engagement Track team score." Each copy of Tom Rath's StrengthsFinder 2.0 also has a code, one that serves as an exclusive link to The Gallup Organization's "StrengthsFinder 2.0" self-diagnostic. These access codes are substantial value-added benefits to the material with which they are provided.
Especially in recent years, many busy executives have set aside time, energy, and (in some instances their own) funds to take all manner of standardized tests, some of which identify both strengths and weaknesses (i.e. areas in which improvement is needed). The Gallup Organization's resources enable them to obtain additional information about themselves while correlating that information with information generated by hundreds of thousands of others. "Now what?"
As indicated earlier, Buckingham strongly recommends focusing almost entirely on developing one's strengths and then leveraging them whenever and wherever possible. For supervisors, he strongly recommends that -- similarly -- they focus on their direct reports' strengths, constantly helping to develop them further rather than becoming preoccupied with weaknesses, and get those strengths in proper alignment with tasks that are most appropriate to the given strengths.
"How to do that effectively?" Read his book.
on June 19, 2012
Do not buy the Kindle edition. You do not get the code needed to complete the online survey or get the results of the survey. Don't buy a used version either. The code can only be used once, so if you buy a used book, you're missing out on the most important part of the material.
My employer bought a few cases of this book as a followup to last year's training on Strength Finders. They said that they would reimburse anyone who wanted an electronic version. Unfortunately, an electronic version is missing the key to discovering your strengths and how to best use them.
Buy a new hard copy. The material is useful.
If you really look at what is holding you back, from really using your best qualities and talents, you will almost surely find that most of it are the images and thoughts you hold between your ears. You are so sure about what could go wrong, or about what you HAVE to do, or about what is just not possible, that you just don't even try to step out.
Well, to say it simply, stop it! This book provides you with a six step process to help you build on your strengths rather than chasing and fixing mistakes. It is based on the ideas you will find in the business philosophies of Appreciative Inquiry and Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS). The core idea in these movements is that you can't build on your strengths if all you see are your weaknesses. If you want to be a master of something, you have to study those who do it well, not focus on the mistakes of those who aren't very skilled. The term they often use is "positive deviance". That is, that area of performance that deviates ABOVE the norm. The goal is to learn how to create more positive deviance.
In the first step, Buckingham focuses you on giving up belief in three myths: 1) As you grow your personality changes. 2) You will grow in your areas of greatest weakness. 3) A good team member does whatever it takes to help the team. He says that the truths are: 1) As you grow you become more of who you already are. 2) You will grow in your areas of greatest strength. 3) A good team member deliberately volunteers his strengths to the team most of the time.
As he discusses each of these he asks you to examine what you are getting out of believing in these myths. What would it cost you to stop believing in it? Then think carefully about the benefits you would gain by believing the truth. If you sincerely do this, you will likely be shocked and then energized.
The purpose of this book is to help you take charge of your life and especially your work life. You will make it more rewarding, says the author, by centering your work on your strengths rather than just doing whatever comes to you as an assignment. It is a six step process. The first, as I noted above, is to bust the myths. Step 2 is to get clear about your strengths. Three is to free your strengths. Four helps you see and stop your weaknesses (not focus on fixing them). Five coaches you on how to speak up and get your boss supporting your strengths. Six is about keeping the process alive by building strong habits.
Now, Marcus Buckingham is a big-time, high-priced consultant. The book sends you to his website to use some free materials there (but also offers you others to purchase). Underneath this is the desire to sell your company consulting and seminar services with associated materials. It is interesting stuff, but the sheer "salesiness" of it detracts from it a bit for me.
Reviewed by Craig Matteson
on January 20, 2009
Buckingham co-wrote an earlier book about discovering your strengths, when he was with Gallup. Now, he is no longer with Gallup, and he wrote this book, in which he says that the things he called strengths in the earlier book weren't really strengths, but the strengths in this book are really strengths. This is one of the things that I found disagreeable about the book.
Another negative aspect of this book: it is a magazine article padded out to book length (barely padded out -- it has a 16-page 'resource guide' which is essentially an advertisement for other stuff that he wants you to spend your money on).
There is some interesting and thought-provoking material in this book. And, judging by the customer reviews, it has helped many people.
But it is also an attempt for Buckingham to sell you more stuff -- starting with the book itself, which you have to ** buy ** in order to take the online evaluation test, which is called a Strengths Evaluation Track (SET) survey. Yes, Buckingham is trying to invent a perpetual money-making machine by selling you the book, and then a DVD set, and then . . . (see his blog above for the latest stuff he's trying to sell).
You have to buy the book to get the secret code so you can take this SET test online; and then, you can only take it 3 times (even though the author recommends re-taking it once a year . . . like, what am I supposed to do after that? buy a new copy of the book?). I found that the SET is not necessary to getting something from the book. Most of the questions are a version of 'how much of a typical work week do you spend doing things you really like to do?'. You can understand the book and do the exercises in the book, which are intended to help you understand your strengths, without taking the survey. So, save your money, get it from the library.
If you already have reorganized your life based on reading First, Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths, you don't need this book for yourself. But if you haven't helped your colleagues make the same adjustments, you'll find this book helpful. If you've made the needed shifts in both areas, you can skip Go Put Your Strengths to Work.
Based on Marcus Buckingham's latest survey, it seems like just as few people feel they should focus on improving their strengths as before he started to write about this subject. Writing books obviously only goes so far. This book attempts to help you change your habits.
Before going too far, let me remind (or share with you) that the Buckingham definition of a strength is something that makes you feel great while you do it. Because you have this positive reaction, you'll do this activity more often, get better at it, and stay energized by your work. For me, a strength is writing about how to create 2,000 percent solutions and helping the world make progress at 20 times the usual rate.
Contrast this with something you do very well, but hate doing! For me, that's doing tax returns. I'm great at it, but I feel drained by the experience.
Most people don't work on their strengths because they believe certain myths (I would call them misconception stalls):
1. Your personality changes with age.
2. You will grow most in your areas of greatest weakness.
3. A good team member does whatever it takes to help the team.
Mr. Buckingham argues persuasively that the opposite is true in each case.
With your purchase of the book, you get access to a Web site where you can put in a code from your dust jacket to take a test called a Strengths Engagement Track (SET) that you can use to see where you are in employing your strengths and then to see how much you progress as you go through the book's process.
I cannot report on how well this process works because in my initial assessment my score was almost 100% to begin with. I'm able to read and apply what I learn and have obviously already absorbed and used the material from the earlier books.
The rest of the work-improvement process involves watching some videos and finishing a six step process which I have paraphrased below:
1. Learn the truth about those misconception stalls.
2. Identify your top three strengths.
3. Change your work to spend more time applying your strengths.
4. Reduce how much time you spend on activities that drain your energy and enthusiasm.
5. Be proactive in working with your boss and team members to refocus your work.
6. Turn the new directions into habits.
There are the usual forms, formats, reminders, and lists to help you reinforce the new, the sort of thing you get at a human resources training program. If you like those things, this book is quite detailed in that regard. Between downloading from the Web site and using materials bound into the book, you'll have everything you probably need.
To me the best part of the book came in the examples. One example goes through all the chapters and involves Heidi who is a marketing brand director for Hampton hotels. What she likes to do is to work with motivated people to improve excellence. What she does now is nag unmotivated people to do things they don't want to do. She's burning out. The story is very good for explaining how the 6 steps work. In the fifth step, there are examples built around Christine, who works for Martin, as director of program development for a training company that serves Fortune 500 companies. Martin can't follow what's going on without his people using an obscure form that Christine doesn't understand and hates.
If the book had contained about five times as many examples, it would have been a lot easier. As it is, I think most people should plan from the beginning to pursue this with a buddy. Step five includes lots of helpful solutions for what your buddy can do to help you.
Start enjoying your work a lot more!