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433 of 463 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong Insights, Weak Management Tool, January 25, 2001
This review is from: Now, Discover Your Strengths (Hardcover)
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.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 17, 2007 4:43:28 PM PDT
I agree that in the end I experienced some disappointment in the fact that they didn't go "quite far enough" and I learned that it would cost a few hundred dollars ($500 I think?) to learn the "full truth" about myself and my strengths. I stopped right there.

What I am seeing now is that they are not done, this is a work in progress, and they will continue to supply the market with the next step if you are patient.

It is fun, though, if you can stand the wait for the next installment.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 13, 2011 7:49:26 AM PDT
Tracy, I agree with your assessment that this book is just one in a series of books, as the intelligence derived from the massive amount of data the book is based on continues to reveal more about how it can be used.

However, my personal experience is that this book was instrumental in me identifying my own strengths, which is often a difficult question to answer from your own perspective, and also my passions. What I'm good at, I'm passionate about. I can get passionate about any situation, as long as I'm applying my strengths. My strengths are Strategic, Analytical, Futuristic, Restorative, and Significance. This is absolutely who I am. Knowing that has helped me to more confidently display these traits, know that it's okay if I don't have as much depth in the other themes, and has given me permission, in a way, to just be who I am.

And I didn't pay the $500. But I feel like I got at least that much value. And I recommend the book in my own:

The Science of Making Things Happen: Turn Any Possibility into Reality
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