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Now, Discover Your Strengths Hardcover – Unabridged, January 29, 2001
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Effectively managing personnel--as well as one's own behavior--is an extraordinarily complex task that, not surprisingly, has been the subject of countless books touting what each claims is the true path to success. That said, Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton's Now, Discover Your Strengths does indeed propose a unique approach: focusing on enhancing people's strengths rather than eliminating their weaknesses. Following up on the coauthors' popular previous book, First, Break All the Rules, it fully describes 34 positive personality themes the two have formulated (such as Achiever, Developer, Learner, and Maximizer) and explains how to build a "strengths-based organization" by capitalizing on the fact that such traits are already present among those within it.
Most original and potentially most revealing, however, is a Web-based interactive component that allows readers to complete a questionnaire developed by the Gallup Organization and instantly discover their own top-five inborn talents. This device provides a personalized window into the authors' management philosophy which, coupled with subsequent advice, places their suggestions into the kind of practical context that's missing from most similar tomes. "You can't lead a strengths revolution if you don't know how to find, name and develop your own," write Buckingham and Clifton. Their book encourages such introspection while providing knowledgeable guidance for applying its lessons. --Howard Rothman
From Library Journal
The premise of this new management study, a follow-up to Buckingham's First, Break All the Rules (S. & S., 1999), is that the most effective method for motivating people is to build on their strengths rather than correcting their weaknesses. The authors, researchers at the Gallup Organization, have analyzed results of interviews conducted by Gallup of over 1.7 million employees from 101 companies and representing 63 countries. When asked, only 20 percent of these employees stated that they were using their strengths everyday. So that they can take a test revealing their strengths, readers are given access to the StrengthsFinder web site and a special ID number; once they learn their profile, they can read the analysis in the book. A description of each type is included, together with case studies, and managers are shown how to handle various types. This book offers a unique perspective on successful management strategy and developing employees' strengths. Recommended especially for public libraries, which should also consider Buckingham's First, Break All the Rules; students of business administration may also wish to consult this book.DLucy Heckman, St. John's Univ. Lib., Jamaica, NY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
"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.
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").