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Free Coaching Resources - Book Reviews

Now Discover Your Strengths. 
Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D. The Free Press, New York, NY. 2001. 
ISBN 0-7432-0114-0

Reviewed by:  Matt M. Starcevich, Ph.D.

The authors call for a "strength revolution". This is in contrast to managers and organizations fixation on weakness. Most organizations training and human resource systems are based 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.

Based on two million interviews conducted over thirty years by the Gallup organization, they conclude that 80% of workers feel they do not have the opportunity to do what they do best. And that contrary to the two flawed assumptions, the worlds best managers assume:

1. Each person?s talents are enduring and unique.
2. Each person?s greatest room for growth is in the areas of his or her greatest strengths.

They define strength as: consistent near perfect performance in an activity. It follows then that you do not have to have strength in every aspect of your role in order to excel and you will excel only by maximizing your strengths, never by fixing your weaknesses. Skills can help you perform but they will not help you excel. Without an underlying talent/strength, learning skills is a survival technique not a path to glory.

The most significant piece of this book is their Strength Finder Profile which identifies you five signature talents (a recurring patterns of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied) out a possible thirty four. You have to buy the book to take the Strength Finder which comes with a fourteen digit ID number to allow you to log on to and complete a 180 paired comparison type questionnaire.

One criticism, if the authors are truly interested in starting a "strength revolution" they would sell access to this profile at a nominal rate and not make it dependent on the purchase of their book. I have mentioned it to a number of clients who have indicated they would have paid up to $20.00 to take the profile, but didn?t want to purchase the book. A second criticism is that their titles for the thirty four talents are in many cases not transparent and could have be made clearer. The authors might have followed their own advice and given their list of the thirty four to an independent person who first signature theme is Communicator and let them suggest clear, concise, meaningful titles. See if you can tell what is involved in the talent by the follow list of the thirty four:

Achiever Discipline
Activator Empathy
Adaptability Fairness
Analytical Focus
Arranger Futuristic
Belief Harmony
Command Ideation
Communication Inclusiveness
Competition Individualization
Connectedness Input
Contest Intellection
Deliberative Leaner
Developer Maximizer
Positivity Self-assurance
Relator Significance
Responsibility Strategic
Restorative Woo

This shortcoming should not detract from their contribution?being able to identify strengths. So what? The rest of the book is devoted to Managing Strength and Building a Strength Based Organization. This is many way is a rehash of their earlier tremendous book, First Break All The Rules, which is also reviewed on this site.

In a nut shell Managing Strengths advises to treat each individual as unique, understand their top five strengths and then discusses how to manage each of the thirty four themes of the Strength Finder.

The prescriptions for Building a Strength Based Organization are:

1. Select properly based on talent required and a study of the talent exhibited by your best performers.
2. Measure performance on three outcomes (impact on the business, customer and employee) not competencies.
3. Spend training time educating on strengths and how to build on these.
4. Grow careers up strength ladders and reward using broad banding, world class performance.

On an individual level I found this book very insightful and the Strength Finder results helpful for my introspection. On a managerial level, I gleaned out a few good ideas. On an organization level the book left me wanting more examples and further refinement of what I had read in their earlier book, First Break All The Rules. Even with these short comings, I believe the authors are on the right track in calling for a "strength revolution" and would recommend it as a valuable resource.

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