By Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton
Many people spend a lot of time worrying about their weaknesses and shortcomings, and a lot of business books focus on that concern. This book takes the opposite approach by showing that many successful people focus on their strengths instead of their weaknesses. They continue to fine-tune their strengths while learning how to manage their weaknesses. This book provides the tools for identifying strengths with self-evaluation and offers ways to manage weaker skills.
"One thing that holds us back is fearing our weaknesses more than having confidence in our strengths."
Chapter 1: Strong Lives
A great example of how this focus on strengths can create success is the compelling case of Tiger Woods. To most, it would appear that this professional golfer has mastered the game of golf. But closer inspection reveals that he is actually playing to his strengths. Woods is a mediocre player when it comes to getting out of bunkers, but he is a master of putting and driving. By continuously focusing on the skills of putting and driving, and managing his weakness in bunkers, he has developed into one of the greatest players ever.
“At an early age, you started hearing it: It's a virtue to be "well-rounded."... They might as well have said: Become as dull as you possibly can be.”
Chapter 2: Strength Building
A skill is something that can be learned. A talent is something that is inborn. Many successful people exhibit specific strengths that are usually a combination of talent and skills. A successful speaker may be born with charisma and a natural stage presence, but it is usually the learned skills of tone, cadence, and the finer points of rhetoric that turn his talent into the strength of public speaking.
Chapter 3: Strengths Finder
The book encourages readers to identify and understand their top five strengths by reviewing their behaviors in various situations. By evaluating the situations where their responses are the most instinctive or natural, they can begin to see some patterns in their behavior. These patterns of “gut reactions” reveal specific strengths. To further develop an understanding of these strengths, the book also offers an extensive list of strengths as a basis for strength finding.
“Our definition of a weakness is anything that gets in the way of excellent performance.”
Chapter 4: The Thirty-Four Themes of Strengths Finder
By offering a list of thirty-four detailed strengths, the book provides an effective way to objectively self-evaluate. This exercise helps clarify areas of mastery and identify areas that need work. The resulting information will become the foundation for improving those strengths and managing the weaknesses. While the exercise is designed to keep the focus on strengths, the act of identifying weaknesses often leads to some productive revelations.
Chapter 5: The Questions You’re Asking
By using the question and answer session in the book, readers can learn the most effective way to identify specifics in strengths and weaknesses. These questions promote a deeper understanding of how and why certain strengths are well-developed, and others need work. Understanding weaknesses and learning to manage them is as much a part of the equation as identifying strengths. For example, knowing areas of weakness means knowing when to delegate a specific task to someone more capable.
Chapter 6: Managing Strengths
This section is geared towards managers and helps them identify strengths in the people that work for them. By identifying the strengths of these individuals, a manager can capitalize on those strengths in a number of ways. Creating teams where the strengths and weaknesses of team members compliment one another helps build a more balanced and effective team. Understanding the strengths of a particular person leads to a better understanding of how to manage that person.
“The only possible failure would be never managing to find the right role or the right partners to help you realize that strength.”
Chapter 7: Building a Strengths-Based Organization
With a good understanding of how focusing on strengths can help individuals improve, it's possible to begin building a strengths-based organization. By identifying the strengths needed in a specific role and understanding the strengths of individuals, it makes it easier to match up the right people with the right job. It takes a lot of work and planning to take this strengths-based approach from the individual level to an organizational level, but it pays off with more effective teams and more successful individuals.