on 4 January 2003
I'm a big fan of this book's predecessor 'First, Break All The Rules' and was looking forward to the publication of 'Now...'
Gallup's research methodology is convincing and, for me, the real value in this book was getting the code to take the test on their web site and "discover my strengths".
The book then explains how to play to your strengths. This in itself is useful for identifying how you can increase your personal effectiveness. Managers will also the find the section on "How to Manage a Person Strong in [each Strength]" useful (if you buy copies for your team and get them all to take the test).
Having said that, I did have fun guessing in my own mind the strengths of my boss and my co-workers from the descriptions given.
The book does not make any prescriptions such as 'To be good in sales you should have these strengths...', arguing that identification of your strengths (and acting on that knowledge) is more fundamental for success in any chosen career. This was encouraging for me as, when I read the book (over a year ago), I was wondering whether I 'had what it takes' in my profession. I didn't seem to conform to the model of success in my organisation. I'm pleased to say that, partly as a result of tuning in to my strengths, I'm now a top performer.
For those of you in senior positions wanting to make changes at an organisational level, the book also goes on to recommend how to build a "Strengths Based Organisation".
The most important theme of the book for me was the authors' conviction that putting effort into developing our strengths is always going to be far more productive and enjoyable than trying to develop our weak areas. If we accept that we're just not wired to perform well in that area, and we have the ability to recognise that strength in others and then collaborate with them, then we're all going to be a lot less stressed, more fulfilled and more effective.
on 1 July 2001
This is not only a co-written book, it is backed up by the Gallup Organisation and a survey of over two million people over a thirty year period. Although it is written with career and team management in mind, it is worth reading simply for personal development.
The first learning point of the book is an understanding of how everyone's brain is wired in a unique way to give each person a unique combination of talents. This is fascinating information. A hundred billion neurons in the brain each with fifteen thousand synapse connections by the age of three. But by the age of sixteen, half of those synapse connections have disappeared to create a unique pattern for each of us in what we find difficult and, crucially, what we can perform with consummate and consistent ease.
The second learning point is to understand that success and excellence do not come from fixing our weaknesses, but from developing our strengths. For years, employers have made the mistake of directing staff training to the improvement of weak areas while taking strengths for granted. The misguided aim is to produce a well rounded performer. But, as the book shows, the real performers are those who concentrate almost exclusively on their natural talents.
The unique strength of this book is that each copy comes with a unique reference number for the reader to get access to the StrengthsFinder Profile, a dedicated website questionnaire of 180 questions designed to identify your own top five talents, taken from a list of 34 "themes". It is the identification of those themes, and the kind of questions needed to elicit them, which has emerged from the exhaustive survey of over 2 million people.
Your profile will not necessarily tell you that you are in the right or the wrong job. It may point you to a more effective role you could be taking within that job. Undoubtedly it will help you to identify how you can improve your performance and job satisfaction by playing to your strengths more of the time. The book is particularly good at explaining how a different balance of strengths can produce excellent job performance even in the same type of job, because there are any number of ways to do an excellent job in the same field of work. It also provides practical damage limitation strategies for managing your weaknesses.
If you are a manager or work within a team, the remainder of the book will help you determine the strengths of your team and the best way to approach each type of person.
Having taken the StrengthsFinder profile, you can repeat it at any time and there is ongoing support in the form of email advice on how to make the most of your own strengths.
The information offered through this book and the StrengthsFinder profile will provide a great deal of insight into your present circumstances and challenges, and prove an invaluable resource for contemplating any future career development.
This book represents three very ambitious efforts. One, it argues for a new management paradigm that builds from the psychological make-up of each person in the workplace to create the most effective combination of people and tasks. Two, the book presents a new psychological mapping scheme to capture those areas where a person will display "consistent near perfect performance in an activity." Three, the book connects you to a self-diagnosis tool that you can use on-line to see yourself in the perspective of the new mapping scheme. Most books would settle for pursing just one these goals. My hat is off to the authors for their ambition!
The concept of building companies around "desirable" pyschological profiles has been in application for some time. The Walt Disney organization uses this approach to locate people who will enjoy working in their company, and to match the person to the task they will be most focused on. More and more companies are experimenting with this approach. The evidence is that it works.
So the first argument simply takes that experience one step further by formalizing it a bit. The book has many persuasive examples of how people usually do not have jobs that use their best talents. This provides another perspective on the Peter Principle. So far so good.
Next, 34 patterns of mental habits are described based on millions of interviews over 25 years. These include achiever, activator, adaptability, analytical, arranger, belief, command, communication, competition, connectedness, context, deliberative, developer, discipline, empathy, fairness, focus, futuristic, harmony, ideation, inclusiveness, individualization, input, intellection, learner, maximizer, positivity, relator, responsibility, restorative, self-assurance, significance, strategic, and woo. You need to see the descriptions to understand what these patterns reflect.
The argument is that these labels capture patterns of thinking habits that condition behavior in any situation. I find it difficult to relate to all of the patterns because there are so many. Also, without knowing what patterns work well in a particular job, I wasn't sure how relevant they are. Connection of patterns to success needs to be shown as cause and effect in a given company before this will be totally useful.
Small companies may not be able to use this tool very well because they will never have enough people doing the same task to figure out which profile is best. Everyone working in that role may have a very inappropriate profile. You will just be picking the best of a poorly-fitting lot if you select around one of them.
Then, I took the personality test on-line. There were no surprises there for me in my top 5 patterns. I also suspect that there would be no surprises for you in putting me into these categories. You would probably have pegged me as an achiever, learner, relator, focus, input person from the fact that I read so many nonfiction books, write so many book reviews, and keep books and notes everywhere (just in case I might need them again). On the relator front, if you had noticed who I like to work with and how I work with them, you would have spotted me in a few days.
However, my actual job competence is a lot different from this. Most clients tell me that they find me most helpful to them when exposing them to new perspectives on their work that allow them to make faster progress. So, I was left wondering if the tool is strong enough to do the task of making people most effective in their work without more help. Someone might develop or be born with a great talent that has little to do with the psychological profile of how she or he likes to spend their time.
To state the opposite proposition to the ones in the book, complexity science would suggest that it is a mistake to overly organize the workplace in any way. You should have as much diversity as possible. When we leave lots of room for open space and time, people will self-organize outstanding solutions. Having people focused on tasks they love might make them less aware of what else needs to be done. Behavioral scientists would argue that learning continues throughout life, and that major new habits can be formed at any time. Old dogs can learn new tricks. Why cannot new psychological mindsets be learned as well. I suspect that they can. These kinds of counter-observations were not addressed in the book, and it would have been helpful to me if they had been.
So while I was impressed by the concept that the "great organization . . . must capitalize on these differences," I wasn't sure that the authors have the best method to get there yet.
I do recommend that you read the book and consider its messages. I suspect that its application will work best in focusing people on tasks that require great persistence and consistency in order to be effective. I am less clear on how well it will work to help people accomplish more in creative tasks. Time will tell.
I suggest that you take the test and discuss your results with someone else who has also taken the test. Ask each other what insights you got from your own results and from hearing the other person's results. That discussion should start to help you imagine ways to use these insights more effectively.
May you always find yourself stimulated by the activities you do!
on 19 February 2002
I read the book, did the test and was amazed. I learned a great deal about my strengths and started to look for my employees'strenghts. In fact, even in my private relation ships I began focussing on my friends, family or acquaintance's talents and seeing their weeknesses in a differnet light.
This Book is for anyone who has a group of people either working with or for them. One will learn to place the right person in the right position, to achieve a successful business with achieving and satisfied co-workers or employees.
on 5 August 2001
I'm happy a book makes it so high on the bestseller list explaining to people that they are better off focusing on strengths (both for themselves, as for the organizations they work for). At jobEQ.com, we have been "educating" our customers to do the same, and as the authors of this book acknowledge, only 25 to 40% of persons will grasp that notion immediately. I also appreciate that the authors explain how a manager can use the knowledge of these strengths (or themes) to manage their staff better.
If the authors would write a second edition, there are some things that I would recommend them to address. My first remark is linked to the writing style: this book is written in an "imperative" form: it contains a lot of sentences with "you need to do this", "you should do that", ... This style tends to put of people, risking that they miss the message. Secondly, they have WRONG, OUTDATED notion of the brain: contrary to what people used to say 5 to 10 years ago, the good news of recent research is that brain cells that die off ARE replaced (even if you get older) and you remain capable of forming new connections between brain cells (maybe unless you get a disease, such as Parkinson, ...). Thirdly: the book does not really address what kind of job would be good for you.
Finally some feedback about the test: don't take it BEFORE you read chapter 3 in the book - at least then you will understand how they built it. Still, I have my doubts about the way it is built. Using the amount of interviews as a "proof of credibility" didn't impress me: Often for scientific purposes, it doesn't matter much if you did 5.000 or a million interviews - all that matters is that you can validate the test. Also, I know that most people probably have MORE than 5 strengths, which is just an ARBITRARY number Gallup chose. Given the importance they address to these 5 strengths, just imagine what opportunities you will miss by ignoring these other strengths. I would rather prefer to get a FULL picture, getting all my strengths and weaknesses, and having this information ordered from strongest to weakest.
Patrick E.C. Merlevede -- Co-author of "7 Steps to Emotional Intelligence"
on 31 August 2002
I rate management and leadership books/tapes by the kind of impact that they have had on my life. This one has had a 5 star impact.
'Now, Discover Your Strengths' does what it says on the label. It helps to clarify the strengths that we possess (your could call them gifts, talents, natural abilities), and encourages you to focus on them and use them to benefit others. As we focus on our strengths we gain greater personal fulfilment and have a greater positive impact on the world around us....
The book and tape have helped to clarify my strengths, and helped me to sell myself at an interview during a recent career change. The book gave me a framework or language to be able to 'sell myself'. I've got the job, and my employers have not been disappointed.
I've bought several copies for friends and they too rate the book/tape highly.
on 7 August 2016
I have a strong interest in personal and team development, and found Buckingham's book to be insightful and a true reflection of reality and human nature. Amidst all the various paradigms for development, I find the StrengthsFinder approach to be fresh and meaningful.
This book includes a significant amount of material aimed at managers and organizational directors--helpful specifics on how to implement ideas of being a strengths-based organization--but which can be skipped by those who are focusing on the personal growth opportunities that the book affords.
Although I haven't yet taken the StrengthsFinder assessment, the whole perspective of investing in developing strengths seems hugely significant, even without yet knowing my "signature themes" and areas of talent as described within this particular paradigm.
This book is recommended for followers and leaders alike. As a follower, it encourages us to consider our roles and contributions in light of the unique aspects of who we are, and gives us impetus for developing ourselves without waiting on our managers to figure it out for us.
I am looking forward to seeing how this new perspective will play out in my personal journey and in my role as a team building consultant.
on 27 June 2005
This excellent book is based on a very interesting idea and a fresh way of looking at career development. Namely, that we can only truly succeed if we abandon the "traditional" approach to personal and professional development (i.e. focussing on our "weaknesses" and attempting to fix them) in favour of focussing on our strengths and developing them to the max. The first 3 chapters outline the basis for this suggestion and then prompt you to go on-line and take the "StrengthsFinder" profiling test to discover your own top talents and strengths. I, and the many people I have recommended this book to, have found the results to be insightful and very applicable. You then read the rest of the book to discover how you can apply this new found knowledge in real and practical ways. So, whether you are seeking promotion, taking stock, looking to refocus your career, or just in need of a great confidence-booster, buy this book and enjoy!