Marcus Buckingham is the author of several business bestsellers, including Now, Discover Your Strengths. His work is based on a survey of 1.7 million employees in 101 companies from 63 countries. When asked the question “At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?” only 20 percent answered yes; the other 80 percent felt that they were not using their strengths in their roles at work.
What does that mean? For Buckingham, it means that most organizations are plodding along with a group of struggling and demoralized workers. By contrast, companies that recruit and deploy people based on strengths can realize huge gains in productivity and morale.
My previous post on strengths defined them as innate talent (something you do naturally, joyfully and consistently well) combined with learning and experience to hone your abilities. Everyone has a pattern of strengths, which combined, define what you love to do and can do better than almost anyone around you. Imagine a work day where you spend your day playing to your strengths, and the people next to you are equally and joyfully engaged. How do we get there?
The first step is to discover your strengths. The patented Strengthsfinder assessment is available online for $19.95. It’s the best way to determine what your pattern of five strengths is. You get the results of your assessment along with an explanation of what your strengths mean, an action guide and access to a library of articles and online forums.
Now Discover Your Strengths offers a description of the 34 identified strengths, based on the Gallup survey. My five look like this:
- Achiever: I start out each day (weekends and all) with a burning desire to do something useful, to accomplish something. Nothing energizes me like a new project to sink my teeth into, and nothing feels worse at the end of the day than to bemoan the fact that “I didn’t get a thing done all day.” (This, as opposed to my dear friend Sandy, who is an Arranger. She is a genius at putting things – and people – into the order that makes the most sense. She’s the one you want in charge of a situation that’s constantly changing; she’ll make sure everyone knows where to go and what to do.)
- Communication: Not surprising for a writer, bringing ideas to life is what I live for. Whether it’s speaking, writing, teaching or simply telling stories, I want to interpret my inner world and the world around me for others; to make sense of it and see its beauty on a new way.
- Ideation:I delight in new ideas and discovering the common theme that makes sense of complex systems. I’m always intrigued by new ideas that make me reconsider everything I’ve thought before. For me, the most powerful question to ask is “What if.”
- Maximizer: Average means nothing to me. Something is either excellent, or it needs to be fixed (or nurtured, or rearranged.) I care deeply about things that are wonderful, and can often see potential where others can’t. I love the idea of helping people blow on a spark and achieve the greatness they struggled to develop.
- Significance: I feel the need to be recognized, to be heard, to stand out. That’s why writers write; otherwise, we’d just be thinking. I have big plans and am intensely ambitious in my own way. I want to look back on life and know that I did Important Things.
As I look at these strengths, I can see the value in finding a career where I use them every day. If there were such a job, I don’t think I’d ever feel tired or burned out. Imagine a workplace where you felt valued and understood, and excelled at all the tasks you were given. Your coworkers, who might be very different temperamentally, would gladly take on the tasks that you didn’t. Paradise with a paycheck. How do we get there?
Here’s a free online resource with a pretty good description of the 34 strengths.