Friday, December 30, 2011

Now, discover your strengths

Now, Discover Your StrengthsNow, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book builds on the previously written, First, Break All the Rules. Its main assertion is that a “strengths revolution” is required in order for businesses to achieve excellence. Organizations must switch their focus from fixing weaknesses to maximizing strengths (3-4). It is not true that each person can become good at anything. It is not true that the greatest potential for personal growth is the areas we are weak in. The greatest potential for growth is in the areas of our greatest strength (7-8).

This book contributes three tools to the furthering of the strengths revolution. First, it brings clarity to what a strength is and what it’s composed of. A strength is composed of knowledge, skill, and talent, and the greatest of these is talent. A talent is something innate, whereas skill and knowledge are things that can be picked up. This means that one’s potential strengths are limited by one’s makeup. Endless effort to develop skill and gain knowledge will not a strength make unless one possesses the needed talent integral to that strength.

Thus, the key to building a bona fide strength is to identify your dominant talents and then refine them with knowledge and skills (30).

The second tool, following from the first, is a system for identifying one’s dominant talents. Here the book offers two forms of help. To assist in self-identifying them, we are instructed to monitor our spontaneous reactions to situations, our yearnings, the things in which we learn rapidly, and our satisfactions.

The main tool that is provided for discovering your talents, however, is the StrengthsFinder Profile, which is explained in the book, and conducted online.

The third revolutionary tool they provide is a common language describing the main kinds of talents. Chapter 4 labels and describes 34 themes or talents.

Beyond these three tools, the authors also include a chapter on managing the various strengths. One page is devoted to each of the 34 themes, and helpful advice is given if you are managing an employee who strong in analysis, for instance.

The final chapter lays out the big picture of how to build a strengths-based organization.


I found the book, and the StrengthsFinder Profile in particular, to be a great help. The five talents the StrengthsFinder identified in me were accurate in identifying my major talents, although I might quibble with the way there were ranked.


How this book intersects with a Christian worldview

One thing to consider is how a focus on one’s innate talents rubs shoulders with the Christian concept of one’s calling (pp. 144-7 are very interesting in this regard). For instance, if we should focus our energy and time on what we’re innately good at, does that mean that a Christian can explore his or her talents, and see in them God’s calling on their life?

The logic would be like this:

If God has a calling for our lives

then he would shape us for that calling by gifting us with the necessary talents

Therefore, an important process in discerning one’s calling in life is to explore what he has fitted us for. A Christian considering becoming a nurse because the pay is attractive might realize this is not God’s calling for her when she discovers that she is not naturally blessed with the talent of empathy.

I think this is a legitimate approach to choosing a station in life. It is submissive to God’s authority. However, some caveats need to be mentioned. First, when God calls us to do something, he does equip us for it, but not always by supplying one individual the needed talent in every case. I’m thinking of Moses here. Buckingham would call that “managing around your weakness” (148-59). Secondly, the authors make an important distinction between your field and your role within that field (160). To return to our nursing example, the gal lacking in empathy may still be called to the field of nursing, but perhaps she would serve better in a research role, particularly if one of her talents is intellection.

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