Thursday, October 15, 2009

Now Discover Your Strengths

The Big Idea
Have you ever wondered why today's organizations concentrate on rectifying your weaknesses? What makes weaknesses so interesting? Have you ever wondered what would happen if, instead of correcting your weaknesses, you capitalized on your strengths?

Organizations spend millions of dollars every year trying to unlock weaknesses, calling them "areas of opportunity," trying to minimize them. Can you imagine what would happen if today's organizations focused on building each of their employees' strengths? Have you ever wondered how much value can be created in an organization where each employee did what he does best?

Strong Lives Many ordinary and extraordinary people are seemingly gifted with strong lives. They are active and passionate about their work. They are successful in their chosen fields and roles, without seeming to try too hard. How do they do it?

The answer may lie in the fact that these people have, to quote the authors, "identified in themselves some recurring patterns of behavior and then figured out a way to develop these patterns into genuine and productive strengths." By "strength," we mean an activity that one executes consistently, near perfectly.

Three revolutionary tools have been found to help in building a strong life:

1. Understanding how to distinguish natural talent from things you can learn. Talents are your naturally occurring patterns of thought, feeling and behavior. Knowledge consists of facts and lessons learned. Skills are the steps of an activity. These three combine to create your strengths but none of them can substitute for the other. Of these, talent is the most important. Without a natural talent for an activity, you might enjoy some level of success but you are probably not going to excel. In the same vein, knowing your talents but not polishing them via learning more (knowledge) or practice (skills) isn't likely to lead you to excellence, either. It would be good advice for you to discover your dominant talents and then find a way to acquire the knowledge and skills you would need to refine them.

2. Creating a system to identify your dominant talents. The search for your talents must be one that is focused and persistent. You will need to step back and watch yourself, finding out more about how you react naturally to situations or circumstances. Take up a new sport and see how you like it. Engage in new activities and determine if you are inspired by them. It is possible that you'll find some activities boring or unimportant. This is normal and you must continue trying others until you discover your dominant talents. The Strengths Finder profile in Chapter 4 will assist you in this search but it will not define you completely. You must lead the search for your own talents.

3. Having a common language to describe your talents. What need, you might ask, would you have for a language that will describe your talents? We need one because the language for strengths is limited. Because of our interest in weaknesses and frailties, we have come up with a varied language that will describe weaknesses, its stems, its solutions, etc., but we have failed to create one for strengths. What exactly do you mean when you say that a person is self-motivated? What do you mean by people-skills? Why do we use negative connotations for talents? We call people inclined to action impulsive. We call people who claim excellence egotists. People who anticipate problems are called worriers. For these examples and many more, we obviously don't have a language that can describe talents and strengths well enough.

This article is based on the following book:

Now, Discover Your Strengths
By Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D.
ISBN 0 7432 0114 0
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