Focusing on Strengths is Greatest Development Potential

Last week, I started reading the book Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton.  You would want to look for StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath which is the newest edition but doesn’t give all the surrounding material the way the original does.  These are best used together.

I have read the first part that explains the the thinking and premise of the book.  I have also taken my StrengthsFinder questionnaire, but that will be posts for another time.  This post is about the premise of the book.

The authors make a case that the biggest opportunity for growth is not with your weaknesses but with your strengths.  The authors talk about three components to developing a strength: knowledge, skills, and talent.

Knowledge and skills are something that you can learn.  You can go to a class and pick up a list of questions to ask to understand how people are feeling or techniques to giving a good presentation.  The authors explain that in order to really develop a strength you should have a natural talent for that strength.  When a natural talent is present the individual will have a larger interest.  A larger interest in something tends to lead a person to want to learn more and use the strength more.

The talent is “hardwired” into our brains at a very early age.  The book explains how the neuro-network in our brains are developed.  The network has billions of connections as a child but as we get older some connections become disconnected.  If this didn’t happen we would have sensory overload.  The connections that are left are path networks that allow us to make millisecond decisions and filtering.  These networks unveil our talents.

A talent only becomes a strength if you combine it with knowledge and skills.

There are 34 themes for strengths based on their studies.  For example, Relator is a theme.  The Relator theme means you are pulled toward people you already know.  You do not shy away from meeting new people but you derive a great deal of pleasure from being around your close friends.  The book continues to describe ways to use this talent and ways to work with people who have this talent.

The authors do not say that we shouldn’t develop any weaknesses.  They do say that developing weaknesses is really damage control.  For instance, if you don’t have the talent of empathy you may not pick up on signs of how people are feeling.  This may give people the impression you are a jerk with no feelings like a robot.  You can learn questions to ask someone to understand how they are feeling but it may come over as forced or uneasy.  This is better than not doing it all.  Damage control is better than leaving a wake of destruction.

The more I read this book, the more I tend to believe in what the authors are saying.  I think of myself and what I has my interest is where I tend to go to learn and develop.  So, how do we focus on our strengths and develop those?  How do we put others in a position to take advantage of their strengths so they are successful?

What are your talents that you can develop into strengths?

Posted on March 4, 2011, in Development, Leadership, Learning and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. One of my sons shared the StrengthsFinder with me a couple of years ago and as a Christimas gift paid for my family to take the questionaire. Having a background in Counseling I naturally look at psych testing instruments with a little healthy skepticism. Although I can’t remember now where I found the stats, the reliability (consistency of scores) is pretty high with the StrengthsFinder. Also, in looking at my family’s scores as well as my own I thought the instrument was pretty accurate, too. No psych testing instrument is perfect, and they’re best thought of as kind of an indicator rather than a magic test to mysteriously tell people about themselves. They are good for gaining some personal insight and it’s always good to do a self-check to see if you agree with the results, and it’s healthy to ask a person close to you what they think of the results, too. Overall I liked the instrument.

    Like you I wrestle with the heavy emphasis on strengths and de-emphasis on improving upon weaknesses. Although, as you said, they don’t say you shouldn’t work on them, their perspective to me kind of seems to be, “Play strong offense and don’t worry about the defense.” I guess I’ve always seen it as a good thing to work on one’s weaknesses. Yes, we can acknowledge that perhaps we don’t have a natural talent in some areas, but where it’s of value to us or others I think working on key weaknesses has more value than the authors do.

    Interesting topic for a post.

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