Episode 70 - Marcus Buckingham on The Truth About You, Career Intervention on Oprah and the Strength’s Revolution
Meet Marcus Buckingham, Oprah's darling and promoter of focusing on your strengths and neutralizing your weaknesses. Here's a new way to create peak performance, not only for yourself but for your team at work. Jon the "Strengths Revolution." To kick-start the strengths revolution, Marcus and Gallup developed the StrengthsFinder exam (StrengthsFinder.com), which identifies signature themes that help employees quantify their personal strengths in the workplace and at home. Now Marcus has an 8-part workshop on Oprah.com, he's touring college campuses by bus to help kids get into the careers that suit them and he's written a new book to help you figure out your strengths and how to leverage them in your career.
"The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success" is a workshop in a book. There's a 100 page book, simple enough for anyone to use to understand their strengths, there's a DVD that illustrates how you can work your strengths and there's a "Rememo" pad that you use to capture those moments when you feel strong and are working in your zone of strength and to document those times when you experience that weakened feeling from working outside your strengths. Buy one for every member of your team and make great strides in shoring up your talent and engendering satisfaction at work.
Hear Marcus explain the core concept behind his "Strengths Revolution," how the Oprah workshop has helped him reach more than a million people and how you can begin to work with your employee's strengths in your organization. Marcus reviews the difference between intra and interpersonal strengths assessment programs like Strengths Finder vs. his system in "The Truth About You" so you can understand how to apply these amazing tools to your life, your career and your team at work.
This program is brought to you by personallifemedia.com
Susan Bratton: Welcome to Dishy Mix. I’m your host Susan Bratton and on today’s show you’re going to get to meet Marcus Buckingham. Marcus is the CEO of the Marcus Buckingham Company, aptly named. I love the company’s motto; it’s not “live strong” it’s”live stronger”. And today we’re going to learn how to leverage our strengths and the strengths of our employees with someone who is considered to be one of the world’s leading authorities on employee productivity, leadership, management and our personal and professional strengths. Marcus has written a brand new book called The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success but before that he was busy writing a lot of other bestsellers including, First Break All the Rules, Now Discover Your Strengths, The One Thing You Need to Know and Go Put Your Strengths to Work. So what we’re going to talk about with Marcus today is how personal strengths fit into the workplace.
The premise of the strengths revolution, I suppose, is that in order to be most productive and most effective at work you need to hark back to that intuition you had back when you were seven that in order to be successful in life you do indeed need to leverage your strengths and manage around your weaknesses. You can’t afford to be romantic in your notion of what it takes to win. You have to be deeply pragmatic and that’s what China is. What will it take to differentiate my company, what will it take to differentiate me from everybody else around me? That’s the question that pervades China. What I do think we can do is systematically and deliberately and explicitly change the way we teach our kids. I think we’ve got to start with the curriculum in schools and the way that we can teach them about how they can apply their uniqueness in the world. So identifying what your strengths and weaknesses are isn’t something that you have to look to a personality test for. You can actually find what your strengths are in a regular week of life. You need a strong-weak plan. And a strong-week plan is, for me, rockingly simple. It’s what are the two things you’re going to do this week to push your world towards your strengths or away from your weaknesses.
Bratton: Good morning.
Buckingham: Good morning.
Bratton: How are you today?
Buckingham: Very good, thank you. How are you?
Bratton: Excellent. I’m so happy to have you on the line and Cece Chapman from the Advanced Guard is helping you with some social media marketing for The Truth About You and it’s through Cece that you and I connected and you’re on Dishy Mix today. So I’m glad to have you because, believe it or not, over the last year worth of episodes we’ve been talking about employee strengths, personal strengths so often you’d laugh about it and it’s just so funny that we’re connected today. I just finished your book a couple of days ago, The Truth About You, and I really enjoyed it. And before we get into the book itself, Marcus, could you just talk to us about your core concept, what you call the strengths revolution. Lay it on us.
Buckingham: The core concept is really pretty straightforward. Every one of us has unique strengths and unique weaknesses and as we were growing up we recognized very early on in our lives, six, seven years old, that we were different from our brother or our sister, people that we were most close to. Maybe we had the same genes, the same upbringing, we were different. We were drawn to different things and intrigued by different things and bored by other things and although we might not have called those things strengths and weaknesses, you might have had other words for them, right from a very early age we knew we had something unique and distinct about us and we hoped that our world would give us a chance to express that, our work would give us a chance to show that. And the premise of the strengths revolution I suppose is that in order to be most productive and most effective at work you need to hark back to that intuition that you had back when you were seven that in order to be successful in life you do in fact need to leverage your strengths and find ways to manage around your weaknesses. That you’ll be most resilient and most creative and most productive when you figure out how to push the world, in terms of your job and in terms of your life, but particularly in terms of your career, when you figure out how to push your job toward the best of you, push your job toward your strengths.
Bratton: You call it neutralizing your weaknesses. What do you mean by that?
Buckingham: So often in the corporate world we call our weaknesses our areas of opportunity. Or areas for development and we tell people that you should work on them. In fact that just sounds [xxxx] you should [xxxx], doesn’t it? “You should go work on your weaknesses.” It’s nicely alliterative but it’s also something that we use a lot. “Go work on your weaknesses.” As though your weaknesses are the things within which lie your greatest opportunity for growth and development. Sometimes it’s called gap analysis, Susan, where you find out where a person’s gaps are and you plug them. But in fact your weaknesses are the opposite of that. You weaknesses aren’t to be worked on, they are to be neutralized, they’re to be managed around, they’re not your areas of opportunity unless that’s a bastardisation of the word opportunity, they’re your areas of least opportunity, areas where you’ll grow and develop and be least creative. Your weakness though can’t be ignored. You can’t just say, “Ah, you know what Susan? You’re a jerk but that’s okay you just carry on being a jerk and maybe you’ll be able to get by.” Instead you’ve got to figure out strategies to make sure that whatever your weaknesses are that they don’t get in the way. And there’s all sorts of things you can do to do that. If you’re not very good at remembering names you can put a system in place so that you can remember those names. A simple system that sort of supports you in those areas where you’re not good. You could stop doing it and see if anyone notices. That’s a pretty straightforward kind of strategy. We do an awful lot of things in our lives that perhaps if we stopped doing them nobody would even care. You could team up with someone who’s good at the activity or strengthened by the activity that you’re not good at. You could look at the weakness through the lens of one of your strengths. I once had an assistant who was weakened by filing, which is a problem because that was her job, but she was very competitive so she would just make a game of it for herself and compete with herself and see how much she could get done in a set period of time or how quickly she could get it done and I wouldn’t say she ever came to love it today but it came to be something that wasn’t nearly so draining for her in her day. So there’s all sorts of practical things that you do and occasionally, Susan one of them is just suck it up and do it. Occasionally you just have to say that about a weakness. But our problem I think in the corporate world isn’t that we don’t know how to neutralize our weaknesses, you put your mind to it most of us can figure out a strategy to do that. Our problem is our thinking is entirely wrong about them. I think our problem is that we think that they’re areas for development and areas of opportunity. In fact, if you ask Americans today -- if you asked them in 2000 which do you think will help you succeed the most: building on your strengths or fixing your weaknesses, back in the year 2000 59% of people said fix my weaknesses. If you ask people today, and I’ve been asking that question every six months or so for the last few years, if you ask America today which do you think will help you succeed in life, you’re right at 55% say weaknesses and 45% say strengths. The most alarming thing though is if you can ask Gen Y, the new generation of workers just about to enter the work force or who have recently have entered the work force, the largest cohort of worker out there, seventy one million of them, they’re the most remedial generation of all. Thirty one percent of them say build on my strengths is the way to succeed but 69% of them, almost 70% of Gen Y walking into the work place believing that the way you succeed in life is not to neutralize your weaknesses but to fix them, build on them. So the revolution, if you like, is trying to push against that force and say, “Wait a minute. I know in school you’ve been taught that, I know your parents have reinforced that and I know most performance appraisals continue to reinforce that but it’s wrong” and weirdly enough for me what’s worrying is if you look at China back in the year 2000 when we asked that question of China they were the least strength-focused nation in the world. Twenty-four per cent of people in China said build on my strengths is the way to succeed and 24% today, though, when you ask that question of China they are almost the exact reverse of the young generation in the US. So for them, 70% of people say build on my strengths is the way to succeed and 30% of them say fix my weaknesses. So in China you’ve got this open, entrepreneurial performance-focused, deeply pragmatic culture that’s really focused on what we can do to be successful. There’s a billion other Chinese people, what can I do to find my unique advantage and leverage it, in life and in work? In America we don’t have that focus. We have a romantic, anxious focus on finding out where our vulnerabilities are and then desperately plugging them. I think it’s a crisis frankly, which is one of the reasons why I wrote this particular book and I’m charging around the country right now going to college campuses. I think it’s a huge concern for America.
Bratton: It sounds like this focus on our weaknesses is an endemic issue with our culture and obviously you’re personally trying to change it and bring awareness to it. I want to get to The Truth About You as quickly as we can but do you have one idea about any way as a culture that we can change this focus? Why did China change and how could we change?
Buckingham: China changed because it wanted to win in the marketplace. China changed because it wanted to be a successful business culture. And when you are trying to build a business, as a small business, as an entrepreneur, you can’t afford to be romantic in your notion of what it takes to win. You have to be deeply pragmatic. And that’s what China is. What will it take to differentiate my company, what will it take to differentiate me, from everybody else around me? That’s the question that pervades China. It’s a top down culture in China so once the country decides that’s the way that we’re going to be that’s the way everyone moves. I don’t know if we can do that in America. I mean the most extreme example in China obviously is you take a five year old girl from her family in the provinces of China and you put her in sports school and maybe she can see her family once a decade or, I don’t know -- maybe once a year, and she pops out ten years later at the Olympics as a 15 year old gymnast and wins the gold. That’s probably an immoral example of a strengths philosophy taken to its extreme. But I think what China’s done is they’ve just decided what does it take to win and then in a sense forced that through all of the social and economic systems within China. Schooling systems, sports management systems, business development systems. I don’t think we can do that in America. That’s not the way we work. We’re much more local. So I don’t think there is one switch we can flip in order to change our mind set. What I do think we can do is systematically, deliberately and explicitly change the way we teach our kids. I think we’ve got to start with the curriculums in schools and the way that we teach them about how they can apply their uniqueness in the world. Is that happening? No.
Bratton: Well, we can change it as parents and aunts and uncles and family members and I know that you wrote The Truth About You and targeted younger people but the book didn’t read that way. I’m under the impression that you wrote it so that it would be something that a teenager could take, could read and do the exercises in the book and really learn their strengths and then we, as potentially the giver of that book, could encourage them to focus on their strengths. But when I read it and I did the exercises I didn’t at all feel like it’s written for a kid. It’s written in a simple, straightforward, easy-to-read manner. Would you go through how you organized the book itself because it has the re-memo pad and the DVD? Just talk a little bit about what the process of the book is.
Buckingham: I mean I explicitly wrote it to try and get to 21, 22, 23, 24 year olds although you’re right. If you’re 35 I think you can read it and do it too. It’s doesn’t condescend to a 21 year old. It’s anyone who wants to make a good, bold, clear start to their career and their attempt to be successful in their career. The feeling of the book was – and it’s not really a book, it’s a tool kit. Because I’ve done two things of late, I’ve done a book called Go Put Your Strengths to Work and then I’d done a six part DVD series called Trombone Player Wanted. Both of those were I think focused on how do you practically put your strengths to work but they were too long for Gen Y to really get into. I mean the DVD series was 83 minutes long; I mean it’s six 12 minute films but it’s 83 minutes and I’d done it originally for managers so that they would have some nice 12 minute film to play at a learner lunch every week leaving about 20 minutes for discussion and then the next week they could come in and play the next one and have a discussion about that. But many, many people have come back to me and said, “You’ve got to get this shorter. You’ve got to make the film shorter and you’ve got to get it so that I can play it to my kids when they’re graduating.” Because right now when you graduate and go into the workplace no one tells you what the workplace is really like. All you’ve got is a shrink-wrapped copy of Oh, The Places You’ll Go that you could give them at graduation or something and it’s just not real. Rather, it’s lovely but it’s not really practically helpful for a person trying to find out what career they should pick and how they can thrive in a career. So in the toolkit there’s a 20 minute film that is me talking directly to camera but also a condensed version of a child’s story we’ve woven in there that we’ve put in, so the 20 minute film that introduces the concept, then there’s about a hundred pages I guess of diving into the detail or the concepts of the film in more detail and they walk you through what is the best career advice you can ever give someone. So there are five pragmatic, unsentimental, hopefully very practical, pieces of advice that you can give someone in order to help them find the right job, find the strengths that they have to apply to that job and then tweak and change and sculpt that job so it fits the best of them. So that’s the focus of the book. And then in the spirit of you only really learn something when you have to dive in and do it, we put in there a series of activities, two or three key activities, the most important of which is, as you said, a re-memo activity. It sounds like an odd word, the re-memo, but basically all it says is that the raw material for identifying what your strengths and weaknesses are isn’t something you have to look to a personality test for. You can actually find what your strengths are in a regular week of life if we teach you how to look properly. I mean, if someone is a grown up, I mean someone is a father or uncle and sits down with someone and says, “What are your strengths?” it’s an incredibly intimidating question because you’re trying to pull it out of the air, you’re trying to describe it in words that make sense to you but you’re 21, 22, 23 years old and you don’t really know. So I wanted to say to people, wait a minute. There’s a practical way to use a regular week of life to be able to identify what your strengths are and that’s all the re-memo activity is. It is a simple way to do that. So that you end up at the end of that week with three key strength statements written in your own language, derived from your own experiences in a regular week. That’s not to say it will define your strengths forever. If fact I would encourage people to do the re-memo activity once every six months for the rest of their life because there might be small adjustments and small insights that you get about what your strengths are. But that’s what the activity is. It’s a very simple way to use your life to provide answers for you in your own language.
Bratton: We have to go to a break but I think the best thing about The Truth About You is that you don’t ask people to understand their strengths you ask them to write down the things that make them feel energized and the things that make them feel weakened. And that emotion is something that at any age you can tap into. And then from there you can extrapolate your strengths and weaknesses by those things that energize you or weaken you and I think that is something that anybody can do. I love that concept.
Buckingham: People often say where does passion fit into a career? Or someone might even say generically “Follow your passion!” But again that’s not terribly helpful because you might say I’ve got a passion for saving the world or I’ve got a passion for the news business. It’s all a bit vague. So, if you like strengths, your strengths are passion plus precision and so what you’re trying to get someone to do is say, with this re-memo activity, is use the precise activities of your week and then look at how emotionally you react to them. And don’t do it at the end of the week on a Sunday and try and piece it all back together. Just have a way to do it so that you’re capturing the precise activities of the week and then how react to them as it’s happening and then by the time you get to the end of the week you’ll have basically created a beautiful, detailed list of actual activities and how you reacted to them and then you’ll just be able to sort of have a look at those lined up on your desk and from that you’ll be able to get so much clearer, so much more specific and vivid about what your strengths are. And then not only will that help you find a job better that fits you but frankly, in job interviews it’ll help you be an awful lot more persuasive and powerful because your examples of your strengths and your weaknesses and will be drawn from your experiences of your life. So you’ll have wonderful examples and vivid detail about what your strengths are.
Bratton: I want to come back from break and talk about the strong-weak plan because that is, once you begin to understand what you’re good at, you want to jettison the stuff you’re no good at, off load it to other people, partner up. You give lots of examples in the book about how to not do the stuff you’re not good at. So when we come back we’re going to talk about the strong-week plan. We’re going to talk about the free career intervention workshop that’s free with Oprah that you’re doing. We’re going to talk to you about your bus tour, all kinds of things. So stay tuned. We’re with Marcus Buckingham. He’s just written a great book called The Truth About You and when we come back we’ll talk about more fun things. Let’s support my sponsors of Dishy Mix. I’m your host Susan Bratton. Stay with us.
Bratton: We’re back and I have Marcus Buckingham here and when we left the break we were talking about the strong-week plan. Once you know what you’re good at and you want to focus on that how do you do more of what you’re good at and less of what you’re not. So explain that to us Marcus because that’s a gem in this book.
Buckingham: I think we look at successful people and our first reaction to them when we look at them is, “Wow. You’re a lucky devil. How’d you find that job? Gosh it just seems to fit you so perfectly, doesn’t it? You lucky thing! How’d you find that?” And the trick for us is that’s the wrong question, because they didn’t find it, they built it. The built it. They built it deliberately. Incrementally they took a generic job description position, anything from an administrative assistant to physician, nurse, whatever the job is they took a generic job description and then gradually and deliberately, selfishly, deliberately pushed the job toward the best of them and then you came along about a year later and went, “Wow! That job seems to fit you perfectly! How’d you do that?” Well they did it very gradually over time so the idea in here isn’t…don’t do…I mean yes, okay, put a five-year goal out there. Fine. But what you really need is a little bit every week and a lot over time. You need a strong week plan. And a strong week plan, for me is just rockingly simple. It’s what are the two things you’re going to do this week to push your world toward your strengths or away from your weaknesses. Just two things every week for the rest of your life. And if you can’t figure out two things you’re going to do to push the world toward what you consider to be the best of you, if you can’t figure that out, just know that the world, blind as it is to who you are—and the world is blind to who you are – no one will ever know you quite as detailedly as you know you, the world is going to drag you and pull you and tug you and twist you into all kinds of different directions and because you’re a responsible person, because you listen to the “shoulds” of the world, you should do this, you need to help this person, you need to help this client, you should do that, because the world is full of expectations of you, it will pull you, and unless you are equally vivid and clear in your own mind as to what you want to push it towards, the world is going to drag you off track, not because it’s nasty, it might actually be well-intended that world of yours, your parents, your manager, your clients, might be well intended toward you but unless you know who you are very clearly and every week just go “what are two things that I can do to push my job toward the best of me?” you’re going to find yourself in a situation where you’re far off your strengths’ path.
Bratton: So everyone is probably going to buy The Truth About You. I like it because it’s beautiful, silver foil, it’s like a little workshop book with books inside, the DVDs there, the re-memo pad pops out and you can carry it around with you. It’s a really good holiday gift. But there’s also the work that you’re doing with Oprah where you have all this stuff for free online with Oprah. Tell us about the career intervention workshop that you’re doing with her.
Buckingham: Well just for a moment on the design of The Truth About You, I figure that most of the stuff that we offer people is not beautiful and yet design is important. You just have to look at Apple to know that people respond intuitively to good design. And I’m not a great designer but I was fortunate enough to work with a couple of people who are just very rabid when it comes to saying we’ve got to make this look like you want to grab it and touch it and hold it. And I think they did a beautiful job of making it look something like you want to reach out and grab.
Bratton: It’s really not a book, it’s a gift.
Buckingham: It’s something that I think that if you’ve got somebody that you care about , whether it’s a colleague or whether it’s one of your children, who’s somebody that you want to help, I think it’s something that you’d want to give to them. I think you’d be proud to give it to them and say, “Here. Take this. Try this.” The Oprah thing was funny because it’s not really my milieu. I normally work with B-to-B customers.
Bratton: Your clients are Husk Varna and John Deere and Cisco and the Gap, right?
Buckingham: But then again if you’re going to help you’ve got to go to individuals as well and the best way to do that is with someone’s whose got a megaphone that’s loud and credible. And Oprah’s megaphone is loud and credible.
Bratton: Yeah. The biggest, most.
Buckingham: Exactly. And so when she called and said, “Look. Most of my -- I didn’t realize this but over the summer of last year I realized that most of my viewers TiVo me and watch me later. That implies to me that a lot of them are working, a lot of them are out of the house and yet we don’t do anything on the challenges of what it takes to live a strong, productive life as a woman today. We do a lot of about spirituality, a lot about relationships, a lot about entertainment but we don’t do a lot about what it takes to have a career that matters with meaning and purpose when society again, is asking you to be everything to all people.” And so I thought, “Well, you know, why not? Let’s go do that.” So we did a workshop and they filmed that workshop and obviously then it was produced into a show after they cut it and sliced it but then they said can we offer it for free online? Can we cut it into eight 20-minute segments and offer it for free online? And I was frankly I was like, well. That’s a lot of my intellectual capital that I sell to companies. But in the end I thought if we’re going to really move the numbers, if we’re going to get the message out there then this is a wonderful way to do it and frankly there’s no better person to cannibalize your business than yourself. So I thought I’m going to cannibalize myself and then figure out ways to add greater value beyond that. And I think a million people, right after the show aired – the show was fine and great and we enjoyed ourselves but the most overwhelming thing was to see that right after the show aired, in the six weeks after that, the workshop was downloaded a million times, which for them was extraordinary, for me was gratifying and the response on their message boards has been just a deluge. It’s like someone popped a cork or something and all this stuff came tumbling out from hundreds of thousands of women around the country, around the world. And frankly right now as I’m talking to you I’m looking at stacks of issues and questions and challenges from these women going “No one has answered this question right now: Am I doing the right thing?”That might come across in the context of I’m too exhausted or I feel guilty or I’m striving for some crazy notion of work-life balance which of course is impossible or it might be that I started the wrong career or I’m in the right career but I’m doing it wrongly. On my desk right here there are stacks and stacks and stacks and stacks of questions. And I think that’s probably going to be my next book. I’m going to have to sit down and try and write a book to answer all these darn questions.
Bratton: That’s exactly what you want. You can put your concept out but until you find out what people understand, what people understand and don’t understand you don’t know the next thing we want from you. So it’s probably leading you down the right path to have this great interaction. I have another question for you too. I want to let everyone know that they can go to marcusbuckingham.com and in the upper right hand corner of your website you can link right to Oprah, to your workshop area, so it’s an easy thing to find. And I’ll put a link to that on the show page for this episode as well so anyone who’s listening, if they just can’t remember where all this stuff is, I’ll make sure it’s easy. You have this fun thing on your homepage. It’s a big bus with your name on the side. Is there really a Marcus Buckingham bus? Are you driving it? Are there drinks in the back and can we get on? Do you have any champagne? Tell us about it
Buckingham: We’re not going on that bus the whole way but we’re going on a twenty…actually right now we’re at 15, but we are adding a few more over the next couple of weeks…We’re going on a college tour! It’s college season! It’s college football season! Everyone’s back in school and so we thought, you know, let’s go around to universities around the country and we will go talk to students and we’ll go talk to recent graduates and get them fired up about, particularly in a tough economy where we know it’s going to get tighter and tighter. The knee jerk reaction is to walk into a company and desperately go, “I’ll do anything! I’ll do whatever it takes. Any job’s fine” and again, as China is an example of, that’s a terrible decision. Instead, we’ve got to go the other way. We’ve got to go, you know what? If I’m going to win particularly in a tight economic world that we’re going to go into, if I’m going to win I’ve got to know exactly who I am. I’ve got to know where I have some natural, unfair advantage over everybody else and then I need to leverage it, I need to volunteer to contribute that strength to the world and the job I’m seeking. So we’re charging around the country. I was just at the University of Pennsylvania yesterday and then next week SMU, Texas A & M, Northwestern and Case-Western Reserve and the week after – well, goodness knows where we’re going but we’re charging around and we’re trying to reach out to students and say – or graduates, recent graduates, about to be graduates – and say here’s how you take control of your career. Here’s how you start strong, which is actually one of the chapter titles in The Truth About You. So it’s kind of fun. There’s a whole bunch of us from Thomas Nelson, my publisher, and there’s some friends that helped me with the packaging of The Truth About You, we’re all just charging around. As of yesterday it was fun. We’ve got a whole bunch more to go. We’re videotaping all the presentations by the way and then we’re going to select – because we do Q & A in every one, we’re selecting all of the best Q’s and A’s from the sessions and each week we’re going —well, each day we’ll post on marcusbuckingham.com the most interesting questions that Gen Y is asking about work, career and success. So anyone who’s interested in knowing what Gen Y’s thinking, what’s on their mind about work and career and performance, please go to marcusbuckingham.com and you’ll just see a whole selection of clips from the tour.
Bratton: That sounds like a lot of fun. So I guess it’s not champagne on that bus. If anything, it’s going to be beer. Let me bring this into the corporate boardroom now. And maybe not the boardroom but just some airless room with a crappy view that we get stuck in with boring brown furniture as an employee in a corporate organization. It’s such a big question Marcus, as I’m kind of like…how do we understand the strengths…I understand the strengths of my employees but how do I re-work my organization to take advantage of it? What if there are things that nobody is good at and I don’t have any more head count? Or what if I have to rip up my whole org chart and create complete chaos. What are you telling me here Marcus?
Buckingham: Well, I don’t think you have to do that. I don’t think you have to do that at all. If you want to build a strengths-based team, first of all, the good news is no matter how big your company is every single team is different within a company. There’s no such thing as a great company, actually. It’s just a lot a lot a lot of really different teams and that means that every local manager, every local team has a chance to build a little strengths-based world in which each individual is challenged to put their strengths to work. You don’t have to wait for HR to give you permission. You don’t have to wait for the C Suite to give you permission. In fact, even if they do give you permission you’ve still got to figure it out for yourself. So that’s the good news. I think the other good news is that in the end it really starts one person at a time. So what you’re doing is you’re not blowing everything up and starting again. As a manager, you’re saying, “You know what? Let’s get…” and this is one of the reasons I did The Truth About You as well, I wanted to give managers a way to go, and “You know what? Let me get every employee up to speed on this whole strengths thing. Well, how do I do that? Well, why don’t I just give them this toolkit so that I can get everybody up to speed, I can give them The Truth About You and say, you know what? Come back to me in a week. Come back to me in a week and we can talk in detail about what your strengths and weaknesses are.” Let’s just start there. Let’s just get on the same page about what activities strengthen you and which ones weaken you. Then we can start talking about all right, well given that I’m not going to completely rewire your whole job, but given that, what is the best way for you to contribute to this team? What’s the best way to get you to drive the outcomes, the performance outcomes, that we need from you. So it’s really about, for managers, starting with an understanding of what the strengths and weaknesses of a person are and then saying together with the person saying what is your path of least resistance to the outcomes we want. Now occasionally you’re going to have to say to someone, “You know what? I know that doesn’t strengthen you but for the next six months you’re going to have to suck it up and do it.” So occasionally a manager’s going to have to say that. But it’s funny, when you put teams together and you sit people around – and I would encourage managers to do this – if you’ve given out Truth About You to your team, come back as a team, sit down and then have people share what their strength statements are. It’s funny. You’ll see that on most teams there are a huge range of different strengths on teams and you can really start casting people in mutually supportive roles so that almost all the roles are covered. Now occasionally you’re going to find that some roles are left uncovered in which case, first of all you’re going to find it’s way fewer than you thought and second, because there’s now an awareness on the team’s part that you, as the manager, are trying to use them for what each one of them does best you’ll find that people are an awful lot more open to going, “You what? Okay. Then over here no one likes data analysis. All right. Then every week though we’re going to have one person do that data analysis and we’re going to support them and cheer them and we’ll find ways to make it fun and find ways to make them feel like they’re supported.” So that we don’t end up with a bunch of martyrs on our team who feel misunderstood. But I don’t think you have to blow everything up and start again. You’ve got to start by awareness. Start with awareness. Start by sitting down with each individual and getting them to talk with you in detail about what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are. I’m hopeful that that’s exactly what The Truth About You will help a manager do.
Bratton: I got it. That made it a lot more approachable for me. Just calming me down about it, being overwhelming. Last question for you. One of my favorite books ever was Strengths Finder 2.0 and you’re behind all that strengths work. When you were at Gallup you were one of the progenitors of that. I think the Strengths Finder 2.0 book is a really good companion to The Truth About You. Explain the difference between the two things and how they can work together what you would recommend for us.
Buckingham: Well Strengths Finder 2.0 is actually the same test that’s in Now Discover Your Strengths it’s just a shorter book version of it. But it’s based on Strength Finder. And Strength Finder is something that Don [xxxx] and I wrote back in 2000 and it measures you on 34 themes of talent and it tells you what your top five are. And then Don’s grandson, Tom [xxx] after I left Gallup, just re-cast some of the responses that you get back from it and it is a good way for you to get an external view of how you engage with the world. So if you want somebody outside of you to sort of take a test and tell you what your top five themes of talent are then Strength Finder’s a fantastic way to do that. I’m biased obviously because I was so heavily involved in it. But I think it’s a really good way to get you thinking about your uniqueness. The challenge of it is it’s not your language, it’s my language. I mean, I wrote all those theme definitions and they’re fine. I enjoyed writing them. But in the end when you get your results how do I apply the word “futuristic” to my life or how do I apply the word “empathy” to my life. So there’s a bit of a translation exercise you have to do and I thought that maybe the best way to help you do that is to then go straight into your life and use the raw material of your life to write your own strength’s definitions. So Strength Finder is a great starting point really, to get you to think about who you are but then really the best judge of who you are is you. It’s not me. I mean, I can give you a great test and I can write some lovely theme definitions but in the end it’s you in your life and I think that’s why Truth About You and Strength Finder do fit nicely together. But it’s dangerous, I think, if you just take Strength Finder you’re giving too much power to me, or to Don. You’re giving us the power to go “let’s tell you who you are” and that’s okay. But really in the end you’ve got to know who you are more detailedly and vividly than anybody else is.
Bratton: Let me give you an example of why it actually was helpful for you to tell me who I was. When I took Strength Finders 2.0 I came out with my top five strengths and my number one strength was strategic, was the top one for me. And I’d always felt like I was strategic. If I were sitting in a business meeting and I was relating my perspective on things, I always thought, “God.” – and not in these words — but I always thought, “that was pretty strategic thinking there.” But I never gave myself credit for it. I never really held that as one of my strengths. For some reason there was a lack of confidence. I didn’t trust myself that I was strategic. I always thought there must be someone more strategic than I.
Buckingham: Well, there may well be. There may well be.
Bratton: Sure. There are. But I finally allowed myself to believe that I was strategic because you told me that I was. And it almost confirmed my thinking in a way that allowed me to own it. And that’s where I think the benefit is.
Buckingham: Yeah. It’s funny. But I didn’t tell you that you were; you told us that you were. And that’s what Strength Finders does; it just sorts out your responses. What’s great about it is it’s affirming. It’s an affirmation tool. It’s very affirming. So it’s a wonderful place to begin if you want affirmation about who you are. The challenge for you then beyond that is okay what the heck do I do with it? What on earth do I do with it in a world that doesn’t know me? I can go plonk my top five on someone’s desk but it’s like there’s probably thousands of managers around the country going “All right. So you’re strategic. Strategic didn’t make it to my top five. Does that mean you have more than me?” Which by the way, it doesn’t. Strengths Finder is not a good interpersonal comparison tool. It’s an intrapersonal comparison tool. Strategic is not in my top five, Susan, but I may have more of it than you do. When you do Strength Finder it’s like I gave you 34 colors to choose from and I say to you, do you like purple more than green? Do you like green more than yellow? Do you like yellow more than blue? Do you like blue more than purple? I put that all together and it ends up maybe that purple is your favorite color. That’s okay. That’s good for you to know. But it doesn’t actually tell anyone whether or not you like purple more than I like purple. I might like all colors more than you. So Strength Finder is for you, to help you know who you are and where you begin. It does not tell anyone whether or not you have more strategic talent than I do, actually.
Bratton: So that’s really good for managers to know as they’re assessing people, if they’re also using these thing like Personanalysis and Disk or Myers Briggs it’s good to understand the intra and interpersonal.
Buckingham: These are not selection tools and they should not be used as such. That’s why I wrote so clearly in Now Discover Your Strengths do not use Strengths Finder as a selection tool. It’s a development tool.
Bratton: I’m going to go read that next.
Buckingham: Don’t read Now Discover Your Strengths. If you read Strengths Finder 2.0 all Strengths Finder 2.0 is it’s a condensation of Now Discover Your Strengths. If you’ve read that, you’re golden. You’re golden. But don’t use Strengths Finder as a selection tool. It’s not what it’s designed for. It’s not what Don and I had in mind at all.
Bratton: Well that’s been helpful in clarifying for us and I think a lot of people are going to take action on this with their teams especially now that you’ve made it such an easier approach. I hope that everyone gets The Truth About You for the holidays as well because I think it’s a really good gift. It’s going to be one of the top things on my list that I give away. We won’t see you on the college campuses, us Dishy Mix people, unless we have kids but is there anywhere else that we can come to see you speak Marcus. I know you speak at 50 things a year according to your website. How can we find you or have you speak or tell us about… We want more. We want more Marcus. More Marcus!
Buckingham: I think the easiest way...Most of the speaking that I do frankly is through companies and associations so I’m lucky enough that I get way more requests than I know what to do with. So I’ve got two young kids and if I’m not careful I’d be on the road a hundred days a years and I don’t want that. So I try and limit it to 50 engagements a year. I think probably the best way to get any more of me is to log onto the membership community that we’ve got at marcusbuckingham.com because we’re going to just keep pumping out… every month we’ll just pump out an ezine that has just a couple of video tips on it and just a couple of Q & A’s on it as we just continue to drip feed strengths based content and ideas and practical strategies for how you can build a strengths’ based life. We’re going to keep drip feeding ideas into the ether and hopefully just one by one, one person at a time, one family at a time, one work team at a time, we’ll just start people thinking just a little differently about how to make the most of themselves.
Bratton: Great. That is the perfect ending to the story. We’re going to do that today. Marcus Buckingham, thank you so much for being on Dishy Mix. It was a pure pleasure.
Buckingham: Enjoyed it Susan. Thank you.
Bratton: Thank you so much. All right. I’m your host Susan Bratton. Thanks for listening in today and I’ll see you next week.
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