Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance


Go put your strenghts to work : 6 powerful steps to achieve outstanding performance
Publisher: Free Press
Published: 3/6/2007
Buckingham, an authority on workplace issues, provides a road map for managers to learn for themselves and then teach their employees how to approach their work by emphasizing their strengths rather than weaknesses. He offers a six-step plan for six weeks of reading and habit-forming action for discerning strengths, along with optional tools to enhance the process such as online questions for measuring strengths and downloaded films.

Book Summary - Go Put Your Strengths to Work by Marcus Buckingham

Key Insights

We all make mistakes, it’s a normal part of life. It’s how we deal with those mistakes that is important. Do you focus your energy on learning from mistakes or do you concentrate on your successes instead? Research has suggested that when you focus your mind on your wins instead of losses, you are better for it.

However, like most people you probably find it easier to list your weaknesses. If you want to become better at your job or improve your overall performance, you have to change your mindset. Although this may seem hard to put into practice, there are ways to achieve your goals and improve your strengths.

Learn to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses so that you understand where to improve. With a better understanding of your abilities, you can increase your performance potential and make your role truly enjoyable. By incorporating some simple methods of analysis, you will become an asset to your team and improve your daily work life.

Key Points

Personal growth is an essential part of improving your performance.

Choosing what to focus your energy on is integral to your success. If you spend most of your time correcting mistakes you will never achieve what you want. While it is necessary to correct obvious mistakes, this should not be an effort that takes up the majority of your energy. To achieve real personal growth you need to work on building on your strengths.

You will also need to overcome some of the myths that surround the process of personal growth. These myths can be a hindrance and prevent you from making any meaningful change. One of the most common misconceptions about personal growth is that when you improve your habits, your personality changes. In reality, you are only building on the foundations of who you are and what you want to achieve.

Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t more room to grow in your areas of weakness. Although you do need to work on your weaknesses, improving your strengths will result in greater overall improvements. When you do something well, it is much easier to make minor improvements to your strengths than to waste more time trying to fix weak spots. Emphasizing your strengths will yield greater results than highlighting weaker areas.

Concentrating on your strengths will also help you when you work as part of a team. Traditionally, it has been common for people to work under a mentality that what is best for the team outweighs what is best for the individual. However, you will be more of a benefit to the team when you play to your strengths.

Bringing your best efforts and strongest talents to a team will only enhance it. Think about it another way, if you are in a role where you can’t work to your strengths you are only going to use a small percentage of your potential. If you want your team to achieve outstanding results, you have to contribute an outstanding performance.

Identifying your strengths makes it easier to know where you can improve.

It may feel much easier to write lists of what your weaknesses are. However, if you want to improve your performance, you have to recognize your strengths. Try to write down specific areas that you know you are successful in. If you’re not sure what they are, just think of achievements or tasks where you have experienced a feeling of accomplishment.

Another method that will help you clarify your strengths is by asking yourself questions about your job. Ask yourself if the work you are doing matters to you or for the people you work for. If the nature of your work is important, note down why it is important.

Use your answers to write down a more accurate list of your strengths. Also, take this opportunity to write down the areas of your job that don’t matter to you, or that you don’t like. This will help you clarify where you shine in your job.

Now that you have your list of general strengths, you need to refine them more. Use the SIGNs method- Success, Instinct, Growth, Needs - to assess your list before you begin telling your employer about your abilities. Do you do certain tasks or activities successfully? Do you instinctively enjoy these tasks? If so, can you do these tasks easily? Do you feel satisfied that you have remained true to what you wanted to achieve?

Refining your strengths and building on them is a continuous effort. As time goes you’ll add new skills and strengths. You’ll also lose some strengths as your professional situation changes and they become less important. This all part of the process of personal growth.

Examine how well you are using your strengths and see if you can improve.

If you feel like you’re not using your best skills in your job, this doesn’t mean the job is not right for you. Before you start looking for a role that is more suited to your strengths, examine the role you’re in. Ask yourself if there are opportunities to use the strengths that you may have missed.

Maybe you can shape the role you’re in to suit your strengths. Maybe you can refine your knowledge or add extra skills that will help you play to your strengths in your existing role. Ignore aspects of your job or tasks that distract from optimizing your abilities. One way to do this is to use the FREE - Focus, Release, Educate, Expand- method to improve in specific areas.

The goal is to enable you to bring your strengths to the front and leave your weaknesses behind. You should understand how your strengths are used in work and when you use them. If you feel certain strengths are not being used properly, try looking at different ways you can use them. Finally, don’t be afraid to refine your skills and shape them around your job. It will benefit you in the long run.

Minimize your participation in tasks you don’t like and focus on tasks you do.

Everyone has parts of their job they don’t like. These are usually the tasks that you struggle with. They are the ones where your weaknesses are most prominent. If these tasks are limiting your potential, then use the STOP - Stop, Team-Up, Offer Up, Perceive - method to remove them from your role.

You can simply stop participating in the tasks you dislike and see what the outcome is. You might realize that the tasks you are doing are pointless and have no bearing on your job. Removing those tasks will increase your productivity and reduce your stress. Alternatively, you can team up with a colleague who enjoys the tasks you don’t.

Maybe you can find a way to swap roles or a colleague might be able to help make difficult tasks easier. Another way to handle these tasks is to offer to do other jobs that suit your strengths. It never hurts to ask. If all else fails, try looking at the more difficult tasks with a different perspective and see if there is a way you can align it with tasks you enjoy doing.

You can achieve an outstanding performance if you surround yourself with strong team players.

One of the perks about being part of a team is that there is always an opportunity to reshape your roles within the team. In a strong team, there will always be people who have skills that you don’t and you can use that to your advantage. But first, you have to make sure you’re all on the same page.

Talk with your team about strengths and weaknesses so that you understand where everyone thrives in their roles. Use this as a chance to highlight your strengths and the reasons you want to shape your job to focus on them. The team needs to understand you’re trying to do what’s best for everyone and not just yourself. Offer other colleagues the same opportunity to present their strengths so you all know how to best function as a group and get the best results.

After the team discussion, you should write an action plan with timelines so that you have a clear direction for the group. If you have to clear the plan with a manager you also have something to present them with that will help you argue your case. Ultimately, you are stating the case for how your team can yield excellent results if everyone works to their strengths.

In contrast, if you’re the manager who is being approached, you need to understand what the team needs. While you want to make sure every part of the team is happy, you also need to make sure they are performing to the best of their abilities. Assess the realities of their plan but also allow yourself to be flexible and open to changes within the team roles.

To maintain your outstanding performance, you have to maintain your strengths.

Your performance is constantly changing as your job evolves. To maintain your strengths you should incorporate an evaluation of your abilities into your daily routine. This way you can be sure you are constantly performing at a high level. You should take the time to look at three strengths and two weaknesses that need refining.

Every week, identify two ways you can remove weaknesses and increase your strengths. By constantly evaluating and taking actions you can increase your performance levels and remove the weaker aspects of your job. As you continue to do this you will grow your strengths and be able to consistently achieve an outstanding level of performance in your job.

The Main Take-away

Growth requires understanding your abilities and consistently working to improve them.

Being an outstanding performer takes a lot of work. Be honest with yourself about your abilities and don’t be afraid of removing work that doesn’t help you. By constantly evaluating your strengths and weaknesses you will reach your goal of achieving an outstanding performance

About the Author

Marcus Buckingham is a best-selling author and an internationally renowned consultant. A graduate of Cambridge University, he has worked with numerous multinational corporations including Toyota and Disney.

Buckingham has authored and co-authored five best-selling books which have sold more than 3 million copies. As a keynote speaker, Buckingham has addressed more than 250,000 people around the world. His workshops are highly successful and his workshop for talented women has been downloaded more than a million times.

Originally from the United Kingdom, Buckingham now lives in Los Angeles.

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