Session 4 – Marcus Buckingham

Last week the Ambassador Solutions Leadership Team attended the Leadership Summit produced by the Willow Creek Association. Before giving you the highlights of my favorite session, let me encourage you to mark your calendars NOW for next year’s event on August 7-9. This is without question the best value in leadership training available anywhere…period. See for yourself.

Marcus Buckingham, author of GO Put Your Strengths To Work, captivated the North American live satellite audience of over seventy thousand by encouraging us to focus upon leveraging our strengths versus improving our weaknesses. He builds a strong case (pun intended) for strengths-based parenting, education, training and management –starting with a very revealing Gallup poll.

When Gallup asked what would be more important to their future success –improving weaknesses or leveraging strengths, the vast majority of those polled chose improving weaknesses. The U.S. had the highest strengths response at 41%, while Japan and China were lowest at 24%. So, around the world, roughly two out of three people believe that their future success will be primarily determined by their ability to overcome their weaknesses. “Wrong!”, says Buckingham, while going on to explode the three myths that he claims cause most people to be so misguided.

Myth #1: Personality changes as you grow

The data overwhelmingly supports the fact that human personalities are remarkably stable over time, with distinctive traits that last a lifetime appearing very early in life. Hence, a very competitive six-year-old will inevitably be a very competitive adult. As they grow older, people simply become more of who they truly are.

Myth #2: You grow most in your weaknesses

To focus upon growing in your weak areas of life is tantamount to ignoring who you are (your strengths) in hopes of becoming who you aren’t (your weaknesses). When Shaq went from the Magic to the Lakers, he was told to quit worrying about his free throws and to focus upon being the most dominate player in the paint to ever play basketball. The result? Three NBA championships for the Lakers. Three scoring titles for Shaq. And amazingly, a twenty point improvement in his free throw percentage. Hmm, so when Shaq focused upon his strengths, his weaknesses improved.

Myth #3: A great team member puts their strengths aside for the good of the team

Not! A team becomes great when its members bring their very best to the fore, knowing other teammates will make up for their weaknesses. A hidden strength is a squandered opportunity.

To discover one’s strengths, Buckingham suggests looking to activities that you do well, look forward to, lose track of time while doing and feel uniquely fulfilled afterwards. He summarized his strengths-based philosophy with a new twist on a familiar organizational cliche:

People’s strengths are our greatest asset

I now hope you’ll join me in reading GO Put Your Strengths To Work and marking your calendar for the Leadership Summit 2008 from August 7-9. Lead on!