Today I finally took the Strengths Finder test to identify where my strengths may lie. The questionnaire asks about 100 questions in which you identify statements in which you strongly agree with. It takes about 20 minutes to complete and at the end you are provided with a profile that describes your top 5 strengths out of a possible 34. All 34 strengths have been identified as core themes by the Gallup International Research & Education Centre from conducting 2 million interviews over a period of 30 years. These strengths are described in Now, Discover your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton.
After completing the Strengths Finder questionnaire my strengths were found to be the following.
- Individualisation: People strong in the Individualization theme are intrigued with the unique qualities of each person. They have a gift for figuring out how people who are different can work together productively.
- Arranger: People strong in the Arranger theme can organize, but they also have a flexibility that complements this ability. They like to figure out how all of the pieces and resources can be arranged for maximum productivity.
- Maximiser: People strong in the Maximizer theme focus on strengths as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence. They seek to transform something strong into something superb.
- Analytical: People strong in the Analytical theme search for reasons and causes. They have the ability to think about all the factors that might affect a situation.
- Woo: People strong in the Woo theme love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over. They derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with another person.
The authors claim that most organisations are built on two flawed assumptions about people:
- Each person can learn to be competent in almost anything.
- Each person’s greatest room for growth is in his or her areas of greatest weakness.
Think back to your organisation’s last performance review and try to remember the types of questions you were asked. No doubt you would have been asked to identify areas in which you need improvement. Essentially you are being asked to find a weakness that will lead you to an opportunity for self-improvement so that you can become a more well-rounded employee. The book Now, Discover your Strengths conveys that people have weaknesses for a reason, and that is because they may be more passionate and driven in other areas. Focusing on improving your weaknesses means taking time away from the things that you truly excel in, and therefore makes your work less enjoyable, and you become less productive as a result.
By focusing on your strengths you are focusing on things that you are truly interested in, and if you are doing things that you enjoy then you will spend more time and effort exploring your interests. This leads to more opportunities for growth as an individual. Developing individuals that specialise in specific skills adds to the diversification within your organisation, and enables teams to be formed from individuals with strengths that complement each other. Therefore individual weaknesses become less important within a team of individuals with diverse strengths. It is like diversifying your stock portfolio to reduce risk and make your investments more resilient through varying market cycles.
The following extract on meetings comes from What Ever You Think, Think The Opposite by Paul Arden.
In a meeting you don’t have to worry about how you are coming across to colleagues, because they are busy worrying about how they are coming across to you.
Meetings are for those with not enough to do.
A meeting is a performance, an act to convince people of their own importance.
The real players don’t need to act out the meeting game.
They roll up their sleeves and get on with the job.
A 15 minute stand-up meeting at the start of the day helps get the team on the same page before the work gets done. It should be the only information session scheduled for the day, whereby each team member briefly describes: what they did yesterday; what they are going to do today; and whether they need help with a problem.
For the remainder of the day, meetings should only be scheduled if decisions need to be made by certain project stakeholders. Try to avoid information sessions, and email communication packs instead. Follow these rules and you will discover many more productive hours in your working week.
Just finished reading Purple Cow by Seth Godin. The core message behind the book is that you need to stop being like everybody else and instead focus on developing an innovative product that targets a niche market. Godin argues that there is no need to appeal to the masses as there is little growth in this strategy. Instead of spending $10 million dollars on one television advertising campaign, that money could better be invested in developing 10 innovative products with a budget of $1 million each. At least this way you have a better chance of producing a new high growth product.
Now if you spend that $10 million dollars on developing 10 different products does that mean you need to raise more money to advertise each of the new products? Seth Godin seems to think not. If you design a purple cow product, then essentially the product will sell itself. This is done through viral marketing. If your product is remarkable then it is worth talking about. The early adopters that are continually searching for a product to make their lives easier will no doubt tell their friends, and their friends will tell their friends, and so on and so forth.
An example of this is Apple’s recent release of their iPhone. They built a remarkable new phone with an innovative touch screen. The hype and pandemonium over this phone was built up over the last 8 or so months when it was announced late last year. This led to die-hard Apple fans camping outside Apple stores waiting to be the first to purchase the iPhone. These early adopters then went straight home and blogged about their new phone or rang their friends to tell them about how remarkable their new phone is. The book gives lots of other examples of companies that have taken some risk to produce a purple cow product, then reap the rewards by milking the cow for all its worth.
The book is an interesting read, but its structure reads like a bunch of blog entries that were printed out and slapped together as a book. I would recommend reading Seth Godin’s blog instead, or his article on the Purple Cow in Fast Company.
The book launch of “Transforming a University: The scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Practice” is going to be launched at the ISSOTL conference next week. I was fortunate enough to be a co-author for one of the chapters, and I am quite excited to see it go to press.
I recently read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie as part of the book reading group at work. It was the first self-help book I’ve read… ever. I found it to be an interesting book full of anecdotal stories that exemplilfy the core principles of the book. Some people may find the theme of the stories a bit repetitive, as they always end with the author averting conflict and having a free meal at the expense of his new found friend. Ok, so maybe that was a huge generalisation, but it just seems that way. The repetition does however reinforce the lessons on how to win friends and influence people.
I’ve tried to put into practice many of the lessons that I’ve read in the book, and have been surprised by how effective they are. Simple things like remembering a person’s name certainly does wonders. “Remember that a man’s name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in any language”. Add to that a smile and a general interest in the other person, and you are a few steps closer to making that person like you. It is a lot easier to do business with someone that regards you as a friend, than with someone that doesn’t trust you. These are just some reminders of simple manners that are often forgotten when dealing with people.
The fundamental techniques that the book prescribes in handling people are:
- Don’t criticise, condemn or complain
- Give people a feeling of importance, praise the good parts of them
- Get the other person to want to do what you want them to by arousing their desires
As a consultant, these techniques are extremely important to me, as they form the basis of extracting the most out of the team of people that I work with, and with my interactions with the client.
I would highly recommend this book for any professional that finds themselves engaging with people on a daily basis, or for those that just want to be a better person.