A while back, I got to meet one of my favorite authors. Marcus Buckingham was speaking in Atlanta, and I was fortunate enough to connect with him for a few moments backstage, thanks to a little help from a few friends. Marcus is the bestselling author of First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, and Now, Discover Your Strengths. His latest book is entitled, The One Thing You Need to Know: … About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success. He is a remarkable communicator whose message is revolutionary. Let me summarize what he spoke about that morning.
Someone Else’s Life
Marcus put his finger on a terrifying reality that day. It explains why so few people flourish in their work. He suggested that most people are living out someone else’s life badly. They never thrive because they try to follow a pattern laid out by someone else; they never realize what they’re really supposed to do, and they never go where they’re really supposed to go. They’ve simply followed the direction and strengths of someone else they admire.
The Gallup organization sought to find out why so few Americans love their jobs. Knowing that no job is perfect, they asked American workers if they feel they get to play to their strengths in their daily work at least 75% of the time. In other words, every job has a few components that aren’t energizing. Gallup simply defined an ideal job as one that allows a person to play to their strengths ¾ of the time. What they discovered was pitiful. Only 17% of Americans feel they get to play to their strengths at work.
Let me ask you a question. Do you get to play to your strengths most of the time in your work? If you lead a team, what would your team members say about their work? Is everyone living out their strengths, or are they living someone else’s life…badly?
Many schools and businesses today have bought into the “strengths model” for job assignments. Unfortunately, we fail to practice what we preach. Even in academic institutions, we strive to produce well rounded individuals who spend more time fixing their flaws than zeroing in on their strengths. I do believe in a liberal arts education. I do believe students should study the humanities and understand critical thinking. But I meet tens of thousands of college students each year who change their major multiple times and still graduate clueless as to what they want to do with their life. Their life song is U2’s: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” They don’t know where their major contribution in life will be. So they copy someone else. Why? We haven’t done a good job helping next generation leaders identify their strengths.
Continue at Leading From Your Strengths.