Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - Marcus Buckingham Workshop Session 3: What is Strengths Training?

Most companies have just completed their annual employee reviews. There are few other times of the year that cause more anxiety and induce more fear at work. Does my boss really like me? What have I screwed up? And what is going, in black and white, into my file, never to be undone?

It's with good reason that many people feel this way. Historically, performance reviews focus on areas of improvement (aka - stuff we're not good at) rather than areas of strength (aka - our greatest assets.) Very slowly, that's beginning to change thanks to people like Marcus Buckingham who advocate for a focus on strengths. 

In session 3 of his on-line workshop, Marcus talks about his belief that focusing on strengths yields a far better outcome than focusing on areas of improvement. 72% of people feel an emotional high from their jobs once a month. Marcus pushes all of us to consider how we can go from once a month to all of the time. In order to get us there, he asks us to follow this plan:

1.) Bust the myths

2.) Get clear on what strengthens and weakens you, not on your strengths and weaknesses (though it's possible that those things could overlap). Most people think that someone else is a better judge of their own strengths and weaknesses than they are. This conclusion is logical because of the current structure of performance reviews at most large companies. Because we report to a boss in a hierarchy, that boss is traditionally given the authority to tell us what we're good at and what we're bad at, and judge us based on that. (This is taken as gospel regardless of the fact that our boss may be less educated, less experiences, and not as talented.) Marcus thinks this is crazy - people with at least an average level of self-awareness (which is nearly everyone) is very conscious of what their strengths and weaknesses are and is the best judge of them. That's why it's often an interview question! In performance reviews, we too often hand over the power to define us to someone else. 

3.) Plan your strong week. Do things that invigorate you, not drain you, as often as you can. Almost every job has elements that we don't like but are necessary. Tilt the floor to fill up as much of our time as possible with the activities that invigorate us. This is called strength training.    

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