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Monday, February 16, 2009

Leadership Strengths Series

This series of five posts will be based on a book review of Strengths-Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie (Gallup Press, 2008).

Vigorous personal or team progress is rarely achieved by focusing on weaknesses, but rather by elevating talents to new levels of success and eventually strengths to the highest levels. In short, success comes from developing a talent into true strength though learning and effort. Donald Clifton (1924-2003) spent much of his life focusing on this theory, and now his grandson, Tom Rath, is carrying on Clifton’s important work. I highly recommend this book to any leader or organization intent on making progress in a way that is both smarter and faster.

Introduction to the series: In this book, Rath and Conchie extend the research of Donald Clifton who did the primary research in the positive psychology of what makes people tick well. They concluded that when people worked on their talent areas or themes and developed them into strengths, people were more likely to succeed.

a. In addition to discovering 34 themes that emerged through their years of research, Gallup discovered 12 questions/statements (sometimes referred to as Q-12® (see First, Break All the Rules and 12: The Elements of Great Managing) that determined whether someone was engaged or not at work. To determine engagement researchers asked 12 such questions/statements as, “I know what’s expected of me at work,” “My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person,” and “At work, I have an opportunity to do what I do best every day.” The key finding of this research is that highly engaged people and teams (those who score highly on the 12 questions/statements) are measurably more productive, turn over less, miss less work, enjoy greater customer satisfaction, and are more positive. In short, engaged people are happier at work and help create better, more productive companies and satisfied customers. In addition, when people perfect these themes and talents into strengths, they are more productive and contribute measurably to teams.

b. To discover your own strengths, I suggest you purchase Strengths-Based Leadership and take the online version of StrengthsFinder 2.0. The process takes about 20 minutes but produces not only your 5 core themes, but also gives you a guide about how to apply these themes, especially within a team.

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