I have enjoyed several books written by Marcus Buckingham, a British-American bestselling author and business consultant, renowned for promoting people’s strengths. Basing his writing on survey data from interviews with employees in countries around the world, he promotes the idea that people will get the best results by making the most of their strengths rather than putting too much emphasis on weaknesses and perceived deficiencies.
In his book, “The One Thing You Need to Know”, Marcus discusses the theme of leveraging your strengths and gives business students, entrepreneurs and business professionals alike, a course in achievement that captures the essence of efficient managing, great leading and career success. The exploration of the “One Thing” exposes the counter-intuitive but pivotal differences between efficient managing and great leadership, and offers practical insights for acting on them effectively.
Buckingham agrees with the premise that great organizations require great leaders, but stipulates that the importance of the role varies according to the challenges being faced.
Buckingham says the following:
- He contends that it is inaccurate to say that everyone, regardless of his or her place in the organization, must be a leader (which is the opposite of what business guru Robin Sharma believes).
- He believes one’s performance as a leader or manager can be improved through practice, experience and training. However, if core talents are lacking, it will be impossible to excel consistently in either role- I completely agree with this.
- He asserts that the most effective leaders are not self-effacing and humble but quite the contrary. “A powerful ego, defined as the need to take grand claims, is one of their most defining characteristics.” Again, this contradicts the view of Sharma.
He believes that there are four important skills required to not fail as a manager:
- Great managers know what talents they seek and know it is imperative to select people who possess these requisite endowments.
- Defining clear expectations is the second basic skill of good management.
- The third skill concerns praise and recognition.
- The fourth skill focusses on how great managers show care for their people by bonding with others deliberately.
Buckingham’s key point is encapsulated in this quote: “Discover what is unique about each person and capitalise on it”. Individuals are dissimilar in how they think, build relationships, and learn. Conversely, they are unique in their levels of altruism, patience and expertise, as well as how prepared they need to feel, what drives them, what challenges them and what their goals are.
Buckingham believes that the secret to sustained success lies in knowing what engages one’s strengths, what does not and having the self-discipline to reject the latter. Although it is possible to experience some achievement when employed in non-strength-engaging activities, these are usually energy depleting and boring. Thus, sustained success is less about what to accumulate and more about what to edit. The more individuals put up with aspects of their work that they do not like, the less successful they will be.
Buckingham explains that only 20% of the working world report that they are in a role where they have the chance to do what they do best on a daily basis. The one thing that employees need to know is the following: “Discover what you do not like doing and stop doing it.”