Numerous studies have shown that effective organizations and great achievers focus on leveraging their strengths rather than trying to fix their weaknesses. What does it really mean to “play to your strengths”? In this summary of “Go Put your Strengths to Work” by Marcus Buckingham, we’ll outline the 6 steps to identify your strengths and to apply it in real life for outstanding performance. Do check out our complete book summary bundle with text, infographic and audio formats for the full!
Go Put Your Strengths to Work: Overview
When we are engaging our strengths, we are at our most productive, creative and resilient. We are on an emotional high and time flies right past. Yet, research of 2 million people shows that only 17% of people feel they spend the majority of their work playing to their strengths, i.e. only 2 out of 10 people are putting their strengths to work everyday.
There’s no perfect job – every job role involves a portfolio of activities, and not all activities can play to our strengths. To put your strengths to work, you must first be able to label your strengths, then take action.
This book is about practice and application, built on the Clifton StrengthsFinder profile. Each copy of the book comes with a code that allows you to do an online profiling assessment. Buckingham suggests that you start with a “SET” assessment to see how engaged you are with your strengths currently, and how engaged you are likely to be in the future. If you do all the activities in the book, you should see a shift in your “SET” scores by the end of the book.
We’ll be outlining the 6 steps, concepts and approach briefly. Do check out full 14-page summary for more details.
6 Steps to start leveraging your strengths
STEP 1: BUST THE MYTHS (Get the right mindset)
Most people don’t successfully put their strengths to work because they hold beliefs that work against themselves. The book covers 3 myths that we must first debunk so we can effectively leverage our strengths:
Myth #1: As you grow your personality will change.
The Reality: As you grow, you become more of who you really are.
Myth #2: You will grow the most where you’re weakest.
The Reality: You will grow the most where you have the greatest strength.
Myth #3: Good team members do whatever it takes for the team..
The Reality: Good team members offer their strengths to the team, most of the time.
Learn more about each of these myths and how to embrace the reality with our complete version of the Go Put Your Strengths to Work summary (get the full 14-page summary here).
STEP 2: GET CLEAR (Know your strengths in vivid detail)
Your strengths are specific activities which you do consistently well, to world-class or near-perfect standard, i.e. strengths must be contextualized into specific, real-world activities.
Your personal strengths will be a unique combination of:
• Your talents (e.g. competitiveness, swimming);
• Your skills (e.g. how to conduct a competitive analysis); and
• Your know-how (e.g. sourcing for fresh ingredients).
The book elaborates in detail on how to identify our strengths using the presence of 4 SIGNs (and conversely how to recognize our weaknesses):
• Success – You feel successful and confident in this activity. You excel in it and have been rewarded or recognized for it.
• Instinct – You find yourself drawn towards this activity and can’t help but want to do it.
• Growth – You find yourself learning fastest and are most creative and insightful in this activity. You excel relatively effortlessly, and you are most likely to get “in flow” i.e. becoming so engrossed in the activity you get lost in it for a long time.
• Needs – You feel so satisfied after the activity that you can’t wait to do it again. It’s almost addictive.
Buckingham then explains how to use the Capture => Clarify => Confirm process to clearly define and understand your top 3 strengths. The goal for this exercise is to eventually narrow down to your top 3 activities in which you’ll be most focused, effective, creative and resilient. These 3 activities will hold a special meaning for you that won’t make sense to others. When you find them, you’ll feel an “emotional punch”, or a strong joy at rediscovering yourself.
STEPS 3-4: FREE your strengths & STOP your weaknesses
Now that you know clearly what you do best, you can focus on making them relevant to your job – the key is to identify how to channel our strengths to meet the demands of our customers, boss(es), colleagues and career aspiration, then establish a routine to sustain it. Likewise, you’d want to systematically steer away from your weaknesses.
In the book, Buckingham explains how to develop your “Strong Week Plan”. Specifically, he guides you to identify 2 specific actions each week to free up your strengths, and 2 specific actions to stop your weaknesses. He also provides useful tools to help you if you’re stuck at any time. Try the in the book or our full summary to develop your weekly strategy to deploy your strengths!
STEP 5: SPEAK UP (Be a strong team-player)
To achieve outstanding performance, we must learn to speak up effectively. We must be able to express our strengths without appearing arrogant, to express our weaknesses without sounding like we’re complaining, and to present them such that they are relevant to others.
This step is about speaking up so you can get practical help from your manager. The key is to convince your boss that you want to make his or her life easier.
Buckingham details a series of 4 conversations that you should take to make this happen, including:
• Conversation 1: The Strengths Chat
• Conversation 2: “How Can I Help You?”
• Conversation 3: The Weakness Chat
• Conversation 4: “How Can You Help Me?”
Check out complete version of the Go Put Your Strengths to Work summary (click here for full summary) for a detailed overview, including useful phrases that you can use for each of the 4 conversations. If you are in a management role, the book also includes a list of tips for strengths-based managers.
STEP 6: BUILD STRONG HABITS (Make this sustainable)
Even if you’ve taken all 5 steps above, you can easily get pulled back into your old routine, especially if you temporarily neglect your disciplines or get disrupted due to a major event in your work or life. That’s why you must build good habits that keep you ontrack. Learn the 5 habits – to be developed daily, weekly, quarterly, 6-monthly and annually – to consistently position yourself to put your strengths to work.
Other Details in “Go Put Your Strengths to Work”
This book is a sequel to “First, Break All the Rules” and “Now Discover your Strengths”, and is structured like a step-by-step guide to put your strengths to work. In each chapter, there are detailed case studies of how people used and applied these ideas, exercises, tips and examples to guide us. If you follow all the steps in the book, you should see an improvement to your SET score by the end of the book.
Even with the 6 steps above, you may face situational challenges that hinder your ability to apply your strengths. The book includes 9 such situations with suggestions on what to do (e.g. when you are new to a job, or when you feel your boss doesn’t understand you). Do buy the book for the full tips and details (including a unique ID code for your Clifton StrengthsFinder profile test), get our complete 14-page book summary with audio and infographic, or get more free resources at SimplyStrengths.com.
Start putting your strengths to work and achieving outstanding results!