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Jon Kennard


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Free resource: Unleash your strengths


This month's free resource comes from motivational speaker Marcus Buckingham, who shares a few mind-opening tests that encourage thinking about strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses.

These exercises are simple ones which you can do yourself and send to others as the first steps in understanding and developing your strengths.

Who's on your board?

Draw an oval on a piece of paper.
At the head of the table write 'Me', or your name, if you prefer.

This is you, sitting at the head of your board. You are CEO of you. Now: who are those people who are most important, who really care about you, want the best for you and want you to thrive?

Write the names of all the people you can think of in about two minutes around your board room table.

Once you have all these names, consider how many you have. 7-15 people is the most common number, followed by 1-7, but some have more than 20. Nothing is wrong with this.

Other things to consider are:
  • Have any of these people come into your life and 'on board' during the last five years?
  • Have any of these people come 'on board' during the last year? It's amazing how quickly some people can become an incredibly important part of your life.
  • Imagine back five years. Were there different people on your board then?
  • Are your parents on your board (even if they are deceased, that's ok.)?
  • What about your children?
  • Your spouse had better be on the board!
  • What about managers? Teachers? Bosses? What about your current manager?
  • What makes them so important that they get on your board?

Consider those you manage. Would you be on their boards? Obviously you don't ask. But if you can get on their board, you're doing well.

Marcus says people have three needs and if you can fulfil them you'll be on board.
He says: Know me, focus me, surround me with others who care about what they do - and I will win for you.
  • Are my co-workers committed to quality work?
  • Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  • At work, do I have the chance to do what I do best everyday?

Recognising strengths - one week

How do you know if you have discovered a strength? What does a weakness feel like?

Many people find it difficult to recognise their strengths and true weaknesses. Often we resort to clichés such as "I'm a people person" and "My weakness is that I'm just too much of a perfectionist" - get real.

Take a pad and draw a line down the centre. One column is your 'loved it' column, the other is your 'loathed it' column.

For a week, divide all your activities into 'liked' or 'loathed'. Do it at the time, not retrospectively. Concentrate only on the thing you did, not the things people did to you.
How do you know if it's a real strength?

See the sign:

Success – when you do it you feel effective
Instinct – you are drawn to it and actively look forward to it
Growth – you feel inquistive and focused
Need – after you do it you feel fulfilled and authentic

At the end of the week take one item from your 'loved it' list and make it a strength.

Write a 'strength statement' by taking the verb (the doing word) and then drill down into what context you feel most strong in.

For example, my item might be: Interviewed Marcus Buckingham

I was interviewing, and I know I really enjoyed that. However do I enjoy interviewing everybody? Possibly not. I love most of the interviews I do, but not all. After thinking about it I realise I love interviewing people like Marcus because they are totally passionate about what they do.

So rather than concluding: I feel strong when I do an interview

I would say: I feel strong when I interview and learn from people who are inspirationally passionate about what they do.

For me it's not just about the story, it's also an opportunity to learn from them, and pass this knowledge onto others. It's the best part of my job.

How to handle a strength:

You already have an interest and aptitude for this so build on your strength – it's more rewarding and useful to your organisation. How could you get better at this strength? Could you prepare better? Do more of it? Whatever it is make a list and see if you can be better tomorrow.

Knowing a weakness:

It's the same process as identifying a strength.

1.    Take one of your items from your 'loathed' list
2.    Drill down to the specific context in which it is a weakness
3.    Write a weakness statement.
'I feel weak when I...'

How to deal with weaknesses:

Stop doing it and see if anyone notices
Team up with people who are strong where you are weak
Offer up your strengths at every opportunity
Perceive your weakness through the lens of a strength

Take yourself seriously. You need to own your strengths to overcome your weaknesses and if you can do this and encourage your employees to do the same you will be able to help them overcome their weaknesses and build on their strengths. This can lead to exceptional performance rather than average all round performance which is what we often look for without realising it.


These takeaway exercises came from Marcus Buckingham's presentation at Unleash your Strengths, a Benchmark for Business event. The next event is in London on November 17 with Sir Ken Robinson and Patrick Lencioni - for more details click here

Author Profile Picture
Jon Kennard

Freelance writer

Read more from Jon Kennard

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