Tom Rath helps us find our strengths.

Tom Rath's book helps us find our strengths and encourages us to use them.

I’ve written before about Marcus Buckingham’s book that advances the idea that we should focus at work on areas of strength, rather than weakness.

Tom Rath agrees with that proposition, and even includes a formula that reads Talent x Investment=Results.  His central point  is that folks who are stronger in different areas are likely to get better results and to feel more engaged in their work, when they are doing what they are better at more of the time.

In StrengthFinders 2.0, Rath provides a  primer that encourages people to identify one or more of 34 strength themes, and then to move into those themes more actively at their work sites.

The book is short and has a simple consistent format.  First, Rath explains how people who are strong in each of the themes-these range from Competitive to Creative to Woo to Connected-view the world.  He then talks about 10 ways to think about your work based on that them as well as how to work effectively with people who are strong in that area.

It’s intriguing stuff  along the line of the Myers-Briggs personality test, and I could feel myself resonate more with certain themes than others. 

This points out one of the book’s challenges-that the tools are based on self-diagnosis, which can be a faulty.  Another is that StrengthFinders provides little guidance in identifying where others’ strengths are other than a general application of the philosophies, questions and situations Rath includes in the work. 

In some ways the biggest issue with the whole strength approach is what to do if you truly love an activity that you are not particularly good at doing.  Rath talks about spending endless hours shooting hoops in a vain effort to become a professional basketball player when that was never in any way a real possibility for him.

I can relate to that experience viscerally, and there was still part of me not completely at peace with not doing what your heart tells you because an appraisal of your strengths leads you in a different direction.

The book’s imperfection does not mean that you shouldn’t read it or that the ideas are wrong.   Indeed, I found the idea of not focusing as much on weakness-enter handwriting and organization-a liberating one.  It’s just that, like with many ideas, I find that we are often better served by moderation than fundamentalism.

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