Over a very pleasant lunch in London yesterday, I discussed with a client the merits of working to improve your strengths versus working on your weaknesses.  I’m a big believer in playing to your strengths and managing around your weaknesses.  He came from a different perspective, that if your strengths are solid, fix the holes instead.

The conversation sprang from a book I’m reading called Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham.  For just £6, this book gives you a code for an online personality test and explains that when you start working to exploit your strengths, rather than fill in for weaknesses, your performance will leap.

It was recommended to me by another client, Ian, a few months ago.  He finds it very powerful to know and play to his strengths.  Having read the book, I can see why.

That link, by the way, is an “affiliate link”, which means Amazon gives me about 20 pence from their profits if you buy it from there, just in case you’re wondering why it’s so big.  While the scheme won’t make me rich, it helps to buy a book or two for me over time.

Having done loads of personality tests over the years I was fascinated by the results of this one.  They’ve based it on interviews with thousands of successful people and discovered what makes them so successful at what they do.  In essence they have figured out how to avoid depending on their weaknesses so their strengths can shine right through.

You get your top 5 strengths listed for the free profile and if you want to learn more, you can spend about £300 for a consulting session with one of their specialists to get the full report and some coaching.  I’ve not done this yet, but I am impressed with the accuracy of the test.  To give you a flavour of the results you get, my top 5 strengths, according to this test are listed below.  I’ve also put a few words from the book to describe each strength:

  • Strategic – The Strategic theme enables you to sort through the clutter and find the best route.  It is not a skill that can be taught.  It is a distinct way of thinking, a special perspective on the world at large.
  • Input – You are inquisitive.  You collect things.  You might collect information – words, facts, books and quotations.
  • Communication – You like to explain, to describe, to host, to speak in public and to write.
  • Woo – means Winning Others Over – You enjoy the challenge of meeting new people and getting them to like you.  Strangers are rarely intimidating to you.  On the contrary, strangers can be energising.  You are drawn to them.
  • Ideation – You are fascinated by ideas.  Yours is the kind of mind that is always looking for connections, and so you are intrigued when seemingly disparate phenomena can be linked by an obscure connection.

I am very impressed with this.  The profile appears to highlight strengths that I know I have, although I was a little disappointed not to see born leader or money-magnet in the top mix (not actually in the book, just in case you’re wondering!).

A few years ago I trained with The Flippen Group to become certified in using their Flippen Profile.  The profile highlights strengths, but crucially identifies the one specific area of your personality that is holding you back – your constraint.  I believe that by playing to our strengths, especially as outlined in Now, Discover Your Strengths we can become far more productive than if we try to do things the way we are normally told.

Secondly, by addressing our constraints, as per a Flippen Profile, we can release our strengths to do their best work.  For example, my strengths include strategy and input – i.e. gathering information and developing a clear strategy.  My constraint is being disorganised, so my desk tends to gather large piles of paper, each with something interesting on it.  By sorting out a better filing system for my “inputs”, I should allow my strategic thinking to shine through.

Interesting stuff and certainly worth the £6 to figure out what your strengths are.