Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The One Thing You Need to Know - Marcus Buckingham

My current workplace used the Gallup 12 question survey to determine the level of employee satisfaction. I say used because they have just announced the introduction of a new survey to take place later this year. What that will be I'll find out later but I was in a management role when they introduced the Gallup survey several years ago complete with training sessions. I went on my own to read First, Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths to get the inside view on what this was all about. The insights were indeed helpful. I found the analysis of what my strengths were to be very revealing. I did agree with them but probably would not have phrased them in that manner initially.

Knowing my strengths, I tried to position myself where they would be most useful. This worked out pretty well. The only hard part was in the bi-annual review where there was a section for development opportunities, I cringed. If the Buckingham line of thought were truly followed, this section would not be something to worry about. He always wanted you to focus on your strengths and in so doing make your weaknesses insignificant.

Marcus's own career took some interesting turns. One book lead to the second. The second lead to more companies demanding of his time. The projects for the companies took Marcus away from his own strength and he ultimately had that aha moment! He left Gallup and ventured on his own eventually working into the third book, The One Thing You Need to Know. A natural progression, but obvious only with the 20-20 vision of hindsight.

The book is a series of stories building the logic towards the condensation of all of Marcus's work into what is the real "one thing you need to know". One of the first stories is oddly not about the workplace but about what it takes to have a happy marriage. Of course, you will read the book for yourself, so I won't spoil the impact for you but will reveal the conclusion of the happy marriage to be with
"Find the most generous explanation for each other's behavior and believe it."
When a couple succeeds in doing this, they will succeed with a long and happy marriage. I tested this conclusion with my running group one night. There were five of us (three male, two female, a total of 60 years of marriage to the same partner) and we all agree that it made sense.

Marcus spends time on leaders and managers.
"Great leaders rally people to a better future."

"Great managers discover what is unique about each person and capitalize on it."
There are significant differences between leaders and managers and Marcus spends a good deal of time reviewing this with good stories along the way.

Whether you are a leader or a manager, you still are an individual person and need to find your own path to success. It is this thread that finally leads Marcus to the one thing:
"Discover what you don't like doing and stop doing it."

Wait, this is phrased as a negative. Why? Simply it goes back to the strengths and weaknesses argument. Focus on the strengths and keep doing those. But this oddly isn't enough. You will also need to find out your weaknesses (what you don't like doing) and figure out a way to avoid doing it. Of course, the devil is in the details. It will in many cases be harder to do than it seems. But when you think about it, it does make sense. It may not be easy for some folks to accomplish as they may have found themselves in a position where had they listened earlier, they may not be so far off track now.

I hope this helps encourage you to read The One Thing You Need to Know.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this book.

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