Over time, I have learned that there are at least two kinds of grant consultants. The first kind is the project-oriented type. This type is typically focused on completing an assigned grant as efficiently and effectively as possible, without a lot of hand holding required. The second type is the counselor-type. This type is more open to walking new or transitioning leadership through the process of organizational development and fundraising, helping them grow stronger along the way.
As someone who identifies more with the counselor-type, and thus, someone who thinks there is always something new we can apply to a developing organizational culture, I like the premise of Now, Discover Your Strengths.
A Shift in Perspective – Negative to Positive
“Based on a Gallup study of over two million people,” the book and its authors Marcus Buckingham (coauthor of First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently) and Donald O. Clifton, PhD conclude that
- “Most organizations are built on two flawed assumptions about people:
- 1) each person can learn to be competent in almost anything,
- 2) each person’s greatest room for growth is in his or her areas of greatest weakness.”
Our educational system is based on pretty much the same two assumptions.
The authors also conclude that,
- “Most organizations take their employee’s strengths for granted and focus on minimizing their weaknesses. This isn’t development, it’s damage control. By itself damage control is a poor strategy for elevating either the employee or the organization to world-class performance.”
I would definitely agree. When we are constantly focusing on the negatives – be it an individual’s weakest traits or an organization’s – this can be very demotivating, and it kills morale.
The authors offer this solution …
- “To breakout of this weakness spiral and launch the strengths revolution in your own organization, you must change your assumptions. These are the two assumptions that guide the world’s best managers:
- 1) Each person’s talents are enduring and unique,
- 2) each person’s greatest room for growth is in the areas of his or her greatest strength.”
By recognizing and honing individual strengths, and managing around weaknesses, an organization can exceed expectations.
Recognizing Our Strengths
The authors define a strength as an activity that you can execute with consistent, near perfect performance. It must also be something you derive intrinsic satisfaction from, something you can fathom yourself doing repeatedly, happily, and successfully.
The authors refute the idea that “practice makes perfect” and instead suggest that “to develop a strength in any activity requires certain natural talents.”
Strengths sit at the crux of three things:
- 1. talents (“naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior”)
- 2. knowledge (“facts and lessons learned” and “experiential knowledge” including values)
- 3. skills (the formal process through which you apply knowledge to complete an activity)
Although knowledge and skills can be acquired through practice, talents are innate … they tend to be things you are naturally drawn to, your areas of greatest potential.
Recognizing Our Innate Talents
The authors define talent as “any recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied.” They suggest that to identify your talents you must “monitor your spontaneous, top-of-mind reactions to the situations you encounter.”
In other words, listen to that little voice in your head, your intuition. It really does guide you in the right direction if you pay attention to it.
Other clues to your talents? Yearnings, the things you learn and apply rapidly, and the things that bring you the most satisfaction.
In their research, Buckingham and Clifton were able to identify thirty-four major themes within individual’s talents/strengths. I won’t go into detail about each of them here, but this list will give you some idea:
Your unique combination of themes leads to your greatest strengths.
To learn more about each theme, you can review details on each one in Now, Discover Your Strengths or take the StrengthsFinder quiz developed by The Gallup Organization and identify your five “signature” (instinctual) themes.
Building and Managing a Strengths-Based Organization
Near the end of Now, Discover Your Strengths, Buckingham and Clifton provide helpful tips for managers interested in managing and developing their staff with a focus on strengths rather than weaknesses.
They also provide this additional guidance:
- “Since each person’s talents are enduring, you should spend a great deal of time and money selecting people properly in the first place.”
- “Since each person’s talents are unique, you should focus performance by legislating outcomes rather than forcing each person into a stylistic mold. This means a strong emphasis on careful measurement of the right outcomes, and less on policies, procedures, and competencies.”
- What should those outcomes be centered on? The person’s impact on the business, on the customer (internal or external), and on the employees around him.
- “Since the greatest room for each person’s growth is in the areas of his greatest strength, you should focus your training time and money on educating him about his strengths and figuring out ways to build on these strengths rather than on remedially trying to plug his ‘skill gaps.’”
- “Lastly, since the greatest room for each person’s growth lies in his areas of greatest strength, you should devise ways to help each person grow his career without necessarily promoting him up the corporate ladder and out of his areas of strength.”
- Promotion should mean “prestige, respect, and financial reward to anyone who has achieved world-class performance in any role, no matter where that role in in the hierarchy.”
Strategies for implementing each of these approaches are well defined in Now, Discover Your Strengths, and I recommend you take a look at them.
We all deserve to spend our days doing work we enjoy and feel most productive doing. If your organization is just getting started or has a tendency to focus on the negative, use Now, Discover Your Strengths to establish a more positive, productive culture.
References: Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, PhD is available at Amazon.com.