Buckingham: Engage in the World in Imbalanced Fashion

While I’ve actually never read any of Marcus Buckingham‘s hugely bestselling books, I think of him as the "strengths guy" — someone who believes that cultivating your strengths is a better approach than trying to fix your weaknesses.

Chris wrote a detailed summary of one of his older books called The One Thing You Need to Know. Lots of good stuff for anyone thinking about managing, leading, or just trying to maximize personal performance. Here’s the conclusion which sums up Buckingham’s worldview:

To excel as a manager, you must never forget that each of your direct reports is unique and that your chief responsibility is not to eradicate this uniqueness, but rather to arrange roles, responsibilities, and expectations so that you can capitalize upon it. The more you perfect this skill, the more effectively you will turn talents into performance.

To excel as a leader requires the opposite skill. You must become adept at calling upon those needs we all share. Our common needs include the need for security, for community, for authority, and for respect, but for you, the leader, the most powerful universal need is our need for clarity. To transform our fear of the unknown into confidence in the future, you must discipline yourself to describe our joint future vividly and precisely. As your skill in this grows, so will our confidence in you.

And last, you must remember that your sustained success depends on your ability to cut out of your working life those activities or people that pull you off your strengths’ path. Your leader can show you clearly your better future. Your manager can draft you onto the team and cast you into the right role on the team. However, it will always be your responsibility to make the small but significant course corrections that allow you to sustain your highest and best contribution to this team, and to the better future it is charged with creating. The more skilled you are at this, the more valued, and fulfilled, and successful you will become.

As we’ve seen in each of these roles, the critical skill is not balance, but its inverse, intentional imbalance. The great manager bets that he will prevail by magnifying, emphasizing, and then capitalizing on each employee’s uniqueness. The great leader comes to a conclusion about his core customer, his organization’s strength, its core score, and the actions he will commit to right now, and then, in the service of clarity, banishes from his thought and conversation almost everything else. The sustainably effective individual, by rigorously removing the irritants from his working life, engages with the world in an equally imbalanced fashion.

If you aren’t aware of Book Outlines, a wiki to which we post business book summaries and notes, check it out! Also, I maintain Business Rules of Thumb — a wiki that is a repository for useful rules of thumb across a range of categories. Feel free to contribute your own.

1 comment on “Buckingham: Engage in the World in Imbalanced Fashion
  • I just discovered your wikis — they are fantastic. Certainly worthy of the moniker “high yield,” which in med school is used to describe the notes or class that provides the most information in the shortest possible time. Thanks for starting these.

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