Discover your strengths

4,983 views
4,784 views

Published on

Discover your strengths

  1. 1. 1
  2. 2. Discover YourStrengths Brent OBannon 2
  3. 3. Discover Your StrengthsCopyright 2012 by Brent O’Bannon, MBSAll rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmittedin any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, includingphotocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrievalsystem without written permission from the author, except for theinclusion of brief quotations in a review.The author, editing team, and publisher have made every effort to ensureaccuracy and completeness of the information contained in this book. Weassume no responsibility for errors, inaccuracies, omissions, or anyinconsistency herein. Any slights of people, places, or organizations areunintentional. The author and R&B Publishing shall have neither liabilitynor responsibility to any person or entity with respect to any loss ordamage caused directly or indirectly by the information contained in thisbook, and we do not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of anyof the recommendations, ideas, or quality of any products, information, orother materials included in the individual chapter.R&B Publishing115 S. Travis, Ste. 303Sherman, TX 75090First Edition: July 2012Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataO’Bannon, Brent OBannonDiscover Your Strengths, 1st ed.ISBN 978-0-9798049-8-41. Psychology 2. Management 3. Business 3
  4. 4. Dedicated to my first mastermind that discovered and applied our strengths to business success:Latham, Ruth, Steve, Brett, Mike, Ryan 4
  5. 5. Acknowledgements “Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” -G.K. Chesterton My right hand assistant and rock star, RachaelKay Albers, is to be highly thanked for her hours oftranscribing, editing, and creative expertise in thecompletion of this writing project. Rachael’s top fivestrengths are Activator, Strategic, Connectedness,Individualization, and Communication. I highlyrecommend Rachael as a virtual assistant, writer,and web designer. You can find her atwww.RKAink.com. Thank you for who you are andwhat you share. 5
  6. 6. Table of ContentsUnlocking Your Potential ..................................... 9What is a Strength? ............................................. 42Creating Momentum ........................................... 67Starting Your Journey ......................................... 96Getting Strategic ................................................ 134Influencing Success ...........................................165Building Strong Relationships ...........................197On the Road With Your Strengths ....................228 6
  7. 7. Chapter 1Unlocking Your Potential “Life is like a combination lock; when you get the right numbers in the right order, you unlock your potential.” Brian Tracy In my twenty years as a licensed professionalcounselor, I have always believed that every humanbeing has their own recipe for success—their owncombination of potential. This combination is notsomething you must search for outside yourself, it’salready inside of you. It’s your responsibility to getthe right numbers in the right order to access yournatural potential. 7
  8. 8. In my life, as well as in coaching more than27,000 people in twenty years, I have discovered thatthe “right numbers” are best known as our strengths.When you identify your top five strengths and beginto understand how these strengths apply to yourpersonal and professional life, this knowledge willliterally unlock your potential. This happened for meabout two and a half years ago when I created what iscalled a Mastermind group and invited severalbusinesspeople and entrepreneurs from mycommunity to join me. I wanted to learn from theirsuccesses—both personal and professional—and, tomy delight, they jumped at the chance. In an early meeting, one particular individualin the group—a life and business coach himself—encouraged all of us to take the StrengthsFinder 2.0assessment from the book by Tom Rath. Yet, with mybackground in Psychology, I thought I had already 8
  9. 9. taken all the psychological assessments worthconsulting, so I dismissed the StrengthsFinder as afad: “I really don’t want to take another assessment. Ialready know it all.” Finally, another group membertook the assessment and, two weeks later, sharedwith us how inspired he was by the results. Not oneto be left out, I went ahead and purchased theStrengthsFinder 2.0, took the assessment and—wow!—I felt like I was lit on fire when I discoveredmy top five strengths. From that moment, I havebeen a passionate advocate of discovering yourstrengths, applying them in your life, and buildingyour life around them. And, as you might guess, mywife and two adult children have also discoveredtheir top strengths, as well as many of my coachingclients. With the purchase of this book, you joincountless other individuals with undiscovered talentswho are ready to get their hands on the keys to 9
  10. 10. unlocking their potential. Are you ready to reach newheights with your top five strengths? ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE MYSELF º I am Brent O’Bannon and I am an executive strengths coach that builds strengths based organizations and creates momentum for leaders and teams. I have conducted more than 27,000 coaching sessions and spoken to more than 55 organizations in the United States and China.Retrieving Your Keys I want to ask you a question. Have you everlocked your keys in your car? I have. (When I was incollege, it seemed like every other day I was locking 10
  11. 11. myself out of my car. In fact, I got what was calledthe “Coat Hanger Award” because I becamesomewhat of an expert on using a coat hanger to getinside my vehicle and retrieve my keys.) One day, itdawned on me that many of us get locked out of ourpotential—our capacity for success—because we havelost our keys. So, we try to white knuckle it—we workextra hard on our weaknesses, trying to overcome orimprove our soft spots. But the point is, werefocused on our weaknesses, not our strengths. Whenasked, “What are your strengths? What do you dowell?” most people automatically respond with whatthey are not good at—we have been conditioned tothink in terms of weaknesses, not strengths. What Ihave discovered is that when we quit trying to do itourselves and we hire a coach—a locksmith with aslim jim who can quickly open the door so we can getour hands on the keys—that is what gets us moving 11
  12. 12. towards our destination, our dreams. By starting thisbook, you have already taken that first step. Imagineme as your locksmith. Follow along and Ill help putthe keys in your hands to get you moving towardsyour dreams. The good news is, your keys are readyfor you to use. No need to go searching for them—you can access your personal and professional 1potential in minutes. My client Brenda is a greatexample. Brenda, like you, enlisted me as her“strengths locksmith” and we worked together tohelp get her on the road to success. A few big thingshappened to Brenda in the process: She learned brand new things about herself She developed a language for her strengths She learned how to balance her strengths; and1 Brenda graciously gave me permission use her story in this book. 12
  13. 13. She jumpstarted her marriage. Before coaching, Brenda was like many of usraised with a deficiency-based model of personaldevelopment—she could never express what she wasgood at because she was so focused on herweaknesses. When she discovered her top fivestrengths, Brendas self-awareness and self-confidence skyrocketed. Some of us have an idea ofwhat our strengths are, we just don’t have the rightwords—a language—to describe them. Throughcoaching, Brenda learned how to clearly articulateher top five strengths—and you will, too. (Of course,we all have more than five strengths, but the top fiveare the most dominant. These strengths are wherewe want to focus to get moving towards success.) Inour sessions, when Brenda and I discussed balancingstrengths and focusing away from weaknesses, I 13
  14. 14. shared how, when we overuse a strength, it canderail us from success, whereas a strength—overusedor not—is never a weakness. An overused strengthcan be a hindrance, but it is never a weakness. Thereal danger lies in underusing strengths, whether weare simply unaware of them or have forgotten aboutthem from years past. When we arent using all ofour strengths, the terrain towards prosperitybecomes that much more difficult to navigate. In Brendas case, I helped her focus less onher weaknesses so she could concentrate onbalancing—and maximizing—each of her top fivestrengths. (And Im going to show you how to do thesame!) One of my best coaching moments—for bothme and Brenda—was when she called me with bignews, only six weeks after we started workingtogether. Originally, Brenda hired me to help herwork towards a promotion and I knew the interview 14
  15. 15. was coming up, so I had my fingers crossed when Ianswered the phone. I started beaming as soon as Iheard the excitement in her voice. Sure enough,Brendas strengths-infused interview was a success!With her new sense of self-confidence, as well as her“strengths script”—the language she used to defineand communicate her strengths—Brenda was able tosell herself and unlock her potential, catapulting herinto the next career and income level. But, since sheonly expected results in her professional life, the bigsurprise was how discovering her strengths affectedBrendas marriage, her take on parenthood, and herrelationships with family and friends. These types ofresults are why I do what I do—guiding people to usetheir strengths, not only to yield career success, butalso to help improve their love lives, deepen theirconnections with their kids, and grow their sense ofpersonal satisfaction. When you understand each 15
  16. 16. persons unique set of strengths and they know howto best deal with yours, you get your hands on thekey to healthy, thriving relationships. DISCOVERY QUESTIONS º 1. When was the last time you spoke about one of your strengths with a friend, colleague, or familymember? When was the last time you spoke about a weakness?2. In five-ten words, write down some of the phrases you currently use to describe your strengths.The Strength Movement Begins The father of the Strengths Movement was 16
  17. 17. Abraham Maslow, a second generation Jewishimmigrant from Russia and the eldest of sevenchildren, born in Brooklyn, New York. Maslow was atimid, awkward young man who confronted heavyanti-Semitism growing up in Brooklyn. He writesabout being picked on by gangs, called names, hitwith rocks, even beaten up, over the course of hisyoung life. Of course, Maslow wasn’t a perfectperson. He was a human being just like all of us,struggling with the ghosts of his past and a difficultrelationship with his mother, whom he was quotedas saying he was repulsed by because she never lovedhim unconditionally. But what Maslow did do, afterstudying Sigmund Freud, was develop a differenttype of psychology—a “healthy” psychology, as hedeemed it. “It is as if Freud supplied us with the sickhalf of psychology and we must now fill it out withthe healthy half,” he writes in Toward a Psychology 17
  18. 18. of Being. “There are two faces of human nature—thesick and the healthy—so there should be two faces ofpsychology.” Though Maslow was marked by thenegative effects of anti-Semitism and difficult familydynamics, he found a way to focus on the healthyside of psychology.The Psychology of Potential Maslow believed that all humans have a driveto succeed and fulfill their human potential—thatwere not simply reacting to crisis or illness. You mayhave read about his famous hierarchy of needs, thebasis of which is that all of us have physiologicalneeds—for food, water, warmth, etc.—which are whatwe strive for, first and foremost. If you travel to adeveloping country, for example, youll see how the 18
  19. 19. majority of its population concentrates on meetingthese basic needs, making it difficult to focus onanything else. After physiological needs, safety needs are atthe next level of Maslows hierarchy. Safetyencompasses not only physical security, protection,and shelter, but a sense of emotional security, aswell. Have you ever noticed how living in a home thatprotects you from the elements automatically givesyou a greater sense of security in general? Following safety is what Maslow called thebelonging need. This is the need for relationships,love, and, most importantly, unconditionalacceptance—something near and dear to Maslowsheart. You can satisfy this need with family, friends,or another type of “family” that you consciouslycreate. This happened to me. When I was a teenagerin high school, a family I knew would take me to 19
  20. 20. church every Sunday—something I had never beeninvolved in before. This adopted “family” connectedme with positive influences in my youth group and,though I had a great relationship with my parents,added to my sense of belonging—being part of acommunity. The next level in Maslows hierarchy is selfesteem, the part of us that wants to have masteryover ourselves and be significant in the world aroundus—to achieve something and make a difference. Wewant to know that who we are is important, a needinextricably linked to being and doing our best,which is the highest need that Maslow talked about—self actualization. According to Maslow, the pinnacle of life isbeing your best, using your creative talents, having amission in life, making a difference in the world, andpursuing the highest for yourself and the world 20
  21. 21. around you. Maslow was the first person to do casestudies on healthy, successful people. Instead offocusing on mental illness and abnormal psychology,he began by studying historical figures who weresuccessful—inspirational leaders like PresidentThomas Jefferson or psychologist and philosopherWilliam James. Then, he moved to case studies onhis contemporaries, all while fleshing out his owntheory on success psychology, which eventually ledhim to develop the thirteen characteristics of self-actualizing people. 21
  22. 22. MASLOWS HIERARCHY OF NEEDS º 22
  23. 23. The 13 Characteristics of Self-Actualizing People 1. Self-actualizing people are comfortablewith reality and have a clear view of it. Not overly negative, self-actualizing people are noPollyannas, either. Self-actualizing people possess a balanced, straightforward understanding of the reality of life. 2. Self-actualizing people have a naturalsense of spontaneity and simplicity withoutpretension. In other words, self-actualizing people are comfortable in their own skin. 3. Self-actualizing people are mission- driven. Instead of focusing on themselves, self- 23
  24. 24. actualizing people direct their attention to fulfilling a mission or purpose for the world around them. 4. Self-actualizing people have a healthysense of detachment and a need for privacy.Another way to say this is boundaries, or, the ability to detach and energize. Self-actualizing people lovethemselves and enjoy solitude without feeling lonely. 5. Self-actualizing people are autonomous. Not too reliant on others, the self-actualizing individual is strongly independent. 6. Self-actualizing people feel deeplygrateful. A continued freshness of appreciation—asense of gratitude—for what one has in life, withoutfocusing on material wealth is another characteristic 24
  25. 25. of a self-actualizing person. 7. Self-actualizing people have peak experiences. I have experienced many mystical moments in my life, from watching the sun rise at the Grand Canyon to delivering my first child and literally bringing her into the world with my ownhands. Those are peak experiences that I will neverforget and they only enhance my sense of gratitude. 8. Self-actualizing people have a feeling ofkinship with the human race. Free of prejudice,this kinship is the sense of being connected to all of the worlds people, no matter their beliefs or experiences. 9. Self-actualizing people have strong 25
  26. 26. relationships. Though, they tend to limit deep,intimate relationships to a small number of people. 10. Self-actualizing people have a democratic character structure. Self-actualizing people want to treat others fairly and be treated fairly themselves. 11. Self-actualizing people have ethical discrimination between means and ends. Ethical discrimination between means and ends— good and evil—is the foundation for serving others instead of oneself and treating people with respect. 12. Self-actualizing people have a greatsense of humor. A friendly, playful sense of humor 26
  27. 27. allows self-actualizing people to laugh at themselves and with the world. 13. Self-actualizing people balance the polarities in their personality. For example, a self-actualizing person who is serious minded can also be playful and childlike. According to Maslow,the ability to balance our polarities helps us achieve our full potential. DISCOVERY QUESTIONS º1. How self-actualizing do you feel you are, based on Maslows characteristics? Which of the thirteen characteristics do you identify with your own personality? 27
  28. 28. 2. What differences do you notice between yourpersonality and Maslows thirteen characteristics? 3. Which of the thirteen characteristics of a self- actualizing person do your friends and family possess?The Birth of Positive Psychology Now that you have a basic understanding ofthe growing Strengths Movement, I want to switchgears and touch on the birth of positive psychology,the father of which is Martin Seligman, apsychologist and the former president of theAmerican Psychological Association (APA). Seligmanis best known for his assertion that psychology is“half-baked,” referring to the communitys narrow 28
  29. 29. focus on mental illness and its lack of understandingof success, strengths, and human potential. Seligmanstarted a revolution aimed at understanding howpeople become their best selves. I highly recommendhis books, Learned Optimism, Authentic Happiness,and his latest, Flourish, which he wrote after beinghired by the U.S. Army to teach about mentaltoughness and resilience to trauma. The booksmessage is about redirecting the focus from post-traumatic stress disorder to post-traumatic stressgrowth and how people endure incredible traumaand still become more resilient and successful.Another one of the things that I really admire aboutSeligman is how he veered from the DiagnosticStatistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), themanual of research by the APA that defines mentalillnesses. If you want to know about anxietydisorders, major depression disorders, or personality 29
  30. 30. disorders, you go to the DSM. But Seligman and hiscontemporaries devised a positive alternative,originally called Values in Action, or the VIA, whichemphasizes strength and character, not illness. Iencourage you to take the VIA survey to determineyour top five character strengths—Seligmandeveloped twenty four. The VIA is the perfectsupplement to the StrengthsFinder 2.0 because ithelps add more texture and definition to yourdeveloping “strengths script.”The StrengthsFinder Revolution At the head of the StrengthsFinder revolutionis Donald Clifton, the inspiration for strengthspsychology and the designer of the first strengthsfinder assessment, teaming up with Gallup Polls, 30
  31. 31. who have now conducted over a million assessmentsusing his tool. Clifton, who passed away in 2003, wasa scientific trailblazer when it came to developing theStrengthsFinder—the very assessment that you willbe learning about in the next few chapters. TheStrengthsFinder highlights thirty four differentstrengths and is set apart from other similarassessments because of its high level of consistency,meaning that if you were to take this assessmentwhile feeling blue or on top of the world, you wouldstill discover the authentic you. If you take thisassessment in ten years, for example, you will likelyget identical results. In other words, according toDonald Clifton, your core strengths are set from thetime you are born, though they do grow and evolveover time. 31
  32. 32. The Modern Strengths Movement The Strengths Movement continues to grow.Two contemporary leaders are Marcus Buckinghamand Tom Rath—the author who partnered withGallup Polls to create the StrengthsFinder 2.0. Rathalso wrote Strengths Based Leadership with BarryConche, linking strengths to leadership. MarcusBuckingham is the author of several books,including, Go Put Your Strengths to Work: SixPowerful Steps to Achieve OutstandingPerformance. (Rath and Buckingham are a couple ofmy heroes and their work has inspired me to play myown part in the Strengths Revolution!) In his book,Go Put Your Strengths to Work, MarcusBuckingham reveals the three myths and truthsabout the Strengths Movement. 32
  33. 33. The Three Myths and Truths ofthe Strengths Movement Myth #1: Personalities change over time. Ever heard popular wisdom that says, as yougrow and live, your personality changes?Buckingham says thats nothing but a myth and—getthis—you can’t really be anything you want to be.How many of us were taught that? The idea that, ifyou work hard enough, you can be anything you wantto be? Myth. Buckingham suggests that, with yourstrengths, you can become more of who you alreadyare. According to Buckinghams research, yourpersonality is predominately consistent from birth todeath. As you shift your mindset and learn how tomaximize your top five strengths, you cultivate whatis already inside of you. Your values, skills, self- 33
  34. 34. awareness, and behaviors might change but the mostdominant aspects of your personality—your talents—will remain the same throughout your lifetime. Myth #2: You will grow the most in your areas of your greatest weakness At school, at work, and at home, most of uslearn to concentrate on fixing our weak spots. If youare disorganized, you better get organized. If youdislike math, take on a tutor to become a whiz. Guesswhat? Its a myth! Here is the truth according toMarcus Buckingham—you will grow the most in yourareas of greatest strength. Your real potential lies,not in eradicating your weaknesses, but in miningand excavating the gold and the silver of yourstrengths so that you will be the most inquisitive, 34
  35. 35. resilient, creative, and hungry to learn in that area.And, because few people focus on maximizing theirstrengths, instead of minimizing their weaknesses, asa member of the Strengths Movement, you have thecompetitive advantage! Myth #3: A good team member does whatever it takes to help the team Myth. Marcus Buckingham maintains that thebest team members deliberately volunteer theirstrengths to the team—most of the time. In otherwords, many of us have been taught that you just“pitch in”—no matter your contribution—becausethats what a good team member does. In theBuckingham revolution, exemplary team membersvolunteer their best strengths because they know 35
  36. 36. these strengths will benefit the team. A great teammember is not well-rounded, a great team is well-rounded because highly successful teams utilize eachpersons strengths.Recommendations for YourStrength Finder Assessment1. Purchase your copy of the StrengthsFinder 2.0, thesecond updated version of Donald Cliftons classic.Inside the book is your unique code for the onlineassessment—this code only applies to one user.2. Go to StrengthsFinder.com and take the test.3. Find a quiet, focused place where you will not beinterrupted by phone calls, family members, barking 36
  37. 37. dogs, or cats jumping up on your lap because theassessment is timed and you have twenty seconds foreach question. The assessment aims at capturingyour instinctual, gut response to each question.4. Answer each question authentically and quicklyinstead of angling for certain strengths.5. When you finish, check your inbox for a PDFreport highlighting your top five strengths. Thistwenty four page report will describe each of yourstrengths with accompanying case studies and actionstrategies, as well as the best ways for others tointeract with you based on your top five strengths.6. When you read your report, highlight any words orphrases that resonate with you. Do the same with theStrengthsFinder 2.0 book. You will find that the 37
  38. 38. reports description of each strength differs from thebooks because the report is personalized to yourunique combination of strengths. The book expandsupon the report, with more details on each individualstrength, so be sure to read both.7. Dont worry—the StrengthsFinder 2.0 is an easyread, though I encourage you to wait to read thebook until you take the assessment. Once youvetaken the assessment, go ahead and start reading.8. As the foundation for the StrengthsFinderRevolution, I encourage you to read the first book,Now Discover Your Strengths, by Donald Clifton. 38
  39. 39. DISCOVERY QUESTIONS º 1. Which of Buckinghams three myths have you heard before? Which ones have you repeated to other people?2. What are you hoping to achieve by tapping into your five signature strengths? What dreams motivate you? 3. What are some of the words/phrases you highlighted in your report? Which parts grabbed your attention?4. Are you surprised by any of your five signaturestrengths? What is new about your results? Is there anything that doesnt surprise you? 39
  40. 40. Chapter 2What is a Strength?“Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.” Marilyn vos Savant Im a father of two—a daughter and a son—and it amazes me how, even though they grew up inthe same family environment, their personalities areso different. Psychologists studying nature versusnurture say that about fifty percent of our personalityis genetic—what were born with. The other fifty isnurture—the environmental influence of the worldaround us, as well as the people and caregivers in ourlives. And thats true with strengths, too. Theres no 40
  41. 41. doubt that, when we are born, we possess a genetic“code” for certain abilities (whether we like it or not).Talent, the first of three things that make up astrength, is in our blood, our brain, our makeup, andour genes. However, a strength is not limited tohardwiring. Over time, we acquire knowledge, thesecond strength component—information picked upfrom our environment and the people in it. As weacquire information, we utilize it to create skills, thethird strength component.The Four Levels of Learning Learning information Applying information Teaching information Relearning information 41
  42. 42. I believe there are four levels of learning.First, we gain information, whereupon we are calledto do something about it—application. After that,teaching is the next best way to deepen ourunderstanding of new information. And whatsexciting is that we never really stop learning—there isalways new information to process or knowledge thatwe can gain from deepening our understanding of“old” info. In fact, in order to avoid growingstagnant, we must continue to seek knowledge, oftenthrough “re-learning” what we thought we alreadyknew. Skill is the application of knowledge, throughwhich we develop wisdom—it is the ability to live itout Skill fuels your performance in a particularstrength area. Take Individualization, one of the strengthshighlighted in the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment. 42
  43. 43. Individualization is my #2 strength. According to theStrengthsFinder 2.0, Individualization is the act ofbeing intrigued with the unique qualities of people.Its a relationship strength—the ability to look forone-of-a-kind stories. A person withIndividualization is a keen observer of peoplesstrengths. They have the ability to personalizeinformation or how they work with you. In my case, Iwas an only child—no brothers and sisters to playwith—and I had to seek opportunities to connect. So,I honed my Individualization strength. For the firstpart of my life, I grew up in a metropolitanenvironment. In our diverse neighborhood, therewere all kinds of people to meet and experiences tobe had—its where I developed a taste for acquiringknowledge about different cultures, differentmindsets, and different ways of thinking. Then, Ispent the second part of my adolescence in the 43
  44. 44. country, in a small town in East Texas. I went to alittle school called Grand Saline and was able toexperience the unique aspects of life in the country. When I talk to people, I love to askquestions—what is your background, what are yourdreams, what are your goals? I love to discover eachpersons one-of-a-kind story, as if each individualnarrative were a stained glass picture totally differentfrom anyone elses. Each of you reading this book hasyour own story. Some of you are motivated to applythis to your work, some of you hope to use thisknowledge to help your children, some of you yearnto transform your sense of personal satisfaction—Iwrote this book for each of you. For me, withIndividualization in my hardwiring, I am not onlysensitive to peoples strengths and weaknesses, butalso their emotional ups and downs, their bodylanguage, their moods. I naturally pick up on the 44
  45. 45. little things that make up a persons personality.Many times, when Im talking, coaching, or evenspeaking to a large audience, I have an ability topersonalize whatever Im sharing with the people infront of me. How did I grow in my knowledge andskill? In college, I studied Psychology, Sociology, andCommunications. Then, with my Masters inCounseling Psychology, I deepened my knowledgeand understanding of people, their personalities, andhow to help people grow, succeed, deal with theirweaknesses, and create more happiness. All thetheories I learned—my classes, my reading, and mypersonal experiences—opened up my career to docounseling as a licensed professional counselor andlater, as a certified life coach. As I write this, I realize Ive beenIndividualizing for twenty years—over 27,000sessions of listening to peoples one-of-a-kind 45
  46. 46. stories. You cant help but acquire skill if you areapplying knowledge for twenty years. Thus, you cansee how a strength like Individualization iscomprised of talent, knowledge, and skill. DISCOVERY QUESTIONS º 1. What are a few of your natural talents?2. What skills do you regularly develop in your life? 3. Name a few topics on which you are knowledgeable.The SIGN Method Think about your strengths. (Even if you 46
  47. 47. havent taken the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment,you still have a general idea of your natural talents.)In his book, Go Put Your Strengths to Work,Buckingham suggests exploring ones strengths usingwhat he calls the SIGN method. S – SuccessAsk yourself these questions: Have I had a level of success in this activity? Do people tell me that Im skilled at this activity? Have I won any awards for this strength? I – Instinct How often do I practice this activity? Every day? 47
  48. 48. Do I volunteer for this activity? Volunteering indicates that a strength isinstinctual. If an activity is part of the natural flow ofyour life, there is probably a strength right aroundthe corner. G – Growth Remember, its a myth to believe that we canbe anything we want to be. But we can be more ofwho we already are, and thats what Growth standsfor in SIGN. Growth is the ability to learn somethingquickly and easily without struggling or seeing it as achore. Take psychology, in my case. I love thinking,learning new ideas, and understanding people. I amhungry—I cant wait to learn more about coaching 48
  49. 49. and counseling and I dont mind doing it. Thus, Ihave incredible potential for growth in this area,which is a good sign that psychology has somethingto do with one of my top five strengths. N – Needs We all have needs. Remember Maslowshierarchy from Chapter One? A good sign of astrength in a persons life is that it meets one of theirprimary needs. You can look at this in a number ofways, asking yourself: Am I excited/eager to do this particular activity? Do I have fun thinking about/doing this activity? Does this activity give me a sense of purpose? 49
  50. 50. Passion and motivation to do a particularactivity, or simple enjoyment of the activity itself, aresigns that you have likely discovered a strength. Theneeds component of Buckinghams Sign Method ishelpful when working with kids, as well as adults inthe work world. Though we tend to put people inboxes, personalities are round. In order to have awell-rounded team, family, and community, it isimportant to find out what excites each person. If itjazzes you up, there is a strength lurking nearby.What is a Weakness? Most of us are experts in noticing ourweaknesses, not our strengths, which is why it iscrucial to highlight the difference between the two.Much like with strengths, we have a certain amount 50
  51. 51. of talent, knowledge, and skill in our areas ofweakness. For example, being Analytical is notamong my top five strengths. Many times, peoplewho have the Analytical strength are good withtechnology and numbers—my personal weaknesses.Sure, I have a basic talent for analytics becauseresearch and math were part of my education inPsychology, but, I struggled with math since gradeschool. I didnt want to do division! And, by the timeI ended up trying to learn trig as a senior in highschool, I needed all kinds of tutoring to increase myknowledge—my ability to understand trigonometry.Despite all my hard work, I just couldnt get it. Itwasnt instinctual for me and, more than that, itsimply wasnt fun. Therefore, my skills in math andtechnology are pretty basic. Thank God forcalculators, CPAs, and people with this strength—likemy dad, a gifted mathematician—because, for me, its 51
  52. 52. a weakness. You can re-use Buckinghams SIGNtechnique when determining if something is aweakness in your life by tweaking the language andadding the word “lack.” S – Lack of SuccessAsk yourself these questions: Have I experienced little success in this activity? Do people tell me I need to improve in this area? Have I never won any awards for this activity? Personally, I have always had a lack of successin math. (You wont catch me winning a math awardanytime soon!) Using SIGN, it is easy to pin math asa weakness. 52
  53. 53. I – Lack of Instinct Do I try to avoid this particular activity? Must I force myself to do this activity?Do I volunteer other people for this activity instead of myself? Because talent and instinct are synonymous,avoiding a particular activity often points to an areaof weakness. G – Lack of Growth Is learning about this activity difficult for me?Do I require extra guidance in order to understand or master this activity? 53
  54. 54. Sure, I learned some math and technologybasics in my years in school, though neither camenaturally to me. (In fact, I find them quite boring.)Working with numbers or technology for too longeither frustrates me or puts me to sleep. And Im nota high performer, either—just another indication of aweakness. The point is, if theres a lack of growth andlearning—youre not catching on, even with extraclasses and mentoring—this indicates a weakness. L – Lack of Needs Do I feel drained by this particular activity? Do I avoid thinking about this particular activity? Do I consider this activity unnecessary? 54
  55. 55. Over the years I have worked a few odd jobsand I remember two particular jobs that I absolutelyhated. The first was a position on a ranch. I workedfor a farmer and, one day, he dropped me off all bymyself in the fields to pull potato slips. I had no oneto talk to, no one to do anything with—I just had toput the potato slips in boxes. Talk about drained! Icringed at the thought of being on the ranch. Thesecond was a job I took when I was married with twokids, looking to make some money to provide for myfamily. I became a carpenters helper and it waspretty darn funny. I think I worked for the guy nomore than two days before things fell apart. Now, Ican work hard—no problem. But, one particular day,he asked me to take some measurements for aproject and I looked at him stupidly, like, “How doyou do that?!” I was terrible at it. I didnt like it,didnt enjoy it, didnt want to learn. Not too long 55
  56. 56. after, he said, “Brent, I just dont think youre cut outto be a carpenter.” He fired me on the spot. It wasthe best thing he could do! I didnt need to waste mytime or his—I had identified a weakness. Thats notto say that I havent learned how to build a few thingsbetween then and now. Believe it or not, I workedwith my wife and father-in-law, who is veryanalytical, to build a wood deck and install woodfloors in our house. It is possible to learn how tobuffer your weaknesses, but you cannot turn theminto strengths. So, why waste your time on aweakness? DISCOVERY QUESTIONS º1. Based on the SIGN acronym, what strengths can you identify in your life? 56
  57. 57. 2. Which strength has earned you the most praise?3. Where do your impulses lie? Of all your strengths, which do you enjoy practicing the most? 4. Based on the SIGN acronym, what weaknesses can you identify in your life?5. Are there topics or activities that, no matter how much you learn or practice, you cannot seem to master?I Feel Strong When...1. Find a quiet place, clear your mind, and take adeep breath. 57
  58. 58. 2. On a piece of paper, write, “I feel strong when…”3. Finish the sentence with what immediately comesto mind. Here are a few of my own examples: I feel strong when speaking to big crowds. I feel strong when serving to win a match. I feel strong when Im sitting with someone and talking one-on-one, from the heart.When I did this exercise, I wrote volumes. Then, Ibegan to apply my realizations to specific areas of mylife. To better understand your strengths, completethe sentences: I feel strong at work when... I feel strong in my marriage when… I feel strong in my parenting when... 58
  59. 59. I feel strong on my team when... I feel strong spiritually when…Who is the best judge of your strengths? Ill give youa hint. Its not your boss. Its not your spouse. Its notyour kids. Its not your parents. Its you. While it istrue that other people have valuable insights on yourstrengths, they dont know whats in your mind oryour heart, thus, they arent privy to all your strengthsignals.4. Now, reverse the exercise and finish the sentence,“I feel weak when...” Write down whatever comes tomind—all those different thoughts and ideas thatcome to you will help you feel stronger, happier, andmore confident. Then, when you tap into yourstrengths you will be more than “jazzed” because youwill be opening your mind to the parts of yourself 59
  60. 60. you never knew you had. Allow me to give you a fewexamples from my own life: I feel weak when Im doing math. I feel weak when Im in front of a computer. I feel weak when giving a canned speech.5. Now finish the sentence, “I loathed it when...” andremember to write down whatever comes to yourmind. I promise, if you allow yourself to answerhonestly, you will see incredible results. Buckinghamhas changed millions of peoples lives as a result ofhis book, Go Put Your Strengths to Work, where thisexercise originated.Tennis Lessons I am a long time tennis player. I started 60
  61. 61. playing when I was fourteen years old and, thirtyfour years later, at the age of forty eight, Im stillplaying. I found out that I had a natural talent for thesport—a mind and body that excels at tennis—at ayoung age. I was quick, I had fat hands, and I wasfocused enough to keep my eye on the ball. Plus, Iliked the independence and freedom I felt whileplaying tennis and, over the years, I have developedmy tennis knowledge with coaches, camps, andtournaments. As a result, I became a skillful tennisplayer. Within two years of aiming to leap from thebottom rung of the tennis ladder, I won the Texasstate doubles championship. That was the firstexperience in my life where I felt like a winner. It wasa momentous success but it was also the product ofhard work and quite a few losses, all the whilelearning and practicing for hours. In thesummertime, I spent nine hours a day hitting balls 61
  62. 62. on a ball machine while my friends were swimmingand having a good time in the pool next to the tenniscourts. I was there by myself, but I was determined,and I felt strong. So, I set goals that tennis would paymy way through college and—it did! (Though, mymom and dad paid for the coaching lessons and tookme to tournaments, so I credit their support ashaving paid for my college education.) Tennis hasbeen an incredible gift of pleasure and exercise forthirty four years of my life. Im on a tennis team, Istill compete in tournaments, and my son and I playfather/son doubles—in fact, we were the #1father/son doubles team in Texas two years in a row.Whats the point? I feel strong when Im playingtennis. And you probably have something in your lifelike that. It may not be a sport. It could be music, art,technology—something that makes you feel strong.Identifying what makes you feel strong is vital to 62
  63. 63. your success. On the other hand, I feel very weakwhen it comes to technology. I feel literally weakplaying computer games or video games while mywife is wonderful—shell tell you that shes theworlds greatest “Words With Friends” player (Imsure shed gladly challenge you to a game any day)and she challenges me to play all the time. I say,“Honey, I dont want to play because I dont want tohurt your feelings when I beat you.” Yeah, right. Thetruth is, I dont want to sit in front of the computerscreen playing a video game because it drains me. Itsa weakness—Im not successful at it. My son used tobeat me all the time when we would play videogames. I would play and he would pound me—everytime! So, of course, youre not likely to walk into myhouse and see me with a controller in my hand. Imterrible. I suck! We all have something in our livesthat is a weakness. Sure, I could go get lessons, read 63
  64. 64. books, learn how to try to beat my son. But I dontwant to. So I dont! Simple as that. Let me tell you something that will set youfree—its okay. Let it go. Let your weaknesses go.Turn the best of your life into the most of your life.Thats what discovering your strengths is all about.Instead of trying to whittle down your weak spots,strengths-based living is about focusing on yourtalents and designing your life accordingly—structuring your relationships with your kids, yourspouse, your friends, and your extended familyaround your strengths and planning your free timearound personally enjoying your strengths, too. Itsthe most exciting, meaningful, purposeful thing thatany of us can do—to discover and live in ourstrengths zone. 64
  65. 65. Chapter 3Creating Momentum “Enthusiasm is the energy and force that builds literal momentum of the human soul and mind.” Bryant H. McGill How do we free our strengths and stop ourweaknesses? Marcus Buckingham addresses this inGo Put Your Strengths to Work and suggests twoacronyms that will quickly help you generate successand minimize distractions—FREE and STOP. 65
  66. 66. F – FocusAsk yourself these questions about each of yourstrengths: How does this strength help me and others? When do I use this strength at work? How often do I use this strength?What daily activities allow me to use this strength? Am I using this strength as much as I would like? Have I received feedback on this strength? R – Release Releasing is about freeing a strength in areaswhere it is not being used. To release a strength, askyourself: 66
  67. 67. What new situations can I put myself in to use my strength more often?Can I change my work schedule to use my strength more? (Or, could I talk to a supervisor or my colleagues to utilize my strength more at work?)How can I track how much Im using my strength? E – Educate Remember, a strength is an area where youhave the greatest potential to learn and to grow.Learning new skills and techniques will help you freeyour strength. Ask yourself: Are there certain skills—communication skills, presentation skills, negotiation skills—that I could 67
  68. 68. improve through learning? What kinds of actions should I take to learn more about my particular strength?Are there classes or courses I could take to enhance my knowledge in this area? Do I know someone with the same strength? The educate part of the acronym is aboutfinding opportunities to learn and teach yourself,building your catalog of techniques for expressingyour strengths. When talking to others with similarstrengths, discuss what they did to educatethemselves, acquire more knowledge, and developskills. Speaking with a mentor or coach is a fantasticway to educate yourself about your particularstrength. 68
  69. 69. E – Expand Expanding is about building your life aroundyour strengths. I created a success script for myself—a narrative with names and affirmations for my topfive strengths. I wrote this narrative to help meaccomplish goals in every area of my life. Thequestion to ask yourself when writing a narrative ofyour own is, “How can I expand my life around mystrengths?” DISCOVERY QUESTIONS º 1. What new situation can I put myself in—this week—to release an underused strength? 2. How can I track my strength over the next ten 69
  70. 70. minutes? The next hour? Day? Week? Month?3. Do any of my strengths have “weak” points that I can develop with education?Stop Your Weaknesses Many times, people tell me, “I have so manyweaknesses that I cant see my strengths,” andtheyre not alone. We all have weaknesses. Were notperfect. We dont have every tool in the toolbox. So,how do we deal with our weaknesses? How do westop wasting our time on our weak areas? With theacronym STOP. 70
  71. 71. S – Stop Quit doing this activity. Sure, there are someactivities where we have weaknesses that we stillmust accomplish. In my case, one weakness I have isbalancing the checkbook. My partner is great atbalancing the checkbook, making it easy to negotiate,asking her, “Would you be willing to balance thecheckbook?” The S in STOP is about looking for ways tostop doing activities associated with your weakness.At work, you can ask your supervisor about areas inwhich you are weak that can be taken out of your jobdescription. Of course, its a bit easier when you workfor yourself or run your own business. But, even bigbusiness is turning towards strengths psychology. Ifyou feel locked into certain activities that are holding 71
  72. 72. you back, remember—it doesnt hurt to ask. Or, consider looking for alternative ways tostop doing a particular activity. For example, I hatetrimming weeds. It zaps me—I loathe starting andstopping and pulling out the line. So, I stopped it. Idont work on the weeds anymore. Instead, Ive hiredsomeone else do my lawn maintenance for me everytwo weeks. I am going to challenge you to find aweakness in your life that you are putting pressureon yourself to focus on and free yourself from it. Stopspending time on that weakness! T – Team UpAsk yourself: Who could I partner with that has this strength? 72
  73. 73. Who on my work team would be willing to utilize their strength to help stop my weakness?Who could teach me how to deal with my particular weakness? O – Offer Up a Strength In other words, volunteer and steer your lifetowards your strengths. Ask yourself: Which of my strengths could I use to get activities done more easily?How can I use my strengths to create a new role for myself at work or my volunteer organization? How can I offer up my strengths at home or in my personal relationships? 73
  74. 74. Offering up your strengths will steer you away fromyour weaknesses. P – Perceive Tackle your weakness with your strengths byshifting your perspective. I have one particular clientwho doesnt have great relationship skills and it isdifficult for him to communicate with his wife.However, he is a Learner—he loves to educatehimself. So, I challenged him, “How could you useyour Learner strength to acquire more social skillslike empathy—to learn how to relate to your spouse?”The light bulb went off in his head: “Its aboutturning on a strength in an area where Im weak so I 74
  75. 75. can learn.” hat about you? How can you shift yourperspective and use your strengths to tackle yourweaknesses? For example, those with the strength ofHarmony love to keep the peace and are alwayslooking for opportunities to diffuse conflict becauseit is difficult and uncomfortable for them. Iencourage those with the Harmony strength to lookfor other strengths that can help them cope withconflict, like the Communication strength. The key isto perceive your “old” strengths in new ways! I wasdoing marriage counseling with a couple and the wifehad the strength of Individualization—the ability tolisten to other people, understand their one-of-a-kind stories, and adapt the way you relate to thembased on their unique qualities. My client was afantastic nurse because of her Individualizationstrength, but felt baffled by how she couldnt seem tofigure out how to relate to her husband. I challenged 75
  76. 76. her, “How can you use your Individualizationstrength to deal with the lack of connection you feelwith your husband?” I could see the light bulbs goingoff in her head. Suddenly, she realized that she coulduse her ability to relate and get along with extremelydifficult patients in difficult situations with herhusband.Nine Steps to Strengthen Your Strengths 1. Write It Down On a piece of paper, write down your strengthand its order in your top five as well as the basicdefinition of the strength from the StrengthFinder2.0 or your personalized report. Allow me to sharemy #4 strength—Command. The definition of 76
  77. 77. Command is the ability to take charge. 2. Highlight What Resonates Read the chapter in the StrengthsFinder 2.0on your strength. Underline or highlight the threemost important phrases that help you connect to thisstrength—the three words, phrases, or sentences thatresonate with you. (The parts when you say, “Thatsme, thats me! Yes!”) When I read the chapter onCommand, I had a pen in my hand, ready to markthe phrases I most associated with myself. Break bottlenecks and create momentum.Yup. When theres a bottleneck in a relationship or atense meeting, I can always help break it. I have the ability to take charge and create momentum. 77
  78. 78. Defend the cause in the face of resistance.I like to take up for the underdog. When someone isputting others down, I tend to speak up, even if there is resistance. Confrontation is the first step to resolution. Im not afraid of confrontation—I see it as an inevitable part of life. And I also know that dealing with conflict is the first step to finding solutions, resolution, and connection. 3. Go Back to Your Roots Ask yourself, “How did I develop myknowledge and skills related to this strength?” Goback to your childhood—elementary school, junior 78
  79. 79. high, high school. What were the experiences in yourlife that caused you to develop this strength? Howdid you start gaining more knowledge andinformation about this strength? In my own life, I was a natural risk taker fromthe day I was born. If there was a rope hanging off atree over a lake and my friends dared me to take aswinging leap, I would do it. I was the daredevil whowould take charge and be the first one to dosomething, even if others were afraid to do it. I alsoremember playing football in elementary school andjunior high. I was middle linebacker and I was theperson who loved to tackle and hit hard. Mynickname was “Headhunter” because I loved to findsomebody in my way and hit the heck out of them—thats what football is about. Even on the pee weefootball team, I demonstrated the takecharge/captain strength. And when people in school 79
  80. 80. were bullied, I was there to defend them, eitherverbally or physically. I was willing to stand up to thebully and say, “This isnt fair, dude. You cant pick onthis guy like this.” I was the defender, which carriedover into my days as a youth pastor and a seniorpastor of two different churches. (Spirituality andFaith is my first strength on the VIA survey.) I havealways seen myself as a defender of the church.When people told me, “I dont believe in that” or“That sounds kind of silly/strange,” I speak up forGod! When going back to your roots, dont forget toask this question: What people have had the greatest impact on my life? A parent, a teacher, a friend, a coach? Ive traced the Command strength all the waythrough my family tree. Lieutenant Presley 80
  81. 81. OBannon, my great great great grandfather, wascalled the Valiant Virginian and theres even a bookwritten about his feats. As captain, he was the firstmarine on the shores of Tripoli. He organized a crewthat went to Africa, marched across the desert,overcame the enemy, freed the slaves and hostages,and brought everyone back home. He was awardedthe Mameluke sword, deemed the OBannon sword.Sure enough, Command is in my blood. LieutenantPresley OBannon was a courageous fighter anddefender, who later used his “take charge” strengthto help lead a state. Ive got some pretty big shoes tofill! Now its your turn. Go back into your life andstart exploring. Look at it as a fun journey of learninghow you developed each of your strengths. 81
  82. 82. 4. Connect With Others Ask yourself, “How does this strength help meand other people?” In my life, the Command strengthhelps me to face and resolve conflicts. When I haveconflicts with my wife, my family, my friends, or evena client or customer, this strength gives me theability to resolve conflicts instead of avoiding them,stuffing them, or letting them turn into resentment.Im not a resentful person because I deal withconflicts upfront. The Command strength also helpsme to ask the questions that no one else is braveenough to ask. My clients commonly say, “Wow,thats a great question—I never thought about it likethat.” People with the Command strength canverbalize a sensitive question, instead of onlythinking about it. Additionally, the Command 82
  83. 83. strength helps me to speak in front of people. Peoplewith Command have a charismatic, “take charge”presence. I come alive in front of large groups. Thatsthe strength of Command. And, in my line of work, ithelps to have a charismatic presence that rallies andinspires people. 5. Play Devils Advocate Ask yourself, “If I were to overuse thisstrength, how would it hurt me or the progress ofother people?” It didnt take long for me to realizethat people with the Command strength canfrequently insert their feet in their mouths. I canteven count the times in my life when I have saidsomething and my wife—or whoever was in mypresence—has looked at me and said, “Really?!? You 83
  84. 84. just said that?” They are embarrassed and I amembarrassed—a great lesson teaching me to becareful with my tongue. Because of my propensity totell it like it is, sometimes I hurt peoples feelings. If Ioveruse my strength, I come across as pushy andintimidating. And, as a Commander, I often havedaring ideas that, in a group setting, are not alwaysappreciated. Perhaps, in a one-on-one situation withmore trust and confidentiality, the idea might bebetter received. But, I have to be careful in groupsettings not to overpower or intimidate other people.I must humble myself and admit my weaknessesinstead of coming across like Gods gift to theuniverse. I have my own struggles, my own trials, myown challenges, just like any other human being.And this is one of them—tempering my Commandstrength so I am not pushy or intimidating. 84
  85. 85. 6. Check Your Speed Envision the speedometer on your car. Howmany MPH are you using your strength? 0-40 islow—you are barely using this strength. 80-120 ishigh—you may be using this strength too much.(Thats what gets you pulled over and given a ticket.Watch out for fines and other problems.) Theoptimum speed for using your strength is somewherebetween 40 and 80 miles per hour. Sometimes weneed to speed up our strength and, other times weneed take our foot off the pedal because were drivingtoo fast. Its all about balance. 7. Take Action Figure out the action steps you need to take to 85
  86. 86. better utilize your strength. Look to yourStrengthsFinder 2.0 report for ten different ideas forputting your strength into practice. When I took theassessment, I discovered that one suggested actionfor people with the Command strength is to step upand break bottlenecks. Another of my action items isto take charge in a crisis when people look to strongleadership for help—one of my fortes. Another actionitem for Commanders is to lead a committee. As Iwrite this, I am the the president of my localBusiness Network International group, and Ifacilitate the meeting, which is a gift. By the way, recognizing strengths doesntautomatically make you cocky. It producesconfidence—the ability to recognize your strengthsand weaknesses. Confidence is not synonymous withflaunting your strengths or hurting other people withthem—that is cocky.) The two main ways I have put 86
  87. 87. my Command strengths into action are: Dealing with conflict and seizing opportunities to speak plainly and directly about sensitive subjects 8. Make a Motto Write a motto, a word, a phrase, that helpsyou remember what this strength represents to you. Ihave several mottos for the Command strength. I callit the “Fighting Irish” because Im an Irishman andwas born on St. Patricks Day. I also call it“Braveheart,” “Dynamo,” and “Take Charge.” One ofmy favorite passages of scripture from the Bible isProverbs 28:1—“the righteous are as bold as a lion.”To me, this scripture encapsulates the Commandstrength. Being bold as a lion 87
  88. 88. 9. Affirm It Create a strength affirmation. My dailyaffirmation—the one I have recorded on my iPhone,despite my dislike for technology—is, “I am breakingbottlenecks and creating momentum with myCommand strength.” Affirmations help us change theunconscious aspects of our lives. Our subconscious islike an iceberg. Eighty five to ninety percent of aniceberg is below the surface. Only ten to fifteenpercent is above the surface—our conscious self. Ourconscious self can write down goals, focus onactivities, and accomplish objectives—it is the part ofourselves that we can easily modify or change. Thepart that most of dont work on/change is theunconscious—the dominant part of our thoughts,feelings, and actions. 88
  89. 89. The Six Ps of Strengths Affirmations Daily affirmations are powerful tools forchanging the subconscious—the part of ourselvesthat goes deeper than the surface. When writing yourstrengths affirmations, remember the six Ps: Personal — Present Tense — Positive Precise — Purposeful — Passionate First, your affirmation needs to be personal.Start with your name or “I am...” Second, keep youraffirmation in the present tense, instead of usingwords like “maybe,” “someday,” or “might happen.”Your affirmation is already happening. Next, staypositive and focus on what you want instead of what 89
  90. 90. you dont want. For example, if you want to stay fitduring the holidays, dont write an affirmationfocused on not gaining those twenty pounds overChristmas. Stay positive: “I am my ideal weight atChristmas.” Along with positivity, you want to be precise.Keep your affirmation short and sweet. Make it aquick sentence that is easy to remember while alsokeeping it it purposeful. Include an “ing” like “I ambreaking bottlenecks and creating momentum withmy Command strength.” Finally, you want it to bepassionate. Include a word that resonates with you.For me, those words are momentum, creating, andbreaking. I like breaking bottlenecks. Break it up. Lets create momentum. Lets go. Let me tell you about one of my clients, a 90
  91. 91. teenager with very little confidence and a big love forice skating. Her goal was to skate with Disney on Ice,so I helped her to create an affirmation: “I amskating with Disney on Ice.” Every time she said thataffirmation, she worked on shifting her mindset andmaking her words a reality. Miraculously, she onlyhad to say her affirmation for one week beforeattending a Disney on Ice program in Dallas andreceiving a personal invitation from the professionalsskaters to get out on the ice and skate with them. As Iwrite this, she is getting ready to join them—now herteammates—on tour! After a week of saying heraffirmation! And thats what Im asking you to do.For each of your strengths, write an affirmation.Here are the affirmations I wrote for my top fivestrengths: 91
  92. 92. FocusBrent is flowing in strong Focus and is naturally keeping his eye on living Gods purpose. Individualization Brent is easily engaging, empathizing, connecting, and relating to people with his Individualization strength. AchievingBrent is Achieving big dreams with outrageous success. CommandBrent is a highly paid, well respected, in demand speaker for his Command strength. Competition Brent is enjoying his Competition strength, exercising daily, and doing yoga weekly with wife Rhonda. 92
  93. 93. Now try it yourself! Start creating a life ofmomentum. 93
  94. 94. Chapter 4Starting Your Journey“Our inner strengths cannot be lost, destroyed, or taken away. Each person has an inborn worth and contribution to the human community.” Mark Twain Imagine dog sledding in Canada for the veryfirst time. Youre holding onto the back of your sledfor dear life as you whip around steep curves atlightning speed. Up ahead of you is a sharp turn andyou notice that your sled is teetering on the edge ofthe mountain. You are riding the thin line betweenfalling off the mountain and creating momentum 94
  95. 95. behind your dogs. This was my wife and myexperience when we went to Canmore, Canada a fewyears ago. We had a dog sledding adventure—a firstfor both of us. (I highly recommend it as a couples orfamily experience.) Dog sledding in Canada taught usso many things about leadership, teamwork, andstrengths. On our trip, we met a young man namedJereme, who I call “the dog whisperer” because of hisexpert knowledge of his dogs and how tocommunicate with them. He was our guide and hetook the time to teach my wife and I all about histeam. Lead Dogs “Follow me, Brent.” He said commandinglyand Rhonda and I did just that as Jereme led us to 95
  96. 96. meet the first two dogs on the team. “These are mylead dogs,” he explained to us, “Lead dogs are notnecessarily the smartest, and theyre not necessarilythe fastest, but theyre the best listeners, and theyfollow commands well.” Jereme emphasized that itwas important to know your lead dogs so you couldcommunicate with them frequently. After all, theyare the leaders of their team. The other dogs respectthem and follow them because of their leadershipstrength. Point Dogs Jereme pointed to the next two dogs directlybehind the lead dogs. “These are the point dogs. Thepoint dogs are the dogs that dont have quite theexperience they need, but they have skills and the 96
  97. 97. talents, and are in line behind the lead dogs. Theyhelp steer the direction of the team towards the leaddogs.” Basically, point dogs have the abilities, butthey dont quite have the respect of the team just yet.Eventually, as Jereme told us, the point dogs willsucceed the lead dogs. Swing Dogs “Its very interesting,” Jereme said about thenext two dogs. “You take an old dog and a young dog,pair them together, and you have swing dogs.” Theolder dogs have been around the mountains formany years, trekked endless trails, and accrued theirshare of bumps and bruises along the way. Of course,they have lost a bit of their zest, their energy, theirpep. But then you pair this older dog with a younger 97
  98. 98. dog who has loads of enthusiasm, energy, and abilitybut lacks experience and wisdom and they influenceand bring out the best in each other so that the teamaccomplishes its goal. Wheel Dogs “These are the biggest dogs,” Jereme pointed,“and theyre called wheel dogs.” The wheels dogs aredrama-free. Easily the strongest dogs on the team,they love to pull, they love to work, and they love todo their job. The Driver Then, Jereme took us to the sled. “This wherethe driver stands.” He pointed. The driver, we 98
  99. 99. learned, is like the CEO, the chief executive officer.He or she drives the operation from the back of thesled.The Four Domains of Leadership During our dog sledding adventure withJereme, I couldnt help but think about the fourdomains of leadership, each containing a sampling ofthe thirty four strengths as determined by GallupPolls. Lead dogs in dog sledding are not so differentfrom what Gallup calls executing leaders. Point dogs,like those of us in positions of strategic leadership,are the thinkers, the heady intellectuals who tend tostrategize and point us towards the future while theswing dogs fall into influencing domain. These arethe leaders who use their strengths to influence and 99
  100. 100. sell. The wheel dogs have relationship strengths.They are the people adept at winning others over,relating with others, and showing empathy and love. THE LEAD DOG ºTake a look at the dog in the picture. What do younotice about him? I see the focus in his eyes, thealertness in the ears, the confidence in his face. This 100
  101. 101. dog is all about business. He might even be a littleintimidating. Indeed, the lead dog on my team inCanada looked pretty ferocious—a good word todescribe executing strengths. Those with executingstrengths catch ideas and make them happen. Thesepeople are strong at getting the job done and lessconcerned with pleasing or getting along with people.Remember, any strength, if overused, can hinderyour success. The nine executing strengths are: Achiever Arranger Belief Consistency Deliberative Focus Responsibility Restorative 101
  102. 102. The Nine Executing Strengths Achiever The Gallup Poll shares that any person whohas the Achiever strength is driven for achievement.When an Achiever wakes up in the morning, theystart at zero, and its as if they try to accrue as manypoints throughout the day as they can. Achievers areearly risers and night owls. They have a divinerestlessness that pushes them to improve anythingthey put their hands on. They like to be busy. Theylike to be moving. They like to have projects. Everyday is about climbing a mountain and getting to thenext great peak. (But, Achievers also suffer a whisperof discontent. Theyre always on the hunt for the nextbig thing.) Achievers have an incredible stamina to 102
  103. 103. work hard. This stamina is not limited to work, itextends to weekends and vacations, as well. Notsurprisingly, Achievers love certifications. They loveto know that they have finished something, achievedsomething, and as soon as they finish one thing, theyare onto the next. They love new initiatives. Theylove new projects. One thing Achievers must be waryof is not working so hard that they forget to celebratetheir successes or to balance their personal andprofessional lives. Also, Achievers must watch out forskimping on quality and consistency as they race tothe next project. Achievers want to win. They fuelsuccess. But they also should take care to apply thisstrength to their personal lives, not only theircareers. I have the Achiever strength and, one way inwhich I have applied this strength to my personal lifeis in my marriage. In my family, literally everyone isdivorced. I grew up dreaming that I would be the 103
  104. 104. first person to have a happy, long-term, consummatemarriage. The Achiever strength helps me do that.Achievers must remember to utilize this strength,not only in their professional lives, but inrelationships with their spouse and kids, as well aswith their health and personal development. REVIEWING THE ACHIEVER STRENGTH º DRIVEN TO ACHIEVE DIVINE RESTLESSNESS STAMINA TO WORK HARDER LIKES CERTIFICATIONS INSPIRED BY NEW PROJECTS FOCUSED ON QUALITY 104
  105. 105. Arranger The Arranger is like the conductor of asymphony. They can manage and organize all of thepeople and variables in a project. They are flexibleand, many times, make great multi-taskers.Arrangers can look at a complex situation, a complexproblem, or a complex team and arrange it—find theperfect configuration—which makes them greatleaders. Many NFL coaches have the Arrangertalent—the ability to create a winning team andcoaching staff. If you are looking for someone toorganize and develop a team, an Arranger is just theperson to do it. And Arrangers love big events, too.They can easily and efficiently organize meetings,conferences, or, on the personal side, their spousesfortieth birthday party. The Arranger will invite 105
  106. 106. everyone, cater the meal, and make sure that eachguest has a role in the party. Arrangers have theunique ability to use all kinds of resources at once. Arrangers struggle with a difficulty incommunicating why they have chosen a particularconfiguration. They work well when they partnerwith someone who can help them communicate ideasand explain decisions. Arrangers thrive withdeadlines—they need them to stay on track. As abenefit to others, timelines assure that the Arrangerwill not become overwhelmed by details. Arrangersare not big fans of routine—they like the excitementof complex projects, so they often overlook activitiesthat are simple or routine. Because this can be ahindrance, Arrangers should work to balance theirstrengths, perhaps with a strength partner. 106
  107. 107. REVIEWING THE ARRANGER STRENGTH º CONDUCTOR OF A SYMPHONY MANAGER OF ALL VARIABLES EFFECTIVE FLEXIBILITY SEEKING THE PERFECT CONFIGURATION BIG EVENT ORGANIZER RESOURCEFUL BORED WITH ROUTINE Belief People who have the strength of Belief possessstrong core values and are often considered“traditional.” Those with the Belief strength can bevery spiritual or religious, family-oriented, andtypically have a strong sense of ethics and integritywith characteristics of dependability and 107
  108. 108. trustworthiness. In my coaching experience, people with Belieftend to come from a spiritual background, and thoseprinciples, ethics, and strategies are woven into theirdaily lives. This is not to say that people with theBelief strength are automatically spiritual. Forexample, people with a background in Boy or GirlScouts have been taught the importance of integrityand the traditional values of being on time andprepared. People with Belief often feel that theirwork must be in line with their core values andbeliefs. If you try to put a person with the Beliefstrength into a work environment and their corevalues do not match that of the company, you have adisaster waiting to happen. On the other hand,people with the strength of Belief can help otherpeople on the team to find more meaning in theirwork. Believers are strong at helping others touch 108
  109. 109. with their values and the importance of making adifference in the work world. People with Belief benefit from having theirown life purpose statement. A purpose statementhelps people with Belief navigate their world andstay on course—like a compass. A purpose statementalso helps other team members understand theirleaders belief system. Its important to realize thatpeople with Belief are not typically motivated bymoney or prestige—they are motivated by making adifference in the world. They are motivated by thecore values that steer their lives, whether it isworking with breast cancer, going green, orparticipating at their church, temple, or mosque.However, those with the Belief strength are notalways verbal about their beliefs. This depends ontheir other strengths. If they are an Influencer, theymay enjoy sharing and communicating their values. 109
  110. 110. However, some Believers are very private andoftentimes, learning how to communicate and shareones voice without being judgmental is an importantcomponent of developing this strength. People withBelief may appear to be rigid or intolerant of otherpeople who have different belief systems. Thus,individuals with the Belief strength should watch outfor appearing critical or judgmental of people withdifferent values. REVIEWING THE BELIEF STRENGTH º STRONG CORE VALUES FAMILY-ORIENTED SPIRITUAL/HIGH ETHICS DEPENDABLE/TRUSTWORTHY NOT FOCUSED ON PRESTIGE 110
  111. 111. Consistency A person with the strength of Consistencybelieves life balance is a must. Beyond that, peoplewith Consistency treat others equally—they do notrecognize Prima Donnas or the idea that one personis better than anyone else. Individuals with thestrength of Consistency feel that all people deserverespect and should play by the same rules, whichmeans they usually root for the underdog. Thosewith Consistency want to ensure that everyone on theteam follows a clear set of guidelines. They wantcredit given where its due. A person withConsistency is great at recognizing other peoplesstrengths, celebrating them, and helping build self-esteem and self-confidence. They thrive at buildingteam spirit and rallying a group together—an 111
  112. 112. important strength to harness at home or in theworkplace. People with Consistency are strong atleveling the playing field and ensuring that no oneperson is treated better than another. But Consistent individuals must be willing totemper this strength and understand that there is atime and a place for individuality. If you overuseConsistency, you may ignore the needs or differencesof individuals. Leaders with Consistency should keepin mind that different peoples approaches to aproject may vary. Those with Consistency must learnhow to appreciate each persons unique style andfocus on whether the job gets done, not how it isdone. (On the other hand, people with Consistencyexcel at ensuring that organizations followcompliance rules—a task preferred by few.) In a largefamily, a matriarch with Consistency may not have aspecial, unique relationship with each individual 112
  113. 113. because of her group-focused mindset. She focuseson making sure that all the kids in the nest are fedand clothed the same—she narrows in onconsistency. REVIEWING THE CONSISTENCY STRENGTH º VALUES BALANCE TREATS OTHERS WITH EQUITY EMPHASIZES CLEAR GUIDELINES ROOTS FOR THE UNDERDOG ALWAYS GIVES DUE CREDIT LEVELS THE PLAYING FIELD STREAMLINES PERFORMANCE MONITORS INTERNAL AFFAIRS 113
  114. 114. Deliberative Individuals with the Deliberative strength canappear cautious and careful about decisions and, inrelationships, they may be private and reserved withtheir emotions. Deliberative individuals do not oftengive praise. Instead, Deliberators are focused onpotential risks, problems, and dangers inrelationships, at work, and in the world. Its theDeliberators job to find the mines—they thrive atdecreasing risks that may harm the workplace orother people. People with the Deliberative strengthare very practical in nature and do not think in termsof abstracts, but in concrete, practical terms.Deliberative people are intuitive—their brains pickup all the small details around them and, based onthis data, they intuitively avoid danger. Because they 114
  115. 115. like to think twice about decisions and double checkthat people have followed through, Deliberators havea tendency, if they overuse their strength, to micro-manage. And, because they are strong decisionmakers, Deliberative people may be seen asnaysayers. Its important to keep in mind thatDeliberators are not negative for the sake of beingnegative. When a Deliberator perceives danger, theytry to warn the group and encourage others to makewise decisions. Individuals with the Deliberativestrength help us avoid the mine fields that couldpotentially sabotage success and slow us down inrelationships. 115
  116. 116. REVIEWING THE DELIBERATIVE STRENGTH º CAREFUL/CAUTIOUS PRIVATE/RESERVED VIEWS LIFE AS A MINEFIELD LOOKS TO DECREASE RISK RIGOROUS THINKER INTUITIVE PRACTICAL Discipline People with the Discipline strength lovestructure and order. Disciplined individuals prefer tohave a plan and they enjoy executing precisestrategies. Individuals with the strength of Disciplinealso tend to desire control. Disciplined peoplefrequently look to control their environment, events 116
  117. 117. and activities, and relationships, which can be ahindrance in their pursuit of success. Part of theneed for order, control, structure, and precision isbecause Disciplined people have a great need forproductivity. Their need to maximize productionmakes them big fans of “To Do” lists at work andhome. Disciplined people create systems for howthey organize and file things. They are incrediblyefficient. Individuals with the Discipline strengthmust be careful not to miss moments of spontaneity.As counterintuitive as it seems, Disciplined peoplebenefit from learning how to “structure” spontaneityinto their lives—moments to do nothing, smell theroses, and simply enjoy life. Disciplined people struggle with mistakes andthey can be harsh or demanding with themselves andothers, too. My son, a tennis player with the strengthof Discipline, says, “Pain facilitates change.” 117
  118. 118. Disciplined people possess the mentality that paincreates success. Yet, change can be painful forindividuals with the strength of Discipline. Thosewith the Discipline strength need advance notice ofadjustments because their lives are so structured,both personally and professionally. A last minutechange can be difficult and stressful for theDisciplined person. They feel that, in order to besuccessful, they have to follow a routine and make ahabit of order in every aspect of their lives. Ordercomes naturally for Disciplined individuals, whichcan be a helpful strength in a team member. REVIEWING THE DISCIPLINE STRENGTH º VALUES STRUCTURE AND ORDER PRECISION PLANNER FEELS THE NEED FOR CONTROL 118
  119. 119. SCHEDULES ENTIRE LIFE CREATES SYSTEMS Focus Focus is my #1 strength. I believe I was bornwith Focus and I cultivated this strength when Istarted playing tennis. (Ive been playing tennis forthirty four years!) I remember one of the firstphrases I was taught as a tennis player: “Keep youreye on the ball.” Thats exactly what a person withFocus does—Focused individuals have the ability toconcentrate on their target and ask themselves eachday, “Where am I headed? Where am I going? Whatis my priority? What is my goal?” Focused individuals also have the ability tofilter out extraneous distractions, which is helpfulwhen they are setting goals for themselves or others. 119
  120. 120. Its one of the things I enjoy most as a life andbusiness coach—helping people set goals, not onlyfor their careers or businesses, but for theirmarriages, their relationships, and their lifestyles.People with Focus like to review their goals. Theyenjoy writing purpose statements. Goal-orientedpeople benefit from reviewing their goals daily inorder to finish what they start. For example, Focusedpeople are usually quite adept at summarizing ameeting when ten different people have shared theirthoughts. At the end of the meeting, they can quicklyand succinctly wrap up what the meeting was allabout, as well as assessing appropriates timelines ordeadlines. People with Focus like to prioritize before theyact. And, while they appear to procrastinate, theytend to do what I call incubating. Incubating meanssorting through different information and letting it 120
  121. 121. simmer and cook before acting. And people withFocus are very skilled at staying on track with theirstrengths and helping other people to stay on track,too. If a person overuses their Focus, which I havebeen known to do, they can get tunnel vision. Earlyon in my marriage, my wife and I would go to my in-laws and while I was reading a book on some topicthat I was focused on learning, they would oftencomplain, “Brent, you always have your nose in abook!” I had tunnel vision—I was so focused on mygoal that I had to learn how to focus on myrelationships, my family, and my other priorities.Balance is important. People with Focus mayemphasize their career goals and forget to payattention to their relationships with their kids ortheir spouse. Focused individuals must beware oftunnel vision. When interacting with a Focused person, keep 121
  122. 122. in mind that they may come across as unsentimentalor unemotional because they are so tenacious andfocused on their goals that they forget othersfeelings. This is not because they want to hurt others,but because the Focus strength makes them zero inon a different goal. REVIEWING THE FOCUS STRENGTH º INTENSE CONCENTRATION HELPS OTHERS SET GOALS PRIORITIZES THEN ACTS STAYS ON TASK UNSENTIMENTAL SUMMARIZES MEETINGS 122
  123. 123. Responsibility 2 Janelle is a Realtor, a broker, and one of mycoaching clients. She owns her own company and hasseveral other Realtors who work for her. Oh, andJanelle just had an $8 million dollar year! I believethat Janelles ability to be so successful in the midstof a struggling economy comes from her strength ofresponsibility—the ability to take psychologicalownership, not only in her work, but in her personallife. Janelles inner monologue is, “I need to be therock, I need to be dependable, I need to get it done.”People with Responsibility are very conscientious ofdetails, whether its completing complicatedpaperwork or noticing body language. Responsible2 Janelle graciously gave me permission use her story in this book. 123
  124. 124. individuals are also highly ethical and committed tofollowing the rules, not bucking the system. If a Responsible person drops the ball, forgetssomething, or makes a mistake, they will go out oftheir way to make it right. The danger in overusingthe Responsibility strength is feeling guilt over notdoing enough. People with the Responsibilitystrength are chronic volunteers. They struggle to sayno—they feel compelled to volunteer and beresponsible for the sake of the team or someoneimportant to them. Thus, people with Responsibilitymust learn how to balance “yes” and “no.”Responsible individuals should gravitate towardsareas where they can apply their other strengths,instead of saying “yes” to everything. Those withResponsibility should volunteer in their specialty,their niche—excelling and becoming an expert, notwatering down their strengths by doing too much for 124
  125. 125. too many people. Responsible individuals riskoverloading themselves or feeling burned out if theyare not able to balance “yes” and “no” and allowother people to take responsibility for their ownmistakes and shortcomings. Research shows thatResponsibility is the first of two strengths thatmanagers love in their employees. And wouldnt youlove to have a spouse that has the strength ofResponsibility? All the bills get paid on time, all thedetails get done. People with the strength ofResponsibility excel in their businesses andrelationships and prove themselves to bedependable. 125
  126. 126. REVIEWING THE RESPONSIBILITY STRENGTH º PSYCHOLOGICAL OWNERSHIP DEPENDABLE CONSCIENTIOUS HIGH ETHICS SEEKS JUSTICE FOR OTHERS SKILLED MANAGERS Restorative People with the Restorative strength love tosolve problems. They love to fix things. Restorers areenergized, not defeated, by problems, and they loveto find something that is broken, like a car, andrestore it to its original, pristine condition.Restorative individuals can also take a conceptualproblem—a malfunction in a computer or software 126
  127. 127. system, for example—and break that problem downuntil they find a solution. People with the Restorativestrength also love to fix personal problems. Theygravitate towards situations where they canrestore/bring a person “back to life.” Its importantfor the person with the Restorative strength to limitthe problems they fix, choosing the types of problemsthey become experts in, rather than trying to solve allof the worlds practical, conceptual, and personalproblems. An entrepreneur I coached had a marketingand computer company—Geeks for Rent—and heloved going to other business owners who had amarketing or computer program online and findingways to fix the problem. He applied this strength inhis relationships, too, listening to his daughter or hisfriends and paying attention to their body language,observing all of the little details in order to offer 127

×