Friday, September 25, 2009

Serving with strength/s

Sometimes info is viral, and it comes from several sources at once. I can't remember the blog where I saw the book or who else mentioned it. I bought it for one cent (plus $3.99 shipping), and logged onto the Gallup website for the "Five Strengths" test.

"Do you have the old or new version?" they asked. I clicked on the old one, of course. For one penny, c'mon.

When the old version was written, Gallup based findings on two million interviews in pursuit of 34 patterns of innate strengths. These inherent talents were positive traits, worthy of development. Jobs matching these strengths with a person's interests should be satisfying and energizing.

Now Discover Your Strengths points out that most job training is designed to bolster employees' weaknesses. Are we bad at fundraising? Take a course. Weak at organization? Learn from a seminar. Unable to sustain healthy relationships? Go to a self-help workshop.

Instead, the book proposes that strengths ought to be the cornerstones on which we build life and work. Their survey pops out my five signature themes (their wording):
1. Ideation: Fascinated by concepts, delighted to discover underlying connections, turning ideas around for a fresh look. Don't mind if they seem profound or bizarre in process.
2. Activator: "When can we start?" Make a decision. Act. Look at the result. Learn. Not adverse to risk or experiment.
3. Strategic: Sort clutter to find the best route. "This can't be taught but [is a] distinctive way of thinking" (115). Perspective on the world at large. Choose a path by watching where it could lead. "Select. Strike."
4. Achiever: Constant drive fueled by internal fire, jolt that starts new tasks, set the pace and productivity for work group.
5. Command: Take charge, no discomfort in imposing views on others. Share opinions when they're formed, align others with you. "Not frightened by confrontation, but see it as first step to resolution." Challenge others to clear-eyed honesty. May even intimidate others. (Sigh)

I read these and the strengths I don't have. The book puts all in positive light. Train for maximum application and health of your "signature themes," the book advises. Spend less time trying to become someone you're not. Sounds a lot like my dad's advice!

Nothing on the list is a surprise, because the patterns are constant since childhood. What interests me (#1) is how many of the other strengths I wish I had... but know I don't. I have tried to foster them (#3), some with limited or little success. All that striving might be the achiever in me (#4). HA

Since the test cuts off at five strengths, there's no way of telling if I am also a connector, relator, maximizer, learner, or communicator. It's pretty clear that I'm not a deliberative (careful with praise, vigilant, private), harmony-producing (peacemaking), woo-er of people (people-pleaser). Oh dear. Oh well.

I'm happy I have something new to think about this morning (#1), before I turn toward my findings (#2) and decide what to do (#3). I wonder what goals this info will help me reach (#4) and where I can apply it (#5). Okay, okay.

One or two people who blogged about the book said the theory was a bunch of nonsense because "we don't think it applies to us." I think the ideas are fascinating (#1)...

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