R_Ganesh Profile picture
Jan 23, 2018 34 tweets 7 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Twelve years of trying to grok #strengths approach and helping others apply it to their #career situations has taught a few things that others seem to miss or be misled by other flavors so here is a thread
I like to call it the Buckingham-Gallup strengths approach as elucidated in two books: Now Discover Your Strengths (NDYS) and Go Put Your Strengths to Work (GPYSTW)
I am not super-impressed by the credentialing around this by Gallup or other variants from Marcus. There are two other flavors that are very different and not as useful for career thinking
One is positive psychology guru Martin Seligman's character strengths (causing confusion when shortened to strengths) and another is the ancient SWOT analysis (too basic, no standards, tends to give equal weight to S and W)
To me @ribbonfarm writing about the "coming triumph" of strengths was an indicator that it was a non-trivial framework that anticipated the zeitgeist of corporate career conundrums and helped even the burgeoning free agent community bit.ly/2C7X933
One big aha moment of NDYS was the differentiation of knowledge and skills, and of these two from 'talent themes' (unsticky name) or personality tendencies (does not matter whether you are a type or trait theory follower)
Knowledge can be conceptual or experiential (definition of knowledge is for philosophers, here we are discussing a practical utilitarian framework and assume that you know what is knowledge)
Skill was crisply defined as the step-wise instructions to accomplish a task to an acceptable or good standard. Having a skill gets you in the game, does not take you to excellence
Don't confuse by talking of highest level of skill, mastery level skill and so on. The crux of the strengths approach was the magic-like level of consistent excellence in a particular activity that requires something more than skill+knowledge
The problem in understanding this is created by the loose definitions of skills (sets us up to have unreasonable expectations) and the use of competency frameworks (deficiency-hunting and gap fixing) prevalent in the past few decades
As one #HR professor at a less-known B-school in Mumbai astutely observed, "the strengths approach is actually saying the opposite of the traditional competency-based thinking, isn't it?" Yes. Yes. Yes.
Traditional competency thinking is what has ruined performance review discussions to the caricature of, "You are doing okay in this, very good at that but…" and the long, real appraisal starts after that dreaded "but…"
It encourages identifying and pinpointing something or the other out of a huge list of broadly-covered-but-defined-in-detail competencies where a person is not doing well or doing badly and obsessing on it as area of improvement
Areas of improvement or even calling it by its real intended name--weaknesses--may be a necessary part of the journey toward excellence but remedies never take us to excellence
As @marcusbuckingham eloquently (it is a joy to listen to him say it in his still-very-British accent) says the opposite of weakness is not strength. Fixing gaps does not build something else automatically
Identifying talent themes and building strengths with them takes a set of activities that are markedly different from plugging holes/weaknesses that could be constraining factors. #Coaching profession already had a strengths flavor and quickly adapted
First of all, not all weaknesses need to be worried about. Most excellent achievers have bag loads of weaknesses but their true strength areas compensate for those and help achieve outcomes
The world is more forgiving of our foibles and quirky weaknesses when we invest in getting extremely good at something of value. This does not condone obnoxious qualities, just warns us not to obsess with minor ones
Weakness-fixing orientation is especially crippling when we benchmark every type of activity to someone who has a natural liking for certain kinds of behavior and has invested years in honing related skills
Finding smart workarounds to those weaknesses that prevent us from getting needed results is what achievers do. Examples of workaround: partnering, fnding creative/fun alternatives to mitigate the consequences, installing habits to remember what we ignore
Others may find it silly that we need reminders to do something that they so obviously find natural and important. But that is exactly the point of the strengths approach. Any of the personality profiling tools can help understand this
An MBTI 'S' type glosses over conceptual clarity or a 'T' type needs discipline to not overlook the emotions of other people when taking an oh-so-logical decision. A DISC C type cannot fathom how someone keeps breaking a procedural rule
Instead of agonizingly trying to totally overcome some predisposition, we could identify the driving forces inside us and then complement it with skills+knowledge that achieves amazing outcomes within the defined parameters
The limiting factor is the waking time available. Every day or week if I beat myself up to do the opposite of my natural preferences it is opportunity loss for finding channels to up my game on things I can work upon
Remember we are discussing a practical framework for excellence so extreme examples of ignoring learning or adverse behavior would not help here. They do not invalidate the essence of the strengths approach (cue click-baity "dark side of strengths" articles)
Sure, on the path to developing a new strength, there would be feedback, trial and error, focusing on things that need to be corrected and so on. Usually this is in the skill-building and knowledge gap crossing stage
Remedial training and training need analysis are okay as long as we are gaining an essential skill or knowledge to a minimal level but calling every aspect of a person's demeanor or preference a trainable skill has only kept trainers busy and profitable
The good message from GPYSTW was that profiling tools (even Gallup's alluringly but misleadingly named StrengthsFinder) are useful but optional. Because you can discover it yourself. You feel it in you when you are experiencing joy and #flow
One silly reaction on immediately getting the strengths concept is to then say, I only need to more and more of this and avoid/stop all those other boring or difficult things
Real life anyway intervenes. Plus, over a period of time, you realize that the underlying foundation is human characteristics, not domain-specific or role-specific or bound to any culture
Another key message not well understood by many is that talent themes or traits or type are codifiable to some extent and that is what psychologists have done
But strengths are not something to list. Strengths according to the classic strengths approach are very granular and context-specific. They cannot be phrases but long statements
This is what trips up most people when trying to understand and apply the strengths approach. Elaborating this point requires another tweetstorm--perhaps, another day. Read GPYSTW and NDYS meanwhile (avoid all subsequent books from the same gurus)
I put out a version of these thoughts as a text document along with my first visual (sketchnote they call them these days) on SlideShare here: bit.ly/2liDoeD and here: bit.ly/2m6DCaK

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with R_Ganesh

R_Ganesh Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Don't want to be a Premium member but still want to support us?

Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal

Or Donate anonymously using crypto!


0xfe58350B80634f60Fa6Dc149a72b4DFbc17D341E copy


3ATGMxNzCUFzxpMCHL5sWSt4DVtS8UqXpi copy

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!