GUEST AUTHOR BLOG by Marcus Buckingham author of "StandOut: The Groundbreaking New Strengths Assessment from the Leader of the Strengths Revolution."
As consumers, we are living in an era of automated customization. Born of the impossibly varied options we have to amuse ourselves, cutting-edge companies are finding innovative ways to tailor our entertainment choices to who we are, relieving us of the burden of finding the diamond in the rough of 500 TV channels or thousands of movies and music albums released every year.
Despite its recent missteps, Netflix is the paragon of this new breed of company. Once you’ve signed on, one of the first steps you go through is to rate a bunch of movies you’ve already seen. Based on your past preferences, Netflix proceeds to tell you what your future preferences may, in fact, be. Services such as Pandora and Spotify offer a very similar process to help people discover new music that suits their tastes. Google and Facebook, each in their own way, have revolutionized the delivery of advertising based on search and social networking, creating a sort of anti-Spam: targeted, relevant ads that a consumer might actually welcome rather than spurn.
All of this ingenuity has transformed the way we consume. It’s time to ask ourselves what would happen if we applied that same spark of innovation to the way we work. How can we customize our training and coaching to an individual’s needs as Netflix and Facebook have customized their products? We need to capture and share the best practices of top performers, and match those best practices with people best suited to use them.
The catch is that you have to individualize. You have to customize. Training would be easy and efficient if we could simply capture a top 10 list of innovative and productive behaviors derived from the best and the brightest, and simply hand them down, one size fits all. It isn’t that simple. The problem is that what is effective and authentic in the hands of one person can seem forced and foolish coming from another.
StandOut was built to customize the distribution of best practices to the individual. It begins by identifying which of 9 “strength Roles” are predominant in a person, and then it delivers different recommendations — for best career choices, for how to make an impact, for how to take performance to the next level, how to avoid pitfalls, and how to win as a leader or manager — based on those strength Roles.
Why strength Roles? Because an individual’s strengths have three direct impacts on performance.
First, they are an accelerant: people will simply learn faster in an area of strength. Second, they are a multiplier: people are more creative in their areas of strength, more collaborative, more innovative and more insightful. Third, strengths are a reinforcer. People are more resilient in areas of strength. If they experience a setback or poor performance in an area of strength, they bounce back faster because in that area they feel their highest level of self-confidence and self-efficacy.
There are 9 strength Roles, rather than 10, or 100, because when you study strengths, you find that they tend to constellate in certain recurring patterns. These 9 are the most common and the most inclusive of the widest range of people.
At first glance, talking about patterns may seem to be at odds with the idea of customizing training to each individual. But when we’re talking about learning and development, the most profitable and efficient approach is the middle ground between “everybody has the same abilities and can master the same techniques” and “everybody is unique and must be trained differently.” That middle ground consists of finding where people share things in common and then using that knowledge to pass along the best practices of high performers to those who can make the most of them: people with the same talents and strengths.
Innovation and best practices can be sown throughout an organization—but only when they fall on fertile ground. The best way to match the most effective practices to people who will be prepared to make the most of them is to match practices to people’s strengths.
About the author: Marcus Buckingham, founder of The Marcus Buckingham Company, is a best-selling author with more than 3.7 million copies of his landmark best sellers in print. He has been profiled in the New York Times, Fortune, Fast Company, Harvard Business, and USA Today. The Thinkers50 named him as one of the top ten best and brightest management thinkers in the world.
Marcus spent nearly two decades at the Gallup Organization pioneering research into personal strengths and has developed strengths-based business solutions for some of the world’s most recognizable brands, such as Best Buy, Disney, and Toyota. Buckingham graduated from Cambridge University in 1987 with a master’s degree in social and political science. He is a member of the Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on Leadership and Management.
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