Buckingham argues that the Strength Movement is not about changing people, but helping them to become more of who they already are. “Guided by the belief that good is the opposite of bad, mankind has, for centuries, pursued its fixation with fault and failing. Doctors have studied disease in order to learn about health. Psychologists have investigated sadness in order to learn about joy. Therapists have looked into the causes of divorce in order to learn about happy marriage. And in school and workplaces around the world, each one of us has been encouraged to identify, analyze, and correct our weaknesses in order to become strong. This advice is well intended but misguided. Faults and failings deserve study, but they reveal little about strengths,” he states. Strengths, just like health and joy, have their own patterns.
He should know: “After years of researching and studying strengths, I look around and see that we still live in a world that is obsessed with remedying weaknesses. There is no place where this is more disconcerting than in our schools. Most people end up reaching adulthood with no idea of what their strengths might be; but they are painfully aware of their failings.”**
Buckingham was a senior vice president of The Gallup Organization for seventeen years and while there pioneered the research that led him to understand the special quality each of us are born with – our Strengths – our natural passions and unique capabilities. “Learning to identify them, describe them, apply them, practice them and refine them is at the heart of the “strengths movement.”
In 2006, he was invited by a group of students to visit their private school so they could show him how they were integrating a “strengths-based” program. What he found was that the entire organization was set up to build on the strengths of both students and teachers. Buckingham states that the school was “quite unlike any school I had ever encountered, and the Head of School, Jenifer Fox, is determined to ensure that the success her students experienced transcends their New Jersey campus.” As a parent of young children, Buckingham continues to be a strong proponent for changing the landscape from one that focuses on deficiency to one based on encouraging and developing a student’s innate strengths.
Marcus Buckingham has dedicated his career to helping individuals discover and capitalize on their personal strengths. He persuasively argues that people are dramatically more effective, fulfilled and successful when they are able to focus on the best of themselves. While at The Gallup Organization, Buckingham studied the world’s best managers and organizations to investigate what drives great performance. His research laid the foundation for a string of New York Times best-selling books that use empirical data to challenge preconceptions about achievement. First, Break All the Rules (co-authored with Curt Coffman) kicked things off in 1999, followed by Now, Discover Your Strengths (co-authored with Donald Clifton, 2001), The One Thing You Need to Know (2005), Go Put Your Strengths to Work (2007) and The Truth About You (2008). Buckingham’s latest book, Find Your Strongest Life: What the World’s Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently, was inspired by the overwhelming response to his appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
** From Marcus Buckingham’s Forward in Your Child’s Strengths, by Jenifer Fox. © 2008 Viking/Penguin Group.
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