Monday, 22 November 2010

Drucker on Strengths

Continuing on the subject of the history of the strengths philosophy, if you haven't read Managing Oneself, Peter Drucker's seminal work on the subject, written for the Harvard Business Review in 1999, I suggest you do so. How about this to whet the appetite:

Most people think they know what they are good at. They are usually wrong. More often, people know what they are not good at - and even then more people are wrong than right. And yet, a person can perform only from strength. One cannot build performance on weaknesses, let alone on something one cannot do at all.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Strengths Philosophers

It was a great pleasure to attend the inaugural meeting of The Strengths Foundation last week at the HQ of QVC in London. We heard from 3 speakers who told their story of how taking a strengths approach to leading and developing people had transformed their business. Against the current economic backdrop, to have delivered the level of change that we heard about, create a more positive place to work and deliver bottom line results is astonishing and a great illustration of the power of applying a strengths lens to change.

We also heard about some of the history of the strengths movement and given that my research had taken me no further back in time than Bernard Haldane (1945) , I left inspired to find out some more. A quick search on google took me to, guess what, The Strengths Foundation website and this page on strengths philosophers in particular.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The Strengths Foundation

Mike Pegg has once again performed a minor miracle with his new site, the Strengths Foundation . The Foundation aims to share the strengths approach. It aims to provide a stimulating resource that people, teams and organisations can use:
• To build on their strengths
• To set specific goals
• To achieve their picture of success.
The Foundation is 'agnostic' inasmuch that it offers a portal that provides people with an overview of the many approaches to working with strengths and in this sense it is unique. Although still in its infancy the site is packed with resources and information. Take a look.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Van Commenee

I love Sportsweek (Radio 5, 8.30am on Sundays). This weeks programme featured an interview with Charles Van Commenee (the whole programme can be found at the BBC website but you cannot get to his bit in isolation). He was asked to respond to various articles that have featured in the press about his tough approach to coaching. He did a great job describing how he adapts his approach based on the strengths of each individual, as you would expect.

Here are a couple of the articles that have been in circulation in case you haven’t seen them: one highlights other tough talking coaches; the other disputes the effectiveness of a tough approach in sport and contrasts the styles of Van Commenee and Andy Flower in particular.

…this has reminded me of the requirement to truly understand the strengths of each person we coach if we are to effectively stimulate them to perform to their potential in organisations. A 'one size fit's all approach' will always limit the scope of what an individual can achieve through coaching?

Thursday, 27 May 2010


While wrestling with the tricky issue of helping a client to reach the point where he felt he would benefit from soliciting some feedback around his leadership performance, I came across a recent blog post from Tom Peters on the subject of self-awareness in leaders. It led me towards the conclusion that the ability to understand, exploit and develop our strengths, and commit to a plan for managing our weaknesses, may just be the most essential of all leadership attributes. Tom appears to have never agreed with Jim Collins that in reaching for the top, ‘Level 5’ leaders demonstrate a high degree of humility along with their strong will. However, a willingness to listen; take feedback on the impact of our behaviour; and to recognise that our talent is often not enough, surely requires a degree of modesty and respect. Our performance and the performance of others depends on this?

Wednesday, 31 March 2010


Encouraged by a colleague I committed to reading Dan Pink’s 'Drive' over the last few days. Not really a hardship as it is superb and relevant. It seems Dan is another one of these authors (like Gladwell and Robinson) who are brilliant at pulling together old ideas and putting a new and entertaining ‘face’ on them. Pink draws heavily on George Leonard’s work on 'Mastery' (but strangely does not appear to acknowledge him). I went back to this wonderful book again and re-discovered a section in which he encourages learners to love the learning ‘plateau’ and to expect it. It struck me that helping people to enjoy the process rather than continuously striving for the final product could be a key for me in supporting them as they develop their strengths and discover new way to get them into action . As Leonard says, life for people who can do this can be ‘especially vivid and satisfying.’

Monday, 22 March 2010

Performance and Strengths

My colleagues at K2 Performance Systems have created a first class blog highlighting issues that connect elite performance in sport with the workplace. In this recent post they provide us with a simple question that captures the essence of the relationship between strengths and performance: How easily can you list your strengths? Take a look.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Sir Alex

I have never really been a lover of Manchester United and consequently Sir Alex - my brother was a fan when we were growing up so how could I be! However, it was great see him show a little humility this week when describing how the team had used Wayne Rooney poorly last season in a recent Daily Telegraph article. Asking a £30m player to play out of position for the best part of season, and leave much of his core ability under-utilised, strikes me as poor management. In the article he also refers to AC Milan's misuse of David Beckham in their recent encounter at the San Siro - playing him in the centre of midfield and failing to exploit his natural ability to deliver with pace and accuracy from the right. Such high profile (and expensive) errors serve to remind us that talent management must start with understanding peoples strengths and creating a plan for exploiting them on behalf of the team (or business). Rooney's game and the teams results indicate that they have it right now, but it may just be a little too late for Beckham?

Friday, 29 January 2010

Tom Peters brought the term Excellence into our consciousness some 25 years ago now. In a new blog post on Tom's site, Seth Godin kicks off an insightful dialogue on what we mean when we use the term. For individuals and organisations who are serious about striving for Excellence a good place to start might be to explore and and identify where our existing talents lie - what we have a unique flair for. We can then plan to exploit these strengths in the knowledge that we have a solid and dependable foundation upon which to build.

Monday, 25 January 2010


I found this excellent list of synonyms for strengths the other day: backbone, body, brawn, brute force, clout, courage, durability, energy, firmness, force, fortitude, hardiness, health, lustiness, might, muscle, nerve, physique, potency, power, powerhouse, robustness, security, sinew, soundness, stability, stableness, stalwartness, steadiness, steamroller, stoutness, strong arm, sturdiness, substance, tenacity, toughness, verdure, vigor, vim, vitality and zip.

Having reviewed some rather dry definitions of strengths in the business literature recently I thought this list brought the essence of the term to life brilliantly. I wonder if there are others words that might strengthen the list and take us towards a definition that might excite?