Stephen’s Self-Assessment Arcade


The book First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Best Managers Do Differently is written about and for business managers. The authors, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, are in the consulting practice of The Gallup Organization. The rules that the authors recommend breaking are conventionally accepted rules of management such as: Messrs. Buckingham and Coffman support their assault on these and other tenets with the results of interviews with over eighty thousand of the best managers identified by clients of The Gallup Organization, as well as thousands of less accomplished managers. They then compared the answers to look for patterns that differentiate the best from the rest.

What the authors found was that the best managers do not try to help people overcome weaknesses. Instead, they want to build on strengths. When staffing, the best managers look for personal attributes in the candidates that match their requirements and that vary among candidates independently of skills and experience. The authors call these attributes talents; they define talent as “a recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied.” They go on to assert that every job, at an excellent level of performance requires talent because an excellent level of performance requires the recurring application of some patterns of thought, feeling or behavior.
Examples of Talents
Striving Talents
A drive that is internal, constant, and self-imposed
A need to expend physical energy
Capacity for physical endurance
A need to gauge your success comparatively
A need to claim significance through independence, excellence, risk, and recognition
A need for expertise or mastery
A need to orient your life around certain prevailing values
A drive to put your beliefs into action
A drive to be of service to others
A clear understanding of right and wrong which guides your actions
A drive to paint value-based word pictures about the future
Thinking Talents
An ability to set goals and to use them every day to guide actions
A need to impose structure onto life and work Arranger: An ability to orchestrate
Work Orientation
A need to mentally rehearse and review
A need to see order and accuracy
A need to assume personal accountability for your work
An ability to develop a framework by which to make sense of things
Performance Orientation
A need to be objective and to measure performance
Strategic Thinking
An ability to play out alternative scenarios in the future
Business Thinking
The financial application of the strategic thinking talent
Problem Solving
An ability to think things through with incomplete data
An ability to find coherent patterns within incoherent data sets
An affinity for numbers
An ability to break existing configurations in favor of more effective/appealing ones
Relating Talents
A need to gain the approval of others
An ability to identify the feelings and perspectives of others
A need to build bonds that last
An ability to build an extensive network of acquaintances
An ability to purposely capitalize upon relationships
Individualized Perception
An awareness of and attentiveness to individual differences
A need to invest in others and to derive satisfaction in so doing
An ability to create enthusiasm and drama
A need to build feelings of mutual support
A need to look on the bright side
An ability to persuade others logically
An ability to take charge
An impatience to move others to action
An ability to use emotion to overcome resistance
From First, Break All the Rules, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, Appendix C

Moreover, Messrs. Buckingham and Coffman maintain that talent cannot be taught. Instead, the staffing manager must select people who already have the required talents in order to have an organizational unit that will be capable of excellence.

So If It Can’t Be Taught, …?

Let’s turn this idea inside out. Here I am speaking not to the hiring manager, but to anyone who wants to be selected by the hiring manager. What Messrs. Buckingham and Coffman are saying is that the corporation cannot and should not own talent development in individuals. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s concede to them their point.

This means that I own the development of my talent. If talent cannot be taught, it has to be learned.

If, for example, I want to build a career in sales, I have two choices:

  1. I can take whatever package of talents I currently have out into the sales world and hope for the best;
  2. I can think about what talents I do and do not have, compare them to what excellence in sales requires, and construct and implement a self-development plan that will remediate my shortages in any talents that are essential to sales.
Consider a person who is weak in empathy; he does not relate to the perspectives and feeling of others, particularly when different from his own. In a selling situation, he will not relate to the perspectives and feelings of the prospects, which will make it difficult to overcome objections and close sales.

Using the first plan above, he might be able to be successful for a while, particularly in a good economic climate. Or he might get lucky and find a company whose product basically sells itself, like Xerox copiers in 1970. Or he might find a manager who makes a personal project out of him. But it is foolhardy to depend on any of these events, akin to the lotto retirement plan (i.e., “I play lotto and will use my future winnings as a retirement fund.”).

Using the second plan above, he has to identify the fact that he is weak in empathy and, knowing this, create and execute a plan to improve his abilities to an effective level. It won’t be easy, but it is the most probable path to a sustainable successful outcome.

The list of talents reproduced above is by no means complete, but it provides a starting point. Use it to think about what you have and what you want to do. Identify any missing talents in your own inventory and attack the problem.

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first, break all the rulesFirst, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Best Managers Do Differently

Last modified Monday, 14-Jul-2014 16:38:18 EDT

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