Graduate Management News

The One Thing You Need to Know

How much of your day do you spend playing to your strengths? According to Marcus Buckingham, author of The One Thing You Need to Know and keynote speaker for the 2006 GMAC Annual Industry Conference, it’s probably somewhere around 15%. In other words, he said, not enough.

Based on years of Gallup® research, Buckingham believes that finding what is unique about an individual and capitalizing on it is the key to success, whether you’re managing your own career or other people. However, he will grant that everyone has to spend part of the workday doing things they dislike.

“I’ll give you 25% of the day to do these things,” Buckingham said. The rest of the day, he says, should be spent playing to your strengths. And the same goes for the people who work for you, and those who will work for your alumni. “You join companies,” he said, “but you leave managers.”

It’s the manager’s job to turn each person’s talent into performance, Buckingham advised. In any industry, managers make the difference, and a company has as many cultures as it has supervisors. Successful managers will disregard the following three myths:

  1. As you grow, your personality changes.
  2. You will grow the most where you’re weakest.
  3. A good team player will pitch in anywhere they can.

In truth, he said, you become more of who you already are as you grow, you will grow most in your area of greatest strength, and you will contribute more to any team when you offer up your strengths. These myths can be recognized behind the employee evaluation and development process, Buckingham noted. We look for what is wrong and should be fixed instead of spotting a colleague’s strengths and encouraging them.

“We act as though improving something bad will make it good,” he said, “but bad inverted is just…not bad.”

Buckingham urged the audience to find their greatest strengths and focus on them. “What makes you feel strong?” he asked. “What do you look forward to? What takes your whole attention? What leaves you feeling energized instead of drained?” It’s not about what you’re good at as much as it is about what you love.

“Try to make tomorrow a stronger day than today.”


© 2006 Graduate Management Admission Council™ (GMAC™). All rights reserved.
GMAC™ and Graduate Management Admission Council™ are registered trademarks of the Graduate Management Admission Council™ (GMAC™). Gallup® is a registered trademark of Gallup, Inc.
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