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Introduction: The Strengths Revolution at Work

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 schools 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. Strengths have their own patterns.

To excel in your chosen field and to find lasting satisfaction in doing so, you will need to understand your unique patterns. You will need to become an expert at finding and describing and applying and practicing and refining your strengths. So as you read this book, shift your focus. Suspend whatever interest you may have in weakness and instead explore the intricate detail of your strengths. Take the StrengthsFinder Profile. Learn its language. Discover the source of your strengths.

If by the end of the book you have developed your expertise in what is right about you and your employees, this book will have served its purpose.

The Revolution

"What are the two assumptions on which great organizations must be built?"

We wrote this book to start a revolution, the strengths revolution. At the heart of this revolution is a simple decree: The great organization must not only accommodate the fact that each employee is different, it must capitalize on these differences. It must watch for clues to each employee's natural talents and then position and develop each employee so that his or her talents are transformed into bona fide strengths. By changing the way it selects, measures, develops, and channels the careers of its people, this revolutionary organization must build its entire enterprise around the strengths of each person.

And as it does, this revolutionary organization will be positioned to dramatically outperform its peers. In our latest metaanalysis The Gallup Organization asked this question of 198,000 employees working in 7,939 business units within 36 companies: At work do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day? We then compared the responses to the performance of the business units and discovered the following: When employees answered "strongly agree" to this question, they were 50 percent more likely to work in business units with lower employee turnover, 38 percent more likely to work in more productive business units, and 44 percent more likely to work in business units with higher customer satisfaction scores. And over time those business units that increased the number of employees who strongly agreed saw comparable increases in productivity, customer loyalty, and employee retention. Whichever way you care to slice the data, the organization whose employees feel that their strengths are used every day is more powerful and more robust.

This is very good news for the organization that wants to be on the vanguard of the strengths revolution. Why? Because most organizations remain startlingly inefficient at capitalizing on the strengths of their people. In Gallup's total database we have asked the "opportunity to do what I do best" question of more than 1.7 million employees in 101 companies from 63 countries. What percentage do you think strongly agrees that they have an opportunity to do what they do best every day? What percentage truly feels that their strengths are in play?

Twenty percent. Globally, only 20 percent of employees working in the large organizations we surveyed feel that their strengths are in play every day. Most bizarre of all, the longer an employee stays with an organization and the higher he climbs the traditional career ladder, the less likely he is to strongly agree that he is playing to his strengths.

Alarming though it is to learn that most organizations operate at 20 percent capacity, this discovery actually represents a tremendous opportunity for great organizations. To spur high-margin growth and thereby increase their value, great organizations need only focus inward to find the wealth of unrealized capacity that resides in every single employee. Imagine the increase in productivity and profitability if they doubled this number and so had 40 percent of their employees strongly agreeing that they had a chance to use their strengths every day. Or how about tripling the number? Sixty percent of employees saying "strongly agree" isn't too aggressive a goal for the greatest organizations.

How can they achieve this? Well, to begin with they need to understand why eight out of ten employees feel somewhat miscast in their role. What can explain this widespread inability to position people -- in particular senior people who have had the chance to search around for interesting roles -- to play to their strengths?

The simplest explanation is that most organizations' basic assumptions about people are wrong. We know this because for the last thirty years Gallup has been conducting research into the best way to maximize a person's potential. At the heart of this research are our interviews with eighty thousand managers -- most excellent, some average -- in hundreds of organizations around the world. Here the focus was to discover what the world's best managers (whether in Bangalore or Bangor) had in common. We described our discoveries in detail in the book First, Break All the Rules, but the most significant finding was this: Most organizations are built on two flawed assumptions about people:

I. Each person can learn to be competent in almost anything.

2. Each person's greatest room for growth is in his or her areas of greatest weakness.

Presented so baldly, these two assumptions seem too simplistic to be commonly held, so let's play them out and see where they lead. If you want to test whether or not your organization is based on these assumptions, look for these characteristics:

  • Your organization spends more money on training people once they are hired than on selecting them properly in the first place.
  • Your organization focuses the performance of its employees by legislating work style. This means a heavy emphasis on work rules, policies, procedures, and "behavioral competencies."
  • Your organization spends most of its training time and money on trying to plug the gaps in employees' skills or competencies. It calls these gaps "areas of opportunity." Your individual development plan, if you have one, is built around your "areas of opportunity," your weaknesses.
  • Your organization promotes people based on the skills or experiences they have acquired. After all, if everyone can learn to be competent in almost anything, those who have learned the most must be the most valuable. Thus, by design, your organization gives the most prestige, the most respect, and the highest salaries to the most experienced well-rounded people.


Finding an organization that doesn't have these characteristics is more difficult than finding one that does. Most organizations take their employees' strengths for granted and focus on minimizing their weaknesses. They become expert in those areas where their employees struggle, delicately rename these "skill gaps" or "areas of opportunity," and then pack them off to training classes so that the weaknesses can be fixed. This approach is occasionally necessary: If an employee always alienates those around him, some sensitivity training can help; likewise, a remedial communication class can benefit an employee who happens to be smart but inarticulate. But this isn't development, it is damage control. And by itself damage control is a poor strategy for elevating either the employee or the organization to world-class performance.

As long as an organization operates under these assumptions, it will never capitalize on the strengths of each employee.

To break out of this weakness spiral and to launch the strengths revolution in your own organization, you must change your assumptions about people. Start with the right assumptions, and everything else that follows from them -- how you select, measure, train, and develop your people -- will be right. These are the two assumptions that guide the world's best managers:

I. Each person's talents are enduring and unique.

2. Each person's greatest room for growth is in the areas of his or her greatest strength.

These two assumptions are the foundation for everything they do with and for their people. These two assumptions explain why great managers are careful to look for talent in every role, why they focus people's performances on outcomes rather than forcing them into a stylistic mold, why they disobey the Golden Rule and treat each employee differently, and why they spend the most time with their best people. In short, these two assumptions explain why the world's best managers break all the rules of conventional management wisdom.

Now, following the great managers' lead, it is time to change the rules. These two revolutionary assumptions must serve as the central tenets for a new way of working. They are the tenets for a new organization, a stronger organization, an organization designed to reveal and stretch the strengths of each employee.

Most organizations have a process for ensuring the efficient use of their practical resources. Six Sigma or ISO 9000 processes are commonplace. Likewise, most organizations have increasingly efficient processes for exploiting their financial resources. The recent fascination with metrics such as economic value added and return on capital bear testament to this. Few organizations, however, have developed a systematic process for the efficient use of their human resources. (They may experiment with individual development plans, 360-degree surveys, and competencies, but these experiments are mostly focused on fixing each employee's weaknesses rather than building his strengths.)

In this book we want to show you how to design a systematic strength-building process. Specifically, Chapter 7, "Building a Strengths-based Organization," can help. Here we describe what the optimum selection system looks like, which three outcomes all employees should have on their scorecard, how to reallocate those misguided training budgets, and, last, how to change the way you channel each employee's career.

If you are a manager and want to know how best to capitalize on the strengths of your individual direct reports, then Chapter 6, "Managing Strengths," will help. Here we identify virtually every ability or style you might find in your people and explain what you can do to maximize the strengths of each employee.

However, we don't start there. We start with you. What are your strengths? How can you capitalize on them? What are your most powerful combinations? Where do they take you? What one, two, or three things can you do better than ten thousand other people? These are the kinds of questions we will deal with in the first five chapters. After all, you can't lead a strengths revolution if you don't know how to find, name, and develop your own.

Two Million Interviews

"Whom did Gallup interview to learn about human strengths?"

Imagine what you might learn if you could interview two million people about their strengths. Imagine interviewing the world's best teachers and asking them how they keep children so interested in what might otherwise be dry subject matter. Imagine asking them how they build such trusting relationships with so many different children. Imagine asking them how they balance fun and discipline in the classroom. Imagine asking them about all the things they do that make them so very good at what they do.

And then imagine what you could learn if you did the same with the world's best doctors and salespeople and lawyers (yes, they can be found) and professional basketball players and stockbrokers and accountants and hotel housekeepers and leaders and soldiers and nurses and pastors and systems engineers and chief executives. Imagine all those questions and, more important, all those vivid answers.

Over the last thirty years The Gallup Organization has conducted a systematic study of excellence wherever we could find it. This wasn't some mammoth poll. Each of those interviews (a little over two million at the last count, of which the eighty thousand managers from First, Break All the Rules were a small part) consisted of open-ended questions like the ones mentioned above. We wanted to hear these excellent performers describe in their own words exactly what they were doing.

In all these different professions we found a tremendous diversity of knowledge, skill, and talent. But as you might suspect, we soon began to detect patterns. We kept looking and listening, and gradually we extracted from this wealth of testimony thirty-four patterns, or "themes," as we have called them. These thirty-four are the most prevalent themes of human talent. Our research tells us that these thirty-four, in their many combinations, can do the best job of explaining the broadest possible range of excellent performance.

These thirty-four do not capture every single human idiosyncrasy -- individuals are too infinitely varied for that kind of claim. So think of these thirty-four as akin to the eighty-eight keys on a piano. The eighty-eight keys cannot play every single note that can possibly be played, but in their many combinations they can capture everything from classic Mozart to classic Madonna. The same applies to these thirty-four themes. Used with insight and understanding they can help capture the unique themes playing in each person's life.

To be most helpful we offer you a way to measure yourself on these thirty-four themes. We ask you to pause after reading Chapter 3 and take a profile called StrengthsFinder that is available on the Internet. It will immediately reveal your five dominant themes of talent, your signature themes. These signature themes are your most powerful sources of strength. If you want to learn about the themes of your employees or family or friends, you can read Chapter 4 and learn about each of the thirty-four. But initially our main focus is you. By identifying and refining these signature themes you will be in the best possible position to play out your own strengths to the fullest.

As you study these five themes and consider ways to apply what you have learned, keep this thought in mind: The real tragedy of life is not that each of us doesn't have enough strengths, it's that we fail to use the ones we have. Benjamin Franklin called wasted strengths "sundials in the shade." As you can see, the impetus of this book is that too many organizations, too many teams, and too many individuals unknowingly hide their "sundials in the shade."

We want this book and your experiences while reading it to cast a light and thereby put your strengths to work.

Copyright © 2001 by The Gallup Organization --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.

Revue de presse

"The importance of this book is its stress on concentrating on people's strengths. The book should be reading for any manager who is really concerned to retain and develop his or her best people. This, and only this, will be the major differentiator for organisations in the future."
- Dr. John Hunt, London Business School --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.

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Format: Broché
La proposition peut paraître simpliste : s'appuyer sur ses forces plutôt que de s'evertuer à combler ses faiblesses.
Et pourtant ... la lecture de ce livre et les tests on-line proposés permettent de mieux connaître ses domaines de prédilection et donc de les développer pour progresser.
Les descriptions des différentes forces permettent aussi de mieux appréhender les comportements de leurs possesseurs ce qui s'avère utile pour une gestion d'équipe.
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I have already bought this book 7-8 times for family & friends. Some companies buy thousands of them for their employees. The psychological approach is great as it focuses on your strength, not trying to develop your weaknesses. STRONGLY recommended for anyone between 15 and 45 years old. Also for your children !
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Practical insights, recommendations for managers, entrepreneurs and all of us in the world of work that want to know how to live and work better. Great recommendations for HR people.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x90c3eec4) étoiles sur 5 699 commentaires
182 internautes sur 184 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x90cdda5c) étoiles sur 5 MUST BUY NEW 21 novembre 2003
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
This is a great book, I recommend it to all.
VERY IMPORTANT. You must buy this book new in order to take the online test. I purchased a used book through the marketplace (always and excellent experience by the way) so the code has already been used. Now I have to spend the money to buy a new one just to take the test. In this case buying used does not save you anything.
434 internautes sur 464 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x90cdded0) étoiles sur 5 Strong Insights, Weak Management Tool 25 janvier 2001
Par Don Blohowiak, PhD - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Trying to overcome your weaknesses is a waste of time, according to Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D., of the Gallup Organization, and authors of the book NOW, DISCOVER YOUR STRENGTHS (Free Press, 2001).
"Casting a critical eye on our weaknesses . . . will only help us prevent failure. It will not help us reach excellence," they write in their thought-provoking book, the follow-up to the outstanding and best-selling Gallup work, FIRST, BREAK ALL THE RULES (Simon & Schuster, 1999).
Most organizations fail to achieve excellence, the authors contend, because they also fall into the "overcome your weaknesses" trap. Companies do a poor job of tapping the potential already present on their payroll because they try to make employees into something they're not-at the expense of exploiting individuals' innate talents.
Furthermore, Gallup researchers conclude that most of the energy, time, and money that organizations place on trying to hire, train, and develop well-rounded employees is wasted. "When we studied them, excellent performers were rarely well-rounded. On the contrary, they were sharp," the authors quip.
Internet Connection. To actually discover your strengths, you cannot rely on the book's pages. You must go online to complete an innovative web-based assessment that identifies your top five individual talent-strengths (and provides you with a brief custom report that you can print or email to someone, like your spouse or boss).
Oddly, if you like the assessment, you cannot purchase additional assessments for your staff, spouse, kids, or anyone else. For them to access the assessment, they must each buy another book.
Other Weaknesses. The book encourages managers to review and become familiar with their direct reports' strength analyses (so as to manage to each individual uniquely). But the authors provide neither a mechanism nor a process to do this.
You are told to consult the book for suggestions on managing your employees who each embody unique mixes of some 34 different strengths. Dauntingly, the authors tell us there are "over thirty-three million possible combinations of the top five strengths." A well-intending manager apparently has a lot of customizing to do. The book provides scant help for that.
Putting the Strengths concept to work more broadly in the organization is even more complex and overwhelming. Selecting and promoting people, as suggested in the book's "Practical Guide," requires profiling at least 100 employees who are all working in the same job (50 top achievers and 50 clunkers). Then you build a database of statistically significant trait patterns. Then you buy every candidate a book, give them a web connection... Then you try to do pattern matching...
The so-called Practical Guide quickly appears all but practical to all but the largest operations.
Target: HR Folk. The authors also take a swing at their firm's consulting customers-HR departments. They assail broad competency training efforts and write: "Many human resources departments have an inferiority complex. With the best of intentions they do everything they can to highlight the importance of people, but when sitting around the boardroom table, they suspect that they don't get the same respect as finance, marketing, or operations. In many instances they are right, but, unfortunately, in many instances they don't deserve to. Why? Because they don't have any data."
Unfortunately, this book does NOT provide them with meaningful solutions for closing that gap (other than, presumably, hiring Gallup consultants for large scale projects).
My Motivation. Gallup's StrengthFinder report tells me that my top personal strengths include the Maximizer tendency-which compels me to "transform something strong into something superb." And the Command strength--characterized as feeling "compelled to present the facts or the truth, no matter how unpleasant it may be."
The truth is this: One can't help but think that the well-constructed concept advanced in this enlightening and occasionally entertaining book might have gone from strong to superb. But instead, it seems to have been rushed to market to quickly capitalize on the success of FIRST, BREAK ALL THE RULES. And that's too bad. Because this worthwhile book, as is true of many of the people it intends to help, has considerable strengths undermined by what are otherwise correctable weaknesses.
191 internautes sur 202 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x90cddef4) étoiles sur 5 Pretty Good Psych -- Some Insights on People Management 16 janvier 2001
Par Dan Sherman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
This book presents an interesting description of personality that describes 34 different types of strengths that a person may have. Based on measurement of these strengths (discussed below), it is possible to identify dominant strengths that help to determine personality. The focus of the book is on describing these strengths and then arguing that it is best for individuals and managers can best develop and build upon individuals' strengths. The book makes the interesting point that it is most effective trying to build on these strengths rather trying to identify and improve upon weaknesses.
A key to this book is an internet-based test that allows an individual to obtain a measurement of their top five strengths. To take this test, you log onto a specific website and type in the unique password that is printed in thte inside cover of the book. (This means you only take the test once -- your friends will need to buy the book to take the test!). The test is based on work that the Gallup Organization has done and has (according to the book) been been administered to 2 million people in a large number of different type of organizations.
Once on the site, you answer 180 questions in which you are asked to make a two-way choice as to what word better describes you, which action you would rather take, and so forth. It takes about 20-30 minutes in total to get through these, but once you do, a report is generated on screen (along with an with the same information) that lists your top five strengths and provides a description of what they are. Many of the strengths involve how you deal with people, how you process information, and how you see yourself in the world.
The book gives short descriptions of each strength and gives short (one-paragraph)write-ups from people who have the particular strength describing themselves. The book is meant to be a management tool, in that it talks about how to manage people with each of the strength in the book and make best use of these strengths.
I feel that the book is a better popular psychology book rather than a management book. Although the descriptions of strength seemed fairly clear, the discussion could have been better when it described how to manage people. It tended to be a list of "do this" without much discussion of why a manager might want to encourage an employee to do certain things or take on certain types of assignments. What the book really lacked was a description of the downside that certain strengths might bring (e.g., a person who is deliberative may seem to take a long time to do something). A better discussion of what the strengths really mean would have been helpful.
The book is well-written and taking the test is fun. Learning about one own attributes as measured by the test is helpful, both in personal and business life. It will make you think about yourself in a constructive and stimulating way. This in itself makes the book worth buying.
The book provides some good insight into how to manage individual types of people and help them develop on the job. I found it a bit weak on management from the standpoint of what an organization should do, in that it just seemed too general beyond saying figure out what everybody can do well and encourage them to do it. It may be, however, that some of this material is discussed in the book's (earlier) companion book ("First, Break All the Rules").
297 internautes sur 330 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x90cddedc) étoiles sur 5 Buy "First, Break All the Rules" and forget this book. 26 janvier 2001
Par Mark D. Smucker - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I read "First, Break All the Rules" and found its advice sound and useful. The key finding is that the best managers work hard to understand what their employees true *talents* are and then shape the job to allow the employee to perform to their maximum. It doesn't pay to focus on people's weaknesses; focus on their strengths. The message to the individual is the same, find your talent and grow it rather than spend all of your time on your weaknesses.
Unfortunately, "Now, Discover Your Strengths" makes the same point but without all the loads of useful management advice. "Discover" has you take a web based quiz to find your top 5 strengths. What if you have more than 5 strengths? Too bad, for you won't be told how you scored on the other strengths. Does "Discover" help you discover that you should focus on your artistic or writing talents? NO. Your talents in this book are "Deliberative" or "Woo" or "Context". Basically, if you want to get a take on the way you approach life and work, then this book may help you and tell you how to get your manager to treat you, but it won't find your *talents*. I fully recommend reading the first book and thinking hard about what you do well at and enjoy doing. Save your money and don't buy this book.
I see this book as an attempt by Gallup to position themselves as an integral part of the review process at major corporations and make money from every employee taking the quiz. This wouldn't be a bad thing for employees, but managers and you'd be better served by the first book by itself.
I found the quiz a bit confusing and marked an awful lot of the questions with "no preference". After reading the book, I wanted to take the quiz again (as the book implies you can), but Gallup *refuses* to allow you to take the quiz more than once. This means that your spouse or friend that you loan the book to won't be able to take the test until they fork over money for a new copy of the book. If you get a used or a returned copy, I hope the previous owner didn't take the test and then return the book!
65 internautes sur 71 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x90ce0348) étoiles sur 5 Let Well-Established, Good Habits Take You Forward! 1 janvier 2001
Par Donald Mitchell - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
This book represents three very ambitious efforts. One, it argues for a new management paradigm that builds from the psychological make-up of each person in the workplace to create the most effective combination of people and tasks. Two, the book presents a new psychological mapping scheme to capture those areas where a person will display "consistent near perfect performance in an activity." Three, the book connects you to a self-diagnosis tool that you can use on-line to see yourself in the perspective of the new mapping scheme. Most books would settle for pursing just one these goals. My hat is off to the authors for their ambition!
The concept of building companies around "desirable" pyschological profiles has been in application for some time. The Walt Disney organization uses this approach to locate people who will enjoy working in their company, and to match the person to the task they will be most focused on. More and more companies are experimenting with this approach. The evidence is that it works.
So the first argument simply takes that experience one step further by formalizing it a bit. The book has many persuasive examples of how people usually do not have jobs that use their best talents. This provides another perspective on the Peter Principle. So far so good.
Next, 34 patterns of mental habits are described based on millions of interviews over 25 years. These include achiever, activator, adaptability, analytical, arranger, belief, command, communication, competition, connectedness, context, deliberative, developer, discipline, empathy, fairness, focus, futuristic, harmony, ideation, inclusiveness, individualization, input, intellection, learner, maximizer, positivity, relator, responsibility, restorative, self-assurance, significance, strategic, and woo. You need to see the descriptions to understand what these patterns reflect.
The argument is that these labels capture patterns of thinking habits that condition behavior in any situation. I find it difficult to relate to all of the patterns because there are so many. Also, without knowing what patterns work well in a particular job, I wasn't sure how relevant they are. Connection of patterns to success needs to be shown as cause and effect in a given company before this will be totally useful.
Small companies may not be able to use this tool very well because they will never have enough people doing the same task to figure out which profile is best. Everyone working in that role may have a very inappropriate profile. You will just be picking the best of a poorly-fitting lot if you select around one of them.
Then, I took the personality test on-line. There were no surprises there for me in my top 5 patterns. I also suspect that there would be no surprises for you in putting me into these categories. You would probably have pegged me as an achiever, learner, relator, focus, input person from the fact that I read so many nonfiction books, write so many book reviews, and keep books and notes everywhere (just in case I might need them again). On the relator front, if you had noticed who I like to work with and how I work with them, you would have spotted me in a few days.
However, my actual job competence is a lot different from this. Most clients tell me that they find me most helpful to them when exposing them to new perspectives on their work that allow them to make faster progress. So, I was left wondering if the tool is strong enough to do the task of making people most effective in their work without more help. Someone might develop or be born with a great talent that has little to do with the psychological profile of how she or he likes to spend their time.
To state the opposite proposition to the ones in the book, complexity science would suggest that it is a mistake to overly organize the workplace in any way. You should have as much diversity as possible. When we leave lots of room for open space and time, people will self-organize outstanding solutions. Having people focused on tasks they love might make them less aware of what else needs to be done. Behavioral scientists would argue that learning continues throughout life, and that major new habits can be formed at any time. Old dogs can learn new tricks. Why cannot new psychological mindsets be learned as well. I suspect that they can. These kinds of counter-observations were not addressed in the book, and it would have been helpful to me if they had been.
So while I was impressed by the concept that the "great organization must not only accommodate the fact each is different; it must capitalize on these differences," I wasn't sure that the authors have the best method to get there yet.
I do recommend that you read the book and consider its messages. I suspect that its application will work best in focusing people on tasks that require great persistence and consistency in order to be effective. I am less clear on how well it will work to help people accomplish more in creative tasks. Time will tell.
I suggest that you take the test and discuss your results with someone else who has also taken the test. Ask each other what insights you got from your own results and from hearing the other person's results. That discussion should start to help you imagine ways to use these insights more effectively.
May you always "derive intrinsic satisfaction" from the activities you do!
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