Marcus Buckingham's Love + Work: Finding Strengths (Part IV)


Part I

Part II

Part III

Buckingham veers between staying focused on his strengths and getting off base. So, the book is like an Easter Egg Hunt: you know the treats are there, you just have to look for them for a while until you find them.

The core of his book and his message is where he is at his best. Buckingham tries to address this need: “People around the world don’t spend much time at all learning about who they are at their very best” [3]. The individual needs to engage in that pursuit. He notes that “the uncomfortable truth is that, more than likely, no one is worrying about what makes you unique” [4].

He helpfully corrects the writing of Jim Collins directly and Malcolm Gladwell indirectly. For example, “Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, says that leaders who stress the importance of luck are just revealing how deeply humble here are. But this isn’t humility. It’s realism” [185].

He notes original sin, ten thousand hours [typically attributed to Malcolm Gladwell], and this idea that you can perfect yourself. Sounds like a straw man coming. Buckingham elucidates: “There’s a wealth of data revealing how wrongheaded this all it—from brain science to rigorous studies of high performers,” how unique we are and therefore how much we need each other [173].

His current partner, Myshel, makes cameos throughout the book with journal entries. It seems like the price of admission; you need to wade through her journal to get to what Buckingham thinks. She does, however, inspire memorable lines from Buckingham: “She knows this [how to understand your life partner and how to reframe their failings]. And I know she knows this. And she knows I know she knows” [179].

Again, life advice: “So, on your life’s journey, look to or left and to your right, and ask yourself whether you are choosing to travel with partners who are curious about you, who delight in your loves, and who want you to be the biggest version of you” [180].

Buckingham is at his best when he is rooted in his strengths. For example, he comments that “in all of my research, it has been crashingly obvious that the most successful people found roles that a) fulfilled their sense of purpose—they believed in the “why” of the role, b) allied them with colleagues they trusted and admired—they connected to the “who” of the role, and c) contained activities they loved—they enjoyed the role’s “what” [187].

Further, here is a great insight. The two most powerful questions in predicting positive outcomes with respect to job satisfaction are as follows. First, Do you have a chance to use your strengths every day? Second, in the last week, have you felt excited to work every day? [189]

Of course, we won’t love every single thing we do. Buckingham points out: “But you can—every single day—find some activity or situation or moment or event that you love. It might be the thinnest of red threads, but you can find it” [190].

He makes very good points about teams. He notes that “teams are the perfect place for you to both celebrate and contribute your unique loves” [212]. He talks about team check-ins – he should defer to Patrick Lencioni. He talks of the types of meetings. He should stay in his lane. Patrick Lencioni has got that turf covered.

He covers miscellaneous topics. Goal setting? “Any goal springing from your loves is a good and useful thing” [214]. Brian Tracy would beg to differ. He covers romantic love in the workplace [222]. Now, we are really stretching. Another good concept: “The best leaders don’t cascade goals, the cascade meaning” [230].

A further odd chapter that could also be deleted is “Your Children are not Your Children” [271]. That would be news to many people. He stands on the shoulders of Kahlil Gibran: “My children are not my children. Yours are not yours” [280]. Buckingham states that "my only job as a parent is to see each for who they are, and to help them channel their loves intelligently, morally, and, in the end, productively” [281].

So, like an Easter Egg hunt, a reader needs to reflect on whether the eggs were worth the effort. At present, yest, but Buckingham appears to be trending in the wrong direction. He has jumped the shark.