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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

Gallup Research Shows Employees Do Best When Their Work Interests and Challenges Them—But Stays Within their Key Abilities

by Shel Horowitz

Frequent presenters (and Family Business Center sponsors) Rick Giombetti and Paul Alves, of Giombetti Associates, came once again to the Center for its April meeting at the Log Cabin. But this time, they shared research results from Marcus Buckingham of Gallup, rather than their own work.

Buckingham, who has presented in person to the FBC in the past, has a new book out: “Now, Discover Your Strengths” (co-authored with Dr.Donald O. Clifton).

Buckingham's team identified 34 dominant talent themes. By analyzing the traits or themes of your employees, Alves and Giombetti say, you can help ensure they function in jobs that call for their best talents (and don't depend on the areas where they're weak). Says Alves, “If you don't have the strength, pass the ball to someone in your organization who does.”

Giombetti says far too many business owners engage in a losing strategy: trying to pull people up and improve their weak areas. Much better, he says, is concentrating on their strengths to begin with. “You can't teach an elephant to fly”-but that same elephant is fantastic at pulling heavy loads.

All of us have natural talents; yet only 20% of employees felt that their jobs harnessed their best abilities. As Alves points out, that means 80% of the potential is wasted.

Since Giombetti Associates specializes in helping employers identify peak performers, this ability to sort out strengths and weaknesses works very nicely in tandem with their existing mission; now, they can suggest lateral moves that take an underperforming, unhappy employee and boost productivity by orders of magnitude-just by giving that employee responsibilities that play to his or her strengths (and enjoyments).

Let's look at specific examples: a surgeon who hated dealing with “whiny” patients let go of the high-patient-contact surgery specialty and switched to radiology-where other doctors handle nearly all the patient interaction.

A sales person with a score below the 50th percentile for competitiveness should not be in sales, and will produce better in a more collaborative situation.

A business president wanted to feel that he had truly made a difference in the community; he quit the company and founded a network of homeless shelters.

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