Lie #4 – The Best People are Well-Rounded

WRITTEN BY April 16, 2019

Lie #4 – The Best People are Well-Rounded

Earlier this month I had the privilege of meeting Marcus Buckingham and hearing him speak about his latest book, “The Nine Lies About Work” (A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World). Not only was Marcus an engaging and interesting speaker with a great sense of humor, he challenged my thinking (and the thinking of the people I’d invited to join me) about many long-held beliefs about the “right way” to do business. I encourage you to get a copy and read it. You may disagree or struggle with some of his views, but you may look at things a bit differently going forward.

Lie #4 of the nine lies was one that resonated with me – “The Best People are Well-Rounded.” Marcus says that’s a lie. He offers that the best people are people who play to their strengths rather than trying to be well-rounded. He calls those people “spiky” rather than well-rounded. When you put a team of spiky people together who have different strengths, you get a well-rounded team that performs. That’s really where the magic lives.  Working with the Predictive Index® for 20 years, I’ve come to know that this is true.

One of my favorite Far Side cartoons by Gary Larson shows two Vikings at the bow of a ship that has big muscled men rowing on one side and wimpy men rowing on the other side of the ship.  One is saying to the other, “I’ve got it too, Omar… a strange feeling like we’ve just been going in circles.” That’s what can happen when you don’t look at how to best use the strengths of each person on a team, or when too many people have the same strengths or drives. We go in circles rather than making forward progress.

Sometimes during training exercises, I will intentionally make one team of all High A’s (that’s the factor concerning Dominance or the drive to exert one’s influence on people or events). I’ll make the other teams a blend of people with different behavioral drives. Nine times out of ten, the team who is not “well-rounded” doesn’t do as well at achieving the goal of the exercise as do the other teams. 

But let’s go back to the individual for a moment. When we witness someone facilitate a class that has everyone engaged and energized, or when we watch a sales clerk calm a frustrated customer and turn their scowl into a smile, we are watching someone who is using his or her strengths. What they are doing comes so naturally to them that it’s fun to watch them in action, and what they do seems almost effortless. I’m sure each of us can pretty quickly identify the aspects of our work that we enjoy and that come easily to us. That’s where we shine.

At performance review time, we’re usually asked to look at our developmental areas and how we will improve there. Buckingham believes we are better served when we look at our strengths and how we can play to those strengths in our work. Maybe sharpening your particular “spiky-ness” might be more important to your long-term success than slogging away at trying to put an edge on a skill that is dull.

I don’t think that means we ignore the parts of what we need to do in our jobs that fall outside our comfort zone or strengths. But maybe by identifying our own “spiky” areas, or those of someone with whom we work closely, and focusing more on those areas, we can find our way to bringing joy and excellence to the work we do on a daily basis.