52 Fridays is a year-long series for equestrian professionals and equine business owners and managers, with marketing and public relations information, ideas, tips, & resources shared here each Friday throughout 2011.
This month I pulled from my shelf a book I’ve had for years and have been meaning to revisit for some time. After a bit of browsing, I thought it was worthwhile to share Now, Discover Your Strengths with you as a 52 Fridays resource.
As this book points out, the concept of focusing on and developing your strengths and talents is one that often gets sidelined in favor of spending time on overcoming weaknesses. However, I believe that if you can focus primarily on strengths and get the weak spots outsourced, both life and work can get that much more fulfilling. It’s an approach that’s already in use within the horse industry, and one that you can adopt for your own horsebiz marketing success.
Written by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D., Now, Discover Your Strengths (NDYS) was published in 2001. However, despite the decade-old release date, the book still has tremendous value.
A rigorous interview process by The Gallup Organization meant subjects were asked open-ended questions about how ‘excellent performers’ achieved their very best in work. And Gallup didn’t interview a few hundred or a few thousand people; the book says they talked with over two million people in order to identify what allows individuals to perform at their very highest levels. That’s a lotta interviews!
The results were compiled into patterns, which were distilled into 34 key ‘themes’ of human behavior. As a companion to NDYS, an online test called the StrengthsFinder allowed you to find your own strengths among the 34 themes. The book cautions that the list is far from conclusive, that it only lists some of the major ‘buckets’ of human behavior and character traits; an ‘improved’ version has since become available in the book StrengthsFinder 2.0.
Now, it’s not easy to understand and maximize your strengths, even if you take the StrengthsFinder quiz and find out what your own ‘top five’ strengths are. I think it’s because strengths are so innate it’s like trying to explain water to a goldfish swimming around in it. Plus, any individual’s strengths and characteristics form a personal tapestry that’s uniquely theirs, even if on the surface they share the same top themes as another person.
One of my top five is Connectedness, and a good friend of mine is always marveling about how I usually know just the right person, idea, or resource for whatever we’re talking about. To me, it’s no big deal, because it’s just like the air I breathe…it’s part of how I operate in the world.
The authors highlight Warren Buffett as an example of what a strengths-based life and career look like, pointing out that with qualities of patience, practicality, and a trusting nature it seems unlikely that Buffett would have excelled in the investment world. But because he developed awareness of his strengths, and put them to use in his ‘twenty-year perspective’ and other investment strategies, Buffett has succeeded in his career and in developing a personal life that brings him happiness. Focusing on his strengths has made him a wealthy man in more ways than one.
The strengths approach already shows up in the horse world, in ways such as finding the sport or role a horse is best suited for based on conformation, attitude, personality, and ability, or in determining the best activity for a rider based on physical aptitude and interests. But even if your horsebiz role is in a completely different direction than hands-on horse work, such as a tack shop owner, website designer, hay farmer, or saddle fitter, don’t you think it would be a good idea to identify and understand just what your strengths are so you can live more fully in the ‘sweet spot’ of your life? Living from your strengths isn’t selfish; far from it, by recharging your own battery from what fulfills you, you have even more of your very best to give to the world, whether that’s your employer, your friends, your family, or your horse.
When it comes to marketing and strengths, understanding where yours are, and aren’t, can also improve your horsebiz promotional efforts:
- Do you enjoy social media but hate updating your website or blog? Hire an assistant (or rope in a family member) who can make regular updates, and work together so you can then share the updates on your social media accounts.
- Are you great at connecting with new people but not good at follow-up? Find someone who’s better at the details for capturing contact information from people you’ve just met for your marketing database.
- Have problems with coming up with new ideas, but once you get rolling you’re a rock star at making them come true? Partner with someone who’s strong on creativity and innovation to get that creative spark you weren’t born with.
Even if it’s challenging to do it, I truly believe that learning what your strengths are and how you can best play the hand you are dealt allows you to live your best life, and do your best horsebiz marketing. I’m working on my own strengths-based life; what’s yours look like?
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