With “The Strengths Workbook” Sally Bibb translates her highly successful “The Strengths Book” into a clear, practical, insightful and, most importantly, useful workbook.
However, before reviewing the book, it is probably worth a quick introduction to the notion of “Strengths” - or a reprise, depending on what you know.
Sally defines a strength as “something that someone is naturally good at, loves doing and is energized by.” She believes that our strengths are innate and develop as we do, becoming formed by our mid-teens. We continue to learn new skills and gain new knowledge and experiences but who we are doesn’t fundamentally change.
She goes on to argue that it is by identifying and playing to your particular strengths that you perform better and enjoy what you are doing more, which becomes a powerful and virtuous circle.
She provides numerous little cases in the book to support her thesis and in “About the author” you’ll discover she has used the approach to help build a company, which has successfully worked with a wonderfully diverse range of clients from the NHS to EY.
So back to the book.
It is an eight week ‘programme’ that guides you through identifying your strengths, values and motivations and then how you can develop them further to achieve more, whether you’re choosing a new job, a change of career or a course of study.
Each of the eight week sections follow a simple clear structure: a quote; an introduction to the week’s topic; the exercise(s) – with plenty of space for your answers; a little story to help bring the purpose of the week’s exercise to life; a section on “How is this week’s insight going to help you”; a tip and a space for notes and reflections.
The layout, contents and most importantly the accessible, positive and informed tone all work together to generate a feeling of being guided by a friendly professional coach, just what you want from a workbook.
I particularly liked that Sally pre-empts possible concerns with sensible suggestions. For example, I gave the book to a very talented friend who I know is prone to be modest and downplay her skills. I asked her to do the “Identifying your strengths” exercise. She read it through and said she didn’t think she really had any. I read them and felt she had at least 7 clear strengths. Would this be a problem? No, Sally has clearly come across this before and at various points suggests that if you think you might be prone to this, you should answer some of the questions not for yourself but by thinking about what a friend would say about you or, indeed, ask that friend to answer them for you and discuss their answers.
Another section I enjoyed wasn’t actually part of the workbook but appeared in the set-up. It is called “Outdated ideas to let go of” and in it Sally challenges everything from “You should be a well-rounded person” to “Excellent performance comes from addressing your weaknesses”. It made me think, or rather, re-think certain ideas which it can be far too easy to accept and even if you don’t do the programme I would recommend you read this.
I’ll finish my review how each section starts, with a quote. The well-chosen quotes are drawn from a variety of thinkers; be they ancient like Socrates, or modern like Simon Sinek. Whilst a memorable one from Sally: “The great thing about knowing your strengths is that you get to live your life and not someone else’s” sticks in my mind, perhaps my favourite comes from Albert Einstein “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid”.