I started reading this book knowing it was about strengths but knowing nothing about how or why that was going to be relevant to breaking any rules.

I also received some rather strong reactions from family members walking past me and reading the title!

However I knew it was worth a look because Gallup really do know their stuff and I’ve read other books by Marcus Buckingham that have been useful so it was worth my time taking it all in. 

Here’s how the book started (and ended!) – with an explanation of why managers are so impactful in the workplace and how much time and effort Gallup have put into finding out what makes a brilliant workplace:

“Over the last 25 years the Gallup Organization has interviewed more than a million employees….we had to pick out those few questions that were truely measuring the core of a strong workplace.”

From the research findings, here are “13 core statements (that measure the core elements needed to attract, focus and keep the most talented employees):

1. Overall satisfaction – On a 5 point scale,  how satisfied are you with this company as a place of work?

2. I know what is expected of me at work.

3. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.

4. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day. 

5. In the last 7 days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.

6. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.

7. There is someone at work who cares about my development. 

8. At work, my opinion seems to count.

9. The mission/purpose of my company makes me feel important.

10. My associates (fellow employees) are committed to doing quality work. 

11. I have a best friend at work.

12. In the last six months, someone has talked to me about my progress. 

13. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

We found that those employees who could respond more positively to the core statements also worked in business units with higher levels of productivity, profit, retention and customer satisfaction….Second, the meta-analysis revealed that….for the most part, these opinions [of the core statements] were being formed by the employees’ immediate manager rather than by the policies or procedures of the overall company.”


Does that surprise you? Or did you already have an inkling?

Maybe this is something you’ve been working on for a long time and it was a helpful confirmation. 

Maybe it’s all too familiar because you’ve had managers who created the best or worst environment for you to work in. 

“An employee may join a company because she is lured by their generous benefits package and their reputation for valuing employees. But it is her relationship with her immediate manager that will determine how long she stays and how productive she is while she is there.” 


Have you ever had a really amazing manager? If you have, can you remember how refreshing that felt?!

Unfortunately it seems to be quite a rare occurrence.

I wonder if you’ve ever worked out what made them so great? Was it one thing about them as a person or was it how the company set everyone up to succeed? If you read ‘Traction’ with us last month you might start to wonder if it was merely because of a ‘right person, right seat’ scenario. 

This is something that this month’s book talks about too – that so many people are promoted to a position above their skills and outside of their talents because it seems like the most obvious step up the ladder. However this often causes lots of problems and a lack of talent is rarely diagnosed as the root issue.  

“Skills, knowledge and talents are distinct elements of a person’s performance. The distinction among the three is that skills and knowledge can be easily taught, whereas talents cannot. Combined in the same person, they create an enormously potent compound. But you must never confuse talents with skills and knowledge. If you do, you may waste a great deal of time and money trying to teach something that is fundamentally unteachable.”

I wonder what would happen if we hired and promoted on talent and knew exactly when new skills could be taught (or not taught!)?


Great managers are catalysts.

“If you apply their insight to the core activities of the catalyst role, this is what you see:

– When selecting someone, they select for talent…not simply experience , intelligence or determination.

– When setting expectations, they define the right outcomes …not the right steps.

– When motivating someone, they focus on strengths…not on weaknesses.

– When developing someone, they help him find the right fit…not simply the next rung on the ladder. “

I long for a day when we are all in our ‘right fit.’ Literally everything about our work and lives would be more joyful and smooth, don’t you think?! Getting to do what we are great at every day shouldn’t just be a New Year’s Resolution, it should be something we are steering towards and fighting for every day so that we can be in a place where things happen with ease, where we are energised instead of drained and we can see the real impact of meaningful work on everyone’s lives. I believe it can happen and will always be an advocate for it. Are you with me?