Many publishers mass-produce business guidebooks on maximizing your personal strengths, identifying your strengths, or finding the Venn diagram overlap between your strengths and the market. Considering market saturation, you’d think America’s professional class had reached Charles Atlas levels of personal strength. Yet well-respected companies and executives keep getting blindsided. Clearly we need another approach.
Silicon Valley consultants Thuy and Milo Sindell suggest we’re missing powerful opportunities within ourselves. Rather than highlighting obvious natural strengths, those skills which come easily to us, or skirting obvious weaknesses, the Sindells turn our attention to our middle range, the skills we haven’t cultivated yet, but could. These neglected skills, which they call Hidden Strengths, represent untapped opportunity to remain versatile, responding to today’s changing market by changing ourselves.
This book has many advantages over other business guides I’ve read recently. First, it’s concise. Only slightly thicker than a pamphlet, it delivers its message without needless verbiage or grandiosity. Too many business authors keep talking long after they’ve made their points, inadvertently revealing their weaknesses and blind spots. This book makes its point as quickly as possible, and when it’s done, hands the next step over to you.
The Sindells identify twenty-eight “skills,” actually umbrella categories, that business professionals exercise regularly. These encompass leadership skills like Resilience, Listening, Inspirational Vision, and Delegation. They admit most business leaders generally find three, maybe four, of these twenty-eight come easily, while one or two remain so difficult, they’re beyond redemption. But at best, these obvious strengths and weaknesses represent under one-third of most people’s capability; much potential, tragically, remains permanently unexplored.
|Milo and Thuy Sindell|
First, the Sindells’ vision requires leaders willing to listen, connected to others willing to provide meaningful feedback. Though they have a self-evaluation quiz available through their website, they admit that you’ll get better results with what they call a “360-degree assessment” from peers, supervisors, and subordinates. Their system relies upon frank introspection, calling users to examine themselves within their organization. You cannot improve yourself if you don’t first know yourself.
It also requires users to face their difficulties head-on. We’re accustomed to accentuating our innate talents, rewarding ourselves for what comes easily. But the Sindells insist that more difficult skill development, which may perhaps require greater self-sacrifice but produce greater rewards over time, reflects the long view necessary in business. Career development is an investment with an ever-changing payoff horizon. Leaders should prepare, personally and professionally, for the long haul.
Besides their deep, multi-faceted reasoning, I cannot stress enough the Sindells’ brevity. Despite their structure’s inherent complexity, our authors remain succinct, saying just enough to guide readers into the message, then stepping back, permitting us to fit their message to our situation. Too many writers make assumptions about readers, then keep talking long after they’ve made their point. By keeping brief, the Sindells permit us to remain top-level career control.
Our authors write explicitly for business professionals, and draw their relevant examples from the business and finance world. However, what they describe can, with minor tweaks, apply to many career fields. An attorney with good speaking and listening skills can still benefit from partnership building and conflict resolution. Artists, especially in current markets, can benefit from cultivating entrepreneurship skills and performance monitoring. These skill sets are ecumenical and eminently portable.
Today’s capitalist fascination with Disruptive Innovation means executives, leaders, and entrepreneurs who rely on one skill set to accomplish one goal quickly get plowed under. This means that personal development isn’t only personal. A motivated will to improve one’s skills ensures a versatile mind and adaptable sensibilities. Buffeted by the demand for constant change which modern markets create, only flexible, resourceful leaders can remain relevant when surrounding pressures constantly evolve.
Having clashed recently with other business writers, whose prolix style and mercenary reasoning don’t withstand blue-collar scrutiny, I must commend the Sindells. Their brief, practical, intelligent guide provides the mix of organizational savvy and humble ambition I’ve missed in several recent business books. Truly, this reads like a book entrepreneurs and seasoned executives can enjoy equally. I know I’ll be applying these precepts to my own career.