Here’s a little gem I heard from Marcus Buckingham on Daniel Pink’s excellent ‘Office Hours‘ phone-in podcast (click the following link to see my other favourite leading-edge management thinking podcasts). One of the subjects discussed was how performance appraisals and ‘stack and rank’ (happening way too late to provide useful feedback) drained motivation and focused people on their weaknesses.

A questioner asked how to keep children focused on their strengths, given that the education system in western countries is very keen on assessment and ranking. Buckingham came up with a brilliantly simple answer:

Get your child to take a sheet of paper and divide it into two columns. Write ‘Love’ at the top of one column and ‘Hate’ at the top of the other. They can take this sheet round with them for a week and note down any activity, school or otherwise, that they are involved with, attracted to or lose themselves in, and also anything that they dislike and want to get away from.

By the end of the week they will have some idea of what they enjoy and want to do more of (not necessarily the same as what they are marked as good at).

One of the things I love about this idea is not just its simplicity, but the fact that it turns the tables on the school and helps build a sense of autonomy – instead of being assessed, for once it’s the child who is doing the assessing.

Marcus Buckingham’s new book, Standout, also sounds intriguing, not least because his new strengths assessment unveiled in the book is simpler than the previous ‘Strengthsfinder’ and is apparently impossible to game – though I note from the Amazon reviews (on the UK site at least) that people either love the book or hate it.

How to help your children focus on their strengths

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