Book review: Optimize Your Strengths by James Brook & Dr Paul Brewerton

It’s no surprise to this reader that ‘Optimize Your Strengths’ comes with endorsements by some pretty big hitters, such as Facebook, BNP Paribas, the London School of Economics – and an Olympian. Both the book and its theoretical foundations are being adopted by employers big and small.

This is a slim volume and an easy read, told as a fable around the central character Joe, a regional head of a fictitious company whose sales aren’t achieving what HQ expects. Joe’s not happy with some of his senior colleagues (and his personal life isn’t too rosy either), and finally engages a coach.

Joe’s coach explains that the approach he’s been taking, focusing on threats, problem and other negatives, is ‘the Path of Limitation’. Over time, by learning to use an approach based on solutions and strengths, Joe can take a different path, ‘The Path of Possibility’, to better lead the team – and hit targets. This isn’t happy-clappy stuff: Joe realises early on that both approaches are needed, but the emphasis needs to be much more on the positive path.

Psychology buffs will soon spot the positive psychology foundations of Joe’s coaching. Dr Martin Seligman’s ‘Realistic Optimism’, resilience in the face of setbacks, along with deliberate practice, inform Joe’s coaching programme of setting stretch goals to develop his leadership capability and that of his senior team.

The tale plays out against an all-too-familiar corporate background of cutthroat competition, reduced budgets, disengaged employees and a high departure rate. Joe’s frequent scepticism when his coach explores the ‘Leadership Edge’ – where employees’ strengths, values and ambitions are unleashed to meet business goals – no doubt echoes the questions in many readers’ heads. As we follow Joe’s progress all such questions are convincingly answered by the authors (and co-founders of Strengths Partnership), James Brook and Dr Paul Brewerton.

‘Optimize Your Strengths’ is deceptive in that it’s based on years of robust psychological research, yet is readable and will resonate with many managers (and their coaches). The book is packed with practical ideas, frameworks and techniques that will enable the reader to develop themselves and their colleagues, make a positive impact and be more energized about their work in particular and life in general. Highly recommended.

FULL DISCLOSURE: in case you haven’t noticed, I’m a Big Fan. Strengthscope® now forms an integral part of Zoomly’s coaching. Please get in touch to find out more.

You may find this blog post useful: ‘Why should you bother identifying your strengths?? (And how?)’ 

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