What are your talents and strengths? What are your child’s talents and strengths? It’s up to us as parents to help guide our children toward success, however that may manifest itself. But identifying strengths is not always an easy task. According to Marcus Buckingham, best-selling author and speaker, “You are most innovative, creative and resilient in the areas that you are strong.” So how do you identify strengths? Buckingham introduces his “strength based approach” which focuses on who a person is rather than who they are not.

Based on extensive data, Buckingham explains that most of us are honing in on fixing weaknesses instead of leveraging strengths. In one scenario, Buckingham explains that if a child receives a report card with 3 A’s, 2 B’s, a C and an F, most of the conversation about the report card is centered on the “F.” As parents we have to deal with the “F”, obviously. But it doesn’t have to be the main topic of discussion. Instead, we need to leverage our child’s strengths. How did he/she earn the A’s? What is it he/she enjoys about those classes? We need to see or identify what is already innately present in our child.

Buckingham says, “Using your strengths makes you feel strong.” Makes sense, right? But take it a step further: Buckingham advises, “put a name on what drives your child. Get kids to name their own strengths.” One way to do this is to use his personal assessment tool, “SIGN,” created to identify talents or strengths. It’s a way to look at activities and whether or not they make you feel strong.

S-Success: When you engage in an activity, you feel effective.

I-Instinct: Before you engage in an activity, you look forward to it.

G-Growth: While doing the activity, you feel inquisitive and focused.

N-Needs: After you’ve completed the activity, you feel fulfilled and authentic.

Buckingham’s advice is to use “SIGN” for one week to see what you love and to define your strengths. If your child is at least ten, he can also use this tool. Buckingham says that by age ten, a child is capable of describing his own strengths via a parent’s guidance.

In addition, asking your child pointed questions can help identify strengths. Instead of, “how was school today?” a parent can ask, “what time of the day flew by the fastest?” “What do you look forward to during the day?” These types of questions will help your child identify his strengths. You do not have to worry about the performance or outcome, according to Buckingham.

So how can you create success at home? How can you identify what makes the best teams or most successful families? According to Buckingham, there are three very powerful questions that need to be asked. Buckingham lays them out like this: “Are my family members committed to quality work?” (Only you can identify what “quality” means to your family.) “Do I know what is expected of me within my family?” (You are always tweaking and adjusting expectations.) And the number one question we should be asking ourselves at home is, “do I have a chance to do what I do best every day?” These are three questions that allow for success and building on our strengths.

Buckingham’s exuberance for what he calls a “strengths revolution” is palpable. He insists, “Do not tell a child who he is.” Instead, guide your child to realize his/her own strengths and talents. Find out what drives him/her. “The gift you give your children when you choose to focus on what they have, rather than on what they don’t, is immeasurable. Seeking ways to allow them to express the best of themselves, and supporting them no matter how obscure their dreams may be, will undoubtedly give your children a solid platform on which to build a strong, fulfilling life.”

Marcus Buckingham first conquered the bestseller lists in 1999 with First, Break All the Rules. While the title may imply an iconoclastic streak, his continuing plea for managers to break with tradition has nothing to do with rebellion; instead, he argues, rules must be broken and discarded because they stifle the originality and uniqueness — the strengths — that can enable all of us to achieve our highest performance.

Following up on his highly successful debut book, Buckingham continued to spread the message that people’s unique personal strengths are the key to unlocking their potential. As co-author of Now, Discover Your Strengths, he helped create StrengthsFinder, the personal assessment tool that gave millions of individuals a new vocabulary to positively describe their ingrained talents. The book also added the phrase “Top 5″ to the lexicon of managers and business people around the world.

In addition to refining and reinforcing his message in subsequent books (The One Thing You Need to Know; Go Put Your Strengths to Work; The Truth About You; Find Your Strongest Life), Buckingham addresses hundreds of thousands of people each year in keynote addresses worldwide. He founded The Marcus Buckingham Company in 2007 to create tools and training that would help managers and organizations access the untapped potential of their people’s strengths.

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