As I mentioned to John Richardson, Tom Rath took me by surprise with his book, Vital Friends. I’m not sure why I had underestimated it, for I’m a huge fan of the Gallup Organization and the research they’ve conducted in our workplaces, research which supports the strengths management revolution, and the mission to increase employee engagement.
I’d first learned about Gallup’s StrengthsFinder Q12 (twelve key dimensions that describe great workgroups) when I’d read their ground-breaking book First, Break All the Rules. I became an instant convert. The core concept of working on an employee’s strengths and innate talents is very much attuned with Managing with Aloha for Aloha is a value of authenticity and self-awareness. It was common sense to me that the goodness, and the very rightness, of our innate talents was perfectly aligned with the aloha spirit which resides in all of us ”“ also innately.
“Key dimension number 10” of the Q12 was that engaged employees would state, “I have a best friend at work.” Of all 12 StrengthsFinder indicators, I’d always thought this was the oddest one, and it was the one easy to overlook as I would study and apply the other eleven, things like “Knowing what’s expected of me,” “Doing what I do best,” and “My company’s mission and purpose.”
In Vital Friends, Tom Rath has finally explained the importance of this measurement for me like no list of impressive statistics could ever have done.
If you feel that your friendships have been taken for granted, or are neglected or minimized in any way whatsoever, it will be impossible for you to read (or listen to) Rath’s book without immediately wanting to be a better friend ”“ a vital friend. When you purchase the book or tape, you receive an access code to the Vital Friends website to help you get started, and you are encouraged to get your friends involved with you ”“ with Rath’s book, Gallup enters the world of group therapy outside the workplace too.
However true to form, the heart of this book takes aim at the workplace. It challenges the prevalent notion that friendships at work make things messy and complicated; there are just too many other benefits to ignore. You can even be friends with the boss!
As a workplace coach I am newly fascinated with this entire concept of what vitality in friendships can do for leadership teams in particular. I strongly suspect, that similar to what the StrengthsFinger Q12 and Now, Discover Your Strengths has done for managers in understanding how important it is to identify an employee’s strengths to manage them well, Vital Friends may be the Gallup ticket to helping foster better relationships within peer groups.
This book is a company facilitator’s dream come true if faced with a dysfunctional leadership team where knowing of each other’s strengths is not enough to soften the hard edges of armor worn in boardroom minefields. Management gets to be tougher, lonelier, and more inhuman the higher you climb the corporate ladder ”“ the partnerships of great friends like Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, or Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are rare. Doing a group read of Vital Friends is definitely going on my peer-to-peer coaching list of suggestions for leadership teams who need each other more than they may realize.
In Now, Discover Your Strengths, co-authors Donald Clifton and Marcus Buckingham may have served managers best in labeling their 34 talent themes to help us identify strengths. Rath stays true to this proven Gallup formula with Vital Friends: He identifies 8 Vital Roles for us because “The research behind Vital Friends reveals that people have significantly better friendships if they can easily describe what each friend contributes to the relationship.” He calls these 8 Vital Roles builder, champion, collaborator, companion, connector, energizer, mind opener, and navigator, and he coaches us on how to be better in these roles ourselves too.
Read Vital Friends, The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without. I can’t imagine that you could do so and not become a better friend for others. Give yourself in friendship ”“ in vital friendship ”“ and love the person you become in the process.
Recently written for ManagingwithAloha.com:
Strengths Management Coaching with Marcus Buckingham
Heads up: There are two related book reviews coming up this month within the Joyful Jubilant Learning A Love Affair with Books 2007. Mark your calendars:
- David Zinger will be reviewing Tom Rath’s Strengths Finder 2.0 on March 27th
- Blaine Collins will be reviewing Marcus Buckingham’s Go Put Your Strengths to Work on March 31st
Strengths Management is a Key Concept of Managing with Aloha. If you are interested in more, click through my Talking Story Strengths Management index ” lots to read, so grab a cup of joe!