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In addition to being the highly regarded COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg’s recently become the centre of a conversation about women in the workplace and America’s attitudes about gender after publishing Lean In, a controversial book on the subject.The New York Times’ Sunday Book Review asked Sandberg what the best business book she read in recent years was. She responded with “Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton. It hasn’t just personally influenced her, but has been “instrumental” in determining how Facebook develops its talent.
The book focuses on how organisations deliver feedback to their employees. And after 25 years surveying employees, the authors found that the most important indicator of extraordinary performance in a company or team was how many people said yes to one question:
“Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?”
Most feedback focuses on weaknesses. Focusing on strengths is far more effective. The company actually brought one of the authors, Marcus Buckingham, to meet with leadership to help the company improve its feedback system.
The company’s adapted its culture to reflect the book’s lessons, Sandberg says:
At Facebook, we try to be a strengths-based organisation, which means we try to make jobs fit around people rather than make people fit around jobs. We focus on what people’s natural strengths are and spend our management time trying to find ways for them to use those strengths every day.
It’s a pretty simple idea. Instead of focusing weaknesses, and getting people to work harder on things they simply might not be good at, modify the job to fit what they’re best at.
“People don’t have to be good at everything,” Sandberg says. Most aren’t. And the best workplaces acknowledge that. That might be another reason that Facebook comes in as the best place to work in our recent ranking.
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