Marcus Buckingham (born 11 January 1966) is a British author, motivational speaker and business consultant. Basing most of his writing on extensive survey data from interviews with workers in countries around the world, he promotes the idea that people will get the best results by making the most of their strengths rather than by putting too much emphasis on weaknesses or perceived deficiencies.
Buckingham was born on 11 January 1966, and was brought up in the village of Radlett, north of London. His father was the Personnel Director at Allied Breweries. Buckingham suffered from a substantial stammer which he initially found very difficult to overcome, and said he was unable to speak until the age of 13. He conquered it when asked to formally address other boys at his prep school, and pretended he was speaking to just one person, rather than 300. It proved a success: "At my prep school, everyone knew I had a stammer. At my boarding school, nobody knew".
Buckingham was educated at Edge Grove School, a boys' preparatory independent school in the village of Aldenham in Hertfordshire in Southern England, and then Aldenham School, a boarding independent school for boys (near Aldenham), which he left in 1984, followed by Pembroke College at the University of Cambridge, from which he graduated with a degree in Social and Political Sciences, in 1987.
Life and career
While studying at Cambridge, Buckingham was recruited by educational psychology professor Donald O. Clifton, the founder of Selection Research, Incorporated (SRI). Clifton had co-founded SRI to develop interviews that would allow businesses to identify talents in individuals, to match people to the right roles.
SRI acquired The Gallup Organization in 1988, and took on the Gallup name. As part of Gallup, Buckingham became a member of a team working on a survey that measured a broad range of factors that contribute to employee engagement. Based on those surveys and on interviews with thousands of managers, Buckingham published (with coauthor Curt Coffman) First, Break All the Rules (Simon and Schuster, 1999). According to its subtitle, the book describes "what the world's greatest managers do differently" The book became a New York times best-seller and has over a million copies in print. It was also chosen by Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten as one of "The 100 Best Business Books of All Time" in their book of the same name.
Strengths became the explicit focus of Buckingham's next book (coauthored with Donald O. Clifton), Now, Discover Your Strengths, which states, "We wrote this book to start a revolution, the strengths revolution" (p. 5). Directly tied to a new Gallup personal assessment tool called "StrengthsFinder", the book presented 34 "talent themes" that characterise individuals. Those who took the assessment received a report detailing which of the 34 talent themes were their top 5 matches. In the book, the authors define a strength as "consistent near perfect performance in an activity."
- The One Thing You Need to Know
Buckingham's first solo book aimed to simplify his business advice down to "one thing" each for managers, leaders, and individual contributors. In contrast to what he would later write, in this book Buckingham contends that the advice to "discover my strengths and cultivate them" is not the most important key to individual success. Rather, he claims that the one thing a person must do to thrive is to "discover what you don't like and stop doing it".
- Go Put Your Strengths to Work
In this book, Buckingham focussed on helping individuals identify their personal strengths. Where Now, Discover Your Strengths had provided a question-and-answer assessment to describe the test taker's strengths in broad categories, Go presented a more individualised approach, asking readers to consciously observe themselves as they engaged in their work and note the specific things that made them feel strong. Settling on a definition of strengths as "those activities that make you feel strong", the book encouraged people to maximise their productivity and personal satisfaction both by cultivating their strengths and by ceasing to do what they don't like (now called "stopping your weaknesses").
- The Truth About You
This book explains the same messages as in previous books, but targeted toward high school and college students.
- Find Your Strongest Life
This book is aimed specifically at women. It was inspired by Buckingham's appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
The book generated the first substantial controversy of his career by taking as its starting point some recent survey data indicating that women had become less happy in the past 40 years. Some prominent feminists including Katha Pollitt and Barbara Ehrenreich criticised the book and a series of articles written by Buckingham in Huffington Post. Pollitt and Ehrenreich argued that the studies were flawed, that the results weren't accurately represented by Buckingham and others, and that other studies showed different results.
Find Your Strongest Life was accompanied by a new personal assessment tool called the Strong Life Test, which categorised women according to 9 "Roles," assigning a "Lead Role" and "Supporting Role" to everyone who took the assessment. The book provided general and situation-specific advice based on a person's specific Roles.
The Marcus Buckingham Company (TMBC)
In 2006, Buckingham started The Marcus Buckingham Company (TMBC) to create management training programs and tools dedicated to promoting the strengths revolution. The company helped him to launch a coordinated series of products in conjunction with the publication of Go Put Your Strengths to Work. Most notable was Trombone Player Wanted, which expounded Buckingham's core strengths principles through a series of vignettes involving a young boy who wants to abandon playing the trombone in favour of the drums (apparently based on Buckingham's own experience in music classes as a boy). Together, the book and the film series became the basis of a TMBC workshop called Simply Strengths.
Where Simply Strengths focuses on helping individuals identify and leverage their own strengths, a second workshop, Strong Manager, aims to help managers learn "The 4 Demands of Management" and apply strengths principles to managing their employees. In 2010, TMBC also introduced a "workshop-in-a-box" titled Strengths Essentials, intended as a turnkey solution for individuals and businesses wanting to deliver their own strengths-oriented workshops.
TMBC has engaged in many corporate partnerships.
Film and television appearances
In addition to the self-published short film series Trombone Player Wanted, Buckingham has made numerous television appearances as himself, including "The View," "I Want to Work for Diddy," "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "Good Morning America," "The Today Show," "Larry King Live," and "The Dave Ramsey Show."
- First, Break All The Rules (with Curt Coffman; Simon & Schuster, 1999)
- Now, Discover Your Strengths (with Donald O. Clifton; The Free Press, 2001)
- The One Thing You Need to Know (The Free Press, 2005)
- Go Put Your Strengths to Work (The Free Press, 2007)
- The Truth About You (Thomas Nelson, 2008)
- Find Your Strongest Life (Thomas Nelson, 2009)
- StandOut: The Groundbreaking New Strengths Assessment from the Leader of the Strengths Revolution (Thomas Nelson, 2011)
- StandOut 2.0: Assess Your Strengths. Find Your Edge. Win at Work. (Harvard Business Review Press, 2015)
- What's Happening to Women's Happiness? (2009) — part I
- Women's Happiness: What We Know for Certain (2009) — part II
- What The Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently
- What Does a Strong Life Look Like?
- Words of Wisdom from Strong Women
- Pyrrhic Victory: Why Men are Becoming More Like Women
- Jones, Del (3 March 2005). "Business bows to an unlikely oracle: British boy wonder". USA Today. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
- Blackhurst, Chris (5 December 2007). "Playing to his strengths, the Beverly Hills Brit who's a self-help god". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
- "Notable OAs" (PDF). Aldenham School, Hertfordshire. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
- "Pembroke College - Cambridge Society Annual Gazette - Issue 84, September 2010 (pg.126 - 1984 - Marcus Buckingham)" (PDF). Pembroke College - Cambridge Society. September 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
- "WEDDINGS;Ms. Rinzler, Mr. Buckingham". New York Times. 17 March 1996. Retrieved 24 May 2011.
- "Corporate History". Retrieved 24 May 2011.
- "The New York Times Business Best Sellers". New York Times. 10 October 1999. Retrieved 24 May 2011.
- Pollitt, Katha (30 September 2009). "Are you happy?". The Nation. Retrieved 24 May 2011.
- Ehrenreich, Barbara. "Are Women Getting Sadder?". Barbara Ehrenreich. Retrieved 24 May 2011.