Are you using your strengths?

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According to Marcus Buckingham 73% of organizations tap into their employees strengths about once a week.  Only 12% of organizations use their strengths of their employees most of the time.  I often ask myself how can you have 2 businesses offering the same service in the same area, dealing with the some economic factors, one is prospering and the other is failing?

The great leadership author Jim Collins in his most recent book “Great by Choice” featured at story about this very topic.   In 1910 two explores Roald Amudsen of Norway and Robert Scott of England set out to be the first explorers to reach the South Pole.  They both were dealing with the same environment and challenges.  One of the explorers and his team was was successful while the other explorer and his team ended in tragedy.

Amudsen was disciplined and carefully planned every aspect of the expedition with only the vision of success in mind.  Amudsen was innovative and chose a route that had not been attempted previously.  Another difference was that Amudsen used proven arctic dogs and sleds to make the journey.   Scott initially used motor sleds, they failed and then switched to ponies which did poorly sinking into the snow.  Scott ended up primarily using his men to haul his equipment.  Amudsen choose strategic places to set up his base camps.  He set up clear and excessive makers to mark their path as they traveled.  The discipline of paying attention to detail benefited Amudson in that he carefully calculated how much supplies and food he would need.  He also planed for unplanned events and brought extra supplies, navigational equipment and food. Another critical factor to Amudsen’s success was that he set a clear 20 mile marker that his team would travel each day.  Regardless of weather his team would set out, if the weather was bad they would push on, if it was good they would travel 20miles then rest.  On the other hand Scott did not set a clear marker, if the weather was good he would push his men to exhaustion.  If the weather was bad they would stay in camp and wait for the weather to clear. On December 14th 1911 Amudsen and his team reached the south pole 35 days ahead of Scott.  Scott eventually made it to the south pole however on his return just 20 kilometers from his supply depot Scott’s team tired and exhausted died.

This story is a great encouragement regardless of our environment, economy, and other uncontrollable factors we can achieve success and thrive.  Amudsen was a planner and had margin, extra supplies and food.  Perhaps most importantly he had a clear goal each day, to travel 20 miles.

To help us stay focused and clear we have a leadership conference once a quarter to review our goals and “20 mile” strategy and to be sure each team member is utilizing their strengths.

“Greatness is not a function of circumstance, greatness is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline” -Jim Collins

What is your 20 mile marker and how do you be sure you stay on course?

One Response to "Are you using your strengths?"
  1. Dad says:

    Matt, this is an excellent story about what good planning and preparation (along with prayer might I add) can do for anyone who has goals he wants to achieve in life. I think God made us in His image to create for him and to explore his universe. When we listen to Him, he gives us creativity, wisdom and understanding to make good plans, and faith to see them through to success. And if we fail, we know we gave our best effort and he is pleased with that. I think that we should serve God with our whole heart which will lead to serving our fellow man and doing some amazing things! Keep up the good work!


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