Maximizer: People who are especially talented in the Maximizer theme focus on strengths as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence. They seek to transform something strong into something superb.
I love this one. Ever since I heard Marcus Buckingham speak on strengths, I’ve been fascinated by the topic. I’ve shifted my whole career focus based on this idea of strengths – both on a better understanding of my own strengths, and an intrinsic desire to help my students find their strengths. Here is the general explanation of a Maximizer from StrengthsFinder 2.0.
Excellence, not average, is your measure. Taking something from below average to slightly above average takes a great deal of effort and in your opinion is not very rewarding. Transforming something strong into something superb takes just as much effort but is much more thrilling. Strengths, whether yours or someone else’s, fascinate you… And having found a strength, you feel compelled to to nurture it, refine it, and stretch it toward excellence… You don’t want to spend your life bemoaning what you lack. Rather, you want to capitalize on the gifts with which you are blessed. It’s more fun. It’s more productive. And, counterintuitively, it is more demanding. (137)
This is so spot on – I love taking something strong and helping it become superb. It’s thrilling to play a role in something great. I love it. I see this in my life in so many ways. For the subject of this blog, I see strengths in all teens. That’s the whole point of The Rebelution and Do Hard Things. Teenagers are capable of great things, and I want to help them find their strengths and nurture them to excellence. That is so exciting to me.
The book then offers several Ideas for Action based on the strength theme. I found most of them to be interesting and insightful, but not necessarily worth sharing on a blog. However, these two seemed exceptionally applicable to my situation:
- Seek roles in which you are helping people succeed. In coaching, managing, mentoring, or teaching roles, your focus on strengths will prove particularly beneficial to others. Because most people find it difficult to describe what they do best, start by arming them with vivid descriptions. (138)
- Don’t let your Maximizer talents be stifled by conventional wisdom, which says you should always find what is broken and fix it. Identify and invest in parts of your organization or community that are working. Make sure that most of your resources are spent on the build-up and build-out of these pockets of excellence. (139)
That last one is so liberating for me. I’ve always felt a little guilty that I don’t enjoy fixing what’s broken. Professionally, I’ve done both. I’ve worked in an excellent school that was already doing great things before I got there. I’ve also held a job that seriously needed fixing, and I worked my butt off to bring an English program to a school that really didn’t have one before I got there. I left a bigger mark on the second school, but it wasn’t exciting to me. That first job, at the good school, was thrilling! As a teacher, I’ve met people that expect me to have an interest in “saving” kids – either as a special education teacher or for working with low-income, inner-city kids. I don’t know if it’s all the “inspirational teacher” movies out there skewing people’s perspective or what, but that doesn’t appeal to me. I have the deepest respect for teachers who do those jobs. They are incredible people. But being honest, those types of jobs aren’t where I can be at my best. Instead, I want to join something that is already strong and help it become amazing. Please don’t think that makes me a bad person.
After reading the chapter in the book, I then took a look at my Personalized Theme Insights, generated from my specific responses to the online assessment. These narrow down how the Maximizer theme applies to me, how I stand out compared to other Maximizers in the world. Here’s what it says. If you know me, maybe you can tell me how accurate this is:
Driven by your talents, you are aware of what you do naturally and well. You prefer to leverage your talents rather than spend time trying to overcome your shortcomings. You expect excellence from yourself and others… Because of your strengths, you reflect upon your talents a lot. You probably dedicate less time to studying your limitations. You routinely make discoveries about your most powerful gifts. Sharpening these abilities is your path to excellence… It’s very likely that you realize you can determine what distinguishes each person from every other human being. Routinely, you use these insights to energize and inspire individuals to do what needs to be done. You honor the special, the wondrous, and the rare qualities of people. You intentionally position them to attain ever higher levels of excellence.
I can only hope that it’s right — that I do in fact energize and inspire individuals to do what needs to be done and help them attain ever higher levels of excellence. That sounds amazing.