Bob Bookman, INSIGHTMirror 360 President, realized that for almost twenty years he was wrong about how to develop leaders.
He wanted to fix his past mistakes, and with the INSIGHTMirror 360 staff developed this Mission Statement that has kept our team in the right direction for the past nine years:
Our Mission Statement:
To help people focus on their strengths for exceptional performance, contributing to making the world a better place.
Short version of how this mission statement emerged. (Longer and more revealing version follows this abbreviated piece.)
Bob Bookman, creator of the INSIGHTMirror 360, began his career as a management performance improvement consultant nearly thirty years ago when he became Board Certified as a Master Executive Coach. He subsequently launched a coaching firm that reached its pinnacle with twelve full-time coaches and clients that included over a score of Fortune 500 companies.
In the summer of 2000, Bob experienced a breakthrough event that he described as “like an anvil hitting me on the head.” He had just read the Gallup Study 2000 on the characteristics of outstanding leaders. One of the project’s most important findings, corroborated by such highly respected management experts as Peter Drucker, Donald Clifton, and Marcus Buckingham, was that leaders often waste time trying to “fix” employees’ weaknesses. The study found that concentrating on weaknesses often doesn’t work, and at best only helps people prevent failure.
Bob realized that he had built a consulting practice following the common wisdom among most executive coaches at that time, based on the opposite of what the new research had uncovered. He had been a “fixer of weaknesses” rather than a “reinforcer of strengths.” Armed with this new insight, Bob made a decision to sell his executive coaching business and set out on a totally new course of action: To help people focus on their strengths for exceptional performance, contributing to making the world a better place.
Longer And More Revealing Explanation Of How The INSIGHTMirror 360 Emerged.
by Bob Bookman
Before attending college, I was labeled by those who didn’t know me well, as not the brightest kid. With the exception of English, most of my school grades were low, especially in the two subject areas I worked hardest in: Spanish and algebra. I had to repeat both courses to graduate.
After college, I entered the Peace Corps and was sent to the Dominican Republic to, of all things, teach algebra in Spanish! I took the teaching assignment to prove to myself that I could do it. And after just one month I proved to myself that I could do it. But I was miserable, as were my students
I suggested to the Peace Corps Director a new assignment for myself: helping assist small farmers form cooperatives to get a better price for their sugarcane. At first she said, “No.” But I persisted by enumerating up my strengths. These strengths included: resiliency, gaining people’s trust quickly (in spite of my shoddy Spanish), mobilizing people to take action, and making sure every stakeholder played an integral part in the decision-making process to form the cooperatives. The director finally gave in.
I understood that the small sugarcane landowners in our rural area were trapped in a cycle of working long hours to eke out a living, greatly hindered by the middlemen’s greed. These middlemen bought the small landowners’ sugar at very low prices. And it seemed the small cane farmers had no other choice but to sell at such minimum prices because the sugarcane refineries only bought cane in large quantities–not the small lots that these farmers could produce.
In ten weeks, I had over a dozen small sugar cane landowners working to help create their own cooperatives. At first, there was no interest in my idea, but that changed rapidly to guarded enthusiasm when I took fifteen farmers to a nearby town, El Seibo. Here there were several very successful dairy cooperatives formed two years ago by small sugar cane farmers seeking to dispense with their middlemen. The reason the sugarcane farmers kept their hopes restrained was because they knew their lives were in danger from thugs hired to keep the status quo. Bravely, they stayed the course, and within five months formed three successful cooperatives selling cane directly to the sugar refineries, making four times the money for their effort.
I visited the Dominican Republic with my family in 2001, and met many of my farmer amigos now in the ranks of the Dominican upper-middleclass. Upon returning to the States, I opened my mail that included an article from the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD). The article concluded 360º assessments were unwittingly encouraging coaches to focus almost solely on people’s weaknesses, while seldom or not at all building on the power of their natural strengths. I immediately went to Google, and found leading researchers like Marcus Buckingham, Donald Clifton, and the late Peter Drucker agreeing with the ASTD findings. This revelation caused me to take a new look at the twenty years I had spent building a practice as an executive management coach based on a set of beliefs that after serious self-inquiry I could no longer support. Before reading the article, I thought my job was to help clients overcome personal areas of weakness — often with the assistance of well-recognized 360s. I almost never had my client’s strengths play much of a part in my coaching approach.
I asked myself, how could I have accepted the common wisdom that “fixing” people’s weaknesses would be of great benefit; and that a person’s strengths and talents would simply take care of themselves? Thirty years after high school, I was still dealing with wounds from well-intentioned people whose entire focus was on fixing my weaknesses to make me better. Better at what? Algebra, which most people never use in a lifetime? And where were the supporters of my strengths in English, especially writing? Why had no one ever thought to encourage me to write for the school newspaper, or express my writing talents in other ways? That would have done wonders for my self-esteem.
Even more surprising, I forgot as a coach the lessons I learned in the Peace Corps about trusting and utilizing my strengths and the strengths of others? All those lessons were left behind, as I simply followed the way most coaches worked. Was I (and others, too) so hardwired that we kept believing, regardless of our experiences, that the best way to achieve and succeed was to work on our weaknesses, leaving our strengths to take care of themselves? Why wasn’t it obvious, especially to me that it is within our strengths that the true opportunities for world-class performance reside?
Within two months, I closed my coaching practice and began developing the INSIGHTMirror 360. I was on a mission, based on what I had learned from my own pain and triumphs, and backed by the latest research building on the fact that the best leaders capitalize predominantly on their strengths to succeed.
I believe most people want to contribute to making their world a better place. If INSIGHTMirror 360 can be a driver in helping people consciously identify and use their strengths to their fullest potential, what a positive influence that would have on their self-esteem and level of productivity! Just imagine how such a combination of factors –individual strengths, high self-esteem, and greater productivity — could come together to become an uplifting and ongoing force for change.