Q&A with Marcus Buckingham
MB: My career expertise is as a psychometrician—somebody who builds tests to measure personality. Companies would employ me to build interviews to measure the talents of people before they were hired. It has always fascinated me that when you ask an open-ended question of people who are really different in many ways, but are excellent at the same thing, they all somehow come to a similar conclusion. I would start with a study group of people who are excellent in a role and get them talking. My first client was Walt Disney World, and the first job I studied was housekeeping. I didn't know anything about housekeeping. I started off with eight housekeepers talking around a table. They didn't know each other; they were of different nationalities, women and men of varying ages and experience levels, and they were nervous and not saying much. But their reaction was amazing when I asked, "How do you know if a room is clean?" One woman said, "Well, I lie on the bed and turn on the ceiling fan." And everyone else around the table responded, "You do that too?" When I asked why, they all said, "It's the first thing that our guests do after a long day at the theme park; they flop on bed and turn on the ceiling fan. If dust comes off the top of the fan, it doesn't matter how clean the rest of the room is, the guest will think it's as dirty as the top of the fan."
When my focus was managers, I asked a variety of brilliant managers, "What's the best way to motivate somebody?" You can just imagine all the possible right answers: You should set career goals. You should praise them. The great managers all said exactly the same thing: "It depends on the person." That's when I knew that every great manager addresses each person as an individual. So, I'm not a very good housekeeper, I'm not a very good manager, and I'm clearly not a woman. My expertise has always been to study the best and see what they have in common.
To address all the questions from the Oprah.com community and to begin writing this book, I studied women who are happy and successful to see whether they shared anything that others could learn from. Those in our study group were not all financially successful, they were not all chief executives, nor were they all stay-at-home moms, but they all did share four feelings in common. First, they felt successful; they felt effective. Second, they instinctively looked forward to tomorrow; they positively anticipated the next day. Third, they reported frequent feelings of getting so involved in what they were doing—being so "in the zone"—that they lost track of time. Lastly, they reported that they were invigorated, even at the end of a long, busy day.
The women who felt those four emotions were all very different in the choices they'd made. Some stay at home, some don't; some see work as an essential part of their being, some see work as peripheral; some are massively ambitious, some are content to work at the same level for years; some are single, and some are married, and so on. Our focus then became: What, if anything, do they share? What, if anything, do they have in common?
We found the commonality among the most successful and fulfilled women—what it is they do differently, and I developed it into Find Your Strongest Life.