Book Review of Marcus Buckingham’s “The Truth About You”

Posted: December 16, 2008 by Rick Hogaboam in Book Reviews
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More information about this book can be found at the publisher’s site:

The author, Marcus Buckingham, offers yet another title in what is becoming an increasingly popular genre of “self help” or “leadership development”. There is honestly nothing much new in this book that I haven’t already seen in some of the few “leadership” books that I have read from the likes of John Maxwell. Buckingham offers 5 main points in this book:

1.       “Performance is Always the Point”

2.       “Your Strengths Aren’t What You’re Good At, And You’re Weaknesses Aren’t What You’re Bad At”

3.       “When It Comes to Your Job, the ‘What’ Always Trumps the ‘Why’ and ‘Who’”

4.       “You’ll Never Find the Perfect Job”

5.       “You’ll Never Turn Your Weaknesses into Strengths”

My thoughts on each point are as follows:

1.       Performance may be the point in the business sector…the bottom line is all that matters. While I do hope that free market capitalism shows some heart and concern for humanity, the bottom line is what seems to rule the day. I am a pastor and I want to emphatically say that this guideline should not be implemented in the Church.


We must care for more than just performance with those who function in our church. Maxwell once said that you should always get rid of the bottom 20% of your performers and actually advocated the perpetually firing of the bottom 20% of leaders in your church. My question is, “What is the criteria?”. Often it is unfair. I have met former ministry leaders who were run out of their respective organizations as if they were just an employee number.


I have had to deal with folks who once labored in the ministry of their respective local church only to encounter some marital problems. When they had mentioned to their pastor that they would like to take a break from their lay ministry role to be ministered to in their marriage, the pastor seemed more concerned about finding someone to replace them. They felt used and abused and left the church jaded from such an experience.

I just want to say that this principle may work in the normal workplace, but it should be kept out of the church. Don’t get me wrong, we should have expectations of those whom God has placed in certain areas of leadership, but character and integrity matter, not just performance


2.       Buckingham is essentially saying that you may be good at something that you take no joy in and it would thus be wrongly considered a strength. He is using a subjective test of what is a strength or not based on whether an actions fulfills you or drains you. The only problem I had with this point was that one may enjoy something that they honesty stink at. While he advocates not listening to critics, the fact is that we can all use some objectivity in defining what our strengths are. One only needs to tune into “American Idol” on their first rounds of assessment and laugh at the many folks who sincerely think that Hollywood is their calling and that they are great at singing. While I don’t want to dash someone’s dreams, I feel sad for the many folks who lacked a honest person in their life who simply told them that they sound terrible and should focus elsewhere.

3.       I agree to a degree that the “what” of a job description is of great importance…even in ministry. I have seen gifted pastors function in a role that didn’t best suit their gifts because they didn’t fully asses what the expectations were from the respective elders in the church. I would say that the “why” is very important though. For me as a pastor, they “why” of what I do is what keeps me sane. Paul said that if Christ is not risen, we are to be pitied above all others. My labors are in vain if Christ isn’t risen. The “who” and “why” are essentials in my “profession”. I would also say that they should be important in other vocations as well. I would like to know that my local police force and firemen aren’t just collecting a paycheck with no desire to actually help people, etc.

4.       I agree that no one will find the “perfect” job, but that God wants all to apply themselves in their respective vocations entirely for His glory. Much of our labor is affected by the curse of the fall, but we can know that our labor isn’t just some necessary evil, but was originally mandated by God for the good of creation. In this sense we can view our work as being Divinely ordained and intended for His glory.

5.       I agreed with Buckingham’s 5th point the most. We are all gifted in certain areas and not in others. It is truly a freeing thing to recognize our weaknesses and limitations and be able to let them go and instead function in our strengths.


·         One statement that caused me some concern was as follows: “Five Things  That Sound Right But Aren’t…#1 ‘Always Treat People Like You Would Like to be Treated’”.

o   Buckingham actually advises his readers to break this “golden rule” based on the premise that we aren’t the same and don’t necessarily want the same things that everyone else wants. While I understand somewhat what Buckingham is attempting to say, I wish he stated it a bit differently so as to not sound confusing. If he is indeed as Christian and the publisher, Thomas Nelson, is Christian….then I would have expected greater explanation on this point. It was God, no less, who first said that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus also summed the law and prophets by affirming that we are to love God and our neighbors as ourselves (Jesus also gave a new commissioning of this principle when He said that we should love others as He loved us…He raised the bar of example).

o   Mr. Buckingham, I know you are trying to be cool and trendy with “new” “innovative” principles for changing our lives, but telling people to break the “golden rule” seems a bit arrogant. If it was just hyperbole, even so, I would caution you against taking the words of Christ and encourage disobedience.

All in all, I would have to say that this book was mostly a waste of time. If you are really inclined to reading some books in this genre, I would say to look elsewhere.



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