If you always do what you have always done, you'll always get what you have always gotten.” That phrase, told to me by a respected industry safety professional many years ago, has provided very powerful insight during the course of my career.

At the time, he was referring to the traditional hands-off approach many trucking companies took in managing “lost time” employee injuries such as slips, falls and back strains and their associated worker's comp claims. For the most part, carriers failed to aggressively and proactively manage the rehabilitation of injured drivers. They typically waited until the treating physician declared the employee “released for work.” The cost of these claims frequently escalated because of litigation and/or doctor shopping, which dramatically extended an injured employee's time away from work.

The “always do what you have always done” approach can lead to entrenched beliefs and resistance to change. But I'm happy to say that when it comes to worker's comp injuries, many fleets have now adopted a more proactive and holistic management approach.

Recently, I've encountered this pattern in another part of my career. I had been taught — and firmly believed — that the most efficient way to grow a team was to devote a significant portion of my supervisory resources to identifying and correcting performance deficiencies. Reviews focused on areas where people failed to meet a goal or exhibited a significant competency gap.

But this approach did not result in noticeable performance improvements. Moreover, it often led team members to become less engaged in their work.

Fortunately, I came across the strength-based lifestyle, championed by Marcus Buckingham, Donald Clifton and others. Their works are documented in such books as First, Break All The Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths.

Research by this group has determined that more can be gained by “developing your gifts and leveraging your natural skills than by trying to repair your weaknesses.” Their theory is that each of us possesses a unique set of talents, which when identified and leveraged can lead to a higher level of engagement and performance.

Through their process, I discovered my top five strengths:


Yearns to immediately tackle the task.


Wants to make something superb out of something average.

Win others over

Enjoys meeting new people and making connections with them.


Hungers to put wheels on visions of what could be.


Breaks problems down into a series of what-if scenarios that sort through the clutter and lead to solutions.

I can be happier and more productive in roles that allow me to play to those strengths. More importantly, I now approach team coaching and mentoring in a completely new way. Rather than studying failures, I focus my efforts on team members' successes. Career development plans now focus on guiding people towards roles that play to their strengths. Our approach is to find what is unique about each team member and capitalize on it.

I urge you to learn how a strengths-based approach can provide a similar transformation in your life. For more information, see www.marcusbuckingham.com.

Jim York is the ass't. vice president of technical services for Zurich Services Corp. Risk Engineering in Schaumburg, IL.