StandOut by Marcus Buckingham is the latest in a long line of books he has authored around the “strengths movement.” The basic premise of the movement is that it is a far more effective to focus on personal strengths in order to achieve success at work.
Great managers bring out the best in their individual team members and don’t worry so much about weaknesses, the traditional focus for improvement. As individuals, Buckingham argues, we are more likely to get ahead in work and in life by focusing the same way. Most of our energy should be focused on leveraging our strengths and we should stop beating ourselves up so much about our weaknesses.
It’s a good theory, and one I got behind when I read Now, Discover Your Strengths, the book Buckingham co-authored with Donald Clifton back in 2001. And like Now, Discover Your Strengths, the StandOut book is accompanied by an online test (a unique code in the book gets you access to the test) that is backed up by lots of research and statistical analysis. The test shows you your biggest strengths and the results provide guidance on how to best leverage them.
StandOut is a simpler incarnation of the strengths books. The test results show you your top two strengths. In my case, I’m a “Pioneer” and an “Influencer,” meaning my strongest assets are about envisioning the future and motivating people to act. The custom report and the book help to explore these ideas further, and to provide guidance on maximizing strengths.
The tests and results are not as nuanced as other instruments I’ve used, but the results did resonate. It’s a simple and cheap way to get introduced to the concept and to try it out. I found it to be a useful and interesting update to the results from my experiment with Now, Discover Your Strengths.
That said, the book is very lightweight. You’re basically buying the test. The book has an introduction to the concept, and then a chapter dedicated to each of the nine strengths that the test detects, with very little useful additional material. All in all, it’s worth $12.50 to try this out. And at that price, it’s cheap to try it with your entire team. It can be a useful way to introduce the concept and to explore the idea using common terminology. I recommend giving it a try, particularly if you’ve not explored Buckingham’s earlier works.