Book Review: StandOut (Marcus Buckingham)

As many of you know, I’m not a terribly huge fan of most personality assessments — at least not for “career planning” purposes — since I find that many of them are either 1) extremely out of date, in terms of the career options they suggest or b) ridiculously boxy, in terms of suggesting that only certain personality types tend to fit well with certain jobs.

This being said, I’ve always loved the StrengthsFinder assessment series from Marcus Buckingham and the Gallup organization, since this instrument not only doesn’t get into the whole “career-matching” game — but also suggests, repeatedly, that a person who is REALLY in touch with their lifelong talents, gifts, and strengths can accomplish pretty much anything in life.  This theory directly resonates with my own observations and experience, given that I’ve seen classic introverts become terrific sales people, extreme extroverts become accountants, and extremely “linear” people like myself somehow make a go out of it in the counseling profession.

In fact, as some of you know, I not only include a copy of the classic Now Discover Your Strengths (the original book of the StrengthsFinder series) as part of my signature career change program,  but I’ve also written multiple articles on my blog, available here, about how a person can take their StrengthsFinder data and translate it into the job search process in a meaningful, practical way.

Since that original book, however, I’ll confess that most of the other half-dozen or so titles in the series haven’t intrigued me much, since they are geared towards specific aspects of the business world, like staff management or team-building, that don’t really relate directly to my practice.  And while a lot of people were smitten with the book StrengthsFinder 2.0 which purported to offer an updated version of the original assessment, it didn’t add all that much to the process, to me, and seemed (hate to say it) like a thinly-disguised way for the authors to make a few extra bucks off the original concept.  So for those unfamiliar with the series, I still recommend the original book, which provides more context and background about the groundbreaking “strengths” research and why you should care about it.

Until now.  In just the last month or two, Marcus Buckingham has released a brand-new book in the series, StandOut, that really does break new ground and provide some exciting new insights into the concept of how each of us is innately “wired” to succeed and how we can capitalize on this realization.  This book, which I tore through in about 40 minutes, provides a terrific refresher of the original concept and also provides a unique code for taking a NEW assessment the author has developed, called the StandOut test, which measures your top two “strength roles” out of nine possibilities — and discusses their application to your life and your career success.

This new test, once again, nailed me to a tee.  I came out as a “Creator/Equalizer” and as a I read through the description of this strength type, with my skeptical eye, I could barely find a single statement to quibble with.  Many of the descriptions they provided about this personality type, in fact, literally seemed ripped from my own brain in terms of being exactly how I see the world and approach things — which is downright spooky.  So what the heck.  Rather than write several paragraphs trying to describe what the results of the test look like, let’s go the show-and-tell route, instead, and I’ll just let you access my own report by clicking here if you want to see it.  I don’t think there’s anything really embarrassing or private about the data, and again, while you could probably care less about MY results, this will at least give you the chance to see what your own report would look like, should you decide to pick up a copy of the book.  And if you find a way to use this data to manipulate me down the road, in some fashion, good for you!  Shows you’re really paying attention to these concepts and learning how to apply them… 🙂

In closing, I salute Mr. Buckingham for his continued brilliant work in helping figure out what makes us all tick, and for authoring another pioneering book that adds real value to anybody who is already a disciple of the StrengthsFinder methodology — or who wants to jump into the arena, feet first.  All things considered, I’d still recommend people start with the original Now Discover Your Strengths publication, but StandOut is an eminently worthy sequel and adds some real depth to the concept in question.  Want to pick it up?  As of the time of this writing, you can find a copy available here on Amazon for $13.54!

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6 Responses to “Book Review: StandOut (Marcus Buckingham)”

  1. I love these strengths assessments and like you found the Standout tool to be right on. It is great to discover what you think is natural and therefore not such a big deal, IS different and IS something of value. Marcus does such a great job of articulating the value of the strengths in addition to the description. I like being a Pioneer/Creator, feels like a fit.

    Thanks for pointing out the newest book.

    Kirsten

  2. Matt-Enjoyed your blog regarding Marcus Buckingham and his series of books. I too think he has brilliantly made a nice little business out of helping people assess themselves and follow their strengths. I had an opportunity to meet him and listen to a Key Note he gave promoting and validating his research that went into creating his book “Follow your Strengths”…Pretty good stuff! It only seems to lack one major concept which halts people’s journey to finding and using their “Strengths” for career or just in life for that matter. And that is “Doing the Work”, It’s pretty simple to assess people and their skills with career/psychological assesments but it is not easy to take that knowledge and do something with it. No matter what area, career, sports, relationship,..it takes work and practice to build those strenghts and keep them relevant.

    So how do you do that you ask. I recommend reading a great book called “Power To Transform” by Chris Majer. This book is very clear, concise, and succinct and is very direct. I think you will appreciate it’s brilliance in Simplicity. This book was written for and with the Individual in mind but Chris’s work at the Human Potential Project is assisting Teams and Organizations with Authentic Leadership and Development using the philosophy of “Commitment Based Leadership”. This work is very specific and helps create Embodied Competence! If any of your readers are Managers, Leaders, and or Executives and want your teams to reach their potential and increase performance, they might want to check this company out.

    http://www.humanpotentialproject.com

    Thanks for all the information! You are doing great work.

    Best Regards,

    Greg Stern
    gregs@hp2mail.com

  3. Matt,
    Thank you. Very helpful. I will continue to include it when it feels right.

  4. Debbie: In response to your question, I definitely know some professionals who include their StrengthsFinder test results directly on their resume, often just listed at the very end under “Additional Information” or something similar. As to whether this step adds value or not to your candidacy, I think it totally depends on your audience. If the reader of your resume is a believer in such assessments, or a fan of the StrengthsFinder series in particular, I think they’d view such an inclusion as a very nice and helpful touch. If instead they AREN’T into personality assessments in any way, they’ll probably just ignore this data. So I think there’s a strong upside to including such information, and not all that much risk, making it a wise idea for many people to consider adding this information into their materials. Again, though, only if YOU’RE comfortable with doing so and feel the results peg you quite accurately…

  5. I totally agree with what you have written Matt about the strengths finder book and process. I was ready to leave sales 5 years ago and was not sure where to go to or what to do…I took the assessment and also consulted with you 🙂 and it really helped me realize that selling was a natural fit to my strengths finder results. You also helped me approach new sales positions with the mindset of finding a company’s culture that fit with me instead of the other way around. I did and 5 years later I am the top sales person in the company with the highest quota – exceeding all my careers earnings and every year I keep selling more and earning more. I always refer back to the strengths finder results to keep myself motivated when sales get tough. I am looking forward to getting the new book and giving it a whirl!
    Megan

  6. Hi Matt,

    Like you, I love the StrengthFinders assessment and it nailed me to a tee. I wanted to know what your thoughts were on including the results of these kind of tests on one’s resume as a discrete item (i.e. StrengthFinders Assessment Themes as a section heading with the theme list included and maybe a link to the the website….).

    I realize that one can easily incorporate these results into a resume without making them a discrete item, but do you see value in the actual test results being reported? Might they lend more credibility to your descriptions of yourself?

    Thanks !
    Debbie

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