Standout: A Review of Marcus Buckingham’s Book

November 18, 2013

Career, Leadership

Book cover of StandOut by Marcus BuckinghamBecause it speaks so much to my values, my all-time favourite management/leadership book is First, Break All The Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. It’s not so much that I am a rebel, breaking rules whenever I want. It’s because the book is based on a 25-year Gallup study on what great managers do: select staff for talent, find the right fit for employees, focussing on their strengths, and define the right results. I have been using, and acting on, the 12 Questions in team satisfaction surveys for years. For these reasons, I was really excited to attend Marcus Buckingham’s keynote presentation, based on his latest book, StandOut, at the PMI Global Congress in October 2012.

The presentation was a summary of the first two chapters of the book. Humorous and inspiring stories about how real people use their unique strengths to succeed illustrate how important it is to be authentic to who you are to effectively lead. One of my favourite examples is what two different general managers of top performing hotels in the same chain of hotels give as their one tip to successfully running a hotel. They give very different examples which reflect their own very different personalities. Yet, both managers have achieved top results in the same company. If either have them had tried to implement the tip of the other, it would not have been as effective because it would not have spoken to their strengths.

StandOut identifies nine Strength Roles. Included with the book is a key to an online survey to help you identify your top two strength roles. The survey is timed so you don’t over think your responses. The choices are equally good, but embedded in the choices are key “trigger” words to which you are naturally drawn. By identifying your top two strength roles, you can focus on them and quickly learn and improve on any best practices that complement these roles. The rest of the book goes into depth on each of these roles, giving you:

  • Phrases to describe your edge
  • Advice on how to make an immediate impact
  • Recommendations on how to take your performance to the next level
  • Suggestions on what to watch out for
  • Career advice for your particular strengths combination

Marcus Buckingham book signing

Right after the presentation, I bought the book (and met the author!) and took the test. Turns out I am a Pioneer and Advisor, which didn’t surprise me in the least. The advice on how to best use my strengths roles really resonated with me. I found the book so useful that I bought a copy for each of the Production Managers on my team for Christmas last year. As a leadership team building effort, this summer I gave the entire leadership team on my project a copy of the book to a) learn more about ourselves and b) learn how to work to each other’s strengths. One decided to read the book cover to cover before taking the test, so I’m still waiting for him to find out his top two strength roles before we can discuss it as a group. One Producer particularly appreciated the suggestions on what to watch out for, since it explained why some people had particular reactions to Influencer behaviour. For another Production Manager, the Pioneer role came out quite low on his list and, so far, is the only one on the team for whom it isn’t in the top two. Considering our industry is always about pushing boundaries, trying new things and continuous change, we have had some interesting discussions on why his chosen industry still works for him, even though he isn’t a Pioneer.

Beyond the book, the StandOut website emails me with weekly tips, insights or exercises to help me better understand my own strength roles or the strength roles of others. I was initially skeptical about these emails, but I tried them and found the additional content useful. All combined, the book, the test and the website provide helpful insight and tools we can easily apply to our careers. Overall, it is a great value. So, if you are interested in finding out your strength roles and learning how to use them better, I recommend picking up StandOut.

Disclosure: the book links lead to where I am a registered affiliate. If you purchase a book using these links, I will receive a small referral fee.

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About Liza Wood

After a dozen years leading video game development projects in a variety of roles, I decided to pursue a Master of Data Science at the University of British Columbia. Studying data science doesn’t mean I’m moving away from leading people. Growing data science teams need collaborative, pragmatic, Agile leadership to connect data to all areas of the business. I would like to share that point of view, along with my experiences, on this blog.

View all posts by Liza Wood

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