“ . . . there are patterns in you. And the most dominant – the most frequently recurring patterns – are the source of your strengths.”
StandOut, page 23
For many of us, learning more about how we interact well with others is key to operating successfully in the working world. There is no shortage of tips, surveys, and tools available to help us understand our personalities and figure out strengths, yet many (most!) of them come with recommendations for changes you need to make to improve your performance.
Imagine the joy of completing a short assessment that tells you how to do more of what you do best – to focus on the best parts of your skills and personality, and learn how to channel those strengths when working with others.
StandOut is written by a long-time strengths expert, Marcus Buckingham, who led the strengths development work for Gallup, creating tools which are widely used today. In his latest, StandOut, he takes the strengths methodology further, by looking at how we apply our strengths in working with others, and how your top two strengths can work together to further enhance your work.
Each copy of StandOut comes with a unique code to access the StandOut assessment, which involves answering a series of situational questions. After completing the assessment, which takes about 15 minutes, you will receive a copy of your report, which describes key elements of your top two strengths – what they are, how they play out in various roles and situations, and how they work in combination.
“When you join a team, this is what your teammates feel . . . when you engage a client, this is the impact you have . . . when you lead a team forward, this is the sense they make of you” (page 26).
Your Strengths Are Your Edge – Use Them!
“[Your strengths are] your edge – where you will have a natural advantage over everyone else. And they are your multiplier – you will most quickly learn and improve upon any innovations, techniques, or best practices that complement these [strengths].”
StandOut, page 17
As Buckingham notes, “each of us have specific areas where we consistently stand out, where we can do things, see things, understand things, and learn things better and faster than ten thousand other people can” (StandOut, page 194).
The secret is to really focus on our core strengths, and use them to their fullest in order to give you the edge you need. The two following GEMs will show you how to do just that.
GEM # 1
Find The Best Ways To Apply Your Strengths
“Sustained success comes only when you take what’s unique about you and figure out how to make it useful.”
StandOut, page 194
Buckingham emphasizes the importance of taking time to understand how to best apply your strengths to your work, and provides an exercise to help highlight the best uses for your strengths:
Take a piece of paper, and write “Love It” and “Loathe It” in two columns at the top. Through the day, as you’re doing tasks that excite you, write them on the “Love It” side, or if they are difficult to do (or you procrastinate about doing them), write them on the “Loathe It” side.
This exercise can help you see how your strengths can be the force that invigorates your work.
Your strengths need to be tuned to the different roles you are playing – leader, manager, sales, or client service. As a leader, what’s the unique way you inspire your staff? As a manager, how are you best able to focus your team and get the needed results? In sales, how are you best able to be persuasive and compelling? And in client service, how are you building trust? All of these elements are optimal if you use your strengths.
GEM # 2
Stay Focused On Your Strengths, Always
“Move us even slightly out of our strengths zone, and our outstanding performance falls to average alarmingly fast.”
StandOut, p. 195
Despite looking creatively at your strengths, you still need to stay focused; as Buckingham notes you can rapidly decline in your performance if you start to even dabble in areas outside your strengths. He gives several examples, including one about Jon Stewart – a celebrity widely regarded as a great interviewer and political commentator – yet as host of the Oscars, his material was perceived as ‘harsh’ and the audience did not find him funny. He’d shifted too far from his core strengths. Any time you feel things are not quite right at work, you’re feeling lost or disoriented, reconnect with your strengths. “Understanding your strengths will hold you in place, reorient you, and show you the way forward” (StandOut, page 203).
There are times when it is easy to lose sight of your talents, particularly with skills that come easily to you, as they “come so naturally to you that you don’t see your ability to do them as unique” (StandOut, p. 193). Don’t underestimate the value of these talents, or overlook them in considering new avenues or opportunities. The “Love It/Loathe It” exercise can also be helpful here, particularly in seeing how activities you excel at can also bring energy and enthusiasm.
StandOut is ideal for anyone looking for new ways to understand their best talents and qualities, and to learn how their strengths play out in different settings – with teams, in sales, as a manager. Whether you’re establishing yourself at work, perhaps in a new role or with a new team, or are feeling lost and need help with getting on the right path ahead, StandOut can get you the edge you need. Who we are at our core is also the key to being our best, and happiest, at work.