StandOut 2.0: Assess Your Strengths, Find Your Edge, Win at Work by Marcus Buckingham

In StandOut 2.0, Marcus Buckingham argues that management should to play to employees’ strengths rather than seek to remedy their weaknesses.

Marcus Buckingham is a bestselling author who has been exploring the advantages of a positive approach to management for more than 15 years. And while he has seen a shift toward the strength-based model he advocates, he wonders why many companies continue to base performance reviews on the remedial approach of trying to "fix" things employees are seen to be doing wrong. Many, he believes, seem to espouse a positive approach while still focusing on weaknesses.

StandOut 2.0 furthers a system Buckingham previously developed for identifying strengths rather than weaknesses. It offers online assessment tools that can help you not only identify your potential advantages in the workplace but also communicate them to your team, to your boss or to a wider audience through social media. Once your strengths have been identified, there are add-ons intended to help you develop them. Linking profiles with team members can help everybody focus on strengths.

Buckingham wants you to "find your genius" and learn how to make it effective. He distills personality traits into nine "strength roles" — adviser, connector, creator, equalizer, influencer, pioneer, provider, stimulator and teacher — and illustrates them using examples based on his own experiences as well as anecdotes about public figures.

Once your top-two strength roles are identified, you are provided with a report that looks at the combination of your two leading strengths and with suggestions on ways to identify careers you can excel in and how you can win as a leader.

A chapter on how strength-building accelerates innovation shows how much personality can matter within an organization. The author uses the example of a charismatic Best Buy manager who was able to transform his underperforming store into a superstar by giving employees whistles and telling them to blow the whistles every time they saw someone doing something good. It was a fantastic idea for his store’s culture — but one that failed to survive the transition from a spontaneous, personality-driven innovation to a companywide policy. The idea quickly turned into an operational nightmare.

Even if you aren’t keen on personality tests, StandOut 2.0 offers some valuable insights about how to move away from top-down bureaucratic initiatives that seem inauthentic toward a more humanistic approach that truly plays to the strengths of individuals in your organization. This is how, Buckingham believes, true innovation will be born. And who can argue with a positive approach?