Book Review – StandOut by Marcus Buckingham

The very first self assessment book that I ever bought was StandOut. It was for a talent development project and was recommended to our team by my General Manager. Each book comes with a code for an online quiz plus a website address.

Marcus calls StandOut an “Innovation Delivery System” and begins the book by talking through several interesting case studies of innovation. It’s meant to highlight that innovation is often not something that can be made a best practice. It is situational, and very personal.

The next chapter is simply an overview of the approach and ends with instructions to log onto your computer to go do the assessment.

The assessment itself present a number of potential real life situations with several possible answers. None of which are wrong or right but each provides insight into the type of person you are. There is a limited amount of time to do each question so as to prevent you from thinking too much about it.

My biggest problem when I do these types of situational assessments is that I catch myself thinking of how I SHOULD react, and not listening to how I really WANT to react.

At the end of the quiz it tells you what your top 2 strength roles were. There are 9 potential roles and they are: Advisor; Connector; Creator; Equalizer; Influencer; Pioneer; Provider; Stimulator; Teacher. My top 2 were Pioneer/Provider.

The quote it attributed to me was “When you lead the charge, nobody gets left behind.” While that sounds nice it doesn’t feel like it entirely rings true to me. I can very easily identify with being a provider, but pioneer doesn’t feel right. One of the downsides to this assessment is that you can’t redo it under the same code. You would have to buy another book, or find an unused code with google.

The report generated by the assessment is very detailed. It includes things like a ranking of all your strengths from 1 to 9, a list of ways you are at your most powerful, phrases that best describe you, your ideal career, how to make an immediate impact, how to take your performance to the next level, what to watch out for, and more!

My number 3 strength was creator and THAT I can relate with. Unfortunately I can’t get the report for someone who was Provider/Creator.

Ultimately I believe this assessment was very useful. The double edged sword with any of these tests is that we take them because we are looking for self awareness, but a certain amount of self awareness is required to get the most out of it. The people on my team who did the exercise with me enjoyed it very much and felt that it did provide useful insight into who they are.

I give this book a solid B+



The Brilliance of Simon Sinek

In early 2015 while binge-watching TED talks I came across Simon Sinek who had one of THE most watched talks of all time. It was called ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action’.

With over 28 million views I was a little surprised that for the first 5 minutes of the video the audio was pretty terrible. However it is the power of the message that resonated so well with the viewers.

He basically said that the world’s greatest corporations, or movements, or inventions, occurred because the individuals driving them were focused on their ‘Why’. They weren’t about becoming rich or famous. They were serving a particular cause.

Most companies today are profit driven, and try to dabble in the visceral side of the business as sort of an after thought. You can see it everywhere on YouTube where companies put out these emotionally captivating videos in an attempt to connect emotionally to their customers.

In order for that approach to work it must be obvious to the customer that your viral video is perfectly aligned with the purpose of your company. My two favorite examples of this are Dove and Always. See their videos below.

When you combine an emotionally touching viral video with an articulated corporate purpose, you get yourself a movement.

This new way of thinking about business gave me tremendous hope. I used to see the corporate world as this big bad entity who are going to simply use up all the resources around them in an effort to make more and more money. However, the success of Starting With Why, as Simon puts it, made me realize the real change is possible.

But as brilliant as Simon was in the discussion around corporate purpose, I didn’t find it translated as well into individual purpose.

A corporation was created by people as a thought or an idea that filled a need. It exists to make lives better. If it doesn’t make peoples lives better than why does it exist.

A person was created through billions of years of evolution. Do I really need to come up with some kind of well articulated purpose to justify my existence? I am here and that is enough.

But then you have things like depression, illness, hunger, and all other forms of suffering that make us clamor for some kind of deeper meaning.

“Life has to be given a meaning because of the obvious fact that it has no meaning.” – Henry Miller

I really prefer the word alignment, rather than the words ‘meaning’ or ‘fulfillment’. When you look for meaning, or look for fulfillment, you are looking outside of the present moment. When you are not in the now, you are in your mind, which can be a very unreliable place to be!

Alignment is when you can get blissfully lost in whatever it is you may be doing in that exact moment. For me it is when I am editing videos with wonderful content at my finger tips. I often say alignment is at the cross section of your natural skillset with the story of your life experience.

In a future blog post I am going to walk through exactly how I determined my natural skill set. Then I will talk about combining that with your life experience and making your specific world a better place.  This is the approach that finally got me heading down this wonderful road.

Below I have provided a link to Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why. If ‘The Passionate Why’ should ever turn into a money making project I will definitely reference it for invaluable guidance.