One of my favorite TV shows growing up was Star Trek. I loved it when captain Kirk would open up the show by narrating the mission of the Enterprise, “Space the final frontier… to boldly go where no man has gone before, these are the voyages of space ship Enterprise.” Today, I feel like I have entered into a new frontier. Last night, I just got back from China for the third trip in the last three months. I have been asked by the CEO of ABHOW to begin to negotiate Joint Ventures with two different organizations and yesterday I was meeting with one organization hammering out a few remaining issues to resolve before we sign a joint venture contract. China is a new frontier for me as my first trip to China was last August when I was asked to consult for an Insurance company who is getting into building and managing retirement communities.
I recently read Standout by Marcus Buckingham which is a new assessment to help leaders identify and use their strengths. I discovered that my strengths match working cross culturally to help build Joint Ventures to help the Chinese develop Retirement Communities to help solve their aging wave problem. According to the assessment, my top five strengths in order are provider, stimulator, connector, teacher and pioneer. These strengths uniquely equip me to easily make new friendships, to connect the dots and to teach to help others to understand new concepts.
The provider strength enables me to sense other people’s feelings (Buckingham 2011). The Stimulator enables me to encourage through enthusiasm to bring passion and energy to clients. The connector helps me to put concepts together to make something bigger. In this case, it would be partnering our company with other international companies to help them achieve their goals. Teaching helps to explain how the concepts will help the partnership achieve their goals and finally, the pioneer sees the world as a friendly place where good things happen. After understanding the strengths I have from the assessment, I believe God has opened a new door to enable me to help others in a new culture and where the need is great. This assessment has encouraged me and has strengthened my resolve to use the skills and talents God gave me to help others.
Even though I am tired and experiencing jet lag, this new frontier gives me a new place to use and grow my strengths.
Buckingham, Marcus. Standout: The Groundbreaking New Strengths Assessment from the Leader of the Strengths Revolution. Nashville, Tenn: Thomas Nelson, 2011.
Of the nine StandOut roles, my top two roles are influencer and creator. As an influencer, my mind tends to fast-forward to the final outcome of a situation. The assessment was on target in stating that I am committed to moving a person or a team to action. I often try to internally figure out what can be done to help a situation and then pose the same question to the individual or group involved. This allows me to assess where they are at internally. On an embarrassing note, the assessment pointed out my tendency to be impatient. It rises when I see that a decision should be made but others are not taking action. This causes me much frustration. A positive aspect of being an influencer is that I listen well. I listen to learn about people and their circumstances, which in turn helps me to devise a plan of action to better their predicament. I listen for trigger points.
My second role is that of a creator. I enjoy seeing the chaos and complexities and then trying to make sense of them through an analogy or word picture or concept. I’m constantly trying to understand why something is happening and then use those elements to rework a situation. To bring out the best creativity in me for dealing with chaotic situations, it is vital that I find time to be alone: a walk in the park, a drive in the car, or simply reclining in a comfy chair. As a creator my strength comes from making sense of things. Thus being able to locate patterns in any given situation helps me to put everything in perspective. And, while I am able locate patterns, I need others to help me process and create a step-by-step order that will help me or those I’m working with to arrive to foreseen finish line.
In both roles, especially as the influencer, I feel like the assessment captured my personality and temperament very well. My wife also affirmed the findings. It seems that this time around I was the one subject to the creator role as patterns were identified in me. Going forward, I plan to use these strengths to better help me better serve my family, my ministry setting, and my colleagues at work.
My Standout Assessment Report based on the book by Marcus Buckingham revealed that my first strength is as a “Stimulator” and my second is as a “Provider.” The greatest value I bring to the team is: “You make the exciting safe.”
As I read through the results of the assessment I couldn’t stop from laughing because it did seem to peg me fairly well. As a “Stimulator” I am a high energy person who likes to raise the electricity in the room and tend to see life as a “stage.” As a “Provider” I am non-judgmental, fiercely loyal and compassionate. I have a keen insight to peoples’ emotions and strive to lift and inspire others.
Areas that I need to watch out for are making sure I don’t try to solve all of the issues, and taking down time so that I don’t “crash.”
My third highest strength is “Teacher.” Since this is my profession, and one that I thoroughly enjoy, it makes sense that this ranked high. However, I do see my primary role in the classroom as one of “Stimulator” as I have realized that if the students are not having fun and are not engaged with the information they will not enjoy nor retain the knowledge. In many of my student’s assessments of me they use the phrase “passionate about the topic.” I also enact the role of “Provider,” for those students who become distracted or demotivated due to personal issues, so that they can achieve success in completing the course.
According to the Standout Assessment ways to “Challenge” me are to:
- Put me in high-stakes situations in which I have to win over clients, peers or senior executives
- Give me the broken-down and disheartened team, where trust has crumbled and conflict reigns. I can help them recover.
- The bigger the stage the better. Set me up for high-profile presentations with demanding audiences.
These are basically what I do in my classes each semester as well as at meetings and events. Overall, I see life as a great stage full of color, dreams and beauty. I feel compelled to help others realize their own goodness and have fun. I take the scripture, “O taste and see that God is good…” as literal. :)
This assessment affirmed me in many ways, and also reminded me of the areas I already knew about that needed my attention. By reminding me of my strengths it gave me a surge of confidence in how I currently teach, minister and live life. It also inspired me to remember to rejuvenate and refresh myself as well as build a good “family” around me.
Buckingham, Marcus. Standout: The Groundbreaking New Strengths Assessment from the Leader of the Strengths Revolution. Nashville, Tenn: Thomas Nelson, 2011.
As I age, a fears is that some of the things that I’ve held dear to myself will begin to change or morph and cause me to be different. In some ways, some changes in character would be welcome. But in my core, there’s a restlessness that I don’t want to lose. Therefore, I was pleased to see the results of the Stand Out test by Marcus Buckingham.
My number one strength is “Pioneer.” As I read the characteristics of the Pioneer, I felt that it was spot on. The description with its advantages and its warts was a mirror of how others have seen and described me. The second point was no surprise either. Recently our staff took the Strengths Finder test by Tom Rath. It characterized me as an “Includer” which parallels the traits listed as “Connector.”
Buckingham states that one’s area of genius is precise and when you stray into other areas, you are leading from weakness. Before we can offer our leadership, an understanding of those precise strengths is essential.
Recently I had the opportunity to teach the John Maxwell book Make Today Count. In it, Maxwell stresses the importance of whatever changes we want to make in our lives or strength that is lived out, it will only become part of our being if it is used or practiced daily. Buckingham echoes this idea with his principle #2 - we need to apply our strengths consciously every day.
I felt deja vu while reading the description of the “Pioneer.” Then it came to me. I ended the book I’ve recently written, By Any Means, with a couple of paragraphs of my desires and passions. I am including it here as a summary of the feelings and passions of a “Pioneer.”
“We all want our lives to count for something, have worth. I, too, want to live a long life, one that has made a difference, has added value to those who inhabit this blue-and-green ball revolving through space. I want to endure with a faith and love that’s strong. I want to launch myself into the rivers of life with gusto, like our guide in Costa Rica exhibited. I want to live life on the edge, even if that means some risks and falling from time to time. I pray that I’m productive long into my old age, clinging to the raft, but also not afraid of those times in the river, bumping along in unknown territory, knowing friends will be there ready to help haul me back in.
And through each day, I want to marvel at God’s creation filled with so much wonder, bursting with new adventures and journeys. And when the flat tires and potholes arrive unannounced, we encounter his grace, which will give us the perspective to continue on, surviving through times of hunger, continually experiencing the beauty that is all around us, waiting to be discovered.”
As a leader it is important to know your strengths and weaknesses. This allows you to develop your strengths and also seek jobs and tasks that play to what you are good at and are naturally inclined to enjoy.
This week I worked through Marcus Buckingham’s Standout: The Groundbreaking New Strengths Assessment, and took the online strength assessment. Buckingham has identified nine strength roles which are: Advisor, Connector, Creator, Equalizer, Influencer, Pioneer, Provider, Stimulator, and Teacher. My two main strength roles were Influencer and Provider, stating that the greatest value I can bring to a team is “you convince us of our faith in ourselves.” I tend to agree with this assessment, and I also scored high as a pioneer and connector which have also been key tasks, functions, and enjoyable roles I have taken part in over the last years. I enjoy motivating people to action, joining a team, or taking part of a mission. I enjoy thinking about and casting vision to others, and working in teams and with individuals to get them from point A to point B. At the same time, I tend to have high sensitivity to other people’s feelings and how they perceive group dynamics. I often find myself asking the question, “is everyone ok?” I want my co-workers to feel valued and part of the team, and most of all be in good emotional health.
What is most valuable about Buckingham’s book and assessment is his stress on how to maximize your strengths. He states: “the responsibility falls to you to apply your strengths consciously every day,” otherwise, you can get pulled away from your natural strengths and into jobs and positions which can be draining (200).
Buckingham makes a number of suggestions on how to stress your strengths in your working situation. For my skills, which are very subjectively people oriented, my biggest takeaway from the assessment was my need to connect more on a day to day basis with the people I am leading and ministering to. Recently, in my current job position, I have been spending a lot of time in administration and planning, but less and less time really attempting to address the real personal issues of the people. Buckingham’s assessment calls me to begin to prioritize people again, and above all their feelings, heart, and well-being as humans, but also in their role in our movement. For me this means making a concerted effort to really address people where they are and schedule specific time to be with and interact with people. Moreover, as an influencer I need to be with people.
What are your gifts and strengths, how can you maximize them for the glory of God?
Take some time to do an assessment and work on finding opportunities to utilize your strengths.
My strengths finder test indicated that I am a creator/pioneer. That was my guess even as I was reading the book Stand Out by Marcus Buckingham. The results show that I am constantly inventing and initiating. I thrive on challenges that break the confines of how most people generally think and enjoy looking beyond normal practices and patterns. Rather than being overwhelmed by the complexities of life, a person like me is energized by finding the patterns underlying those complexities and can actually explain why it is so and where it will lead. The analyst part of me is constantly working helping me understand what happened and why. I am stimulated and enthused by my creations. Each accomplishment motivates me to move on to the next.
As a pioneer, trail-blazing is my trait; always optimistic and never troubled by uncertainty. Everything does not necessarily have to be laid out clearly for me to get started. My greater concern is about moving forward and maintaining impetus. The ‘new world’ that I constantly envision and pursue with passion makes me more curious than critical.
This assessment has helped dispel certain doubts and difficulties I have had in working with teams. It gives me confidence moving forward, however, with some intentional efforts to change my ways in certain areas of my life and leadership role.
1. I recognize the need to seek increased help in placing systems in place as I move along and not lose sight of practicalities.
2. I recognize the need to efficiently communicate new ideas, steps, expectations, results and conclusions, ensuring that the team understands. I recognize the need to do this in a timely manner.
3. Duly recognize other team members who help get my work done and are desperately trying to catch up with me.
4. Help others understand my need for time in decision making.
5. Continue to keep co-players encouraged, motivated and rewarded.
I believe doing the above will enhance my leadership capabilities and also make my team more powerful, purposeful and productive.
I recently took the “Standout” strengths assessment test. My strongest strength is that of a “connector.” I love people and I think that we’re capable of much more together than when we act alone. This strength can be particularly important in a globalized world.
As our world has become smaller we can purchase products made far away and more importantly out of sight. We don’t know who has made our products and what their work conditions were. Acting as a connector in a globalized world, I can help bridge that producer/consumer gap. As a mission minister it’s my job to remind people we are supposed to love and care for our neighbor. We might know of people who are forced to work in abysmal conditions but we really don’t KNOW them. As a connector I have the ability, dare I say the calling, to help make that connection concrete when and wherever I can.
Not only is connecting important to make a difference for people far away, but it is equally important for those who aren’t traditionally considered receivers. The minority world has much to learn FROM the majority world and creating that connection can be powerful for the transfer of skills, ideas, faith and many other things to the minority world. Connecting in the era of globalization can create and foster mutual transformation for everyone.
My second strength was “Pioneer.” Before this test I’m not sure I would have classified myself this way, but after reading the chapter it’s definitely something I can “own.” With regards to globalization, I think this trait has played itself out in a network that a few others and I created to work in South Africa. We believed that our church needed to have a direct connection (without a denominational intermediary) to churches and organizations there, so we built a network of eight churches that directly partners with two South Africa NGO’s and that supports two missionaries. Until this class I hadn’t stop to consider that this network blended my top two strengths and is something I’m grateful to have been pat of.
A few lingering questions:
1.) How can I better foster a global connection and help those in the US realize that there consumer behaviors affect people elsewhere? Book studies? Experiences?
2.) Does being a pioneer mean I’m less likely to maintain something? Am I always looking for something new because it’s new?
While sitting in my office yesterday, preparing for a meeting in which I will be running on Thursday, two key concepts came to mind. One, how can I be a catalyst for positive well organized change. And two, how can I connect others in a significant way that will further growth in leaders inside as well as outside the Project Renovation community. Little did I know I was following what Marcus Buckingham and his research says are my two greatest values to the team.
This past week while reading “Stand Out” by Marcus Buckingham I was made aware of the two key values I bring to the table while working in team. The assessment scored my primary value as equalizer and my secondary contribution as connector. The following are insights gained and pondering for each of these two categories.
Equalizer… My primary contribution is defined as, “You are a level headed person whose power comes from keeping the world in balance, ethically and practically.” I would agree one hundred percent with the outcome of this assessment. For years, those around me, whether in the hospital or in ministry positions have continued to point out that I bring stability where there is chaos. I enjoy bringing order to where disorder abounds. Practically speaking, I realize that for change to occur in any organization, disequilibrium needs to be allowed. Often, I wrestle with allowing this disequilibrium and want to bring stability quicker then what is beneficial for the organization. Balance being the key.
Connector… My secondary contribution is defined as, “You are a catalyst. Your power lies in your craving to bring two people or ideas together to make something bigger and better than it is now.” Connector and creator scored equal as my secondary contributions, however I see more of the connector strength in my overall leadership style. Over the years, many have told me that I bring many varying people together in which otherwise would never be connected. Community and connection of the broader body of Christ is extremely essential to me. Though I love connecting others, I realized while reading that I need to take more initiative in connecting those outside my immediate circles. Such as planning intentional trips to key conferences for the purpose of networking and connecting.
Tomorrow… while I lead the meeting, I will be more intentional about these two categories, as well as the strengths of those sitting around the table from me.
The StandOut strengths assessment is one among many ways to assess one’s strengths. This one specifically focuses on leadership. These kinds of assessments have always been a struggle for me. One on my strengths is not quick decision making. However it was insightful. The results for me is that out of the 9 roles , I came out on top as Pioneer and Advisor. I think the reason I tested high in the Pioneer category is because of my present role at Neighborhood Church. I do not think that this is my highest category by nature. A Pioneer “sees the world as a friendly place, where around every corner, good things will happen. A Pioneer’s distinctive power starts with optimism in the face of opportunity.”
This fits in that fact that I have been working with a team of people to turn our church around. Survival brings out fresh skills. Working for creative and innovative ways to be the mission of Jesus brings out the attributes of the Pioneer in me. I find starting almost from scratch and a sense of discovery a stimulating environment. This risk-taking part of being a Pioneer is not one I am completely comfortable with. I tend more to analysis for the best solutions. The second strength was more in align with the way I see myself. An Advisor is a “practical, concrete thinker who is most powerful when reacting to and solving other people’s problems”. I do love improvement. Give me an immediate problem and I am all over working for solutions. I also do not give up. Resiliency has definitely been a life long trait. An Advisor loves experts and wants to be seen as one. I do love expertise. These two roles together revealed something I had not imagined. I have seen my strength as the role of Teacher. Which, I think, has been missed in this assessment. But I can see how my present responsibilities as the lead pastor have reshaped these roles.
What I will do is commit myself to a schedule of disciplined inquisitiveness. I am so easily distracted by innovation that it interferes with developing expertise. From my learnings I need to quickly apply the implications and be proactive in creating something with them. But this needs to be tempered with discernment about which innovations need attention now, and which ones are to be delayed or even ignored. It is so natural for me to be the expert about others, to be inquisitive about what’s going on with them, that it stalls my leadership from time to time. I need to be clear about what I think and become the expert and create focus on my calling.
The StandOut assessment returned the following results for David A Toth: Equalizer / Connector. I agree with the assessment, it does seem like me; both functions reflect my lifestyle modus operandi. I appreciated the assessment process. It was clear and easy to accomplish. I particularly liked the 35 second response time which causes one to engage and reply without becoming too anal about seeing oneself! I also like the sensitivity to people and relationships as opposed to task and mission, though task and mission were not marginalized. I also observed that the assessment is very concerned about communication style between parties. There seems to be a direct link between how certain personality types would respond and consequently reflect the functional categories.
The “You Begin” summary tells me to utilize my connecting strength and I couldn’t agree more. However, I found this section lacking because it did not provide insights regarding the ”equalizer” function which was my highest ranking function! How does the connector and the equalizer find symbiosis? I have some ideas but it would have been instructive for the assessment to provide insights since that is the purpose of the assessment! This is a major flaw! If I direct someone to this assessment, could it be that their summary will not address their primary function as well? If so, this greatly diminishes the value of it.
Overall I liked the process and I believe it was fairly accurate in determining my primary functional strengths. However, it failed to give an applicational summary that accurately reflects both strengths. I would like to see this fixed and then I could recommend it to others.