Our clients are all ‘good’ organisations. Some of them are well-known great brands too. The AA, Saga, Starbucks and the top NHS Hospital Trusts, all known and loved by their customers or patients. For them, the switch to strengths was about becoming even better. All were led by people who had high standards and wanted things to be as great as they possibly could be.
These leaders were not just interested in bottom-line performance improvement. As one of them told me, “anyone can make improvements, I am interested in transformation”. They all wanted something that took their company from good to great; a super-charged performance, that had their customers gasping at the wonderful service they received and that added more humanity to the workplace in the way people were seen and treated.
They knew about the quantitative evidence of the effectiveness of strengths-based approaches to recruitment and development, but that wasn’t what inspired them. They were inspired by the possibility of having a vibrant workforce of people who loved what they did, achieved incredible results and delivered an amazing service to their customers and patients every day.
I’ve noticed that none of the pioneering leaders we work with are the sort of people who are interested in gradual improvement. They want step change and fast results. They are looking for a different way of thinking. An innovative approach.
That’s why they turn to the strengths approach. Professor David Cooperrider has heralded strengths-based management practices as “the management innovation of our time”. I think he’s right. I know of no other approach that can push an organisation from good to great so fast.
So why does the strengths approach take organisations from good to great?
- Because they know why their great people are great and they can hire more of them. Imagine what it would be like to be 100% confident of what kind of people you need and to know how to identify them.
- Because their staff are happy in their work and that is apparent to their customers!
- Because managers spend most of their time stretching people in the direction of their strengths rather than fixing their weaknesses. This is motivating for the employees and rewarding for the managers.
Charlotte Henderson, Contact Centre Operations Manager at Worldpay, was working at the AA when they first embarked on their strengths journey. She is a great advocate of strengths and talks about how it makes places a “great place to work” because it leads to employees who love what they do and managers who are supporting people to stretch themselves in the direction of their strengths. In an interview* for my book she said:
“I’m so alive. I feel so energised. It’s one of the only things in my entire career that I believe in 100%. I have no doubts whatsoever. I see it in my day-to-day life and it makes so much sense.”
Picture what it would be like to have an organisation full of people like Charlotte. I have seen the impact time and time again. The organisations go from good to great, but the employees fly!
*The full interview with Charlotte Henderson is available to read in Sally Bibb’s new book, Strengths-based Recruitment and Development: A Practical Guide to Transforming Talent Management Strategy for Business Results (Kogan Page, May 2016). The book is the first to be written on the subject.