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How CliftonStrengths Is Advancing the Mission of a Nonprofit

How CliftonStrengths Is Advancing the Mission of a Nonprofit

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 5, Episode 23
  • Learn how a nonprofit, faith-based organization, Compassion International, uses employee strengths to further its mission of releasing children from poverty.

On a recent Called to Coach, we spoke with Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, Jack Wilson.

Jack Wilson

Jack has worked with Compassion International for 20 years in a variety of HR functions, currently serving as the Senior Leadership and Engagement Consultant. His responsibilities include leadership training and strengths coaching, and leading the employee engagement initiatives.

Founded in 1952, Compassion International is a Christian child development organization that works to release children from poverty in Jesus' name. Compassion uses strengths to live out the mission of the organization. Compassion has partnered with Gallup for 9 consecutive years and has used their employee engagement tools and methodology to drive engagement across the organization. We were honored this year to be presented with the Gallup Great Workplace award for the fifth time.

Jack has always believed in "Appreciative Inquiry".

"At its heart, Appreciative Inquiry is about the search for the best in people, their organizations, and the strengths-filled, opportunity-rich world around them." -- Excerpt from: Stavros, Jacqueline, Godwin, Lindsey, & Cooperrider, David. (2015). Appreciative Inquiry: Organization Development and the Strengths Revolution.

Jack was certified as a Strength Coach through the Faith Division in 2009. Since then, he had led hundreds of workshops and conducted individual coaching sessions in the US, the UK, Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Jack's Intro

  • I got started at Compassion when I applied for job in HR about 20 years ago
  • I fell in love with the organization
  • I do Strengths, executive coaching, employee engagement
  • I became a certified coach in 2009
  • Jack shared a story about himself describing an auto accident when he was 17 that left his face scarred
    • He understood what it was like to be different
    • This helped him to understand other people better and gave him a lesson in empathy

Compassion is a very mission-oriented organization -- How do you aim strengths to further the mission?

  • Jack described a video by the comedian Michael Jr. -- Know Your Why
  • My why is to reach out to other people to help nurture growth …
    • I don't work directly with the children, but I work with those who do
    • "Feed my sheep so they can feed my lambs"
  • With CS you can put a name to how you feel; what your mission is
  • You learn to understand and appreciate your own strengths and your colleagues
  • CS has allowed us to put a language around it
  • Other cultures can have a hierarchical culture; CS helps us level the field
  • Jack gave an example of a manager who learned how he was wired and that he had wired his team members; then allowed them to be themselves, to use their natural wiring
  • Strengths as an equalizer
  • The level of humility that strengths takes allows you to accept that someone else brings something to the table that you don't
  • This has a ripple effect on your customers and the children you are impacting

How do strengths give you insight into living your personal mission?

  • Curt (Liesveld) challenged me one time -- he asked me, "What is the opposite of arrogance?"
    • It's ignorance not humility
    • Ignorance doesn't know what you don't know
  • Humility allows you to realize you need other people
  • We're not designed to be well-rounded; we're designed to plug and play into the community
  • I have to be able to tell people what I'm good at
    • Then you know what you can do and when you need other people to help you
  • My combination of Empathy and Connectedness allows me to be successful here at Compassion
    • I love to serve as a bridge-builder to connect people
    • I love doing that and then getting out of the way
  • I have the most fun job in the world
  • Act out your passions that you believe make a difference
  • People's lives are being touched

How do you (Compassion) think about CS from that strengths-based lens?

  • Our approach is not an overlay on a human process
  • Strengths are how God wired you
  • The more you understand strengths the more you understand what you're good at and not so good at
  • There is a misguided sense of humility in many cultures

How have you implemented Strengths at Compassion?

  • We have a Stealth Strengths Movement
  • We've had pockets of excellence for the last 9-10 years
  • 3,000 employees world-wide
  • CS has been deployed almost on a stealth basis; it's not a requirement
  • Gallup is helping us build a consolidated database of Compassion employees' strengths
    • 1,800 have taken CS; less than 3% have said "No" about being in the database
    • People are becoming certified on their own, example of woman in Philippines

Compassion is an intercultural organizational -- you are a pro at customizing your approach in different cultures.

  • I help people leverage their Top 5, but also to achieve other things that they didn't think they could
  • Jack gave an example of how he helped someone catch their flight at an airport of using Empathy and Connectedness as Command
    • The same outcomes of execution strengths but getting there a different way
    • There are no cultural differences -- Achiever is Achiever no matter where you go
    • We can accomplish the same outcomes with different strengths

Do you have advice for working with faith-based or nonprofit organizations?

  • Read Living Your Strengths (Catholic edition here) if you want to engage with a faith-based organization
    • It's Christian, but still powerful with other faiths; peels back the secular feel of the instrument
    • Will give you more talking points; unpacks how spiritual gifts complement strengths
    • Greater insights into the way God has wired and created you
  • Strengths gives you something you can leverage; create a more powerful, impactful community
  • You can see how "Aim" so directly correlates with the mission of the organization

What about the financial side of working with nonprofits?

  • Training and development is usually part of the budget that gets trimmed
    • It's a high priority at Compassion; fortunate to have leaders who support it
    • We understand that investing in our people will help us carry out our mission
  • Understand the existing DNA of an organizational culture …
    • For how leaders are grown; for how onboarding is done; for how training takes place
    • Look for integration points

Do you calculate your investment with any ROI?

  • We've not been doing a good job of that, but we do administer the employee engagement survey; strengths is a component of that; we see the needle moving on this
  • We've created a network of employee engagement champions

Jack Wilson's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Empathy, Connectedness, Intellection, Developer and Relator.

Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach Cheryl S. Pace contributed to this post.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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