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Strengths, Q12: Discover the Power of a Common Language

Strengths, Q12: Discover the Power of a Common Language

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 7, Episode 42
  • Learn how CliftonStrengths and Q12 give managers and employees a common language that fosters meaningful workplace conversations and improves workplace engagement.

Michelle Eason, Director of Organizational Development for Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network in Australia, was our guest on a recent Called to Coach. Michelle spoke of the challenges Justice Health faces in keeping its employees engaged as it cares for 13,000 people at over 50 correctional and juvenile detention centers across New South Wales. She shared how CliftonStrengths and Q12 have given Justice Health employees a common language that has facilitated meaningful manager-employee -- and employee-employee conversations as part of the organization's goal to become a strengths-based culture.

Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including time stamps. Full audio and video are posted above.

Jim Collison 0:00

I am Jim Collison and live from the Gallup campus here in Omaha, Nebraska, as well as our office in Sydney, Australia, this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on November 12, 2019.

Jim Collison 0:22

Called to Coach is a resource for those who want to help others discover and use their strengths. We have Gallup experts and independent strengths coaches share tactics, insights and strategies to help coaches maximize the talent of individuals, teams and organizations around the world. If you are listening live, we'd love to have you join us in our chat room. Many of you already have, so thanks for doing that. Link above the video window on our live page. If you have questions after the fact, you can always send us an email: Anne Lingafelter is our host today. She works as a Learning Solutions Consultant here at Gallup with me and Anne, always great to see you. Welcome back to another Called to Coach.

Anne Lingafelter 0:55

Thanks, Jim. It's great to be here. We're having a truly Australian day today in Australia, in Sydney. You know if you live in Omaha, then you have school canceled for snow days, right? We have 750 schools that are closed today because of catastrophic bushfire danger. That is a true sign of the times here in Australia. So anyway, our thoughts and minds are going out to all those who are out there battling those blazes today. My guest is Michelle Eason, and Michelle is the Director of Organizational Development for Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network. She works with individuals and teams on using their strengths to help them succeed and bring more joy into their working lives. She's a registered nurse specializing in mental health and held previous senior roles of Director of Nursing and Clinical Nurse Consultant in forensic mental health contexts. She's also a lecturer at the School of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales.

Anne Lingafelter 1:57

As a director of the Justice Health (and) Forensic Mental Health Network board, she promotes the use of positive psychology and a strengths-based approach to systems and processes at a strategic level. She has a keen interest in the facilitation of practice development and leadership, with a focus on strengths. She also provides individual and team strengths coaching and integrates strengths approaches into development workshops and strategic planning. And of course, she is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach. Her Top 5 are Strategic, Futuristic, Ideation, Empathy and Communication. Michelle, welcome to Called to Coach.

Michelle Eason 2:33

Thanks. Thanks, Anne. Thanks, Jim. Nice to be here.

Anne Lingafelter 2:36

We're pleased you could join us. As we set the stage for all the folks who are tuning in or listening to the recorded version, we'd love for you to set the stage a bit and and help us understand the world at which you operate in. I talked a little bit about it in the introduction, but can you give us a bit more color to that, Michelle?

Michelle Eason 2:55

Yeah, of course. So Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network, which is a very big title, so Justice Health, it provides healthcare services to three different types of groups. So those people who are in custody, so we have, we have healthcare providers at over 50 correctional centers and juvenile detention centers across New South Wales. So quite spread quite far and quite deep, and and some of them are actually quite heavily impacted by that moment. And we are providing care for about 13,000 people in custody at any one time. And we also provide care in the community. So we have health staff in the courts, so in about 37-38 courts across New South Wales, so Adult Courts and Children's Court, diverting mentally ill people away from custody. And we work in the community at the other end of the -- the other end of the spectrum in terms of helping people transition back into the community, helping them with some wraparound services around housing and employment, so transitioning people out of custody into the community. And we have inpatient services where we, we have a inpatient hospital that's part of the custodial environment. But we also have a standalone health facility, which is just health led, 135-bed forensic mental health unit, and we're part of a broader forensic mental health network. So we provide services to quite a vulnerable group of people. We have high representation of aboriginal people in custody and who we care for, so 25% of adults and over 50% of the adolescents identifying as aboriginal. So -- and we're just really spread. We've got a really diverse, we're in very diverse areas, and we've got we're spread across the whole of the state.

Anne Lingafelter 4:52

OK, so sounds like around 30,000 patients that you guys are looking after within the state in those different environments of inpatient community custodial centers. And is it around 1,500 staff that you're working that are working in that area? Is that right?

Michelle Eason 5:08

Yeah. So it's 13 -- 13,000 patients, not 30,000.

Anne Lingafelter 5:13

Oh, right.

Michelle Eason 5:15

1,500 staff, yes.

Anne Lingafelter 5:16

OK, 1,500 staff. And, and I'd love to know the kinds of roles that those folks are doing. So I'm assuming some counseling, some doctors, some clinicians. Talk about the the variety of roles that you're seeing across the board.

Michelle Eason 5:32

Yeah, so it is a health service so we have a we have a lot of medical staff. So general practitioners and psychiatrists, we have allied health, so psychology, OTs, our version of therapists. The majority of our workforce is nursing, just because -- just in terms of numbers, and then we have a whole lot of support services and we have research services, education and training. So there's corporate back-end support services. But on the whole, yeah, allied health, medical and nursing.

Anne Lingafelter 6:03

OK, fantastic. Thanks for that context. I think that helps us understand. Moving on to sort of the big picture -- if you don't mind starting there -- the big picture of the relationship and partnership you have with Gallup, how did it begin? What was the the interest and that, that that, you know, you decided to partner with us? And then we'll start to dig down a bit into what that looks like.

Michelle Eason 6:26

OK. So yeah, I was first introduced to the StrengthsFinder assessment through a leadership development course that New South Wales Health were running and we were invited to take the assessment and and really, we sort of had a superficial conversation about that. And I sort of just parked that and put it away and and a colleague said to me several months later that I would, I would find it interesting, because I do lots of coaching it might be add some value to my coaching. So I started looking at the the Called to Coach and the Theme Thursdays and then stuff that's available on the web and got a real interest; was really lucky to be supported to do the, the strength, the the accreditation, the strengths coaching. And that were just lit a fire.

Michelle Eason 7:08

And so from there, we started to really start to integrate it into our, our training and our programs. So they became part of the courses that we were running. And we were complementing that with coaching and and workshops around sort of strengths discovery. But it was quite an organic way in which we were doing it and we were kind of just working with teams that were coming to us and ask. And we made a decision that we wanted to, we're getting to a point where we wanted to take a much more structured and use it as a as a bit more of a cultural anchor. And that's when we really started having conversations with Gallup. So we're really lucky to work with Claire and Chirag, Gallup, Sydney and, and really helped us in terms of, we use the seven strategies for building strengths-based organizations and strengths-based cultures. And that really helped us put some structure around what will do we were doing.

Michelle Eason 8:10

And and the other thing that we did, I think, which made the big difference from shift between us doing it at a sort of really organic and individual ad hoc way, was we shifted our language. So we started to talk, we started to align it with our strategic directions, building a values-based, providing a valuable values-based model of care, having an engaged and talented workforce. So we started to align what we were doing with our strategy, and we started to talk about it as a business strategy. And it really did shift the organization's view on what we were doing. We'd already engendered some buy-in through that process that we started organically. We were very lucky that we had the CE -- the CE had some buy-in quite early on. So he was able -- he did some strengths coaching and has participated in some workshops. So we were really lucky we were able to get the board to endorse it as part of our people -- and the platform really for our people and culture strategy, and really embedded as starting to get that strengths-based approach across the network.

Anne Lingafelter 9:19

Michelle, what do you think was key and getting that, that support and buy-in? What what what was it about it that you think captured that?

Michelle Eason 9:32

Yeah, I think, um, I think part of the way we did it in terms of we were working with people that were coming to us and wanting to be involved was through anecdotal feedback that they were getting from others about the impact. And so I think that that sort of ad hoc way of doing it was kind of important in terms of we got some natural buy-in. We got some key people in the organization like the chief executive, for instance, who participated but actually found benefit. Some of the teams we were working with were actually able to demonstrate some shifts in their workplace culture and shifts in the way they were doing things. And I think that became quite visible. So we got some, we didn't thought of when we went to implement this as, as the people and culture strategy becoming a strengths-based organization, we'd already had a platform, and we already had some wins on the board in terms of the impact and had some, we really did target some influential managers, as as we were in that organic phase, I suppose.

Anne Lingafelter 10:37

OK, can you talk about a bit about some of those anecdotal stories that you're you mentioned that were coming down that that sort of grabbed people's attention and helped indicate that this was working?

Michelle Eason 10:52

Yeah, there's a couple. Yeah. So we were working with several teams that had ... with their workplace culture. And so we were -- we had been asked in organizational development, we were asked to go and actually help support some of those teams. And what we found was actually using the StrengthsFinder and having some teamwork, and some team workshops and some common language around strengths, it actually helped them to have some conversations that they probably weren't being able to have before or not having them in a very effective way.

Michelle Eason 11:28

So what it what it what it started to do was give people a common language that they could talk about what they need, what what drives them and the way that they go about their work, but it also allowed them to challenges -- challenge others' behaviors. But also it was a lot of self-awareness ... . So some of those teams actually shifted around to -- have become some of our high performers, in terms of ... The two teams that I think that we're working with weren't meeting their KPIs, were really struggling with retention. And we've been able to -- working with the strength as our platform, really able to shift those teams and now they're actually meeting all their KPIs. They're actually excelling. And then they've got no vacancy. So I think it's things like that, that started to get the attention of some of the senior staff in the organization.

Anne Lingafelter 12:17

And how soon after you implemented it did that those sorts of results start showing?

Michelle Eason 12:25

Probably -- that probably took a little bit of time. But I mean, to be honest, for me, what, what, what happened quite rapidly is people understanding the way they work. So in those workshops, there's a whole lot of insight that happens in the moment when you're starting to get people to explore their drivers in the way, the way they stress land. So that there's an instant in terms of just even being able to start those conversations. But I would say it was after those workshop was probably a 4 to 6 months before they actually started to see some real wins and some real what happens when they were cohesive? And that just built momentum.

Anne Lingafelter 13:04

Yeah, excellent. I love that you talk about the the common language and the value and importance of that. And just like you said at the beginning of the show, when you said that when you were first introduced to strengths, you started looking for resources that you could draw from like Theme Thursdays and Called to Coach shows like this. And and you know, here at Gallup, we do the same thing, right? I always like to listen to the most recent Called to Coach. Was listening to one, Jim Collison, recently that you did with on a very diverse community within an organization and and you had a person from the organization -- it was a manufacturing company in this instance -- and an independent coach that was working with them. And they said there that they had 24 different nationalities within this organization, 24 different languages being spoken, and the 25th language was strengths. And that that common language that unified all of them was super powerful. And I hear that again, even when you have an environment where you do have largely English speakers. To have that word that means the same thing to whoever hears it is really useful, isn't it? And it's such a simple thing.

Michelle Eason 14:17

Yeah. Yeah. And it's really powerful. I think it gives people permission to talk about their needs, and self-identify in a way that's not threatening in terms of some of their challenges. But yeah, have those conversations. It is -- it is so powerful when they start to, as far as that sort of claiming and naming, and they really start to take ownership and the change starts to grow. It's really powerful, that common language.

Anne Lingafelter 14:44

Yeah. I'm very keen to hear what the type of issues are that you most largely face within your staff population. I mean, I would assume there'd be burnout in there and and and a few other things. But before we go there, if you were to talk about some of the the main reasons when you found this tool, you thought, "Ah, I can see how we can apply it here. I can see how we can use it here." What is your "why"? Right? What was the "why" when you first started with this? We talk a lot at Gallup about understanding the "why" and that we don't want folks to be when to be an assessment-based organization. It's not about just sticking with the assessment with just you know, the language of strengths. It's about having that strengths mindset that's brought into management and so forth. But for you guys in the tricky environment that you operate in, what was the big "why"?

Michelle Eason 15:41

Yeah, it's, I think being, as a mental health clinician, part of the way in which we work is is in a strengths-based approach. So it really aligned, particularly with me, in terms of an approach. It worked quite well with patients, but I've never really applied it to the workforce. I think the "why" for us was because we've got such a diverse workforce where, you know, all across all across the state, I think that having a commonality was really important. But we'd had, through staff pulse surveys and engagement surveys, had really identified we had really diverse workplace cultures and really isolated people working in really remote and rural settings.

Michelle Eason 16:30

So it was -- it was around how do we shift the how do we actually shift the workplace culture? So our engagement levels weren't particularly high. We had some areas for improvement there. So for me it was a tool to actually -- what really resonates with the team that I work with and the people that we work with is actually getting joy out of the work that you do. Actually, because the people that work in this organization, it's a tough, it's a tough job. And the clients that we work for aren't particularly, you know, attractive, or, and so if people come and work for you for a whole range of social justice reasons, for a whole range of, you know, reasons that they want to do well by these wonderful population. But I don't think we often care too much with it for the staff.

Michelle Eason 17:03

And so for me, this was a way that we could integrate those; that we could actually start to look after the wellbeing of the staff and give them joy in the work that they do. Bring back the joy, I think, in some cases, and the connection with the reason that they're here in the first place. So I think probably that's the big "why" that, you know, we can work with patients in a strengths-based way. Let's look at our staff wellbeing so that they can actually find the joy in what they do and work with patients in in a way that is, you know, improving patient outcomes in their experience.

Anne Lingafelter 17:57

Can you share some stories with us where joy has has been increased because of the work you have done with strengths there in the network?

Michelle Eason 18:07

Yeah. So I think one particular team really, really struggling again with team dynamics, but some really complicated patients, so complex patients. And we're really, really challenging in terms of the staff being able to manage those patients, in terms of risk of violence, in terms of, you know, last thing you talked about, burnout. So we went in and started to work with those team, that team. There's a high level of conflict in that team. And we went in and worked with those teams and the first thing we did was actually work with them on the strengths and had a -- quite a robust couple of days with them working on strengths and how that was playing out with the team.

Michelle Eason 18:52

Really powerful when people realize how they're getting in the way of themselves and, you know, that team had, for example, that team -- No. 1 was Harmony; No. 2 was Empathy. And so helping them actually unpack that was really powerful. And even now, when we go back, we kind of connected with that team and we kept going back. They've been able to work with the patients in a different way. So they've really gone back and started to focus on strengths with the patients. And once they started to focus on strengths with the patients, they started to see a shift in the patients as well. And so when when you go now to that unit, they are feeling connected, they feel purpose; they feel that they can manage these -- the situations are still complex and challenging, but they feel that they're being able to do that in a much more united way. And that's really powerful to watch that shift in individuals, but in a team. Yeah.

Anne Lingafelter 19:49

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I would imagine burnout would be in addition to this loneliness that you're talking about because of the remote locations and the very diverse cultures. Burnout, I would imagine, would be something. What else? What other sort of "whys" do you have that you're really aiming the strengths approach at?

Michelle Eason 20:12

So, we -- vicarious trauma is another thing we -- we we really struggle with, in terms of the work that we do. So working with traumatized populations, that's one of the risk factors. So I think what's been really powerful -- we are, as part of that looking at as the business strategy and aligning it with those seven, those seven strategies for creating a strengths-based culture, we really were able to think about some of the system and the process changes that so taking it away a little bit from the individuals understanding self and teams understanding self and really trying to reorientate the system to come -- to come at a strengths-based approach to the way we do business.

Michelle Eason 20:59

And so, we've been able to work quite successfully in the wellbeing space, which has been really powerful in terms of we've been able to implement a mindfulness program. We've been able to implement other support structures and programs. Looking at coming at a strengths-based approach, we've been able to work with areas like our workforce team and our governance team to reframe actually the way that we think about the work that we do. Simple things like rather than talking about -- you know, bullying and harassment is is a challenge in -- it can be a challenge. But rather than trying to sort of stamp out bullying and harassment, we've reframed the way we're talking about that. And we've started talking about promoting positive workplace cultures. And the difference in the shift in language has been really powerful. It's, it's we've stopped talking about what we can't do and what we can do. And it's it's really, those kind of things seem so simple, but the impact that they're actually having is significant in terms of people's -- yeah -- where they work.

Anne Lingafelter 22:13

Yeah. No, 100%. I think that, you know, sometimes we talk about with clients that you can have a strengths-based approach, even prior to rolling out the assessment, right. So it is a bit of a flip of the, of the, mental switch there, as how you see things and how you approach things and and leading with positive intent. Obviously, the common language is important, and that's where the, the the assessment comes in. But it's certainly more than just the assessment. We say that a lot. But I think sometimes if people haven't walked through it the way you have, in a very strategic way, they're not really sure what that looks like. So when you think about things like, you know, I noticed when I looked at your email signature that you have your values -- the network's values -- on your email signature. So when you think about how you're going to impact those with with strengths and and and even with engagement, which is another conversation for us to have today, how do you -- how does that impact those values that that you guys live day in and day out?

Michelle Eason 23:22

Yeah, I actually, again, I think it just complements -- I think it becomes part of the conversation. I think we've done a lot of work with our organizational values. We, we went round when we consulted with every single team in our organization to ask them what was important to them, and how did they -- what was important to them in in being able to feel like they can contribute their best at work, and what kind of things that have been in place. And so those were the values that got distilled down from those conversations. So for me, the staff owning those values is really important. And then that just allows us, we integrate those in every conversation that we're having about strengths, particularly in our workshops, to try and embed them. And our -- the other thing that we -- our recognition and reward strategy is really anchored to those strengths, to those values. So we recognize people for the, for demonstrating those values as part of our program. So I think that's been really powerful.

Anne Lingafelter 24:26

OK, before we move to Q12, let's talk about sort of the nuts and bolts of how it works. So if you were to say to someone in, you know, your elevator pitch about how you use strengths at the network, sort of, you know, on a, on a, on a, you know, day-to-day basis, what does it look like? You know, how many folks do you have driving the initiative? How many certified coaches do you have? I know you've you've alluded to this seven strategies which Gallup has provided previously -- different which are sort of suggestions about ways to to roll out a strength program. But of course, it's -- there's no it's not a one-size-fits-all sort of approach. But if you were to say in, you know, in in a nutshell, what what it looks like, your strengths strategy there, how would you say that?

Michelle Eason 25:16

I'm not good at nutshells, Anne. But I think what I would say and look, I think I have to preface that as part of our strategic planning, this is a 2018 to 2022 initiative. So we are moving moving along with that. We have over 500 staff that have completed their StrengthsFinder assessment, and all of them have had one on one coaching -- coaching. I think what I would say about that is we made a very, when we started to be very strategic about this, we made a very clear decision that we would not invest in giving people the StrengthsFinder assessment as a tokenistic thing. We want it to be lived. We want it to be embedded. We want it to be part of the way we do business. So we talk about it at orientation. It's very clear from the first time people get in our organization that we're a strengths-based organization. And this is what we do.

Michelle Eason 26:10

We show them some, some data and some information around strengths. It's very much anchored in the way that we're, we're doing business. So it's starting to become, and we're getting better and better at this, but it's starting to become the lens in which we make decisions. And that is really powerful to see that at, at the executive and the board table, when people start actually catching themselves and saying, actually, let's look at a strengths-based approach to this. So we're really starting to to drive strengths to make our decisions about the business.

Michelle Eason 26:44

And we -- the other thing that I think that we've done -- this is not very "nutshell." The other thing that I think that we've done is we structured -- and I think this will lead into the Q12 conversation, but -- we structured around a 12-week process program. So we made a deliberate decision to cascade it from the top. So we worked with our CE and the executive leadership team. And there's a 12-week process that we're cascading down. So we've gone across and down.

Michelle Eason 27:13

And what's powerful is when your manager understands the language and can name and aim, then they can reinforce, This is the way we do business. And that's been a really, that that's been powerful for us. And then we've got this 12-week program, which includes the Strengths Discovery and the Strengths Engagement and the Q12. And that, again, is giving local teams ownership of that and and a lot of people -- not everybody -- but a lot of people taking that and and really thinking about the way they do business in a strengths approach. So we're getting it at that micro and that macro level.

Anne Lingafelter 27:48

So if you have someone within a team who doesn't, you know, is skeptical or just doesn't buy into it, then does the manager just manage them or coach them from a different approach?

Michelle Eason 28:00

Yeah, I think they still try and use quite a strengths-based approach. And we've we've had definitely had that because we made a decision not to make it mandatory; that this was an opt-in. This was an opt-in. And we really haven't come up against much resistance. Because I think what's happening is when people are seeing the power of it coming down, we have had some people who've been reluctant to do this, the StrengthsFinder assessment.

Michelle Eason 28:23

And what we've done is include them in the conversation and get them to think about what their strengths are. And the managers are still working with them, in terms of forget the words, we're still going to talk about what do you like to do? What do you do well? How do I get the best out of you? So the language around it is absolutely still there. And I've found, in fact, some of those people get so intrigued in the workshops and realize that it's not about what they thought it was about and they opt in later.

Anne Lingafelter 28:51

Yeah, absolutely. And how many folks do you have -- sould you say -- driving it officially within the organization? How many coaches do you have?

Michelle Eason 29:02

So we have 5 accredited coaches, and we've had 5 more people go through and are working towards that. So a lot of work for 5 of us. But what we did, again, one of those steps in the strategies was creating a strengths community. And that's been -- I have to say, that's been really powerful. So anyone, really anyone who showed a particular interest or a desire to learn more about these, we've kind of brought them in and and the strengths community kind of isn't a committee; it's a group of people that meet together, and we've been able to influence quite a lot when we start talking about the things that we can take back to the table when we're in meetings. And so there's probably about 25, 30 people that that step in and out of that. But it's been quite organic, but I have to say that they are a powerful group of people, because they all representing this at different at different tables. And yet, we've been able to change quite a lot through that strengths community.

Anne Lingafelter 30:02

Yeah. Excellent. Excellent.

Jim Collison 30:04

Anne, can I jump in real quick? There's a quick question from Nate in the chat room. He had mentioned, Michelle, can you walk us through the decision-making process -- you had mentioned maybe at the exec level, starting to think more strengths-based. And that's easy to say, maybe a little bit harder to do sometimes. Maybe an example or just talk a little bit more about that, especially at the exec level -- if you can.

Michelle Eason 30:24

Yeah, yeah, look, I think it's some of this is gonna sound really simplistic. But, for example, some of the survey data that we got back was around that that was around favoritism and some stuff around racism as part of a whole suite of public-sector questionnaires. And and the jump to was to talk about how do we get rid of favoritism and how do we eradicate racism? And quite quickly at that table, the conversation was shifted by other members to say, "Well, let's take a strengths-based approach to this. What is it that we want? What is it we want people to do?"

Michelle Eason 31:01

So the conversation said, "How do we become diverse and how do we value diversity and inclusion? What does that start to look like then?" And so rather than put a strategy in place that was: We're going to do this to get rid of favoritism, we put a strategy in place around, How do we promote diversity and inclusion? And it changed the conversation. It changed the outcome. And it -- it -- the impact actually having those conversations is really helpful with the managers and really powerful with them because they can see what they can do, and no one feels like they're being criticized and no one feels -- but it's coming at things with a strengths-based approach. Does that make sense? Like it's it sounds really simple but someone in the in the in the executive team just saying, well, let's let's flip this.

Jim Collison 31:51

Michelle, do you find that accelerates the decision-making process or does it slow it down, or ... ?

Michelle Eason 31:58

I think it accelerates it, Jim, because I think people are looking for then what we can do. And, again, the the other thing that I see happening, which is again, really powerful, rather than saying, "Oh, we can't do that!" And then then being a whole conversation around that, it's "Well, what can we do, then? That's fine if we can't do that; let's just leave it there. What actually can we do?" And, and so people it's, it's a real shift to a "can-do" mentality, and it is changing the way we make decisions. Does that make sense? Probably doesn't answer Nate's question, but in terms of some of the way it's shifting things.

Jim Collison 32:35

Yeah, well, especially when we think about what are we good at? And how do we take then what we're good at and make more of it? Or if we know this industry, or we know these things, and we're really good at this, how do we replicate that, using those things we already know and we do very very well. And so I that's what I that's what I hear you saying. Does that accurately represent?

Michelle Eason 32:56

Yeah, much better summary.

Jim Collison 32:58

No, no, I, I am a nutshell kind of guy. So that kind of works out nicely. Anne, you wanted to talk a little bit about Q12. And I want to leave some time for that. So

Anne Lingafelter 33:06


Jim Collison 33:07

I'll let you guys switch to that as well.

Anne Lingafelter 33:08

Yeah, thanks for that. No, look, I, I know when we talk about those different strategies for bringing strengths in, one of the things we talk about is weaving it into the day-to-day and the other things that are getting done in an organization. For most organizations, measuring employee engagement is something that needs to happen. Of course, in your world, public-sector world, you're going to have the state-mandated People Matter survey. So that's out there. Why did you decide to go ahead and bring Q12 in, in addition to the People Matter survey?

Michelle Eason 33:44

I found something about the the simplicity of the Q12. The other thing that was -- well, simplicity in terms of completing it. I think it's quite complex in terms of looking for what sits under that -- that's a different conversation. But also the rapid, the quick turnaround time was really important for us. And it aligned with strengths. So it aligned with something that we'd already invested in and and for me, it was just the next level in terms of starting to demonstrate impact. It was a mechanism for us to start to demonstrate impact.

Anne Lingafelter 34:20

OK, so how did you use it? Or how do you use it?

Michelle Eason 34:24

Yeah, we made a decision. We made a decision early on that because we had the big snapshots, organizational wide, for the People Matters, the public survey engagement data, that we would try a different approach. And so what we do as part of that 12-week process that I was talking about, the teams do their StrengthsFinder, and their Q12 in the first sort of week. We then follow them all up with one-on-one coaching. We then have strengths discovery, which is a 3- or 4-hour workshop. And then the second workshop is a strengths engagement workshop where we actually work with the team and we talk about engagement and the power of engagement. And we have conversations with them about their Q12 results.

Michelle Eason 35:14

So it's really at a local level. And we start to work with those teams around what's sitting under some of those scores and what might be sitting -- driving some of those the ways in which people have responded to those questions. So it's really quite at that micro level. And we've been -- we're working with teams to do the state of the team tool in terms of helping them identify a team goal where they can start to aim their strengths collectively for a team goal. Or we ask them to work on a particular question that they may -- that they're interested in enhancing the scoring. And they, they together, as a collective, come up with some actions that they're going to do to try and drive that engagement. So it is really at that detailed level with the team.

Anne Lingafelter 36:07

So are you training the managers? And then the managers are going into the teams and running these? Or are you -- how are you making that work?

Michelle Eason 36:17

Yeah, so part of that 12-week process is about 4 or 5 sessions with the manager. Again, part of the strategy was that we want to build manager capacity. And so we are investing most of our time ensuring that the managers feel comfortable; they can name and, as I say, name and claim their own strengths and understand engagement. So part of the work that we're doing in the background is working quite closely with the managers to feel comfortable to have those conversations and to understand the Q12 and their results.

Michelle Eason 36:50

I think what's been really powerful, and one of the other reasons I quite like the Q12 is the way in which the questions are worded. It doesn't point to anyone in terms of my manager. And so what it does for those teams is make them realize they have some accountability to their own engagement and they're making decisions on a daily, daily basis, about their own engagement. And so the managers are feeling much more comfortable about having those conversations. And teams are realizing that they all equally contribute to engagement, as it's not just sitting on the manager. So behind the scenes, we are capacity building and, and supporting the managers too. We try and help them to, to lead those conversations in those workshops.

Anne Lingafelter 37:38

Yes, excellent. I'd love to know, you know, with -- everyone is so busy, right? Everyone's job is full-on, and I have a lot of clients who are in the healthcare space and a lot of NUMs, nursing unit managers, who have 40 to 60 direct reports. And the thought of having having conversations with 40 to 60 folks is is tough to get their heads around. How do you deal with that?

Michelle Eason 38:09


Anne Lingafelter 38:13

You don't have to put it in a nutshell. You can have the whole rest of the show to talk about it if you need it.

Michelle Eason 38:21

Look, I, I think what -- that they are the initial conversations that we have. So one of the first meetings we have with managers is around expectations, their expectations and our expectations. And it's usually how are we going to fit this is in? Is it going to be around hand over? How are we going to do it? I think what because we've -- actually the manager has gone through the process with their management team already. Does that make sense? So we are actually finding that some of they're seeing the impact and they're seeing the power, and so they're actually facilitating -- they're facilitating us having access to the staff for that period of time. And how they're navigating particularly, and I think this is the other reason that they are quite enjoying the Q12, is that it very clearly, again says that it's not necessarily your responsibility to give feedback and to praise people and recognize good work. And, and so that -- I think that that's taking, allowing them to feel like they're not having to have every single conversation. So I think that's one thing we're doing is saying that you don't have to be the only person having conversations in this team.

Anne Lingafelter 39:38

Right. It's, it's more about them creating a culture where that's -- that everyone is able to do that, right?

Michelle Eason 39:46

Yes. Yeah. That's the that's the way in which we're approaching it. Absolutely. And that's really actually quite liberating I find for the nursing unit managers to be able to know that their role is to foster that and encourage that and and reinforce it, but they don't need to be having those conversations. The challenge comes when it's toith two things like performance reviews and those performance conversations, which they have to come -- have to have. But what some of the managers are actually telling us is staff are actually now really excited about those, rather than resenting them. And so it's making the conversation different at those those those meetings.

Anne Lingafelter 40:27


Michelle Eason 40:27

Yeah. And we're in the process of -- we're actually in the process of next next year, early next year, we will be rolling out the Five Key Conversations. And some of the managers that we've tested that we then had some conversation with were initially like, overwhelmed that they had to go conversations five. But when they had a look, what's that under that? Yeah, are quite interested in doing it. So I don't think we've taken the work away in terms of those performance conversations. But we've kind of tried to say, It's not your responsibility to be always being the one that's giving all those other elements that sit within the Q12.

Anne Lingafelter 40:38

For those who don't know, can you tell them a bit about the Five Conversations? Or are you comfortable with that?

Michelle Eason 41:17

You know, that's fine. So if the, the Five Conversations, it really is around, so for me, it's around supporting managers around having -- for the for the employees, about having those critical conversations. So, one is around setting expectations, in terms of expectations both ways -- you know, what do I, what do I expect to get, what do I need from you? And that being maybe at the start of employment, but something that happens probably as a, as a as a, maybe every 2 years everyone or as as priorities change. And, and and helping managers actually have that conversation and structuring that for them as being -- for the ones we've tested it out with as being quite powerful.

Michelle Eason 42:01

The other, the other, someone's around checking. So just having quick 5- or 10- minute check-ins but really focusing that on people's wellbeing rather than performance. We've really targeted that around, How are you going? How are you -- how are you -- is everything OK? Are you adapting? Are things going well for you in terms of your wellbeing? So that's that's the the the check-in conversations.

Michelle Eason 42:28

And then there's other conversations that are around development coaching. So that's the other thing that the NUMs were quite anxious about shifting the way they engage with their staff. So having those coaching, coach-like conversations, rather than sort of this manager-employee conversation has been a real shift. So it encourages people to have those touchpoints of those developmental coaching conversations with staff and then we're incorporating our annual performance review as one of those key conversations. But again, what people are saying, now that they've got the touchpoints with people and they've got some structure in the way in which they're engaging with their, with their, with their staff, that they finding that that end process of sort of formal process comes together much easier. And then the staff are also really engaged with it.

Anne Lingafelter 43:19

Yeah. Excellent. That's excellent. Jim, did you have a question?

Jim Collison 43:23

Yeah, I did. So for me, actually, do you find that those conversations are easier because they have this common language that they speak now, so to speak? And to go way back to your -- a callback to the conversation we had a little bit earlier in the show -- do you find those manager conversations, are you getting any feedback that those manager conversations are any easier because there's something to talk about and that's them? Right? And they have this language to talk about. Can can -- are you getting any feedback like that?

Michelle Eason 43:53

Yeah, also -- positive, like, lots of feedback along that. Some staff is still struggling, but I think a lot what I get back really strongly -- and particularly when we work with the managers in that 12 weeks, we're giving them tools to have conversations with their staff about their -- each other's 5 strengths and what the commonalities are and what the rubs might be. And every single one of those managers, without exception, that I've been working with, is saying to me, "It's so easy; I found it so much more relaxing to have a conversation about basement. This is what it will -- Do you think maybe you might be in your basement? Or how do we help you get to your balcony? Was so much easier for them to have and so much easier for the staff to receive. Because they were able then to go, "Oh, so maybe that's what it looks like" and and have a conversation that didn't feel defensive. It's not, you know, we're not hitting the mark in every single case absolutely. But the feedback overwhelmingly is that common language is is so critical for having those difficult, really difficult conversations sometimes.

Jim Collison 44:57

We we have found -- Anne, one second, let me just say this real quick. We have found oftentimes giving people permission to ask what other people's Top 5 are again. And not necessarily have it memorized, but in the middle of a conversation, just say, "Hey, wait a minute! Tell me what your Top 5 are?" to get a refresh, right? And then to say, you know, when when I met you today, and you were saying your Top 5, and you said you had Empathy and Communication in there, and I went "Ooh, and you and I could have had a conversation about that." Right? Very, very quickly. "We'd known each other maybe 10 minutes. You're not a direct report to me or the other way around. But that would still give us some clues, right to be able to have those conversations." I probably get the feeling those kinds of conversations are now happening in your organization where people are discovering those little tidbits about someone and saying, "Ooh, let's talk about that some more!" Do you find that kind of happening?

Michelle Eason 45:48

Yeah, look, I'd say actually, that is one of the most -- I get so much joy out of hearing those stories. I see it in just, you know, meetings. And people will say, "Do you think your Achiever is in your way?" Like they actually use the language. Or people writing to me and saying, I, you know that "I actually, I self-regulated on my Communication. I stopped talking and it was amazing what happened!" So it's really, I have to say, I remember talking way back when we first started engaging Gallup that they were talking about a common language and I, I kind of thought, Oh, yeah, that's important. I could see that that's important. Never underestimate the power of that common language. It is. And with 500 staff now doing it, I'm saying to see people go, How do I get in? How do I actually get become a part of that language? And I see people correcting each other all the time, like, you know, no, that's not your Achiever. I think that's your Arranger, and then they have a conversation. You're absolutely right, Jim and it's so it's, it's it's really fostering a conversation at a different level than than was happening before.

Anne Lingafelter 46:56

It's great because we see with clients when they get to a certain point that instead of being fearful that, "Oh my goodness, I have 40 to 60 direct reports, how am I going to have these conversations?" they start to realize that strengths language and Q12 and things like the Five Conversations are all accelerants, right? They're all -- whether it's through relational shorthand, which is another term that we use when we're talking about strengths, so that you can understand those sort of shortcuts to understanding that when you're talking about Q12. It's really about the you're helping managers understand where they should be focusing their energy, and when they have limited time for conversations, these are the items that we know through our research are links to higher engagement levels and higher performance.

Anne Lingafelter 47:46

So if you have a limited amount of time, you want to make that time, those conversations most powerful. And actually we created the Five Conversations that you were referring to through work that we did with the Department of Defense in the U.S., where we were trying to really be able to understand, How can we make this manager's time really impactful when it's so limited and across all various types of situations and circumstances. And being able to understand that if you're able to have the setting up the expectations on one side, the performance accountability on the other side, and those quick check-ins as you pass in the hall or at the in the lift lobby, or what have you, that actually accelerates the relationship and the success in working together as individuals and teams. So suddenly, you realize that these conversations you were afraid that you wouldn't have time to have actually makes life much quicker, much easier, and it makes things progress and work so much better.

Michelle Eason 48:52

Absolutely, absolutely. And I think we're seeing that time and time again. We're trying to work, actually, look at some way to get some analytics on that. Because that's it's, it's, when it's working, it's so powerful. And it's so obvious, but sometimes it's really hard to, to demonstrate that. But absolutely, that's what we're seeing.

Anne Lingafelter 49:14

We can help you with that. From a from a technology perspective, do you find that Gallup Access is something that you use? And how and if so, how? How do -- beyond just looking at your reports and results from Q12? Do you use the resources that are there, the learning resources and action planning and that sort of thing?

Michelle Eason 49:37

Yeah, we do. So I will often go in and get some learning resources, particularly something specific comes up in a workshop or I get a specific question. So I'm constantly reading those things. But I do send a lot of stuff out to the people that we're working with, particularly if it's come up as a as a piece of interest. I -- let's just be honest, I -- Analytical is quite light for me, as is Discipline, so but my offsider is is really into Gallup Access and she does lots of -- she pulls lots of information for us that we're actually reporting against.

Michelle Eason 50:16

So while we're doing things at quite a local level with the Q12, we're keeping the executive and the board updated in terms of the the -- the cumulative mean scores across the board. And we're able to represent that data. So we're using the data that's hitting Gallup Access. Our -- yeah, it's been that having the capability to manage that. So, you know, if I would like to do -- a new teams come on board and we need to do the Q12, the ability to do that quickly and have ownership of that is really, really, really so helpful. So it streamlines so many things.

Anne Lingafelter 50:57

Yeah, and we see that the like the Digital Learning Modules are super useful as well. So you do those workshops, but then people can go on and they can kind of get that continuous drip-feed of knowledge so that they, you know, it helps them really helps them learn. I imagine we're we're getting close to being out of out of time. So, Jim, quick question. Or, sorry, Michelle, what about in education? Are you bringing it into education at all -- into your lecturing at the University of New South Wales? And while you're, while you're answering that I'm going to plug in my laptop before it dies!

Michelle Eason 51:33

No, no, not so much at the University of New South Wales. It that is not really the -- but in terms of the organization, though, I think that's the one thing where we can actually start to demonstrate some return on investment for us because we've been able to, as in changing our performance development review process to start having a strengths approach, which is is very different to what it was with, which was in terms of that weakness fixing, which was around, what don't you do very well? And what do you need to make sure you can do better?

Michelle Eason 52:08

So that real shifting that to that strength lens. What we've been able to actually do is to start to look at how we invest in people's education and training. And so whereas before it was quite remedial, we were putting -- plugging people into remedial programs to fix something or trying to get people better at doing something that that didn't didn't align with them or it wasn't anything they're ever going to excel at. We've been able to really start to target our education and training and invest in what people do well and what people really want to do better at, and that's been a real game-change for us in terms of the way we're delivering training and we're what we're aligning our performance development review with our education and training program.

Jim Collison 52:56

While we -- that's a great answer. And while we bring Anne back, Beverly had asked a question, we'll kind of wrap on this one. Is there accountability built in for working on Q12 action items and their outcomes at the team level? Have you guys built in any accountability there for that?

Michelle Eason 53:14

Yeah. So as part of the way we're running it at the moment is we after we finish working with those teams, we will do a 6-month "pulse check" to see if they've made any difference on the items that they were working on. So there's an accountability in terms of we do a pulse check. And what we're working with is looking at how do we start to put the the, the outcomes of those Q12s into performance agreements? Yeah, there's always a risk when you put stuff like that into forms. So, I'm walking on the line on that one, but we definitely do check measures.

Jim Collison 53:55

We ask on our own Q12 here at Gallup: Have you made any progress on your Q12? And it's actually a score that gets beat up pretty bad sometimes because we often -- we'll get busy with the business of being busy. And then you know, you're like, Oh, yeah, we kind of committed to some Q12 items that we need to come back to collectively as a group. I do think oftentimes in work teams, if it's a persistent problem, it's going to get addressed. Sometimes we look for things like, Oh, it'd be great if we could do more of this. And it really wasn't that big of a problem that the priority comes up. And action items don't necessarily do anything unless they're needed, right?

Michelle Eason 54:35

That's right. Absolutely.

Jim Collison 54:36

At that point to do stuff. So, well, Michelle, thank you for taking the time. We appreciate it on behalf of Anne. We'll see if she can jump back in here in a second. But on behalf of Anne, it does, I really appreciate you taking the time today to be a part of this. You kind of gave a clinic on strengths and Q12. There's a lot of great work being done in this region of the country. You guys are a big organization and are doing it very very well. And you gave us kind of a little bit of a clinic on that. So thank you for spending the time doing that, for answering, there's -- these are really hard questions. And by the way, becoming a strengths-based culture is not an easy thing to do. Really fun to say. Even even harder to do. If you think there was one thing you could do better -- and I'm -- what I'm kind of thinking from a strengths-based approach is, What are you doing well that you wish you were doing even more of or doing even better? What do you think that one thing is that you guys are doing really, really well that you just wish you could do more of?

Michelle Eason 55:37

Personally at this point, it's -- for me, it's around demonstrating the impact. I think I wish we could take it outside of it being much more anecdotal and much more visible. But I think what we're doing really well and I would like to continue is really working with teams. I think that's been really powerful to get in there and work with their context, with their culture, with their issues. And I would, I would, yeah, I wish we could do that ongoingly. Yeah.

Jim Collison 56:05

Well, good news. I didn't set -- this was not on purpose, by the way. But good news, you say you listen to Called to Coach and Theme Thursday. We have a whole bunch of teams content coming out first half of next year, of 2020. So you, you heard it here first. We haven't talked about that anywhere. But we are excited to launch some new team, some new team stuff coming up here in 2020. Anne, I thanked Michelle; any final words before we let her go?

Anne Lingafelter 56:33

Anything that we should have asked that we didn't, Michelle? Any any last words?

Michelle Eason 56:39

No, no, I don't think so. But thank you so much for inviting me to talk today. It was great. Thank you.

Anne Lingafelter 56:46

Thanks for sharing your story. We appreciate it.

Jim Collison 56:48

Very good. With that, we'll remind everyone to take full advantages of all the resources we have available. We mentioned it -- Anne mentioned it a little bit earlier -- on the new Gallup Access platform; won't be new too much longer. If you want to get access to that, will get you there. Send us your questions or comments -- you can send us an email: is the right way to do that. And we appreciate the emails you do send to us. If you want to watch this video again, or if you want to know, hey, we've got hundreds of these available, and Michelle was kind enough to say that on the program today, you can go to our YouTube channel: just and then search "CliftonStrengths." Or in any podcast player -- and then all the cool kids are listening to podcasts these days; you could too -- just search Gallup Webcasts and you'll see any of the 7 webcasts that we have available out there for you, including Called to Coach and Theme Thursday. If you're interested in becoming a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, you can see a list of all the courses that lead to that on our courses page. Anne, anything -- any courses coming up that you want to highlight real quick?

Anne Lingafelter 57:44

We're having two Accelerated Strengths Coaching courses the first week of December, 2nd to the 6th. We've had to open up a second course. So two running the same week. And then also I think a CliftonStrengths Discovery Train the Trainer later on that same week so, or the next week, so yes, lots and have you talked about Gallup at Work, Jim?

Jim Collison 58:08

I haven't. You want to say something real quick?

Anne Lingafelter 58:11

Yeah, well if you if you want to -- I don't know, you probably know more about it than I do at this point, but are we set for June? Is that when it's coming?

Jim Collison 58:16

We are -- June 1st, 2nd and 3rd here in Omaha. And I think will get you -- and I think it's "at": will get you our summit. Right, a summit offering that's there. We'd love to see you here. And now's the time to buy tickets so -- they will go up in price on January 3rd, so might want to take advantage of those before the $100 increase goes in. Last thing -- join us on our Facebook group: Love to have you out there. Thanks for joining us. Thanks for everybody who's in the chat room today. Some really great questions. We'll see you on the next Called to Coach and with that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

Michelle Eason's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Strategic, Futuristic, Ideation, Empathy and Communication.

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

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