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Developing Human Potential With CliftonStrengths in Australia

Developing Human Potential With CliftonStrengths in Australia

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 8, Episode 7
  • Learn how a not-for-profit early childhood learning company has reoriented its focus toward a strengths-based approach, and the long-term benefits of this change.
  • Interested in learning more on this topic? Read more about how to improve teamwork in the workplace.

Deborah Protter, international educator and mentor of leaders and a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, along with Todd Dawson, State Manager for Goodstart Early Learning in Western Australia, were our guests on a recent Called to Coach. Deborah and Todd talked about their "Power of 2" collaboration that -- through perseverance and "slow and steady" progress -- has brought significant changes in "boss to coach" management, employee engagement and strengths-based development to Goodstart and its employees.

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

We've created the ultimate guide to improving teamwork in the workplace!

Jim Collison 0:00

I am Jim Collison, and live from the Gallup offices here in Omaha, Nebraska, as well as our office in Sydney, Australia, this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on February 11, 2020.

Jim Collison 0:21

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're listening live, love to have you drop some questions in our chat room. There's a link -- on the live video, there's a link to it above. You can jump in the YouTube instance and jump in the chat room. If you have questions after the fact, you can always send us an email: Don't forget to subscribe there on YouTube, if you're listening there. That way you get a notification whenever we go live or we post a new video. And if you like to do it via podcast, just search Gallup Webcasts on any podcast platform and you can find us Anne Lingafelter is our host today. She's a Learning Solutions Consultant with Gallup out of our Sydney office. Anne, I wish it wasn't a once a month that I got to see you, but that's good enough. Welcome to Called to Coach.

Anne Lingafelter 1:09

Thanks, Jim. It's great to be here. And it's wonderful to have two guests with me today -- that's unusual. But this, this story, I'd like to call it a success story that begs to be told. And I thought it was best to hear it from two different sides -- from, from two different, both guests, who are: one who's based in the organization, and the other is an independent consultant Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach working in that organization. And I think their, their beautiful collaboration is, is something that a lot of us -- and a lot of our other Gallup-Certified coaches out there -- could learn from.

Anne Lingafelter 1:45

So my two guests today are Deborah Protter. Deborah is passionate about the development of human potential. She has over 30 years international experience educating, training and mentoring leaders in business, government, the arts, politics and the community. She has trained and coached over 10,000 people individually and in workshops in that time and has been mentor and coach to executives and leaders in government agencies, companies and community-based organizations in education, industry, women's development, public health and international development in the U.K., U.S.A., Europe, Australia and Asia. She has been busy!

Anne Lingafelter 2:26

Her client base is diverse, ranging from executives and board members of multinationals like BHP, Shell, PWC, Ford, Esso, and P&O to agencies like the Arts Council of Australia, to students, women in career transition and young people, making a difference with the poor and marginalized. She also has done a lot of work with the Hunger Project, and we'll talk about that sort of later on in the show. She did become a Gallup-Certified Coach back in April of 2014. She had already been using strengths for 12 years before she became a certified coach. And she's working with a lot of individuals and teams in Western Australia, where she's based, like, like Todd and the Goodstart team. Straight on -- Oh, I need to ask you, Deborah, before I move on to introduce Todd, what's your Top 5?

Deborah Protter 3:17

So my top five are Maximizer No. 1, Connectedness, Positivity, Individualization and Empathy.

Anne Lingafelter 3:26

Fantastic. And we were talking before the show, Deborah was my guest on my first-ever Called to Coach many, many years ago. So it's, it's wonderful to have you back. I know you're a fantastic guest. So thanks again for joining.

Anne Lingafelter 3:39

And my other guest today is Todd Dawson. Todd is the State Manager for Goodstart Early Learning in Western Australia. In his current position, he leads the operations of 51 centers across Western Australia, providing services for over 4,500 children and over 1,000 employees every day! Phew! Todd has extensive experience in leadership transformation, change and developing high-performing teams through a strengths-based approach. His senior management experience has allowed him to both lead and collaborate on numerous successful people, practice and performance transformations. And, and I'm sure we're going to hear about one of them today. Certainly an industry, Todd, where there's a lot of change at the moment. Tell us your Top 5, if you would. That's a great place to start.

Todd Dawson 4:33

Thank you, Anne. It's Responsibility, Belief, Relator, Arranger and Learner.

Anne Lingafelter 4:42

Fantastic. And I -- one of the things that I'm going to come back to later on the show is because you guys have worked so well together and collaborated for so many years, I want to understand how you created this beautiful Power of 2 using your own strengths and, really, becoming such perfect complementary partners for us. I think that's a good thing to think about as we go through the show, because we're going to hear about this story that you're going to tell us. And that will be a lovely sort of backdrop is to understand how your strengths work together for that.

Anne Lingafelter 5:13

Todd, if you don't mind, take our audience a bit broad here for a moment, and, and tell us a little bit about Goodstart. Fill -- give us some context about who Goodstart is, and, and also what sort of issues the industry -- the early childhood education industry -- and, specifically, Goodstart is facing in that today.

Todd Dawson 5:36

Yeah, absolutely, Anne. Thank you. So Goodstart Early Learning is a really, really unique organization. We celebrate this year being 10 years young. We were -- our inception was one that's quite remarkable in Australian corporate history, where we kind of came to be from the demise of a former for-profit. Early learning provider ABC Learning and a coalition of amazing, wonderful people got together, created Goodstart Early Learning with a basis of social purpose and having significant social impact, but through the, I guess, the vehicle and the way of the importance of the early years. So we today are an organization in every state and territory across Australia. There's over 660 Early Learning and Care Services across that network, catering for north of 70,000 children. Employees, there's -- on any given day -- 15,000 employees providing that high-quality early learning and care to children, and and engaging with families and the wider community.

Todd Dawson 7:14

The, I guess, early days for me, I joined Goodstart very early on in the journey. I'm into my -- approaching 9th year. And, I guess, Goodstart in its early days was described as a startup at scale. So if you could just imagine for a minute that there's a previous organization, longest receivership in corporate history in Australia, a newly found entity that has acquired what was a very, very commercial for-profit-driven operation, and taking it basically in the total other direction -- founding it in a deep social purpose and for social impact. Not-for profits are reinvesting, you know, any profit that was made back into the programs for children and upskilling the capability of our people.

Todd Dawson 8:14

And, yeah, I guess I'm a product of that Reinvestment Act -- good start that it was early on in my tenure that I recognized that the challenges and the opportunities were, were quite significant. And I needed some help in order to navigate and chart that, that course and territory and, and that's really where, very early on in in the piece for me, the engagement with Deborah came into effect.

Anne Lingafelter 8:42

Perfect. Thanks for that context. Deborah, I want you to jump in there and tell us how you met Todd. And what were your initial -- what kind of work were you doing with them initially? And, and Yeah launch the story for us.

Deborah Protter 8:55

OK. Well, from my perspective, I was really Todd's mentor for 2 years. And that was prior to doing any work in the organization at all. So, yeah, I supported Todd on his leadership journey very much from a strengths-based approach. And, you know, and Todd and I, I could see so much potential in Todd. And yeah, and, and we just, we began working really closely together and developed a very trusting, respectful, empowering partnership. And, you know, that really kind of grew over time because, you know, I was working with him for 2 years. So, yeah, that's how it -- that's how it began; our journey began.

Anne Lingafelter 9:54

And Deborah, did the -- did Goodstart itself hire you to do mentor Todd, or was it Todd -- were you looking for a coach?

Deborah Protter 10:05

Well, no, I think the state managers were offered mentoring by Goodstart. And some of them took it up; some of them didn't. And I happened to be the, the mentor, mentor coach, who was given to Todd. And then, you know, we had to say, Well, you know, was will this really, you know, is this going to work? You know, we had our initial meeting, and, and then, you know, we thought, Yeah, this can work. And so we began the journey together. That was in September 2013.

Anne Lingafelter 10:41

Fantastic. So, it sounds like the the coaching and mentoring was really around leadership and for an individual at the beginning. But when we think about early childhood education and all of the issues and challenges, the unique challenges, really that face that, that industry today, what sorts of things were you then addressing and, and sort of pointing the mentoring and coaching and strengths approach at? What what were the "Whys" you were trying to address within the industry and within Goodstart more broadly?

Deborah Protter 11:19

You're asking Todd that question?

Anne Lingafelter 11:21

Whoever wants to jump in? That's one ...

Deborah Protter 11:23

I think it's a Todd answer.

Todd Dawson 11:24

Yeah. I'll dive in on that one, Anne. I think probably the simple, simplest representation of that was a reorientation away from working on deficit and weaknesses to the natural talents, inherent strengths that people possess and deeply understanding that. And then having a commitment to that strengths-based approach in all that you do. Applying that to the early years, you know, it is -- it has an amazing correlation to child development. The first 5 years are quite remarkable in the life of a child and, you know, there's significant evidence that, you know, to quote, "The first 5 years last a lifetime."

Todd Dawson 11:46

And it, to me, it was just a really natural dawning of a realization that we can probably do what we've always done and get what we got and, and work on ourselves from what I don't have and and what children don't have and where gaps are and where need is. But that comes at a significant detriment to really harnessing and leveraging the -- those inherent natural talents and capabilities that people do have.

Todd Dawson 12:53

And it was as simple as that reframe to talking about and thinking about and then taking on some work about that more strengths-based approach, about, Let's follow that up about what you're actually naturally talented at. And, and let's be focused about, you know, Gallup talks about that near-perfect performance when you do do that work on your strengths. And that's a really deliberate, you know, I guess, way to, to approach your work and that's applicable no matter what your role title says to what age you are, your life experiences. And yeah, for me it just resonated so strongly in my own personal journey, that of the journey of the the Western Australian team, and most importantly, the relevance of these four for children and and their development and great outcomes for them in life.

Anne Lingafelter 13:55

Yeah. So when you talk about the the flip of the switch or the reframe from deficit focus to strengths focus, it obviously started through your conversations with Deborah, for you as an individual. I'm keen to understand how it progressed then into the team, and Deborah, how you helped architect and shape that. And how you were involved in that. And then, separately, is it something that is actively spoken about with your clients, with the the families that you serve and with the children that are there? Do you -- has it translated so that your teachers are talking to the kids? Are they strengths spotting? Are they, you know, looking at that sort of thing? Is it going -- is it, is it impacting the children's experience of you guys because it's directly being spoken about? Sorry, that's a lot of questions all at once, but ...

Deborah Protter 14:51

I was just gonna say, one of the things I think Todd and I first started working on, though, when we first started working together was the, the two cultures. You know, there was this old culture and then there was the new culture and there were still people from the old culture working in the new culture. So Todd had masses of issues about, you know, you know, just this whole issue of culture. And they were trying to build a new culture, but the old culture was very much still embedded, and those people were still -- even though there's a new name, "Goodstart" -- the people were still, they still had the, the old mindset. And so that was one of the big issues, wasn't it, when when we first started together.

Deborah Protter 15:40

And I think, you know, so Todd had significant challenges in that area. And, and I think what was so great, Todd, was how you -- all those challenges, you brought a strengths-based approach to, to all those challenges. And because of that -- and Todd was very authentic, very real, very open all that way through -- and then started seeing some significant shifts, shifting. But also could see, I mean, I just saw just Todd's leadership and his expansion in terms of his role there and confidence and everything. I mean, I'm just giving feedback, really, in terms of working with Todd just saw him step into a new level of leadership, which everybody around him could see.

Deborah Protter 16:37

So, you know, because he became the champion. You know, I mean, we know that's so important in an organization, but Todd is the champion in Goodstart NWA. And because of his enthusiasm -- but not just that; it's also because people saw a shift in who he was in his leadership, in how he was applying these strengths to his role. And also, he was encouraging others to, and particularly his senior leadership team, to, to be part of the conversation. And it was a, I think really, Todd, it was out of your invitation to people -- not demand, not "you ..." -- you know, but just people seeing Todd, seeing what was happening, him enrolling people in the strengths-based approach, the conversation and then, then we started what is then, then it was -- we didn't really have a grand plan. We've never had a grand plan. Have we, Todd?

Deborah Protter 17:40

It's just been a holistic approach of what's needed, wanted next. And so we start, and it just started out of Todd's leadership to then bring the other senior leaders. And we did a lot of work over, you know, maybe a couple of years just really working with the senior leadership team, and, and embedding, Why are we doing this? It's not just a nice thing we're doing, you know, this -- Todd's vision for this. What was his vision for Goodstart? How was the strengths-based approach related to his vision? He was always bringing the vision and the strengths based approach together.

Todd Dawson 17:41


Deborah Protter 17:47

And, and then, you know, it just, it was, it's sort of, that's where we started. We just started in, I think, what I would say is that at each level, we didn't move on too quickly. We waited until this -- that, you know, there was some like authentic embedding in with the team. That's, that's, that's what I would say, Todd, I don't know what you would say.

Todd Dawson 18:55

100% agree. And I think I'm quoted as sort of saying, "You don't pass "Go" until you do that work really on yourself. And those lightbulb moments and those proof points and those lived experiences that -- because then you can continue to progress from a position of authenticity and integrity in it. It's so -- I have found it to be so incredibly important to find your own narrative and those examples and that storytelling about your lived experience for others, you know, humanizes it. And, you know, to take Deborah's point about it wasn't the next thing, it, it became such a bedrock of importance for us in realizing, you know, those goals and aspirations and that vision.

Todd Dawson 19:47

And yet, I guess to Deborah's feedback was, people could see that shift and those proof points about it's this, and it's not this. And that was through behavior, it was through not not forcing it onto people to be patient and sit with it sit, we would often talk as a state leadership team: sit in the uncomfortable. You know, continue to get curious about that. Lean in and talk and share amongst each other. And, you know, I was, again very fortunate to have that investment in me from, from Goodstart to have that engagement with Deborah.

Todd Dawson 20:28

But it was about being raw and honest about, you know, was it -- has it been the perfect journey? Absolutely not! You know, but it's been through those learnings and taking the work on for self that, for me, and, I think, if I, if I had the state leadership team here as well, that they would, they would share a similar, you know, narrative and story about that journey that we've, that we've been on, and, in fact, their own their own journey themselves.

Anne Lingafelter 20:58

Can you give us some specific examples of, of how the culture shifted, how the mindset from whatever the deficit focus to the strengths focus -- how that occurred for people within your team in Western Australia?

Todd Dawson 21:17

Yeah, I'll lead with some very objective data, and not proudly. When we first engaged in an employment, employment engagement survey, Western Australia back in 2015-2016 was rated second-lowest for employee engagement across all of Goodstart. And that became incredible motivation and fuel for myself and for our senior leaders to again reflect really deeply on how we were approaching what, you know, everyone would tell us is a very noble purpose and, you know, the reason for being, you know, at Goodstart to make that difference in the early years for children.

Todd Dawson 22:08

But it wasn't translating to the lived experience for, certainly, Goodstart colleagues across Western Australia. And it was at a, at a time when, again, we've, we've gone through quite immense organizational change from, again, I'll go back to that startup at scale. We, through that timeframe, moved from a HR consulting type of support model to bringing on some real bench strength in our organization as HR business partners, or now "people partners," as we refer to them. And that skill set that came to the table became incredibly important alongside in the journey that we were taking, and it's quite a interesting reflection that when I think of initial dialogue with my colleague who came on board in that role was, We have to move to the world-leading employee engagement levels within 12 months; that's a goal we've set ourselves.

Todd Dawson 23:16

And she very beautifully, you know, went about trying to manage my expectations that, you know, getting, getting 2-, 3- or 4-point shifts in employee engagement is probably a really great outcome. And that 9-point movement that you're wanting to, to achieve in in a 12-month time frame, you know, almost unrealistic. And so what we've got to have high aspirations of ourselves and of others to be able to effect real change. And we didn't get that 9-point movement in employee engagement in, in the year that we set about this work, but I can say we can be really accepting of the 8-point movement that we got. And that 8-point movement got us to equal highest employee engagement across the Goodstart network.

Todd Dawson 24:03

And it had us benchmarked against a state in our organization, who, for me, are the leading lights on many, many aspects of what we do. And that's our colleagues in New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory. So that gave, you know, it was quite a confidence-bred confidence. From that, we were like, "Wow! We're at a level here with, with colleagues who we, we look at and we kind of are in awe of. And we're now kind of playing in the same time period as them. So, you know, using that data and having that goal and that objectivity to work through was incredibly important.

Anne Lingafelter 24:45

But what did you change? I mean, that's a, that's a phenomenal improvement, no question, and to do it in a short period of time -- to do that in a in a year is is fantastic. What were the shifts, behavioral shifts behind that data that you were addressing and, and, and making happen?

Todd Dawson 25:08

Yeah, it was -- I'll say it was simple. We got real clarity around where we wanted to focus our effort to elicit the impact. So, you know, within the subset of the employee engagement, we felt that there were three really important drivers underpinning, and then from that, other, other things flowed. So we got really, really focused around our efforts. And one of the areas where we were rated really poorly was actually that visibility in that communication and, and feeling like there was too much of a hierarchy.

Todd Dawson 25:48

So we got really focused about reimagining how we were accessible to the 1,000 employees it could start and how that communication could flow, you know, backwards and forwards. And we actually did something, which, you know, today is quite embedded perhaps in our practices. We actually went and asked more questions of our people about what, you know, how could they codesign with us and improvement and what that would look like. So it was a mindset shift as well to being really open. There were there were no egos. It was a genuine desire to work together. We've got a number of, or I certainly do, like I have a number of sayings, and it was a "do with," not "do to," kind of scenario with our people.

Todd Dawson 26:41

And, and we called out the fact to say, you know what, we're not proud of where we're sitting with employee engagement and your lived experience. That's not OK. Because that, we felt, also correlates to then potentially experiences for children and families and the communities in which that we're in, and that's, that's not the Goodstart that we want to be. And that's not the experiences, which are so you know, fleeting in in those first 5 years for children that -- we want that experience across the board, be it for our Goodstart colleagues to then the experiences with children and families, as well as communities, to be as as awesome and as great as they can be. So, yeah.

Anne Lingafelter 27:22

And Deborah, what were you saying through this process? How were you engaging? How were you counseling Todd and the other leaders at Goodstart from a strengths perspective?

Deborah Protter 27:34

Well, we were doing a lot of, all the, all the leads had done their individual strengths and had coaching, and then we had quite a number of leadership meetings, which were all focused on strengths, focused on vision, focused on the goals that they were and what they wanted to accomplish. And I was really focusing on with, with, and looking at the team strengths grid, You know, how can we know each other better? And how can we know who provides what in the team?

Deborah Protter 28:05

And I think a lot of that, that became really embedded, Todd, didn't it? So there were quite a lot of, you know, so a lot of the conversations that I was having was really about, you know, Who do you have on -- who is, who's part of the senior leadership team? How can you develop your strengths as a leader in that team? But also how can you identify how you can work more effectively together? And, and how can you -- and so there was those two things, really -- well, I think, three things. One is like, what are you focused on? We were always looking at what are you measuring? What are you focusing on? A high-performing team, we're always focusing on that, but the measures of that. So we kept having conversations about that. And that, that was a key, a key aspect of what we were, what we were doing.

Anne Lingafelter 28:53

And were, Todd, were there shifts in the performance metrics other than the employee engagement? I mean, as far as the commercials for the business? You know, I mean, holding on to talented staff and, and, and and having more kids show up at the Centers and all of that. You know, did it trickle down to those sorts of metrics?

Todd Dawson 29:21

It absolutely did. And, and I think as I sit here today, and I think, in part the connection with you was, was based on I'm hearing you know, good things about Western Australia now, we -- I guess -- our last, say 5 to 6 years has been the literal roller coaster. There was some, you know, government policy change that had significant impact to us. But we could have done the finger pointing and the blaming and said, "Woe is us!" and, you know, "Isn't it terrible?" And, and we actually use that again as motivation.

Todd Dawson 30:03

So, you know, getting down to some of the tangibles, we in the last financial year had the highest growth in our child attendances comparable to other states. Albeit, we're coming off a bit of a lower base. So we've got that room to grow. So, you know, we acknowledge that, but we shifted the dial from 3 years year-on-year decline on those chart attendances and the correlating performance. We actually had a quite remarkable 7+% turnaround in, in that last financial year. And importantly, it was about building the right foundation to sustain that, that growth. And, you know, I'm really, you know, proud to say the team that we we sit here today and that momentum has carried through into FY20 and there's no, there's every sign that that's going to continue, you know, to go through and, and we'll continue to be north of 5% in, in this next, you know, financial year.

Todd Dawson 31:13

Employee retention was a huge problem for us. I started out, you know, back the 9 years ago and you're talking 30% employee turnover. And yes, the sector is renowned for having, you know, a significant churn. But, again, it was kind of like that government policy change where we just said, Are we happy to accept that? Are we happy to accept that for the experience for children in Goodstart centers in Western Australia that there's such a attrition rate for our people? And we acknowledged that that then has a knock on to our ability to advance our high-quality educational program and practice priorities, which, which are really significant. And you know, I, I can say again, today we're sitting where we're a little over 15% -- we're isolating sort of between 15% to 17%.

Todd Dawson 32:10

What I would say just in in regards to that was -- something that through our work with Deborah was, we didn't take the work on for improving employee retention. As a holistic piece, we actually went and I guess dissected it and got really focused and said, What is the most important area of focus for us for, for the biggest impact that we can then build from in time? And we started with, with a key role being, well, one, our support team around the centers. And then we, we focused on our center leaders, our center directors. And, you know, we it's, golly, Deborah, probably 2+ years now that we've been, you know, progressing and evolving and enhancing that work.

Todd Dawson 33:01

I was called to account through, as I should be from, you know, my boss around another element of employee turnover for a really important role -- assistant director role, where, when we did started that focused work, we started to see the employee turnover move, but in, you know, a scorecard negative way. And it was, look, we're doing a concerted body of work here, and we're working with people around the expectations for the role, and it is going to take probably a 12- to 18-month, you know, time frame to see that shift in movement, but it's the right work to be doing to set our people up for long-term sustained success.

Todd Dawson 33:45

Guess what -- the scorecards are now, you know, showing that we're, we're second year improving on that assistant director role turnover and that's an incredible important cog in, I guess, the, the mechanics of high-quality service provision across a really wide distributed network. So, yeah.

Anne Lingafelter 34:09

And Deborah, would you work with -- directly with the assistant or assistant directors of the, of the sites? Or were you more advising and mentoring Todd and the business partners, and then they were having the internal conversations with the, the different center folks?

Deborah Protter 34:29

Yeah. So I think the lot, the sort of big piece of what we've been doing in the last year or 2 years has been training internal coaches. So managers being coaches. And so we've trained, I don't know, 8, maybe, coaches, who are all -- they're the ones who are the hands-on. So I think I've always seen myself in partnership with Goodstart. I'm a resource for Goodstart. But the people who are doing the work are the people who are doing the work every day. And, and the people who were accountable for the centers are the people who have the relationship with the assistant center directors or the center directors. So those are the people we've been focusing on equipping them, doing individual coaching with them, doing coaching; coaching -- coaching the coaches with them. And, and, and that's, that, that's really gone very, very well.

Deborah Protter 35:34

And so because it's a huge organization, I mean, and so I just see my role as coming in, equipping wherever I need to; being in partnership with Todd; being in partnership with the person in charge of people, and who I work very closely with, because Todd's really empowered her to take on this whole, you know, to really take on this whole developing the culture to be strengths-based. So I work with her, so I just see my, in a way my role is, is empowering the people who are doing the frontline work.

Deborah Protter 36:14
And then also to work with those, those guys to look at, you know, yes, I can, I can support and equip, encourage, coach. They're the ones who really know what the issues are on the ground. They're the ones who know what's needed. They're the ones who have a relationship. It's silly me going in and working with those guys. What I've, what we've focused on, Todd, isn't it, is really focusing on the leaders who are impacting those, those, those key, key staff members in the centers.

Todd Dawson 36:52

I think -- Anne, can I just add to that very, very quickly. That the, I guess what Deborah has described -- particularly with our shift in movement more to that building capable, competent, confident strengths, I guess, advocates and champions in our network of 51 centers -- was not a, you know, Todd hand-picked or, you know, the state leadership team. It was again a "do with," and it was a socialization of here's work that we are progressing. Here's some proof points again, those markers, as Deborah described earlier, in the shift that our people could see in, in us, in how we were behaving, engaging.

Todd Dawson 37:39

And we actually had many more than 8 that actually put their hand up to say, I want to be involved and I, you know, here's my commitment to this. So the magical 8 number came largely from us assessing the ability to appropriately support a group of people at that point in time, but we made it very clear with, with those that so weren't the anointed 8 that their work, you know, continues in earnest.

Todd Dawson 38:11

And part of that vision that Deborah spoke about, that we, we created and ,and talked to at just about every opportunity was the light on the hill for us is a network that is a bright network that is able to laterally connect and draw on skill and expertise, and not look down a hierarchical chain for that guidance and support. That, you know, if I've got a colleague that's running a early learning and care service, you know, 5 minutes down the road or 15 hours across the state, that the first protocol is that they would be able to get that lateral connection and support, let alone what they're then able to do from that capable, competent, confident perspective within their own service area as well.

Anne Lingafelter 39:03

Look, I absolutely love what I'm hearing, you know, I think there's nothing that we at Gallup -- that makes us sadder almost than, than having, you know, introducing strengths to a client and then seeing it sort of shrivel and die on the vine, right, because there's an initial love and adoption for it, and then it goes in a drawer and, and, and it doesn't, it doesn't grow the way that we know it can. And one of the things that I love about your story is that it is an organic growth. It happened internally as it should. You didn't do it to them, you did it with them, the, you know, the folks for whom it really resonated and, and who wanted to grab onto it and use it, you gave them the opportunity to do that and allowed them to rise to the occasion and grab it and run with it and make it their own.

Anne Lingafelter 39:54

And the other thing that I really love about this story is that it is so brave. Because, you know, with the context of life before Goodstart took over and where things had gone before, you know, it was a, it was a difficult start. And, and what you guys have done, as a not-for-profit, to see the investment by the organization in leaders for mentoring and coaching support, and the investment by a not-for-profit for you guys to bring Deborah in and other resources in in order to be able to really meet the human needs at work and to be able to help people understand how they could be the best version of themselves through this perspective is so excellent. Because we often will work with organizations who say, "We just don't have the budget for it." Well, I think, when you hear a story like yours, you would say, how could you possibly do it without it? You know, I mean, it has led to this turnaround under the guidance of Deborah and I think that's, that's brilliant.

Anne Lingafelter 40:58

The other thing that I want to say, from a Gallup perspective, that the other factor or aspect of this success story is the fact that, you know, we have a lot of certified coaches. Deborah, I'd say we've got probably over 300 Gallup-Certified Coaches now in Australia. And it's an interesting relationship between a client, a certified coach and Gallup, because frankly, sometimes when we'll go into clients, we'll pass our certified coaches in the halls. They're doing some work over here with that client, and we're doing some work over here. And sometimes people say, Oh, it's just tricky, or it's not fair, or it's complicated, or it's whatever it is. And and, and, and I'm saying that on both sides, Gallup side and the the independent coach side.

Anne Lingafelter 41:45

But this is a perfect example of how there can be a collaboration and the right people are brought in to do the right things. And I think this is a great example of how that succeeded because as you say, Deborah, you know, Todd's doing this stuff internally that they know how to do best. But you're contributing from your own outside experience in your years of doing this and, and, and filtering through different tools and resources you can use, you're bringing that perspective and that advice. And you are managing the strengths growth and overseeing that in a way that you are definitely the best person to do that.

Anne Lingafelter 42:21

And then it's interesting because my work over the last few years at Gallup with Goodstart has been in an entirely different area. So Goodstart, as you guys both know, is the first early childhood education organization in Australia to start selecting their teachers and center directors based on talent. So it's, it's not the same as a profiling tool as the strengths assessment that you guys are talking about, but it's a different one that's linked to those that we know are performing really well in that role at good start.

Anne Lingafelter 42:54

So it's very interesting because we're all working away in different areas, aren't we, guys, and and it's, it all works quite well and in a symbiotic, collaborative way. And I think that's, that's definitely -- you guys are the model, right? That's the goal. That's where when we opened up the doors and started certifying, certifying Gallup-Certified Strengths Coaches, we -- that was our goal, was to be able to have coaches work within an organization with their clients. And while we did the bits that helped -- so whether that's through a technology platform that helps make it scalable and sticky, or through selection or employee engagement, whatever, right, to complement each other's work within the organization. So hats off to you guys for making that happen. And for that collaborative, really organic approach you've brought to it, because it's, it's a pleasure to see. Jim, you must have something you want to say there.

Jim Collison 43:46

Well, we got a couple of questions that have come in. I think this is a good time to bring them up with just a few minutes that we have left. One, I think Chrissy brought in, said It's such a great retrospective demonstrating the broader impact of strengths-based approach. Where, where to next for Todd and the team? Todd, maybe you can talk a little bit about some some future-facing things.

Todd Dawson 44:05

Absolutely. Our work is far from, far from done. So we we have continued commitment and engagement with, with Deborah and the state leadership team remains committed and engaged in this work in earnest. We, we want over time to be able to share more broadly, I guess, the benefits and from our experiences, the strengths-based approach for for all Goodstart colleagues, certainly in Western Australia, and there's a widening discussion that's happening across our, our national Goodstart network. And there's states engaging at different levels with regards to that.

Todd Dawson 44:58

So I think the "Where to next?" is the long-term game and working back from there is that educators are able to connect with an engaging a strengths-based approach, starting from within themselves. That "high-performing teams" is not just a catch cry for the leadership team of, you know, Goodstart in Western Australia; it permeates across a network of 51 or more centers. Look, part of who we are and that social purpose is that if we've got stories and evidence to share more broadly that can benefit more people even outside of Goodstart in the early years that will benefit children, families and communities and strengthen, you know, the practices in a broader sense in the early years, that would be awesome. So, you know, I do find myself talking in wider forums in the sector in Western Australia about, you know, the work that we've done and making people aware of that.

Todd Dawson 46:08

But yeah, we're far from done, we're by no means, you know, there and perfect and all that. We, we've got, you know, a lot that we need and, and will continue to do. Ultimately, it will be a space for us in our center networks and really activating and lighting up our people in that sense of realizing and harnessing that the benefits of a strengths-based approach.

Jim Collison 46:37

Deborah, let me ask you that same question. From, from your perspective, what's next?

Deborah Protter 46:42

Well, I just wanted to say something about Todd and and the work he's done. Because you know, he -- we're -- here we are on the West Coast, you know, you know, right out on the on the ocean, miles away from anywhere else and, you know, and Todd's really been the advocate, the pioneer in Goodstart for this work. And, you know, there's a lot of programs that Goodstart do on there, Todd, you know, different, you know, this year we do this; next year we do this. But Todd has consistently committed to this approach.

Deborah Protter 47:21

So no matter what's happening, coming to him from outside, he has said "This is what we are doing." And that's why he has the results. Now, there's interest now because we have, he has the results, right, in what's next. But I think we should -- you know, what we need to do is just keep, we need to keep, keep working in Western Australia and keep sharing the stories, really. I've -- I have done some work with the people partners in Australia, but, you know, it's a large organization, but I think, you know, what Todd is making happen in Western Australia is so good, that we just need to keep talking about it more so that it can impact.

Deborah Protter 48:10

But my thing is it impacts those children who are in those, you know. I just -- I mean, I'm so -- you asked that question about Todd and I working together. We both have Belief in our Top 10. We both have Relator in our Top 10, but we both have Belief in our Top 10. And my thing is, I can't, I can't work with any, any organization I don't believe in. And I really believe in Goodstart. So, you know, I believe in what they're doing. I believe in the social venture setup of the organization. I believe in the not-for-profit nature of it. I believe in the strengths-based approach. I think it's so simpatico with who they are, particularly about the wellbeing of young children and, and the wellbeing of parents because they can influence parents too.

Deborah Protter 49:02

So I just see huge potential, massive potential, you know, massive potential of even doing strengths-based work with little people in those centers. And, and I think what -- the other thing we haven't said, if I may just say this, is that, you know, we can talk about yeah, we've done workshops, we've done this. And -- but what happens now is that I've always had this thing of, you know, we've got to reinforce; it has to be reinforced; it has to be, we have to speak about it; it has to be part of the culture. And it really is, in Western Australia, becoming part and parcel of the culture and, and spoken about and reinforced and, and Todd with all his people just acknowledging their strengths. That's a strengths moment. That was a strength, you know, just and that makes me so happy. Those two things coming together, you know, my commitment to strengths, commitment to what they're doing. And that, that enables me to, to be a partner with them -- not, not, you know, not someone just coming in to do something.

Jim Collison 50:19

Well said. Todd, another question for you. Kathryn had asked, What type of performance evaluation system are you currently using. Does it reflect, acknowledge, evaluate the use of strengths in the organization? Briefly, because that that could be a whole hourlong topic. So maybe in a minute or two, what are you guys using on the performance-based side?

Todd Dawson 50:39

Yeah, absolutely. So we are still, I guess, organically finding that particular place. So we've, we've used a number of different tools and resources over the 9-year journey for me. We're actually at a really interesting juncture about reimagining and revisiting that for its fit-for-purpose into the future. So at the risk of disappointing in my response to say It's, it's this particular thing, we -- what I would say is we have had a commitment to be seeking actively feedback from everyone across the organization. And there's formal ways in which to do that through post-surveys, which we use.

Todd Dawson 51:31

There's then our, I guess, formal performance evaluation, which we call our Personal Excellence Program. Back to a point that I said before, we turned that on its head by actually saying we're not actually interested in talking about those deficiencies and those weaknesses. We actually want your Personal Excellence Program to be more about your engagement in your natural talents, so they become, you know, embedded strengths and let's, let's focus the effort there. But we have a formal performance, I guess, management program, where we cycle over the course of a 12-month period, set goals, review and reflect, aim and fire, again in different areas. We also -- so we use Net Promoter Score; we use likelihood to recommend. It's quite multifaceted and dimensional in what we're doing in this space. There's not a, there's not a one particular thing or methodology would be would how I'd sum it up.

Jim Collison 52:32

Todd, I think one of the things I've appreciated -- before I throw it back to Anne -- is the, is hearing the "slow and steady" on this. That it's -- there's no quick -- this wasn't, We tried to get in and in 6 months try to get something done, or jam a bunch of programs in, or even try to jam strengths in -- from, you know, that can, that can, that can be, that can backfire on you as well.

Jim Collison 52:52

And that I heard you say early in this, We kind of just went from one -- when it was right, we went from one step to the next. So implement, measure, determine if it's the right time, make the jump. And, like, you just continued to repeat those processes over and over again -- particularly being guided by, I think, pulse surveys and a lot of Q12 questions that, that helped maybe determine some of those things. So super great in that. Anne, we are running short on time. But any final questions or any thank yous? I think we have some of these to do. It's funny how fast the hour goes. But Anne, I'll throw it back over to you for those.

Anne Lingafelter 53:27

Yeah, absolutely. And thank you guys both for sharing your story. Definitely, this is one that we want to continue to follow and, and see how it goes. I love -- offline, I want to have some conversations and understand more about where you're going, because I definitely see a lot of opportunity. To your point, Deborah, your comment about being able to speak into the young children and their families about strengths, and on that note where I just had a web, a webinar right before I came on to Called to Coach, I just did a webinar on Strengths-Based Parenting Train the Trainer. So we can actually train coaches -- the staff now in the early, in early childhood education -- to be able to do workshops for parents about how they parent, knowing their strengths and how they can start to strengths spot in their young children and also use other resources like the Clifton StrengthsExplorer to look at their their kids through that way. So exciting times ahead, and well-done you guys! I have to say, when I think about my clients who are most successful, they are ones like you, Todd, who choose the flag that they're going to fly and they stick with it, right? It's that constant focus and, and nurturing of that and integrating it in the, in the "need to have" programs and not just making it a "nice to have." So well-done you guys. I know -- it's, it's -- we've got to say "Goodbye" because we're out of time. But thanks again for you guys, for your story. And, yeah, keep on keepin' on!

Todd Dawson 54:59

Thank you, Anne. Thanks for the opportunity to share, yeah, this story with you and with those that have joined us today. Appreciate it.

Jim Collison 55:08

Todd and Deborah, thanks for coming on. Deborah, good to see you again. It's been a few years for that as well. If you go back to, I think, a 2015, like a June 2015 session, you'll see a younger version of the three of us.

Anne Lingafelter 55:21

Yes. Yeah, my first-ever Called to Coach guest was Deborah.

Jim Collison 55:27

Deborah, you know, that is a great follow-up story in the, in the sense that, you know, 4 or 5 years later, and now you can measure the impact. Imagine, we always underestimate what can be or overestimate what can be done in a year and maybe underestimate what can be done in 10. Todd, that's your story, right? A decade of change in this, and so good to hear these stories over a long -- sometimes we hear these stories on Called to Coach of a year or 18 months and, and really great to hear that we got some longevity and -- and you're thinking about this well into the future of building sustainable programs that could last another decade -- so, so super cool.

Jim Collison 56:35

If you guys hang tight for one second, I'll remind everyone listening to take full advantages of all the resources we have available at the Gallup Strengths -- or at Gallup Access now, just go to -- it's gonna be a tough one for me to unwind. Go to, and actually that's the best place to login go -- takes you right to your strengths dashboard, if you log in there. This show, including full transcripts, are now available for you if you want to go out and take a peek at them, that's available at the same site: Want to remind you to subscribe via podcast or via YouTube, however you like to do that. All the kids are listening on YouTube now. If that's what you do, you can do it there or download it as a podcast, just search Gallup Webcasts and you'll see all of the 7 podcasts we have available -- that's out there for you as well. Don't forget, while you're there, sign up for the CliftonStrengths Community Newsletter. We do that on a monthly basis, just a kind of great way to kind of keep up with everything that's going on in the Strengths community. If you have an email, or if you have a question you want to email us, send us that: If you're interested in any of our courses, and Anne, do you have anything, anything coming up there in Australia that you want to talk about from a course perspective?

Anne Lingafelter 57:03

We have a wellbeing course on March 3, and we have the Strengths-Based Parenting Train the Trainer course that I mentioned on March the 10th. And we've got an -- a certification course happening this week in Melbourne; the next one will be in May.

Jim Collison 57:17

OK. And of course, it's not too late to think about coming to Omaha June 1, 2 and 3. We'd love to see you guys here for the, for the Gallup at Work Summit. And they just released all the breakouts for that. So everything you need is available on the site. Go to We'd love to see you here in Omaha. June in Omaha is pretty great. I mean, it's not Sydney, or it's not Melbourne, or it's not Perth, but it is beautiful. And so we'd love to have you come out for that as well. Follow all these live programs: You can follow us there and get notification anytime we go live. Join us in our social groups: I want to thank you for joining us today. If you're listening live, thanks for coming out live. It's good -- we had, we had quite a few more than we normally get, so good job, Australia. With that, we'll say Goodbye, everybody.

Deborah Protter's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Maximizer, Connectedness, Positivity, Individualization and Empathy.

Todd Dawson's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Responsibility, Belief, Relator, Arranger and Learner.

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

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