- How can organizations make engagement personal to each employee?
- What role can strengths play in this effort?
- How can managers and employees work together to maximize engagement?
Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series -- Season 10, Episode 5.
Below are audio and video plus a transcript of the conversation, including time stamps.
Although employee engagement is measured at the organizational and team levels, it is also intensely personal. So the challenge for managers and leaders who want to move the engagement needle is to drill down to the individual level. Derrick Leong, Managing Director at Accenture Australia and a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, joins the webcast to share how he and his organization, via the SELF framework, use CliftonStrengths and ongoing manager-employee conversations to make engagement personal.
With help from Gallup, we decided to reframe the problem away from solving engagement for everybody. Instead, we refocused people on having meaningful impact on those colleagues closest to them.Derrick Leong, 23:46
Just relying on ... broad measures, all-encompassing initiatives, I think they're gonna move the needle a little bit, but again, what you're gonna see is that result plateauing very quickly.Derrick Leong, 35:45
I always tell leaders to depersonalize the score but personalize the engagement, because, as we know, 70% of factors that affect employees' engagement [are] within the span of control of the manager.Saurav Atri, 45:43
Jim Collison 0:01
I am Jim Collison, and this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on January 26, 2022.
Jim Collison 0:20
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 join us in our chat room. There's a link right above the "us" there on the live page. Click on that; sign into the chat room there on YouTube. Love to have your questions during the program. If you're listening after the fact, you can always send us an email with your questions. Send that to email@example.com. Don't forget to subscribe to Called to Coach on your favorite podcast app or right there on YouTube. Click the Subscribe button, and you'll never miss an episode. Saurav Atri is our host today. Saurav is the Regional Leadership Coach and Workplace Consultant for Gallup out of our Singapore office. Saurav, I'm not gonna lie: I'd like to be there with you today doing this live; I can't. But welcome back to another Called to Coach!
Meet Our Guest on This Episode
Saurav Atri 1:14
Thank you, Jim. And good morning, good evening and good night -- depending on which part of the world you're in -- from sunny Singapore. And we also have Jim in the U.S., in Omaha, as well as Derrick from Australia. So we've got pretty much the whole world represented here from different time zones. And it's so good to be back on Called to Coach. And I've been really enjoying listening to these Called to Coaches over these years, Jim. There's so many amazing nuggets, and I hope you're watching as well. And I love hosting this as well. So let me get started introducing our special guest for today. I am privileged to introduce to you our guest, Derrick Leong, who is a Managing Director at Accenture Australia. And he's been with Accenture for over 15 years, leading high- performing teams to successfully deliver large-scale system change initiatives involving hundreds of people and thousands of man hours. You can imagine, you know, these technology initiatives -- takes a lot of time but also a lot of contribution from people. And he's been working with his teams over so many years, creating human contribution -- that's powerful.
Saurav Atri 2:17
And he himself, having known him for a couple of years now, he's a very people-focused leader. And that's why he even invested in his own development of becoming a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach. So all the coaches that are out there, he's part of the community as well. He's also a Certified Strengths Coach. And he's been using strengths as a foundation to drive performance and retention with his direct reports and hundreds of people that are reporting to those direct reports as well there. And over the last years, you know, especially during the pandemic, you know, it's been a -- well, let's be honest, it's been tough times for every, everyone out there. And Derrick has been navigating these worlds and all these complexities we deal with and has been experimenting with a few techniques to successfully scale the use of strengths within an organization, while also helping each individual in his organization achieve happiness and fulfillment. He's also very active on LinkedIn, just like me. So if you would like to follow his advice about technology or leadership or coaching, career guidance, you can follow him there as well. Derrick, we'd love to hear you talk about what you do at Accenture and your Top 5 themes.
Derrick Leong 3:28
Thanks, Saurav. I hope you can hear me. And well, that was a great introduction. But first, thank you, Jim and Saurav and everyone listening, for giving me the opportunity to share our story, and I hope you find it helpful. First off, I would like to state that the opinions expressed today are my own, and I don't speak for my company, Accenture. So with that out of the way, my Top 5 themes are Individualization, Relator, Learner, Arranger and Responsibility. I apply my Top 5 to most aspects of my life, family, people and clients. I use Individualization to appreciate and cater for what's unique about the people or situation. I use Relator to get to know the people involved at an intimate level. I use Learner to always apply a beginner's mind. And I use Arranger to be flexible and efficient. Finally, I use Responsibility to get the job done and meet my commitments. For all those of you out there listening that know me, the last one wouldn't be a surprise, as I'm also the eldest child in my family. So in a nutshell, I bring fresh perspectives and insights to people, to help people achieve their goals.
Saurav Atri 4:39
And I know, Derrick, you've been very passionate about human engagement and strengths as well. Tell us about your "Why"; what makes you passionate about this science of both strengths and engagement?
Derrick Leong 4:51
Thanks, Saurav, thanks for giving opportunity share. I'm passionate about employee engagement because of two things: One, professionally, I've seen the significant competitive advantage an engaged workforce can provide, especially in terms of productivity, innovation and retention. Personally, I live for the moment when I see someone else's eyes light up after a coaching session has made them realize their untapped potential.
3 Keys to Moving the Needle on Employee Engagement
Saurav Atri 5:19
If you think about, you know, being in that moment, being that manager to all these people, especially in the virtual world as well, and it's hard -- no doubt about that -- trying to engage people virtually, Derrick. So what's your advice around, How do you then, you know, in this complex world, move the needle on engagement? And for your teams as well, Derrick, I know there's been some, you know, insights you'd like to share on how did you achieve that shift in both their emotional contributions and also their wellbeing at work? So what, what did you do? What's your advice for people who are listening in to do that?
Derrick Leong 5:52
Oh, thanks, Saurav. Well, I have to admit, I was quite nervous about speaking here. So I gave this some thought beforehand. And I'd like to share my answer on 3 pieces of advice on how my team and I move the needle on engagement. So the 3 pieces of advice, I'd like to share are, 1) Get leadership support; 2) Get data and context at the team level; and 3) Recognize that engagement is personal and intimate; broad measures rarely work. So I'll start the story. It begins with getting leadership support, Saurav. So for me, moving engagement in a large organization like Accenture is a team effort. And it's like changing course for a large cruise ship or, if you like, an aircraft carrier. It takes time, sustained intent and the use of small course corrections. In my mind, such an endeavor is not possible without leadership support.
Derrick Leong 6:56
Now thinking back, this started several years ago, when my boss, Ian Smith, and I were sitting in a small, white-walled meeting room considering our latest task, which was to help turn around a struggling program. By all accounts, the team had the skills, experience and commitment to get the job done. But they were operating as individuals, and mistakes were being made that could have been avoided, if there was greater transparency and collaboration. I proposed we take a more people-centric approach to turning the ship around, pun intended. And Ian was very supportive and gave me the agency and encouragement to do what was needed. I want to say that back then, the safer solution would have been to double down on productivity and quality metrics instead. So thank you, Ian, for having faith in our people and me.
Derrick Leong 8:01
So with leadership support, I had access to Gallup strengths assessments and reports for all 70+ people on the team, as well as the ability to launch Q12 engagement surveys as often as needed. With these powerful tools in hand and leadership support, within 1 1/2 years, Ian and I transformed this program to be one of the most successful programs in the portfolio and achieved a 94% increase in the quality of what we delivered. I could not have done this without leadership support. Jim, Saurav, I was gonna pause here and maybe, you know, and, and the audience as well, just to see, what, what do you, what do you both -- and everybody else in the call -- think of the importance of getting leadership, leadership support in such initiatives?
Jim Collison 8:49
Saurav, let me defer to you. I'll let you start.
Moving the Needle: 1. Getting Leadership Buy-In
Saurav Atri 8:53
I think, Derrick, so critical to have the leadership buy-in; without that, you can't move the needle for a larger initiative. I say leadership is about making decisions. And this is an important decision that influences lives of people. So absolutely, I fully concur that if you don't have that leadership buy-in your impact can only be limited to the people that you influence; but if you get them on board first, the impact just magnifies to much larger audiences. Jim, your thoughts?
Jim Collison 9:21
Yeah, when we think about those 5 Steps of Creating a Strengths-Based Culture, the, one of those very first steps is this, this idea of leadership buy-in. And it's a challenge, though, I don't want to paint this as a picture of being, this is, as the easy, this is the easy part -- to get leadership buy-in. Oftentimes, we see in organizations, it can rise up through the ranks from, from bottom up if we use that analogy -- top down, bottom up. It is really a challenge, and I think it's a question, Derrick, that I get asked a lot is, How did I get that? It sounded like you had Ian's buy-in from it. He saw that right way. What kind of advice would you give to individuals or coaches or folks that are working in organizations where maybe that leadership support is, is lacking to begin with? Do, would you have any advice on, How can, how could they get that started if they don't have it clear to begin with?
Derrick Leong 10:17
Oh, that was a great question, Jim. My advice would be to have the conversation -- and again, might be some of my Relator and Individualization coming through, but, but have the conversation really just, you know, and there might not be a "light bulb" moment straightaway. But I think through, through multiple conversations, through sharing your own strengths and even maybe convincing them, one at a time, to get the strengths assessment done and talking them through it, I feel that that's, that would, that would make a difference, Jim.
Jim Collison 10:44
Yeah, I love, I love what you just said. I think sometimes we're afraid to ask. And you just have to take, I think, right, take the risk and, and have the conversation. So that's great. Yeah. Derrick, back to you.
Derrick Leong 10:57
Moving the Needle: 2. Team-Level Data
Saurav Atri 10:58
So Derrick, then, first advice, Derrick, first advice was getting leadership buy-in. What's your second advice?
Derrick Leong 11:05
Oh, yeah. Thanks, Saurav. Great leader. Well, my second advice is getting data and context at the team level. So the saga continues: part 2 of our story. So thinking back again, we used to have broad engagement surveys that go out to large programs made up of hundreds of people. We would get a respectable participation rate, maybe 50% to 60% of people surveyed. And then we'll get results that are averaged across this broad group. And then we'll use these broad results and agree on actions for engagement and try to address them. What we found was that we had some initial gains in engagement, but it quickly plateaued, and we struggled to make an impact or increased participation going forward.
Derrick Leong 11:55
So with that context, just, just thinking back again, so after our success with turning that program around, I found myself in a local café with a cup of cappuccino in my hand, having a chat with my boss's boss, David Hosking. David has always been a strong people advocate. And he shared that the situation with the broad engagement surveys and generated actions has been on his mind. So hearing about what we had achieved by focusing on people, he challenged me to replicate the same success. But this time was the wider portfolio of programs, made up of roughly 480 people at that time. Now, my first thoughts were, "What have I gotten myself into?" And this is a top of my day job. It definitely doesn't help that when I shared this with my boss, Ian, his first reaction was to laugh and say, "Don't mess it up, Derrick!"
Derrick Leong 13:02
Next, I got together with our HR Lead at that time, Sonia Lynch, and we got stuck into it. By chance, we came across a case study describing Google's Project Oxygen. For those that are not familiar, Project Oxygen was a multiyear study by Google to answer the question if managers still mattered, especially in our age of agility and flat hierarchies. I took away two things from Project Oxygen: Managers still mattered, and they play a significant role in an employee's organizational experience. The next thing I took away was, Create a cool name for your project to get others to rally behind.
Derrick Leong 13:45
So, inspired by Project Oxygen, Sonia and I created Project Courage, hoping to inspire our people to have the courage to ask and give honest feedback. Project Courage used Gallup's Q12 survey to get engagement data at the local team level. And when I say "team," I mean an average of about 8 to 10 people per team. We wanted data that was specific to that person's experience at their local team level. Project Courage, then, used Gallup strengths as a common language to have meaningful conversations regarding those results. We ended up with 97% participation across hundreds of people, with results relevant to their experience among 1 of 60 teams. We finally had the data at the granular level relevant to an individual's local team experience. That was lesson 2. I'll pause here. Jim, Saurav, keen to hear your thoughts and, and the people on the chat as well. What do you think is the importance of understanding an individual's local team experience?
Getting Employees to Participate in Engagement Surveys
Saurav Atri 14:59
And Derrick, I have a question for you, building on that. You know, the average participation rate on engagement surveys is normally 82%. How did you get to 97%, which means people wanting to share their opinions? What are your thoughts on that? What was the big, well, insight for you in creating that 97% participation rate?
Derrick Leong 15:20
Oh, that was a great question, Saurav. And I don't want to tease the bit of the, part 3 of the story, but I think getting the participation rate was just making it real, in my head at least, to the team members. So, you know, when you take a broad, generic survey, sometimes you don't know where it's going, or, or how you're going to answer it. Like, are you answering at an organizational level or are you answering at your team day-to-day level, right? So, so by doing it this way, where we say, OK, I want to know, what is your experience day to day? How are you experiencing your world in your team? I think that, that makes a big difference. Because then we could have team, team leaders talking to individuals and just telling them how it mattered and how it will matter. So that is how we got that engagement.
Saurav Atri 16:03
Jim, any questions from the audience or from you?
Jim Collison 16:05
Not yet. We'll, I'll just remind those listening live: If you have your questions, put them in chat; I'll bring them in as we go. But Derrick, I've got a question around, you know, sometimes we've talked about skeptics of, leaders being skeptical, maybe, and you have to get leadership buy-in. The opposite is true when, especially in engagement surveys, where you might have individual members of the team that are a little skeptical that you're actually going to do, do something with this data that you're giving them. And they may be even vocal about it to the team around them. You know, you hate to say, "A bad apple spoils the whole barrel," but it can, right, in the sense of a team dynamic. How did you approaching, getting that high of an engagement rate, you had to do a few things to encourage them to participate in it. Did you have any pushback? How did you handle it? Or how did you prep them so that maybe it minimized that pushback?
Derrick Leong 16:58
Oh, that's a great question, Jim. I think the one thing that I've learned is communication. So I think leading up to it, we had to communicate it. And then once the surveys were launched as well, you know, we had sort of 1 or 2 weeks of sort of focus from the leaders, from the managers with, to their teams, to say, you know, "This is something that's important to us as a, as a team leader, but also as an organization. And we really want to hear your opinion." And yes, Jim, you're 100% correct: We cannot stop the skeptics. But I think actions speak louder, louder than words. So I would say the skeptics, I think we've got to accept and empathize. But then we got to just continue to do what we're doing. And then hopefully, they'll come around.
Jim Collison 17:38
Yeah, in that group of 100, there were 3. Right? If you had a 97% rate, there were 3. They're real people in that, and, and, it makes it difficult. Saurav, I think, can attest to this as well. I think sometimes when we approach engagement surveys, we think the point is the survey itself. And while that's important, the preparation we do, the communication -- Derrick, you just said -- the communication that is done prior, the, the, the, you know, the team support from the managers, how the managers are going to be supported on this, is very, very important. So the prework is almost as important as the survey itself. Did, can you, would you give any tips to somebody going into this -- As we think about maybe some of the prework that you guys did, what did you find particularly helpful through that process that you might share with somebody else?
Derrick Leong 18:31
Oh, I've, I think the best, maybe the one piece of advice there, Jim, from my perspective is, is I heard something and I've always sort of lived by it since is, is communication, when you communicate something, communicate it 7 times. So, you know, now I'm getting used to sort of hearing, hearing myself like a broken record. But what I realized is that not, you know, people, you know, for, for good reason might, might be distracted or, or they could only be there for a shortened period of time. And, and so, you know, think, just issuing one piece of communication in one channel -- you might think it's enough, and everybody should, should listen and know where you're heading, but, but it's not always the case. So, you know, I would say, just put yourself out there. And even if you find yourself repeating yourself, I think it's important to get the message out.
Jim Collison 19:21
Cath -- sorry, Derrick, didn't mean to interrupt you on that one. Catherine asks a question, I think, along these lines. She says, What types of communication did you utilize to prepare for Project Courage (by the way, love that name) as well as the time leading up to it? Did you find yourselves using multiple channels then to get that, to get that Communication done?
Derrick Leong 19:42
Oh, yes. That's a great question. Thanks for the question, Catherine. Yeah, we used multiple channels. Obviously, email is a channel. And we have Teams, so we have team channels that will -- for the wider team, so we posted announcements on Teams, even messages. We, you know, we, leading up to it was probably, and I think the answer to that question was probably a month or so. And so we had probably twice-weekly communications, their email, their teams, and what we do as well, we have Town Halls. So again, utilizing those Town Halls, making sure everybody's aware of what we're trying to achieve; when it's coming out; when it's closing; what's the importance of it. So really just almost like, and, to be honest, we even went as far as lean coffees, team meetings. So every channel, we were just, just using it and repeating the message. And, and I think that's definitely helped.
Jim Collison 20:35
Holly makes a great statement. She says you got to be the "Chief Reminding Officer" --that's a great way. Steve, one more question before we move on. Steve asks, The 97% participation rate, it was great. What feedback did you receive? And maybe don't give away what part 3 is if this entails it, but What feedback did you receive from all levels after the Q12 survey and results? And I'll say, Was any of it surprising to you afterwards? So you got that 97%. Was there any feedback that you got that was interesting?
Derrick Leong 21:08
Oh, yeah. I think, if I look at the -- and I believe it was Steve, Jim, you know, in terms of the feedback -- and I'm not, and I was not talking about the feedback of the actual survey, but just people just coming up to us and say, you know, I think one of the key things that stuck with me, a lot of leaders came back to say, "Well, I always thought my team was great. You know, I thought my team wasn't the, the team had issues." And suddenly, it's just staring them right in the face. Because again, this is at the team level. This is really, in a sense, they are team members telling them what they needed. And, and that was a real eye opener for a lot of the managers and teams, where they always felt it was some other, it was some other team, right; my team is great. And as well, I think, you know, in terms of feedback, it's probably one of the key, the key, the key, the key feedback that we received.
Jim Collison 22:02
Derrick, with 97%, did you guys celebrate that in some way? Was there some kind of, some kind of moment? Because that's fantastic. Like, I think that's another important aspect of this. When you do get there, there needs to be some kind of celebration, to say, "Great job!" I mean, yeah, we're gonna celebrate the data when it comes out. But to get 97% is pretty great. Saurav, I'll throw it back to you for part 3.
Moving the Needle: 3. SELF: Making It Personal
Saurav Atri 22:27
Thank you, Jim. And you know, Derrick, it's interesting, you shared that captured the context -- in, Gallup we say, measure to manage something. And that's the power of data is, is it gives you real insight, and you're not just locked into one perspective. So I'm curious to hear part 3: What happened after you got that 97% you know, feedback, and what did you do about it? And what's your third advice?
Derrick Leong 22:49
Thanks, Saurav. So, for everybody, we have arrived at part 3 -- the final piece of the puzzle; the finale. Or is it? Well, stay tuned to find out. So, recognizing that engagement is personal and intimate and that broad measures rarely work. So for all of those of you paying attention, I still have my work cut out for me, since David challenged me to move the needle on engagement, not just participation. So despite having the data with context, despite our best efforts and intentions, we didn't seem to be reaching our people on the ground. And worse, our middle managers and team leads seemed to be the most disengaged. So by all accounts, our message was getting lost in translation.
Derrick Leong 23:42
So what did we do next? We reached out. With help from Gallup, we decided to reframe the problem away from solving engagement for everybody. Instead, we refocused people on having meaningful impact on those colleagues closest to them -- direct reports, immediate bosses and peers. We ended up using a framework that forms the abbreviation "SELF" -- S-E-L-F. S, for Self-Discovery through strengths coaching; E for Empathy, understanding the strengths of your peers and team; L for Language, having a common language of strengths; and F for Feedback, measure and recalibrate, using the Q12 and one-on-one conversations. We worked with Saurav and executed SELF over 2021, providing one-to-one strengths coaching for all 40+ managers and team coaching where they worked in the same unit.
Derrick Leong 24:46
Where did we land? We ended up exceeding expectations by a factor of 4. Again, achieving that high participation rate, this time about 98%. So we managed to convince that one person there, Jim, in our surveys, and we have, and we increased engagement scores for these managers by an average of 0.7 across these 8 teams, and, finally, increasing retention and productivity, also across this management group. We managed to make engagement personal and intimate. Jim, Saurav what do you think about how we got here, what we achieved?
Saurav Atri 25:24
Well, Derrick, let me first say that I love that acronym you've come up with, with SELF -- Self-Discovery, Empathy, Language and Feedback -- I think it sticks, so well. And I could see, as I reflect back on those experiences, I think everybody in the organization and I felt that you were genuinely interested to help them at a deeper level. So I loved how you created that narrative to go deep to understand their problem, because let's be honest, a survey is capturing people's opinions, but also you're capturing their expectation. And after giving a survey opinion, a person has an expectation something will be done about it. Because if you don't, then it will be destroying that engagement, because the expectation got raised the moment you asked somebody a question. What I love is you went deep; you went and said, Let's take this initiative to the ground and make people's lives, well, change -- help them evolve. So I loved how you sort of narrated that in that SELF acronym. Jim, any thoughts from you? And I see a couple of questions coming from the audiences as well?
Jim Collison 26:23
Yeah. Catherine was asking, Did you also take the Engagement Champions program -- Saurav, maybe you can talk a little bit to that -- with Gallup to be able to deliver the State of the Team results from the Q12? And maybe you can talk about the actual delivery. Because I think, for some folks, the delivery of the reports is a big mystery. Like, so how do, what do you do the day these reports come out? So Derrick, maybe you can talk a little bit about that. Saurav, you can add to that as well.
Derrick Leong 26:52
All right, sir. And thanks again for the question, Catherine. So, so when the results came up from Project Courage, what we, what we ended up doing was getting the, actually holding the team leads and, you know, those managers accountable for having those conversations with their team. So when the results came out, the way, you know, we're structured at Accenture is that it's full transparency. So once the results are closed, everybody gets a picture of the results. So, so, so I found that really -- initially, I was a bit nervous when that happened, but on hindsight and ... accommodations, that was, that was fantastic, because kind of everybody sort of was on board; there was no hiding it, we just had to have the conversation. So we ended up having those managers having, having dedicated sessions with their team to talk through those results and agree on next steps.
Enlisting Managers, Employees in Moving the Needle
Saurav Atri 27:40
And, you know, as you, Jim, mentioned about the strengths or the Engagement Champions program. So essentially, what we've discovered at Gallup is also, you know, engagement is an inside-out initiative, which means people need to act on those opinions. Somebody needs to get together with the team and talk about this: What does that really mean for all of us? And that's where, you know, even at Gallup, we believe in empowering people within organizations, helping them understand what the, these 12 elements of engagement is, and how do you make sense of it? Do you get a report? So what? What should I do next with it? How do I practically go back and, you know, have a meaningful conversation with my team to move the needle?
Saurav Atri 28:18
Because I see a lot of challenges, Jim, in this one, where managers get that report and they typically, you know, Achiever, Responsibility is in the Top 10 strengths of the world; "This is my job to fix it." So they jump in, says, "OK, I see this problem, and I'll fix this, fix this, fix this for you." But in reality, engagement is when you involve people, you know. Because imagine, right, if I'm going to a meeting room, and I'm asking people's problems, "OK, I'll do this, I'll do this, I'll do this." You're also raising expectations for them. How do people feel? "Oh, it's my manager's job to fix this." So they're putting the monkey on their backs, right?
Saurav Atri 28:51
So I felt, and I saw that with Derrick's team -- it was not just him leading the way. But it was more of involvement and contributions of people who were involved in running these activities. And managers were very much engaged in all the conversations we were having -- those team conversations we had even around strengths, they had their buy-in. And they -- that's, I think, from my perspective, those 2 advice, Derrick has given, or 3 advice Derrick has given so far, getting that leadership buy-in. The second thing, I saw that he captured the data to then get the influence to the remaining team members also. Because people think, "Yeah, I'm great at doing this job. I'm a perfect manager!" until the data hits them. That's when the needle shift in their brain, "I need to do something differently." That's when they get involved in it that, "Hey, I care about by people. But clearly something is not landing; let's do something different." I think that's where the shift started happening in their brains.
Saurav Atri 29:41
And I always believe in that before a behavior shift can happen, an emotional shift needs to happen. The buy-in needs to happen. Data, in my perspective, created that buy-in, and of course, Derrick's leadership and conviction that we need to do this made the needle move. So just on that, Jim, I know couple of people are quite curious about, How did that shift the perspectives of people? So, you know, Derrick, I would love to hear your thoughts on How did the managers respond, in terms of taking that ownership and moving the needle for their teams as well? Because that's what leadership is about helping them make the move, right?
Derrick Leong 30:17
That's a great question, Saurav, and I think I'd like to, I'd like to preface just to say that we're still on this journey. So, so we started having a conversation with the managers and getting, and getting their feedback on how they had, what was the response from their team when they created those action plans? And where to next, did that work? What results are they seeing as we get more and more, as we redo these surveys over and over again? So, so I think that's kind of they just kind of where it was, where, you know, in terms of managers, they, they were saying, Yes, initially, it was an eye-opener. And when they had the conversations, though, some of them were saying they were struggling to get the actions to be taken.
Derrick Leong 30:55
And so your point, Saurav, I think coming from, you know, personally as well, with high Responsibility, when I had an initial meeting, I can, I freely admit that I took on all the actions, and I apologize to my team right now. Because, because what happened was, you know, day to day, things just came into play, and I ended up, you know, maybe doing one or two of them, but not following through on the rest. And again, it's a learning experience for me and, and hearing from the managers, it ended up to be, and those leads, a lot of them had the same experience. And now we're starting to say, OK, similar to what you're saying, Saurav, let's, let's, let's do it again. Because again, we have data now; we have the participation. Let's not just stop; let's learn. And, and so what we're doing now is saying, OK, don't just take everything; resist the urge. Don't take everything on to yourself. And try to get your team members involved; get actions, get them involved in actions itself. Hold them response, hold them accountable, but don't be responsible for their actual actions.
Saurav Atri 31:55
And, Derrick, a couple of people here want to know what your SELF model was, what it stands for. Could you sort of summarize for us those 3 pieces of advice as well as, you know, those SELF model for others -- could you just sort of reconfirm that?
Derrick Leong 32:07
Oh, yeah, happy to, Saurav. So SELF, again, just repeating, it's S-E-L-F. S for Self-Discovery. So focusing on discovering, you know, yourself through strengths coaching; E for Empathy, you know, showing Empathy, understanding the strengths of your peers and team members; L: focusing on using strengths as a common language; and finally, F -- probably the most important one -- Feedback, right? Measure, recalibrate, learn from future Q12 surveys, and continuous one-on-one conversations.
"Perfection Is the Enemy of Progress" -- the Path to the Future
Saurav Atri 32:38
And Derrick, having been on this journey, and still continuing on this journey, what's been your biggest insight that you'd like to share with the audience that's listening?
Derrick Leong 32:46
Oh, thanks, Saurav. I'll say my biggest insight is summed up by quoting Winston Churchill: "Perfection is the enemy of progress." So behind the story that I just shared, there were many failures and experiments from which we learned and persevered. I could honestly say that if I had waited to plan out the perfect journey in detail, before proposing it to either David or Ian, nothing would have happened. In fact, even when putting this story together to share today, a quote from Steve Jobs about connecting the dots came to my mind. I believe he said, "You can't connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future." I couldn't have summed this lesson up better than he did. Through this, I have learned to be more comfortable with vulnerability and failure.
Saurav Atri 33:49
Wow, what a beautiful quote there, and thank you for sharing that story with us, Derrick. And now, What's next in store for your teams going forward? How would you sustain this momentum? Because you've sort of explored parties part of success. There were people involved. What's next coming for you?
Derrick Leong 34:08
Oh, thanks, Saurav. Well, as I said, this isn't the end of our story, as we intend to continue our journey. We plan to work with our managers now and replicate the success of SELF into their teams, right, promoting S-E-L-F -- Self-Discovery, Empathy, Language and Feedback. Now, maybe we can share that story in the future. If Jaden, you and Saurav will have us back sometime in the future. So everybody in the audience you know, hit that button like button let's start off and Jim know how you feel.
Saurav Atri 34:43
Beautiful. Thank you for, for sharing that. Derrick. And as you think about some of the barriers will people listening in says this sounds great. You know, you can see the big needle shift on engagement has happened that what barriers can they sort of learn from your experiences that they need to do differently or watch out for force, what would you say?
Derrick Leong 35:03
Yeah, let's go questions or let me I, in terms of barriers, I would say, you know, thinking about the 3, the 3 pieces of advice, getting leadership support, I would say, Yeah, you know, getting that leadership support, getting those advocates and allies is critically important. So I do, I do empathize with what Jim is saying. And not everybody is as fortunate as me to have that, you know, that leadership, you know, support from the get-go. So I'll say that that's one of the key barriers. And I think, again, as we talked about just having that conversation, being, you know, being vulnerable, and putting your idea out there and sort of working on it is critically important.
Derrick Leong 35:42
And, and then next, as you said, you know, again, going back to the second lesson is getting the data. So getting the data at the right level, right? So that's a barrier. Because if you're not solving the actual problem, then, then no matter what you're doing -- broader engagements, multiple engagements, you'll find that it doesn't translate down to the person on the ground. So that's a barrier; you need the data at the right level. Right? And finally, you know, again, third piece of advice, engagement is personal, intimate. So, you know, just relying on broad program, broad measures, you know, all-encompassing initiatives, I think they're gonna move the needle a little bit, but again, what you're gonna see is that, that result plateauing very quickly.
Saurav Atri 36:26
And Steve has a great question here, Derrick, around What is something you might do differently or better the next time you have to run on this initiative?
Derrick Leong 36:35
Oh that's, that's a good one, Steve. I would say, it's taken a while. So it's, you know, again, it's long, it wasn't a, it wasn't an overnight success. So if I was going to do it again, then I would take my own advice. Just because, again, I learned a lot, and me and my team, we learned a lot. You know, we, we had failures, and we persevered, we try it again. So if I was gonna do it again, I'll take my own advice, well, you know, to accelerate the journey to get where we are here. Because, again, this isn't the end. We still have to work on sort of getting to the ground level and keeping this sustainable and consistent.
Jim Collison 37:18
Derrick, one of the things I liked to do when I was managing our interns in our intern programs was to kind of onboard with Q12. In other words, spend some time in their onboarding process, talking about why these questions are important. Not necessarily asking them the questions, but we did -- I mean, in a way of getting the data back -- but teaching them about what it meant to, to, you know, to Know what's expected of me or to know the, that I'm getting the opportunity to do what I do best every day. As you guys are now looking, you've gone through this experience once, any thoughts to the formalization of some training around these Q12 concepts in between the gaps? You've, you know, conversations are great, and you got the data and you're making some progress. But any thoughts on additional kind of using that framework for continued learning? And maybe even pulse surveys here in the future on, on how some of those things are going?
Derrick Leong 38:20
No, that's, that's a great question, Jim. And you probably touched on one of the more recent insights that we've seen is, is, is sort of training or empowering our leads to better understand, How do you hit those key needs from, from the team? You know, the, especially the first couple of fundamental questions, which is, What is expected of you? You know, How can, how can you, how can you bring out the best in your people? So, so this is definitely something top-of-mind right now, to say, OK, now we've engaged those managers, and we want to roll this out. We want to scale this. But I can't scale it; I'm just one person. And if you look at Dave and Ian, as well, they're just one person. The only way we believe we can scale this is, is, to your point, Jim training our managers, getting them to understand the importance, getting them to understand, How do you address those fundamental needs of their followers?
Prioritizing Engagement -- Your People, Your Job and You
Saurav Atri 39:17
And on this same concept, Derrick, people listening in says, "Hey, I'm a leader. I'm a manager, and I've got my hands full doing all this work." So what does a day in the life of Derrick look like? How much time do you devote to engagement? And what do you do to do that? And, you know, of course, you got your full day job as well. You said this is on top of -- What does that look like? We'd love to hear your thoughts on that.
Derrick Leong 39:39
Now you're putting me on the spot, Saurav! So, so I'll say my day -- and most people are laughing, for those that know me -- would be just packed with, with meetings. And, and so I'm sort of, even for myself, I'm learning to, How do I prioritize what is important? So if I think people are important, and obviously this client work is important, how do I find that balance? So, you know, not, not putting one over the other, and just making sure that I make the time. So, so one of the key things I do every day, actually, is spending the first 10 to 15 minutes just sorting out my calendar for the day, and making sure that I, you know, how much of my day am I prioritizing to, to work versus to, to people? And if one or the other is too low, then I have to seriously think about how do I, how do I, how do I rebalance that?
Derrick Leong 40:30
And actually, I'll throw, I'll throw in, because one more thing is the third, that, I would say the third priority that I try to balance every day is, is my own time. So my own wellbeing because, you know, I'm not looking, I feel that, more and more, leaders need to look after ourselves. So how do we prioritize some focused time for myself? Let's understand, reassess, and let's improve going forward. So really, three aspects, you know, which is people, work and me.
Jim Collison 40:58
That's great. That's great balance, by the way, just as we think about this. Steve had asked a question earlier too, you know, sometimes in strengths engagements, we utilize Strengths Champions, right? We find those informal individuals in an organization that naturally lend themselves towards strengths; they're, they're cheerleaders for it, advocates, they talk about it positively. Did you, did you see Engagement Champions come out of this, where individuals just kind of naturally gravitated towards the system and began to become advocates, even though maybe it wasn't their role or their job to do that, Derrick? Any, any thoughts on that?
Derrick Leong 41:39
Oh, thanks, Steve. Thanks, thanks, Jim. No, I think, look, I, it's, I want to emphasize again, this is not a solo effort. So, so when I, you know, when I sort of allude to team, we actually had a team of Champions to sort of go off and, and make sure that those 60 teams, I couldn't, I have no way I could coordinate the creation of 60 teams, again, 8 to 10 people within those teams. We had, we had key Engagement Champions across the portfolio that helped, that we worked together to create and engage, communicate across those different programs. So I would say yes, Engagement Champions are definitely needed. And, and, you know, getting them to sort of buy in and drive some of these key outcomes is fundamental to getting, to getting to where we get to now.
Jim Collison 42:27
Love it. Catherine, one more question. Maybe, unless they've put a final "last call" out to the, to the chat room. But How often, as you think about the future of this, what's best-case scenario for the next iteration? Because the first one's great. The second one is even better, because now you've got your baseline to compare it to, right. I mean, if you're a data nerd, you're just begging for the second one, you're like, Can we take it tomorrow? So what are you, what are you guys anticipating from a frequency, Derrick?
Derrick Leong 42:57
No, that's a great question, Jim. Again, we're learning, and this is something we're learning. So, so initially, when we did it, the first in, with Project Courage, it took, we had to do it annually. Because I would have to admit, it took us a while to sort of get the information back, assess all the data coming from 60 teams, and understand where to next, and how do you facilitate the follow-ons and, and, and then set up everything again to, to launch the Q12? Because, you know, I say, you know, teams change; people move around. So there's always that administrative overhead.
Derrick Leong 43:32
So initially, it's, we're definitely looking at annually, just because of the work around it, pre- and post-, to your, to your points as well, Jim. But I think going forward, once we've gotten a bit more familiar, and I say "we," I mean myself, the Engagement Champions, the leaders, everybody on the ground. You're getting familiar with what a Q12 means, how to respond, and less of that administrative prework needs to be done. Still important, but less, you know, we are looking to sort of get to a point where, we are pro, we're hopefully launching it quarterly. So it's almost like pulse checks, I think, you, that's what you're suggesting, Jim, for the, the leaders themselves to understand how their team is, is going. Are there any small course corrections that we could do along the way?
Jim Collison 44:16
Yeah, well, you can really begin to see progress that way, too, you know. You want to be careful -- no good deed goes unpunished sometimes. And so you do this. And then, of course -- you guys mentioned this earlier, oftentimes the leaders take responsibility for it. And it's not always their fault. Right. In fact, in most of the cases, it's not their fault. And so, but leaders get very defensive. And so I think there's that support. You mentioned this earlier, there's support to leadership to say, like, Hey, OK, we're getting this data back. This is our problem, like, or these are our problems or -- even better -- these are our successes. Like, you know, these are, these are the things we're doing.
Jim Collison 45:02
I think that's something we miss sometimes in engagement is celebrating those successes that we're having and saying, you know what? We're getting, you know, the expectation question is No. 1; it's the most important question. If you're getting that right, I mean, sometimes that's half the battle in an organization of just people understanding what their, why they got hired. I don't know why that's such a problem, but it is. And so good, good for you guys, as we think about some of that frequency, that work. Saurav, do you want to add anything to that?
Saurav Atri 45:32
Yeah, I think, Jim, a couple of things, you know. So this is why I speak with a lot of leaders, then, like you said, they take the score personally: This is my problem. This is a reflection on my management style. So I always tell leaders to depersonalize the score but personalize the engagement, because, as we know, 70% of factors that affect employees' engagement is within the span of control of the manager. So yes, this is not a reflection on your management capabilities. But yes, it is a reflection on the team's environment, and you have the biggest control, so you can do something about this.
5 C's for the Engagement Journey
Saurav Atri 46:05
And to this point, also, you know, having that outsider's view and that eagle's eye view to this whole journey Derrick was taking this organization on, and my biggest takeaways from that, just watching him, observing him and seeing that can be I think, from my perspective, summarized into 5 C's. The first C for me would be Clarity. I think I've spent enough time with leaders. What I found with Derrick was that he had this conviction and clarity of what he wants to do, which is to really change the lives of people working with him, you know, help them be better, both from an engagement perspective and wellbeing. So that for me was, Clarity is very important. Why are you doing this? What are you going to do about this? And who needs to be involved? So that's why he said, "Let's get the leadership on board." And he was really committed from the, from the forefront, the moment he went to the, our Gallup-Certified Strengths Coaching course, we had been connecting regularly, where he has been talking about, "Hey, how do I do this? How do I do that?" and we would really brainstorming that together. So for me, Clarity is important.
Saurav Atri 47:05
Second thing is you need Champions in an organization to move the needle, you know, and he, Derrick, being the, the greatest champion and the first champion himself, moving the needle, but he got others on board -- the leaders, the, his team members, the managers. So having those Champions are very important to create momentum around any initiative. You can't, as he said, move the needle by yourself. It's a team effort, but you need to gather the team. And then you need to be the person doing the rally cry to get those Champions on board.
Saurav Atri 47:33
And then third was Coaches. Especially in the virtual world, you know, Derrick and I, he being a Certified Coach as well, we split the people that -- you want to coach this person, I'm gonna coach this person. So we give each person an opportunity to vent. And I felt that was very important in a virtual world, where you're by yourself in your house, feeling lonely, have nobody to vent out to. That was an outlet for people. And we heard a lot of frustrations as well. Let's be honest: People are feeling the pressure from the external world also. And it builds up, you know, at work as well. So I think that listening, venting and also the offer to ideate was, I felt, very helpful. And it was a great relationship builder for Derrick as well. You know, when you're a coach, a coach-manager, you get an opportunity to build a human connection with somebody as well, because they share their frustration, their challenges, and you're helping them sort them out themselves.
Saurav Atri 48:22
The fourth C for me was Contribution. You know, I think what Derrick's leadership was about bringing people on board, so they want to contribute. So I've never seen conviction like I've seen from Derrick's team members who had coached as well. They were volunteering their time to record their testimonials when we reached out to them: "Hey, could you share your feedback?" And they said, "Yeah, I'd love to; I think this is great." And they were calling Derrick's contributions and Ian's contribution and Dave's contribution in making this initiative successful. So for me, it's also about generating Contribution from the team members.
Saurav Atri 48:51
And finally, Capture. Capture inside success stories to create momentum for the next step. So we actually got David Hosking on video, sharing his experiences of going to strengths. Ian talked about this as well, of course, Derrick, and his team members. So that created this whole momentum around Hey, you know, success begets success. So when you capture those positive stories of impact, it generates that motivation for others to also join the bandwagon. So having said that, while, you know, Derrick is very humble, and he says, you know, one person can't make a difference. But I felt, through his Clarity and Conviction, he did. Because he paid attention to the right things. So thank you, Derrick, for this. And Jim, any other questions, thoughts, and things that you'd like to add?
Jim Collison 49:32
I think we're good from the chat room. Derrick, I'll say, from my side, thanks for coming on and being vulnerable. This is not easy to do. And it's always great to have you share. We'll be excited -- and so the answer is "Yes." We want to have you back next, we want to have you back when we get another set of results from you or whenever you want to share something with us, be great to hear. I think everybody kind of loves to see it. We talk, listen, Saurav and I talk about this stuff all the time. And, and it seems very theoryish, right? Because it just does. But when we have a customer on who's like, "Yeah, we did this, and this is how it worked out," that's pretty powerful. Derrick, do you want to add anything else? Any, any final thoughts from you before I close this thing up?
Derrick Leong 50:16
No, no, thanks, I just, thanks for the opportunity again, Saurav, Jim and for everybody listening, for, for letting us share our story. And, and it's been a pleasure sort of working with, with you, Saurav. Yeah, definitely.
Saurav Atri 50:27
The pleasure's mine. And to all the people listening from Asia, Gong si fa choi, which means Happy Chinese New Year and the Lunar New Year, which is coming up in a couple of days' time, and to you as well, Derrick.
Jim Collison 50:39
And, and Happy Chinese New Year to you as well. I, I figured this year, I needed an extra break, so I'm taking it. I'm just gonna, I'm just gonna celebrate it along with everybody else taking -- not really. We've got a learning series coming up. And so I'll be working during it. But to everyone celebrating that, Happy New Year to you as well. Saurav, any final thoughts, then, before we wrap it?
Saurav Atri 51:02
Well, here's what I'd say is, you know, you have the opportunity to invest in people. And we've got tons of courses coming up as well, whether it's around, you know, well for your organization, you can invest in creating Engagement Champions, that's one I love to teach it, you know, I feel so energized by it as well. But also the Gallup Global Strengths Coaching course -- I'm a huge fan of that course. And I love teaching it and, of course, partnering with coaches like Derrick who've been to those journeys there. So go online, check out on Gallup's website all the opportunity you have in different time zones. In Asia, we've got one happening in February. India time zone, Singapore time zone and Australia time zone as well. So, join, join in the journey; we'd love to have you on board, and let's invest in human nature, human beings. You know, I think this is the greatest gift we have is to create a difference in people's lives. Because when you're 70 years old, you look back, nobody would remember what targets you hit. But people remember how you changed their life. So let's make a difference, right on, right. Jim.
Jim Collison 51:56
Very, very well said. With that, we'll remind everyone to take full advantage of all the resources we do have available now in Gallup Access. Head out to gallup.com/cliftonstrengths. You can log in that way; lots of great information for you there. For coaching, master coaching, like Saurav was mentioning, or if you want to become a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, you can always send us an email, even with the Engagement Champions course, send us an email if you have questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. That address is good for just about any questions that you have: email@example.com, and we'll get someone to get right back to you with that info. You can join us on any social platform just by searching "CliftonStrengths." And if you're listening to this as a podcast or there on YouTube, click that Subscribe button -- it's right over here -- so that you never miss an episode. I don't ask a lot, but click that Like button as well. It just kind of helps us with discovery in the networks, in the social networks or here on YouTube when we're doing it. Thanks for joining us tonight, and thanks for coming out. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.
Derrick Leong's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Individualization, Relator, Learner, Arranger and Responsibility.
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