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How Lockton Succeeds With a Strengths-Based Culture

How Lockton Succeeds With a Strengths-Based Culture

by Jessica Schatz

Story Highlights

  • Lockton prioritizes employee growth and development using CliftonStrengths
  • Strengths can be developed infinitely for individuals and organizations
  • Leadership’s investment in strengths creates ambassadors for your culture

The story of how Lockton came to embrace and embed CliftonStrengths into their organizational culture starts (as many do) with a single person who has a deep passion for focusing on what is right with people instead of what’s wrong. If you want to learn more about this Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach’s experience, you can listen to this episode of Called to Coach.

Lockton, founded in 1966, is the world’s largest privately held insurance brokerage firm and is organized in eight divisions, or series, as Lockton calls them. Along with the eight divisions, a hub called “the center” houses departments like HR, IT, Legal and Compliance. The more than 500 associates who work at the center help connect the various divisions with Lockton’s common purpose through communication, messaging, onboarding and development programs.

Lockton as an organization was no stranger to assessments, having used a few consistently for a couple of decades. In an effort to gauge the assessments’ efficacy, Talent Development associates listened to employees at all levels describe their experiences. Though Lockton associates appreciated the assessments and understood their value, it became clear that the existing tools had run their course.

Repeated questions like What else can help me learn and grow? and How do I deepen in this space? sparked a conversation about bringing strengths to Lockton, as the new VP of Talent Development was a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach.

Strengths, after all, can be developed infinitely -- there’s no end destination, just continuous growth and development. And at Lockton, a single strengths expert was able to advocate for and articulate the value that embedding strengths could bring to the organization.


Bringing Strengths to Lockton: A Top-Down and Grassroots Approach

Given the value Lockton places on growth and development, the center adopted a “both and” approach to the rollout of CliftonStrengths -- it is both a top-down and grassroots effort. Each of the eight divisions sets their own pace for rolling out CliftonStrengths, training to become a coach and designing what that will look like for their specific division.

This traditional approach to rolling out strengths is working well. One division’s entire group has already taken the assessment and training over the course of five short months, effectively positioning those associates as ambassadors for strengths at Lockton.

And if a CEO or COO of a division engages with CliftonStrengths -- that is, goes through the assessment and receives their report and some coaching -- it sells itself. If a leader is open to their own development and growth, as many of Lockton’s leaders are, they tend to embrace CliftonStrengths and want to roll it out to other layers of their division.

Strengths, after all, can be developed infinitely -- there’s no end destination, just continuous growth and development.

In spite of this top-down approach, the center isn’t gatekeeping. If an individual manager expresses interest in learning about their CliftonStrengths, they’re encouraged to use the assessment. And if that manager then wants to ask their team of eight or 35 associates to take the assessment, they’re encouraged to do so.

This sort of grassroots approach works because it produces true strengths ambassadors -- the sort of enthusiastic champions who might ask what their neighbor’s top five strengths are over a casual business dinner, igniting a conversation that might have the power to bring more people to discover their strengths.

Embedding Strengths in Onboarding and Development

Once the strengths movement at Lockton had a foothold, the next challenge was ensuring strengths-based development is embedded in the organization’s culture. To do this, the center is using a programmatic approach.

Lockton’s managerial program, “Passport to Leadership,” has already replaced an older assessment with the CliftonStrengths assessment. This means all emerging leaders will be introduced to strengths going forward. The organization also plans to establish a consistent onboarding program for new associates, regardless of which series they belong to.

As the center develops this onboarding program, CliftonStrengths is one of the pillars they hope to incorporate so that any associate joining Lockton, regardless of location, will be exposed to the same cultural elements and pillars, including strengths.

Embedding strengths into various programmatic elements in a career path at Lockton is deliberate and strategic. An associate is first introduced to strengths during onboarding. Then, they may come across it again in the Passport to Leadership program.

The center wants to make the experience unique, but also scaffold it so that at each exposure to strengths, associates are gaining something different -- seeing a different layer, a new way to use or lead with a strength, or how to guide and develop others with strengths.

Lockton’s VP of Talent Development Mary Rose Wild put it well by saying, “One of the things about CliftonStrengths that I love is it’s not just about the 34 strengths and the assessment, but it’s that full mindset shift, and mindset shifts take time.”

Just Getting Started

Embedding strengths in an established workplace culture is a continuous journey -- one that requires commitment from leadership, intention, and invested time and strategy. Though Lockton is still relatively new to the world of strengths, the center looks for the “pull-through” effect with strengths as qualitative proof of its efficacy.

One division, for example, is evaluating their performance management process and considering how to shift their year-end questions to be strengths-based.

In another case, an associate returned to the strengths tools three months after the initial coaching because they were going through a challenging situation with a colleague. The associate revisited the What am I bringing? What can I be doing better? How can I understand myself in this situation? exercise, and it was a valuable resource for that person when they needed help finding a way to move forward.

Associates are gaining something different -- seeing a different layer, a new way to use or lead with a strength, or how to guide and develop others with strengths.

Additionally, Lockton is just starting to delve into and realize the benefits of mapping team strengths grids on a unit, division and organizational level. Knowing which division leads with which strength is a uniquely helpful insight. Knowing details like that on a larger organizational scale can inform leaders about the composite of the organization -- its DNA. That’s invaluable information for leadership to have amid today’s war for talent.

Strengths has made a big impact at Lockton in a little over a year’s time, and it all began with one strengths expert who had access to the right conversations and was able to advocate for the effect strengths could have. And with Lockton leadership’s commitment to develop their associates and their willingness to invest in that development now and in the future, the journey is far from over.

Embed strengths in your organization.

CliftonStrengths® and each of the 34 CliftonStrengths theme names are trademarks of Gallup. Copyright © 2000 Gallup, Inc. All rights reserved.


Jessica Schatz's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Strategic, Relator, Developer, Learner and Individualization.

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