Embrace Opposition for Better Results

Emotional Intelligence (EI or EQ) has been a trending topic since the mid-90s, when author and psychologist Daniel Goleman first popularized the term. Harvard Business Review hailed it as “a revolutionary, paradigm-shifting idea” and Yale University established an entire research institute around the concept.

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Could You Be the Reason People Are Leaving?

Why do good people leave organizations? I often ask this question when I lead workshops or speak at conferences. Inevitably, someone offers up that people leave managers—not companies. And, while nearly everyone agrees with this maxim, there is also data that proves it.

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Developing the Skill of Accountability

A Dozen Things You can do after Core Strengths Accountability Training to Sustain and Extend the Learning

Now what? It’s the essence of a question the authors of Core Strengths Accountability (CSA) training and our Master Facilitator Team often hear. The questions arise from the realization that no matter how good the CSA training experience, if there is not additional reinforcement and personal commitment on the part of learners, sustainable change and better performance in high-stakes situations is a hit-or-miss proposition.

Metaphors abound that make this point. Imagine going to the best gym in town, working with a professional, knowledgeable, and engaging personal trainer who puts you through the best workout you’ve ever experienced. Then, you leave the gym, return to your old habits, and expect your fitness and health to be forever improved. Although we all wish this were the case, it’s not. Lasting change requires intentional effort and in most cases, hard work. Fortunately, for accountability skills, it’s an enjoyable process that simply requires people to do what they really want to do anyway—take ownership and take initiative—and help others do likewise.

So whether you are a CSA facilitator, a L&D executive, or a line leader trying to get the most out of your investment in training, you’ll want to consider these actions to further develop the skill of accountability in your people.

1. Execute the Accountability Action Plan created in class.The purpose of the Accountability Action Plan every CSA learner completes is two-fold. First, the authors want learners to connect the principles learned in the classroom with a meaningful real-world situation. Adult learning theory teaches us that adults learn best when they consider the topic relevant to their daily lives and the new skills they acquired useful in solving an immediate problem or creating results that will lead to some sort of tangible benefit. We also want to provide the opportunity for a first-hand, proof-of-concept experience that leads people to say, “Wow! This stuff really works.”

One of the highlights of CSA for many facilitators is the moment when learners raise their hands to say that they have chosen strengths from the bottom of their Strengths Portrait to use in their high-stakes situation. This is a real “a-ha” moment for most learners when they recognize that the usual way they have been interacting with a key stakeholder probably isn’t the best approach in the current situation. This new awareness and the probability of creating better results is the direct outflow of CSA training—and a moment that every CSA facilitator should celebrate.

However, if learners don’t follow through and see first hand just how effective they can be by using different strengths, they may continue to doubt the veracity of CSA’s claims. Based on the many stories we have heard, when learners approach a key stakeholder differently, honoring that stakeholder’s motives and values, and do so an authentic way, the results cannot be ignored.

2. Use the Accountability Action Planner as part of coaching conversations. Managers can access additional Accountability Action Planners to use when coaching team members that have completed CSA training. Now, when looking forward toward new projects or conducting a retrospective review of a situation that could have gone better, the manager can become a partner in the learning process.

Imagine the energy that could come from jointly planning an upcoming sales presentation or change initiative to assess the motives and values of key stakeholders, whether or not they may be in conflict, and how this should affect the strengths your team chooses to advance your cause. It’s also helpful to consider potential blind spots during the planning process and Accountability Action Planner has specific questions to use to consider how filters influence perceptions of people and situations.

3. Develop the habit of referencing the SDI Quick Guide each day. The SDI Quick Guide is a practical, easy-to-use resource that, in 30-seconds or less, can positively impact your results with people. We recommend that every CSA graduate keep their SDI Quick Guide on their desk and within easy reach.

Before making that telephone call or hitting send on an email, help people recognize the value of taking just a few moments to pause and consider people on the receiving end. It could cause them to change their tone, the words they use, or the order in which they present their ideas. Most importantly, they will quickly recognize that one size doesn’t fit all and that their results will improve when they begin tailoring their approach to fit the people with whom they are communicating. That’s what it means to use the right strength at the right time.

Most people have dozens of interactions with colleagues and clients on any given day. What if your CSA graduates committed to using the SDI Quick Guide at least five times per day for two weeks? It would take less than 5 minutes each day and the results they would see in terms of better interactions and improved relationships would be almost immediate. It might be easiest to begin with people who were in the same CSA workshop—ideally colleagues from the same team, but the tips for identifying each MVS type make the SDI Quick Guide a valuable tool to use with every interaction.

4. Integrate CSA language into daily conversations. CSA provides a simple and memorable language to use when discussing what people want when things are going well (People, Performance, and Process) and when there is conflict (Accommodate, Assert, and Analyze). This common language is useful in collaborating with a peer about how to get off on the right foot with a new client or in meetings when a leader wants to invite alternative perspectives or opposing views (i.e., “I would love to hear a Blue perspective on this issue….”). Ultimately, these non-judgmental terms make it easier discuss how people can work better together by honoring what’s most important to all of the parties involved.

An easy way to reinforce these ideas is by displaying the posters available in the Resources section of FaciltiatorSource. There are several options to choose from based on what you would like to emphasize or you can display all of the posters to offer constant reminders of CSA concepts. As a starting point, you mind use the Accountability Model and the Motives Under Two Conditions posters to highlight the skill of accountability and the keywords we can use to describe motives when things are going well and when there is conflict.

5. Display CSA monuments that illustrate each person’s MVS, Conflict Sequence, and top strengths. One of the key tenants of CSA training is that we have the ability to choose the right strengths at the right time to improve interactions with key stakeholders. There are times when we are forced to make an educated guess about the MVS of a stakeholder, but if it’s not necessary, why leave it to chance?

There are a couple of easy ways to publicize your MVS and Conflict Sequence within your work environment. One way is to prominently display the name tent and SDI Quick Guide completed in class the work area. Whether it’s tacking the name tent to the cubicle wall or having the Quick Guide front and center on one’s desk, visitors will immediately what MVS language you speak.

Facilitators also have the ability to create more elaborate and professional looking monuments for their learners though Resources section of FacilitatorSource. These vivid, one-page monuments can incorporate the CSA graduate’s photograph, MVS, Conflict Sequence, and top strengths— ready for framing, and front and center positioning in the workspace.

6. Use MVS and Conflict Sequence in email signatures and social media profiles. Another easy way to proclaim one’s MVS color and primary concern for People, Performance, or Process (or some combination thereof) is by putting this information in your email signature and social media profiles. Doing so makes it incredibly easy for others to respond to your messages in ways that honor your motives and the way you like to interact with people.

For example, if I know my colleague’s MVS is Red, I might be brief and to the point in my response to her question. If my colleague’s MVS is Green, I might attach some data that she can carefully review at her own pace. If my colleague’s MVS is Blue, I might use a couple of lines at the outset of my message to inquire about his weekend or his kid’s game before getting down to business. Here’s another place where the SDI Quick Guide can come in handy. People will also respond to you in ways that are most appealing and before long, you’ve created on organization where effective interactions are the norm.

7. Display the composite SDI Triangle of the team in prominent locations. Most teams spend considerable time “Forming, Storming and Norming” in Tuckman’s model of team development. CSA training, coupled with ongoing consideration of each team member’s MVS and Conflict Sequence, can greatly reduce the time to the “Performing” phase of team life. One new district sales manager in a large pharmaceutical company recently told me that he estimated that knowing the MVS and Conflict Sequence of each of his sales representatives accelerated his onboarding by months and improved collaboration among team members almost immediately. The key is knowing how best to take advantage of the insights.

One of the great benefits of the SDI is that it can vividly display the personalities and relationships of people on a team on one, easy-to-read graphic. The team’s composite Triangle should be distributed to everyone on the team and if possible, blown up and prominently displayed in common areas like conference and break rooms. By understanding the interpersonal dynamics of a team and what gives everyone a sense of ownership, everyone can begin to proactively manage their relationships and anticipate what may happen when there is conflict.

Facilitators can easily create composite Triangles using the functionality of Facilitator Source, saving the file as a pdf, and printing. With the right printer or a quick trip to a local print shop, poster sized printouts are easily made as well.

Consider the power of a manager having his or her team’s SDI and Conflict Sequence results readily available. This information would most certainly affect the way the manager coaches, provides feedback, and introduces new initiatives. Equally important is how team members interact with the leader and each other. Creating a Team Triangle is an incredibly valuable tool for these purposes.

8. Create composite SDI Triangles for new project teams or task forces working on special projects.. As mentioned in the item above, creating a team Triangle is a simple and easy process using FacilitatorSource. This process can also be applied for teams specially formed to take on a special project or new initiative. Often these teams are made up of experts from various parts of the organization—sometimes, different parts of the world—and they often don’t know each other. Distributing a SDI composite Triangle and investing some time talking about how the members of the team can best work together and take ownership of their new project using the language of CSA as a guide should be on the agenda of every project kick-off meeting.

9. Conduct team brainstorming activities using MVS filters. I have heard several stories about teams separating into MVS groups to provide different perspectives on business challenges in brainstorming sessions. For example, the HR team might be wrestling how to identify and implement a new package of employee benefits. Knowing this is a high-stakes situation and the potential for vastly different points of view, the leader might form the team into MVS groups and invite them to identify “key considerations” from each group’s perspective. This kind of activity almost always reveals issues that the leader had not previously considered.

10. Anticipate potential conflict triggers in yourself and others. Conflict is costly, and the impact can be felt personally through damaged relationships and in the organization’s bottom line. Spend time in meetings and one-on-one sessions discussing what things might trigger conflict long before the conflict occurs. Encourage people to be specific and use common workplace examples as a way of identifying “things to avoid” when working with them.

When conflict occurs, use the language of CSA to identify exactly what triggered the conflict and how the people involved might find a path back to feeling good again. These conversations can be delicate, but if the people involved are courageous enough to candidly and respectfully engage one another, most conflicts can be resolved quickly and create an opportunity for additional learning.

Some high-performing teams go so far as to create a conflict charter. A conflict charter is essentially an agreement addressing how the team will act when one or more of its members experiences conflict. These agreements often encourages team members to let others in the group know when they enter Stage 1 Conflict with a simple statement like, “Hey, guys. I’m not feeling comfortable with the direction we’re going here. Let me tell you why…” This openness will cause the group to slow down, consider others’ points-of-view and perhaps move toward a different or better decision. Another point in the charter might be, “I commit to going directly to the person with whom I am in conflict to have a private conversation rather than discussing the matter with others who are not directly involved.” There are myriad ideas based on the needs of the group, but having the conversation and creating a conflict charter is an ideal starting point.

11. Revisit and spend additional time in each of the CSA activities to provide opportunities for deeper discussion and practice. There are four major activities in the CSA Facilitator Manual (MVS Activity in Section 2, How I See It Activity in Section 3, Conflict Activity in Section 4, and Strengths Feedback Activity in Section 5). All of these activities can be worked through again exactly as written in the Manual with more time given to discussion or the facilitator could create different prompt questions that would raise new areas of discussion. There are also instructional icons through the Facilitator Manual that note how an activity can be altered or extended if more time is available.

12. Create learning communities through opportunities for review, discussion, and sharing best practices. Adult learning theory teaches us that adults learn best in community, so it often falls to the facilitator or another leader in the organization to drive that sense of community following the initial learning event. At some point, however, the learning community should be self-sustaining as members drive the agenda and take care of the logistics, but it is often necessary for someone to get things started.

Learning communities can form and be sustained in a variety of ways. One tried-and-true version is the “lunch and learn” where volunteers bring a “brown bag” lunch to a specified location to discuss how they’re applying what they learned. If funding is available, the Training Department might provide free sandwiches or pizza to entice learners back to take a share best practices or present a case study. Either way, getting people together to discuss their real-world experiences is always valuable.

For organizations with remote workers, technology can be leveraged to create this sense community. Whether it is a technology-based platform for asynchronous dialogue or old-fashioned teleconferences, there are many viable approaches to connecting people in convenient, unobtrusive ways.

While the word community implies large groups, some of the best learning takes place one-on-one. Peer coaching is a model that emphasizes this type of direct dialogue. Learners are usually paired up during the initial workshop and then encouraged to have informal conversations on a regular basis to encourage and coach one another as they seek to apply what they learned and further refine their skills. These arrangements usually work best when the partners are peers, yet come from different points on the SDI Triangle. On occasion, strong, long-lasting professional relationships are formed from these learning partnerships.

In my experience, the best communities take a positive and encouraging tone, and are solution oriented. At the outset, it’s best to establish clear ground rules, follow an agenda, and invite people to prepare something in advance of each session. As a member of the community, everyone should be prepared to share something.

The Best News

While all of these ideas for extending and sustaining the learning are extremely valuable, they require little to no additional financial investment. With the exception of using additional Accountability Action Planners, all of the ideas offered here can be implemented using FacilitatorSource or the materials in your Facilitator Tool Kit or your Learners’ Tool Kits. Additional Accountability Action Planners are available at a nominal cost by contacting your Client Manager or calling PSP’s Customer Service line at (760) 602-0086.

I realize that this is simply a starting point in terms of all of the ways in which a creative facilitator could continue developing the skill of accountability in their learners. I would sincerely appreciate hearing your ideas and success stories, so please send them to me at mike@corestrengths.com. I will look for opportunities to pass them along to our Facilitator Community so we can continue learning together as well.

Better Decision-Making Through Accountability

I recently had a conversation with a friend who was wrestling with a tough decision. Oftentimes, tough decisions involve choosing between two less-than-ideal options — discerning the lesser of two evils. In my friend’s case, there were two good options. Both would likely yield a positive outcome in the near and long-term future. Surprisingly, it didn’t make the decision any easier for him. In fact, the choice remained incredibly difficult.

The conversation made me think about David Brooks’ recent op-ed in the New York Times, The Choice Explosion. In the article, Brooks describes social science research that reveals how Americans crave options, yet don’t feel equipped to consistently make good choices. In fact, in some ways, we are wired to make poor choices. While experts offer a variety of techniques for weighing options, Brooks eventually prescribes a large dose of self-awareness as perhaps the most critical component of better decision-making.

At this point, my friend had been deliberating for weeks already, struggling to make the right decision or at least the one that would be best for his career and family, and allow him to feel good about the path forward. He was more than willing to take responsibility for the outcome, but he wanted advice that would make the process easier in the meantime.

My advice was to look inward, to examine his core. Your core is who you are. It’s your motives, values, and sense of purpose all working together, influencing everything you see, feel, say and do — including how you choose. Using the SDI, one of the learning tools we use in Core Strengths Accountability training, we identified that my friend’s Motivational Value System (MVS) was HUB. This meant that he valued options and different perspectives, and perhaps partly explained why he was struggling to land on the right decision.

We then took a look at his Strengths Portrait. His top strengths were loyal, devoted and caring — Blue strengths. It was easy to see these strengths in how he worked to benefit his team and his customers. Since one of the options before him meant losing daily interaction with colleagues he admired and customers he enjoyed serving, his decision became more clear.

This kind of self-awareness also improves team decision-making in several ways:

The SDI and Strengths Portrait clue you in on what gives people a sense of ownership in the decision-making process. Green MVSs need time to think things through. Reds are energized by making decisions on the spot. Blues build consensus. HUBs consider different options and approaches. Sharing and handing off decisions with these traits in mind empowers team members, boosts engagement and helps the team as a whole make better decisions.

In group decision-making sessions, you can take initiative by choosing a strength you don’t normally use. Perhaps you choose to be Self-Confident to boldly present your idea, or pause to be Inclusive and gather consensus when you’d normally act without delay. Choosing a strength to fit the audience and situation will make your message more powerful and help you get the results you want.

You can see your team’s blind spots more clearly and build your team accordingly. If your team is composed of Reds, Blues and HUBs, you need the Green perspective that brings a concern for process, order and objectivity. A complete perspective ensures more successful decision-making.

Finally, understanding strengths helps you appreciate different approaches to decision-making. You learn to see how being Quick to Act and Analytical, while seemingly opposite, both serve a purpose within the team.

The SDI and Strengths Portrait help us become accountable for our choices and the results of those choices. In the end, my friend listened to his core and chose the option that best honored his values and most readily allowed him to use his strengths. Once he made the decision, he committed to the path he had chosen knowing that it most closely reflected what was important to him.

If self-awareness is the treatment for dealing with tough choices, the SDI and Strengths Portrait, part of Core Strengths Accountability training, are just what the doctor ordered.

Experience Core Strengths Accountability by attending one of our public workshops, or become a certified facilitator and bring accountability training directly to your organization.

The Learning Theory of Accountability

Five Ways in which Core Strengths Accountability Aligns with Adult Learning Theory

Thanks to Malcolm Knowles (1913-1997), talent development professionals have had the opportunity to use the very erudite-sounding word, andragogy, to describe something most of us know intuitively: adults learn differently than children. While it’s sometimes fun to throw around “six-dollar words,” it really comes down to the fact that adults need to be involved in the learning process, find what they’re learning to be relevant to their real-world situations, and recognize opportunities for immediate application. Without these elements, training can fall flat with little hope for a sustainable performance boost.

Although adult learning theory has informed the design of corporate training for the last 30 years, some courses more closely align with the critical principles of andragogy than others. In this paper, I will explain how the design and delivery of Core Strengths Accountability honors the principles of adult learning. In fact, Core Strengths Accountability can truly be transformative as learners begin to see themselves, their colleagues, and their world differently.

What We Know about Adult Learners

Nearly everyone agrees on a few key ideas when it comes to designing and delivering effective workplace learning:

1. Teachers are out; facilitators are in. Few adult learners are willing to cede complete control to a teacher—no matter how knowledgeable—and become passive recipients of information. Instead, adults want to play a part in directing the learning process. This direction often emerges through dialogue and classroom interactions as people wrestle with new ideas and work to make them meaningful in the context of their work and lives. Facilitators who encourages these meaning-making conversations, along with curriculum design that provides the structure and space for these interactions, is nearly always more effective than the sage on the stage.

2. Experience is the best teacher. Adult learners want to draw from their own reservoir of work and life experience, while tapping into the insights of others—especially trusted peers. Opportunities for peer discussions, as well as relevant stories and practical examples, are necessary components of an effective learning environment.

3. “I’ll learn when I’m good and ready…” Adults in the workplace will only invest in learning if they see it as helping them get something they want. Whether it’s acquiring a new skill necessary for promotion or developing a new technique that saves time, every adult learner is asking, “What’s in it for me?” In short, adults are motivated by internal, rather than external, factors.

4. Address today’s problems. The orientation toward learning is no longer subject-centered and long-term; adult learners want to address today’s challenges and those pressing problems that keep them up at night. If new knowledge or skills can’t be put into practice right away, most people won’t be interested.

It’s amazing how adult learners seem to have an innate sense for the value of training. In some cases, managers or other organizational leaders can sway opinions, but ultimately, each person is going decide what they will take away and how they will use it. Like it or not, that decision is influenced by the design and delivery of the training.

Putting Andragogy into Action

There are elements of art and science in creating and leading effective workplace learning. Core Strengths Accountability incorporates the best of both, while adding a good measure of emotional connection. Packaged together, this makes for a powerful experience that translates into lasting change and for some, true transformation. I see at least five ways in which Core Strengths Accountability training demonstrates the best practices of andragogy:

1. The skill of accountability impacts individual and team performance, so there is readiness to learn. In Core Strengths, accountability is a skill. The skill is developed by learning to take ownership of one’s responsibilities—especially in high-stakes situations—and taking initiative to choose the right strength at the right time. With this new view, people want to be accountable, so they are ready to invest in developing their personal accountability skills and in learning to create a team culture where accountability can thrive.

2. The learning is personalized, so it’s meaningful. Each learner completes two powerful assessments, the Strengths Portrait and Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI), and then uses the results as the foundation for deep personal insight and action planning. Specifically, the SDI reveals the unique blend of motives that influence everything a person says, feels, and does when things are going well and when there is conflict. The Strength Portrait has an action orientation because it illustrates the behaviors a person uses to get things done with others. As learners validate their results through reflection and interaction, they recognize that what they have in their hands is both meaningful and actionable.

3. Activities and interaction fill the day, so it’s learner-centered. In each section of the training, there is an opportunity for peer discussion and reflection—some are large high-energy activities, while others are one-on-one discussions and peer-based feedback. The facilitator is the guide to this self-discovery and interactive process, creating the environment where learning can happen and offering prompts to evoke meaningful discussion. The facilitator leads, but learners direct their own journey.

4. Each learner focuses on a current real-world situation where the stakes are high, so there are immediate opportunities for application. At the outset and throughout the day, learners immediately apply what they are learning through the creation of an accountability action plan. Since they choose a situation that’s critical to their success, it’s important to invest their best efforts in creating a plan that they can execute immediately following the training. Unlike other classes, in Core Strengths Accountability, there is never the question, “Now what?” because next steps are clearly defined before anyone leaves the classroom.

5. Learners identify ways to work better with the most important people in their lives, so it’s relevant. We all have certain people in our lives that are key to our success and happiness, yet they sometimes frustrate us and we wish we knew how to create stronger relationships. In Core Strengths Accountability, learners are challenged to leverage what they are learning about themselves and use it to create more productive working relationships with others. As part of their Accountability Action Plan, learners identify two key stakeholders and determine how they can make their interactions with these people more productive. There is even an invitation to learn more about a key relationship outside of the workplace making the relevance extend beyond the workplace.

The Potential for Transformation

The most powerful learning experiences affect the way individuals think about themselves and their world. In Core Strengths Accountability, learners’ assumptions about themselves and others are challenged as they tap into intrinsic motivation to guide their choices about the way they interact with others. This leads to a new sense of empowerment as people recognize that they have access to a wide range of strengths—some they didn’t even know existed—to get things done with people. In the end, people leave with a greater appreciation for diverse perspectives and approaches. This leads to greater collaboration and satisfaction as people embrace the skill of accountability.

Positive People Perform Better At Work

Accountability Raises PsyCap

You might have a hard time saying that 10 times quickly, but that doesn’t make it any less true. It’s been proven by scholarship in the emerging field of positive organizational behavior, but it also reflects the experiences of anyone who has managed people for more than a few days. Just think about the times when you’ve had one of those grumpy, glass-half-empty folks on your team. An Eeyore isn’t very productive and tends to drag down the productivity of others, as well

What’s less well known, however, is how personal accountability creates more positive people—the kind of people you fight to have on your team. That’s because personal accountability improves your team’s PsyCap.

My team’s what? you ask.

Psychological capital, or PsyCap, is a relatively new term researcher coined when describing the benefits of positivity. Dr. Fred Luthans, the George Holmes Distinguished Professor of Management at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has identified four PsyCap components: self-efficacy, hope, optimism, and resilience.

Luthans and his fellow researchers believe people can develop these elements through brief training interventions. But what kind of training addresses all of these psychological constructs? Does it even exist? The answer is found in a familiar, yet unlikely, place: personal accountability. By developing the skill of accountability, we build PsyCap, which leads to healthier, more productive organizations.

Let’s examine the four elements of PsyCap through the lens of accountability:

  • Self-efficacy is having confidence in your ability to get things done—even when the stakes are high. Accountable people get things done. They are able to choose the right strength at the right time to make it happen no matter what it may be.
  • Hope is the capacity to persevere toward a goal. Accountable people are committed to their goals because they are clear about why the goals are important on a personal level. This creates a sense of ownership and makes the task at hand far more than an item on a daily “to do” list or an entry on the job description. Instead, the each task can become meaningful, and worthy of their best effort and diligence.
  • Optimism is a belief that you will succeed now and in the future. Accountable people make realistic assessments of their situations, but remain optimistic because they know that they can target their behaviors in ways that increase the probability of success. They also know that there are different ways to reach their goals, so adjustments and course corrections are embraced as part of the process.
  • Resiliency is the ability to recover and bounce back after setbacks. Accountable people know they have options, so there are always other avenues to pursue if an initial attempt falls short. And because they are anchored to the worthiness of the goal, they are willing to try different approaches until the job gets done—even if it means overcoming major obstacles.

Organizations can develop the skill of accountability and increase PsyCap in their employees. The best way to do this is through Core Strengths Accountability, a structured, but highly interactive, one-day workshop. This unique training combines two personalized assessments, the Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI) and Strengths Portrait, to create ownership and initiative—the indispensable elements of accountability. Learn more

What’s this new form of capital worth? Answer that question for yourself the next time you hear a colleague complaining about a lack of resources, poor products, or customers who just aren’t buying what your company is selling. Accountable people are confident, hopeful, optimistic, and resilient. And who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by these elite, highly capitalized folks?

Raising the Bar from Engagement to Ownership

Missing the Mark

If you think employee engagement is good for business, then you aren’t alone. And if you think business isn’t good at creating employee engagement, then, again, you aren’t alone. A recent global survey by Deloitte confirms other studies and what many of us instinctively understand — that there’s a gap between what leaders know to be important (employee engagement) and how well business creates that engagement. That’s why studies routine show that only about 40 percent of full-time workers are highly engaged. That leaves the other 60 percent feeling unsupported, detached, or disengaged.Clearly, such numbers don’t engender a great deal of confidence in the ability of businesses to provide the performance lift needed to win in a competitive global economy. Typical attempts to improve engagement often involve small changes like free coffee in the break room, relaxed dress codes, or flexible work schedules. More enlightened companies might go further by increasing opportunities for employee growth and development, more clearly defining career paths, or encouraging greater work-life balance. None of these changes are inappropriate. In fact, they are likely to be helpful in small ways—steps in the right direction. Winning in a highly competitive global marketplace, however, requires something more than worthwhile programs; it requires us to raise the bar on engagement in a different way–a shift to an ownership mentality. Owners not only embrace accountability for getting things done through commitment and hard work, but they also nimbly use a wide array of strengths to engage others in their cause. In short, owners willingly accept responsibility for making it happen no matter what it may be.

Raising the Bar

How can it make sense to raise the bar when the evidence suggests we’re not even clearing the present bar of employee engagement? Shouldn’t we take a first-things-first approach? Yes, but the broader solution to increasing employee engagement and achieving a higher level of commitment that results from an ownership mentality is found in the same place–an understanding of motivation. Since the 1960s, psychologists and motivation theorists have understood the need people have to connect their sense of purpose (what gives them a sense of meaning) to the work they are doing. When they make this connection, the work becomes meaningful and they embrace it. Their devotion to a task increases because it becomes an expression of who they are at their core. When work is meaningful, people feel significant and empowered to take initiative—to make smart choices about how best to accomplish their daily tasks and achieve organizational goals. Carl Rogers (http://www.carlrogers.info/), the founder of the humanistic psychology movement, suggested that people who feel connected to their motives or sense of purpose experience a freedom to be who they are even in fluid and dynamic environments. That translates into people who proactively make things happen even in the face of obstacles or uncertainty.

Clearing the Hurdle

Developing employees who think like owners requires a connection to each person’s motives. Motives, however, are difficult to see; they are beneath the surface. This is why personality assessments that focus only on behavioral preferences or cognitive processes fall short. And one-size-fits all, technique-based training doesn’t address the uniqueness of each person, so the prescribed approaches are often misaligned with the needs of the situation and the people involved. The Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI), the centerpiece of Core Strengths Accountability training, provides people with a vivid way of seeing their own motives and the motives of others. It reveals the frequency with which a person expresses concern for people, performance, and process and how the blend of these motives influences choices of strengths in different situations. The SDI also creates a common language for motives in the context of relationships—a critical element for managers who need to tap into intrinsic motivation in ways that benefit both employees and organizational performance. Developing an ownership mentality across the workforce will most certainly increase employee engagement, but it also does much more. Connecting what is most important within each person to the work that needs to be done makes the work meaningful—a deeply felt need in every human no matter what the country or culture. People involved in meaningful work are not only energized and experience a sense of fulfillment, but they also get better results. And isn’t that ultimately what we all need?

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