University of North Carolina Charlotte introduced Core Strengths training to help teams resolve conflict resulting from greater diversity and to improve team performance. The training provided teams with tools and insight to turn conflict into productive opposition and to help bring all of the diverse voices to the table. The result was lower conflict and the creation of high-performing teams.
“They thought they were doing great with customer service, when they had an aha moment of ‘We are one dimensional and weren’t looking at the process.’ The tool allows you to look at the diversity of a team.”
Universities, like the workplace in general, have experienced an increase in conflict due to greater generational, race, background, and geographic related diversity in conjunction with an underdeveloped set of relationship skills. “People aren’t taught how to relate to each other and soft skills are hard,” said Alyson Ebaugh, Head of Learning and Organizational Development at UNC Charlotte.
The human resources team at UNC Charlotte sought a solution to reduce conflict while igniting team performance. Ebaugh was quickly impressed with the Core Strengths approach. “I saw potential in the tool right away,” she said in recalling her experience taking the assessment and completing the debrief onsite at an ATD event.
UNC Charlotte first launched Core Strengths: Results through Relationships training within the University Advancement team and it took hold quickly. “There is just so much applicability to this tool,” said Ebaugh. “It’s excellent for leadership development, diversity and inclusion, emotional intelligence, and difficult conversations.”
UNC Charlotte now has three on-demand Core Strengths courses and has opened up enrollment to teams on campus seeking to improve team performance through lower conflict and by ensuring all perspectives on issues are heard. Demand for the program has spread via word of mouth and continues to gain traction. “People are talking about it because it’s so practical,” Ebaugh commented.
The Core Strengths training quickly helped improve team performance by helping team members understand and appreciate the diversity and makeup of intact teams. “I was facilitating Core Strengths for a group on campus that was mostly blues (People-oriented),” said Ebaugh. “They thought they were doing great with customer service when they had an aha moment of ‘We are one dimensional and weren’t looking at the process.’ The tool allows you to look at the diversity of a team.”
The program has also helped uncover and resolve root problems within teams. “I had a manager call me and say, ‘I am at my wits end. My team is so dysfunctional, what do I do?’,” said Ebaugh. “She brought her whole team and she did have some difficult people. But, what we learned was that her people were difficult because she wasn’t playing to their strengths. She thought it was a performance issue, but it was a leadership issue.”
Finally, the training also connects to other programs offered at UNC Charlotte such as diversity and inclusion and emotional intelligence training. “It naturally complements other big programs that we are doing like leadership development, diversity and inclusion, team building, and self-awareness,” noted Ebaugh. “It’s multi-dimensional and allows you to dig deep. Other tools are one tool for one solution. It’s also more useful than other tools. You can do something with it.”
UNC Charlotte is a public research-centric university based in Charlotte, North Carolina. The University is made up of seven professional colleges and offers 18 doctoral programs, 62 master’s degree programs, and 90 bachelor’s degrees. UNC Charlotte employs more than 1,000 full-time faculty and 2017 enrollment exceeded 29,000 students.