The Employee Engagement Network

Spending some time searching the site, and the sites of many of you who are members of EEN (TEEN?), it seems that a strengths-based approach to engagement is a method employed by many of us.

As examples: In a quick e-mail exchange with David, it was clear that this was a topic he has thought a lot about, with over 12 posts dedicated to the subject. I have a similar (if much less significant) list of posts on the same topic.

Strengths-based development has many benefits over other approaches I have tried to engage employees:
  • It creates better managers
  • It creates better employees
  • Employees feel valued and unique
  • It improves business outcomes
  • It increased innovation
  • It engages each employee directly
  • It's inexpensive
  • It isn't just targeted at the top 20% or the bottom 10%
  • Just to name a few...
And I would like to get all your great minds engaged sharing your experiences, successes and failures implementing strengths-based approaches for your clients/organizations, so we can all become better at leveraging these great tools.

To be clear, I am not a disciple of Gallup or Buckingham per se, I'm an Engineer, so I use the science that works best to solve a given problem. So far, their approach seems to be the one that works best (e.g. compared to my previous experiences with MBTI), so if there are other tools in this area that you have had success with, please share!! I don't want to make this a 'Gallup/Buckingham-only' group.

Tags: development, engagement, leadership, strengths-based

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Replies to This Discussion

I was introduced to strengths based stuff a year or so ago (gallup) by a consultant friend who realised that the normal UK approach is generally about finding things wrong with people, rather than leveraging what is good. I know very little about it, but would like to know more :-)
The whole area of positive psychology is relatively new from a scientific standpoint, so it has not permeated our schools and businesses very much yet. This is unfortunate for our societies, schools and businesses, but a great opportunity for we consultants in the field! :)
Hi Rich:

I must chime in on that thought. To me, the greatest flaw in most performance management systems is that insane focus on "needs improvement". While we are so intensely in pursuit of reaching that "acceptable level of competency" we're ignoring areas of strength. Use-it-or-lose-it applies, with the result being a flatline, at "Meets Expectations". Yippie...we need "Exceptional / Exceeds"!

(I thought this rant sounded familiar...some time ago I posted DANGER: Competency-based Development which echoes the above, and more.
Hello Adrian and Rich,

I can remember the moment the light-bulb went off for me with the strengths-based perspective. It was roughly 1998 in a workshop with facilitator talking with us about stress. He was also a marriage counselor and described his approach... instead of asking a couple what was going wrong in their relationship, he would ask them what was working well then focussed on building on that. It struck a chord in me. Now I work with a healthy tension: my learning design mentor always started by asking the question "What's the problem we're trying to solve?", which I temper with "what's working well that we can shine a light on and grow?". Plus I love my general conversation opener "What's going well for you these days?" - always makes people pause then smile.

Are either of you familiar with Appreciative Inquiry?

It's such a fascinating realm to me - look forward to the conversation.

"Are either of you familiar with Appreciative Inquiry?"

Nope! Do tell!
I'll let Wikipedia do the 'splaining...

I think this sentence captures the link to strengths based: "Appreciative Inquiry is a particular way of asking questions and envisioning the future that fosters positive relationships and builds on the basic goodness in a person, a situation, or an organization. In so doing, it enhances a system's capacity for collaboration and change."
I look forward to interacting with everyone on this site! One of my main responsibilities with my organization is to manage our employee engagement efforts, of which "strengths" plays a large part. As you all know, the concept of playing from your strengths is not new, although it's been repackaged and repositioned well by Marcus B. and Gallup.

We are in the second of a three year contract with Gallup, and they supplied us with some wonderful tools along the way.
Hi Jack,

Thanks for contributing!

Very cool that you have a chance to work directly with Gallup, I hope to have the chance some day.

Any early signs of success in the Gallup approach with your business?

I am a big fan of strengths-based leadership and the Strengths Finder asessment for clients, but there are two other tools I use regularly. One is an assessment called MAPP (, which uncovers the individuals' preferences or motivations on a range of 23 characteristics, like "Change and Variety", "Persuasion", "Fixed Ideas and Opinions"... It helps clients find the environments, work and personal activities that will speak to their personal preferences.

The other is the Energy Leadership Index Assessment ( This works at a fundamental level of determining where your default tendencies currently lie, but also shows where you have hidden strengths in your thinking that you can leverage to change those default tendencies that are not getting you the results you are looking for. It's an incredibly strong tool, with a whole coaching program associated that allows you to go beyond the assessment to specifically working with clients on changing how they view the world if they choose to go further with it. If you are interested, I suggest you start by reading "Energy Leadership" by Bruce D. Schneider. He developed this framework and the book is an easy read that helps explain the concepts behind the assessment and the coaching program.

Thanks for starting the discussion!
Awesome, more tools to ad to the toolkit!

Thanks Laura for sharing those. I am trying another one which I will share my thoughts on shortly.
Just a quick 2c worth on various instruments, their relative benefits etc etc...

I'm in the boat that believes any instrument can be of value if:
1. It gets the user to really think about themselves. Introspection and self-discovery are powerful weapons, and anything that helps get our fingers on the trigger is good.
2. The findings are open to challenge, and not taken as gospel. Too many factors can influence a person's results when taking an assessment. "But really guys...I can't believe I'm a latent ax murderer!!!"
3. Findings are shared with others. While self-awareness is good, group understanding of each other is better. RE #2: if a person challenges an assessment's results, it always helps to have others be able to offer a reality check. "Sorry buddy, but at times it appears you most definitely ARE a latent ax murderer." Hey, I'd want to know!

That said, I've used Strengthfinder 2.0, as well as the later strengths-based leadership assessment, and the simpler-to-administer DiSC profile with work groups to help them understand not only their individual makeup better, but also their group's dynamics. It takes open dialogue and analysis, and a pretty fair amount of situational facilitation skills to get maximum value out of these, or any other assessment.

A last add-on: for any behavioral assessment shifting focus is always kind of cool. Example, for the DiSC profile your recommended focus is supposed to be "AT WORK I am most...and least" when choosing the appropriate words. Take the profile with that focus, then re-take it with a new focus: "At work I would MOST LIKE TO BE...and least like to be".

This provides a very interesting comparison of your current reality to your desired environment. I want to do the same shifting focus with the strengthfinder assessment, just haven't gotten around to buying another book!
"It takes open dialogue and analysis, and a pretty fair amount of situational facilitation skills to get maximum value out of these, or any other assessment."

That is a very important observation. Very often these tests are used then put on the shelf, but I see the real value (and path to engagement) is the common language that is established and the dialogue which is then undertaken in that language. The language is important because we haven't been trained in our careers or school years to really discuss what motivates us (the underlying assumption is money and power, which are by-definition rare), and what kinds of things get us most engaged in our work.


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