Caroline Dey and Matthew Wexler both work at Accenture, a global consulting firm that has over 400,000 employees. Accenture’s mission is to “Improve the Way the World Works and Lives.” As part of an initiative to achieve their mission, Accenture decided to become a strengths-based organization.
Caroline is a senior strengths subject matter expert, facilitator and coach at Accenture, and a self-proclaimed “strengths nerd.” She took the CliftonStrengths assessment more than 18 years ago. She says it changed her life, and she hasn’t stopped talking about strengths since. She joined Accenture 11+ years ago and was fortunate to find her sweet spot doing what she loves -- helping people connect their strengths to their work.
Matt is the Performance Achievement - Learning and Coaching Lead at Accenture. He discovered his CliftonStrengths about 12 years ago and felt it was very validating and affirming. Accenture has restructured the way they do performance management, it is now called performance achievement. He brings strengths and coaching together into the broader cultural revolution of performance achievement. He moves performance achievement forward through the principles of strengths-based development, team engagement and meaningful conversations.
- How will we continue to raise the bar at Accenture? We saw that strengths was a part of that, we partnered with Gallup for strengths and engagement
- We have a variety of things put in place from a learning and coaching standpoint specific to performance achievement
- For example – we give everyone the assessment, more than 300,000 have taken the assessment in 1 ½ years; it’s not mandated; all 34 themes are made available; not all of them are still with us now
- More than 250 people have been through the ASC certification program
- Strengths is a key component to how we want people to look within and to interact with one another
- Coaches work with people one-on-one; in a team environment; with leadership teams
- What does it mean to lead in this new way?
- We think about our interactions with people in a different way
- Now we’re trying to embed this into other things within the organization; there are other leadership development activities within the organization and we’re looking to fold in strengths
- Strengths in an organization is a natural part of how I operate
- The biggest thing I can to do is make that connection between strengths and improved performance
- Once you turn the skeptic into a believer, then word of mouth travels through the organization
- If I just make a difference with one person and that person is a leader it has shockwaves throughout the organization; it’s a game changer
- Gave example of leader, team and client all in different geographies – reframed her Restorative, Significance and Relator, all of a sudden she was in the right role
- Remind people your strengths are part of who you are as a human being
- Many of the coaches already had ICF and other certification
- The value of getting Gallup certification for some of these helped us get their input, buy-in and help
- We purposefully got a mix of people around the globe to be representative
- Not everyone is a full-time coach; they carve off a portion of their day or week for strengths out of passion
- We also leverage external coaches
- We needed help at the beginning; but if we relied only on the external help it wouldn’t be sustainable and we wouldn’t ingrain it into the culture as well
- We’re not quite at critical mass of coaches; but we’ll have the opportunity to ideate, create and evolve our program, treatments and offerings
- e.g. how can we apply strengths-based selling
- We view Gallup as a strategic partner, not a vendor
- Strengths brought us a common neutral language and brought some science and validation to things
- Some of our team members crave that scientific proof
- Strategy – how to roll out
- -We started with just getting people to understand what we mean by strengths; the “Name” part; and that people would understand how to use strengths appropriately; had some ground rules in place and focused on the why; made it an invitation to people, not required; results are not used in how you are assessed
- I talked to our Chief Learning Officer about a year ago; he challenged me to focus my work where I would have the biggest impact, which is with our leaders
- I spent 4 months in India and did 2 leadership presentations a day
- I took them from “oh, yeah, these are my strengths” to “these are our strengths and how we can get better as a team”
- 50 leadership teams in India, come back to the US, start to put it in other geographies; it gets viral among the leaders
- If you convince the leaders, then they will take it to their teams
- With their buy-in the rest is easy
- The need to start with why – have the leadership team have the time to relax into each other and talk to each other about their strengths; the facilitator fades into the background
- Move yourself out of the way to keep it alive
- Partnerships – Oh, that’s why we keep butting heads or work so well together
- Matt and I have different front-end approaches; I start with the details and Matt starts with the big picture; we work towards the middle and do great things together
- Powerful partnerships is feeling that frustration and not running away from it; on the other side of it is synergy
- We’re better together than separate; when we design, deliver, co-facilitate
- We understand how to use each other’s strengths; and allow each of us to use our strengths
- Our shared goal is to help the organization
- Jim asked - what advice would you give to people on the inside that want to get things going?
- It’s important to have leadership buy-in
- Aid interest, but be the application
- Find a pocket of interest to start with
- When you help people see how it applies to their work and their performance, it will go viral
- Find something to connect strengths to – trying to be more innovative, sell more, etc
- Use it as a means toward something; connect it to the why that people already care about
- Just start, even if you don’t have all of the answers or roll-out solution or ability to scale
- Something is better than nothing
- Start it in areas where it can work and grow
What successes have you seen?
- We’re seeing teams who were struggling to understand each other to use strengths to be more neutral
- Neutral way to let people see how they are similar or different
- We’re over 300,000 drops in the 16 million bucket
- Our clients are asking us about our performance achievement program
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Caroline Dey, Manager, Talent Center of Expertise at Accenture, is a human resources professional of 19+ years with expertise in relationship management, talent acquisition, mobility/relocation, vendor management, employee relations, performance, talent and leadership development and individual/team/executive coaching. She began her career with Accenture 12 years ago, where she became a team and executive strengths coach within the organization.
Caroline’s top five strengths: Input | Learner |Intellection | Deliberative | Individualization
Matt Wexler, Performance Achievement - Learning and Coaching Lead at Accenture, has 15+ years of experience in various roles, including technology consulting and human resources. In his current role, he leads the learning and coaching efforts for Accenture’s Performance Achievement agenda, which includes bringing strengths to life for their 400,000+ employees.
Matt’s top five strengths: Individualization | Developer | Empathy | Maximizer | Connectedness
Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, Cheryl Pace, contributed to this post.