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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Employees, Leaders and Engagement: An Introduction to the Q12 -- Gallup Called to Coach: Mike McDonald -- S6E20

On this special edition of Called to Coach, we will spend time investigating the experiential, emotional and empirical aspects of each element of Gallup's Q12 engagement instrument and learning how it increases the power of our coaching as a primary driver of success. This series will be hosted by Dr. Mike McDonald, Senior Workplace Consultant at Gallup, who started at Gallup in 1990 as a manager/team leader and has had a variety of roles but has always led a team. One of his primary concerns for managers is one that he’s experienced himself: How many well-intentioned team leaders are there who are working really hard but don’t have any coaching or context about engagement and how do they lead to engagement through their strengths?



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Below is a summary of the conversation. Full audio and video are posted above. 

Jim: Strengths are infinitely more powerful in the context of a measurement called Q12 (which has 12 questions). What are you hoping to accomplish through the next 12 sessions (each of which is devoted to one of the 12 questions?

Mike McDonald: The first thing I want to do is to bring the importance of coaching to the leaders of teams if they want to be effective at driving engagement and performance in their teams. Leader self-awareness is critical, and that’s backed up by empirical research. The leader has to be in tune with the people they lead and the culture they’re creating and the performance that’s expected, nothing happens. And to have a coach for the leader is a game changer.

The other thing is to add aspects of coaching acumen to what we already know about great coaching. There are three points I’d like to land on:
  1. The empirical matters -- this is truth, not just someone’s good idea.
  2. Engagement is predominantly emotional. We never want to get rid of the emotional. We want to capture and create the power of emotion.
  3. The experiential -- we have all been in the three engagement categories, engaged, not engaged and actively disengaged.

J: I love that strengths gives us a framework, a common language. Q12 gives us the same amazing framework for engagement. So you and I can have a conversation about engagement. We have some resources we want to share up front -- I think we have two of the world’s best secrets in two books. Can you talk about those?

M: The first one is First, Break All the Rules. The book gives great insights on engagement. And there are two codes in that book: a CliftonStrengths code that will get you your Top 5, and a Q12 code that allows a group of 10 people to assess their workplace based on the 12 Q12 items. So the book creates a powerful opportunity for a leader to learn about their strengths (and for the coach to coach that leader), and, having their team (depending on team size) take the Q12 (and for the coach to bridge the gap between who the leader is and what the team does).

J: I want to emphasize the value in having the assessment available to a team of 10 in the book. As a leader, you can purchase the book and have your team take it and get a baseline of where your team is. Enormous value there. We have another book, Mike. Talk about that one.

M: It’s 12: The Elements of Great Managing, a companion to First, Break All the Rules. It’s filled with stories that demonstrate the range of engagement in every kind of workplace in every corner of the planet. It brings the 12 Q12 items to life, to the personal level. When we think about building a culture, it’s not an item, it’s people.

J: These resources are available in The Gallup Store, so you can pick them up and follow along in this series, and many are available on Amazon. I know for some folks around the planet that it’s hard to pick these up; we’ll figure out some ways to get these to you.

In two minutes, give us a quick rundown -- how does this fit into the system of strengths with Don Clifton?

M: This started back in the 1930s, when George Gallup started the Gallup poll, asking about a large number of topics. He asked about the workplace back then, and about such things as whether people’s work is meaningful back in 1976. And when we think about Don Clifton’s decades-long pursuit of the study of excellence and success, we know he discovered talent and strengths, and what decision-making and relationships look like in a great culture. In 1998, after the (Gallup and Clifton) companies came together, we arrived at the 12 items that we now use, and have been using for decades.

J: Let’s start with the empirical -- what is engagement?

M: The 12 items matter, for three reasons:
  1. They’re empirically correlated to broad business outcomes, like turnover, profit, productivity, customer satisfaction, safety, quality, and more. These are all related to engagement. We can stand on that.
  2. They separate high-performing teams from low-performing teams in terms of how they respond to the 12 items.
  3. These are all items that an individual team can control and do something about.

To date, the Q12 has been administered to over 35 million people across 198 countries in 72 languages. These items translate around the planet.

J: The Q12 have definitive action items. Can you talk about the action items?

M: From a coaching perspective, when you coach a team leader, you almost have to envision the team on the other side of that team leader. You’re coaching the team through the team leader. There’s a cascade effect. The 12 items can guide and govern conversations (in the workplace, with the leader’s team) that can ultimately change the culture, with performance at the center.

J: Each of the Q12 gives us a chance to say, “Where are we doing well?” and “What opportunities do we have to do better?” We want to do best in all 12. And I think strengths has the keys to help move the scores because there are people who have the talents to do that. Anything you want to add?

M: Yes. An engaged associate is one who is involved, committed, and enthusiastic. If this describes our teams, it has implications for a manager. Because these 12 things matter, it gives us a dashboard to see the future of a (company’s/workgroup’s) culture.

J: The Q12 are designed to focus on needs (not pool tables, “nap pods” and free lunches, but core needs). These are things I need to get my job done. Can you talk about core workplace needs? These are really critical.

M: There’s a motivational need behind each of the Q12 (just as there is with each strength). One thing I ask people is, “Tell me what your best day at work looks like.” I let them respond instinctively, and then I ask, “How often does that happen?” Sometimes the best day is like serendipity, chance. What would happen if we could double or triple the number of best days at work, or “mass produce” best days and the amazing positivity and outcomes that results from them?

For example, for Q01, “I know what is expected of me at work,” the need is “Focus me.” Think about how that relates to the constant change we experience. For Q02, “I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right,” the need is, “Free me from unnecessary stress.” Think about doing your best work for a podcast with a hand-me-down TV camera.

J: We do this globally. Talk about the global epidemic.

M: It’s accurate to say we’re in an engagement crisis. Across the planet, only 15% are engaged. The U.S. is at 33%, pretty close to the top, but we need to keep working at it. Almost 70% of the world is in the neutral (not engaged) space. 18% are actively disengaged worldwide. So about the same number of people are trying to get great things done (engaged) as are trying to destroy what is being done (actively disengaged).

J: What kinds of numbers do we see in organizations that are deploying strengths and engagement?

M: That’s where it gets really exciting. It’s an opportunity for us as coaches -- if we can “flip the switch ‘on’” for the team leader, and they start doing the right things through the lens of leadership and engagement, we’ve seen organizations double their engagement (engaged) percentages. And this is something that is done intentionally. Organizations learn, apply, learn, apply. For our Gallup Great Workplace Award winners, over 70% of the organization is categorically engaged, and as many as 84% for some organizations. Engagement can be moved, so now it’s up to us.

J: Let’s talk about the emotional side of this. What does that mean?

M: Only half of workers strongly agree with Q01 (know what’s expected). It’s a coin toss for me that I know what I’m supposed to do when I walk into work today. And as coaches, we know that people are not aware of their strengths. So I don’t know what I’m supposed to do and don’t know what I’m good at. And I am likely to be surrounded by people at work who don’t care about me. When we think about emotions, think about the additive effect of coaching playing out through leader self-awareness playing out through their strengths as they build an engaged culture, and we can set off a powerful and profound chain reaction if we get those coaching conversations right.

J: Some required pre-reading for folks that will follow along with us over the next 12 weeks, we have done a lot of reporting on engagement: State of the Global Workplace, State of the American Workplace, Women at Work, Millennials, remote teams, performance development. We also do training about this for strengths champions, engagement champions. Talk about our offerings.

M: We have two courses that are particularly worth your time and attention:
  1. An Engagement Champions course. This is the ability to get inside the study and application of engagement from the perspective of someone who can come alongside a team leader and help them understand the mechanics of engagement to launch conversations that will promote powerful performance. The content of this course helps those who gain mastery to deliver that content, so you can speak to audiences of team leaders and provide them with resources.  
  2. Leading High-Performance Teams: Many coaches have taken this course to get inside the mindset of leading a high-performing team through the lens of a manager.
J: In 30 seconds, give a preview of what’s coming next time.

M: We’re going to talk about Q01, I know what is expected of me at work. We’re going to expose the trap door that many managers fall through when they think they have this mastered. We’re going to get inside the intricacy of this step 1, foundational piece -- the one that will unlock the others if we do it right.


You can start using your CliftonStrengths today:


Mike McDonald, Gallup Senior Workplace Consultant, works with Gallup clients and the company’s internal managers to align strategies and initiatives to produce high levels of employee engagement and well-being. Mike has helped Gallup clients — from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies in the healthcare, hospitality and financial sectors — improve their engagement and well-being. He ensures that managers, associates and teams have opportunities to use their talents every day in ways that benefit and develop them personally and professionally.

Currently, in his responsibilities as a Senior Workplace Consultant, he also serves as a Performance Lead. For more than 25 years, he has used measurement, recognition and forecasting to align engagement strategies and increase performance.

Mike received his bachelor’s degree in journalism, his master’s degree in human resource development and his doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Mike McDonald's top five strengths are Ideation, Input, Learner, Achiever and Focus. 

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