Over the past few years it has seemed to me that company executives and management have become fatigued with an endless array of change interventions, values programmes, constant transitions, transformation agendas, and increasing levels of general discontent.
The strategy, I believe, should be less about change and more about growth. Equip individuals with the confidence, ability and strategies to become active participants in getting their needs met and the leadership focus they require from their managers. The strengths assessments we conduct show a catastrophic loss of what I call DNA strengths. These are the ones managers and employees bring into the organisation and their roles, before abandoning them and adapting themselves to the culture and political dynamics of the organisation. Gallup Management Consulting has been advocating this type of approach for some time already. However, it is my personal experience that their specific approach requires “South Africanisation”, as their structure does not adequately address our specific problems.
Foundational strengths-based leadership programmes not only have an immediate impact on personal growth and confidence, but also encourage positive, non-judgemental and authentic leadership. This in turn automatically influences the culture of the organisation in a positive direction and at the level where it matters, the individual and the workgroup, thereby stimulating an “organic growth” process from within the organisation, one department at a time. Strengths-based leadership should not become another programme, but rather the “operating system” from which all training programmes are driven, similar to the concept Bill Gates used to develop MicrosoftR , which is the operating system by which WordR, ExcelR, PowerPointR and OutlookR are driven. This does not mean that organisations will not eventually have to make larger changes to systems, policies and strategies in order to support this process, but it is much easier to accomplish this when there is functioning and integrated leadership and increasing levels of productivity and customer service.
Existing learning and development programmes need to become more integrated and targeted towards priorities that are better defined through the use of an inter-level assessment process and increased collaboration with line functions in order to identify more precisely what the real dynamics and systemic issues are in organisations “by level”. This process facilitates greater effectiveness in prioritisation and alignment of HR learning and development strategies and approaches to organisational needs. Line managers will always support relevant programmes that improve performance. For some time, though, they have not seen the improvements promised by the delivery of many programmes.
A cautionary note Obviously there are limitations to the validity and reliability of this research. The most significant, of course, is that this was not part of a “controlled experiment”, with appropriate research designs and processes. Also, we have been restricted to the companies in which we have worked, and have no real sample for the banking and insurance sectors specifically. The sample we had, though, is comparatively large compared to more formal South African-specific research that exists (which, sadly, is incredibly limited at this stage). In the end, the statistics quoted in this article were made up of 247 OSI-Rs originally – we continually add to that number as we conduct more stress inventories – and over 200 hours of interviews. We have more recently included the Realise2 Strengths assessment, and our assessment sample is 60 at this stage. However, we have added questions from that assessment into our interviews and have re-looked at the 200 or so personality profiles we have administered, to tie these data into a larger pool of information, and to make better sense of them.