Credit unions should strive to achieve the “magical combination” of helping employees fulfill their passion in a way that maximizes their benefit to the organization, says engagement expert Stosh Walsh.
The pathway to that goal rests in identifying and playing to that individual’s strengths, rather than trying to “fix what’s wrong with them,” says Walsh, learning and organizational development senior consultant at $8.1 billion asset Alliant Credit Union in Chicago.
There, he oversees a strengths-based culture he helped shape as a consultant while at Gallup, which has pioneered many of the philosophy’s principles. At Alliant, Walsh aims to “perpetuate those cultural hallmarks” and align the credit union’s practices with its strategies and goals.
Walsh, who credits the book “Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton for leading him down his career path, will guide two breakout sessions at CUNA’s Experience Learning Live! The conference, which helps attendees transform their credit unions’ training and development programs, runs Oct. 25-28 in Las Vegas.
Walsh—whose five strengths are responsibility, belief, achiever, input, and learner—recently shared his insights on engaging employees with Credit Union Magazine.
CU Mag: How important is it for credit unions to adopt a strengths-based training and development philosophy, and to impress upon new hires their commitment to that goal?
Walsh: Both are critical for two main reasons.
First, adopting that philosophy produces better outcomes. According to Gallup research, people who know their strengths are 7.8% more productive, and teams that focus on strengths daily are 12.5% more productive. Managers who focus primarily on strengths enjoy substantially higher levels of employee engagement than those who focus on weaknesses or fail to give feedback.
Second, culture always wins. Telling people their strengths are important to the success of the enterprise—especially when that success is mission-oriented on behalf of members of a credit union—ties our most important attributes to our most important outcomes. In short, strengths don’t become part of an organization’s culture without intentionality and a connection to business outcomes.
CU Mag: What is the immediate and long-term payoff for taking that approach?
Walsh: In the immediate term, discovering one’s strengths often yields a buzz of momentum, as individuals recognize themselves in what they do well, and realize they have been able to create successes as a result of their natural talents. Often, this creates a curiosity about how they can leverage their strengths in other areas, and a desire to know more about the strengths of those around them (work team, family, etc.).
Perhaps more importantly, a strengths-based philosophy gives people permission to be more of who they are, less of who they are not, and to extend that same latitude to as many others as possible. This helps the organization avoid the “bait and switch” that often occurs in recruiting and hiring, where the organization lauds an individual for his or her accomplishments during the attraction phase but then focuses primarily on the individual’s weaknesses after they join the organization.
In the long term, this approach creates organizational vocabulary and accelerates not only outcomes but the partnerships that create those outcomes. It fosters engagement, which is essential to organizational development and achievement, and fosters a culture of performance where each individual knows how he or she contributes to the mission of the organization.