The American Society for Training & Development’s 2011 International Conference & Exposition didn’t start off with a bang. It started with a whistle. That was the story author and business consultant Marcus Buckingham shared during his keynote address.
It was a story about Ralph, the general manager of a store in Florida. Ralph faced declining sales and deteriorating customer service. Tasked with turning the situation around, Ralph gave every employee a whistle. He made one request: Every time you see someone doing something good, blow the whistle.
And they did — a lot. It was what the store needed. They had forgotten all of the great things they do. They had forgotten their strengths.
When the corporate office found out about Ralph’s success in turning the store around and his whistle approach, the company tried to implement it at all of its stores. But that’s where the problem occurred. The whistle worked for Ralph because it’s his strength and because of his leadership.
It’s an important lesson because as organizations expand, innovate and create, they must find answers that are aligned with the strength of the person tasked with leading the strategy. Each of us has to find our own “whistle.”
In the fall, Buckingham will release his latest book, “StandOut: The Groundbreaking New Strengths Assessment From the Leader of the Strengths Revolution,” designed to help each of us discover what gives us our edge. The book includes an assessment to offer insight toward our strengths and guidance on how to leverage those strengths.
Buckingham said there is no perfect style. And you can never have too much of a strength, though it is possible to misdirect a strength. So, as managers, we want to have great strategies in our toolbox that build on our style.
For example, we are responsible for making sure employees are recognized and rewarded for a job well done. One manager might do that with a special lunch; another by posting customer-satisfaction scores; yet another by giving out a stuffed mascot.
Each of these activities works and accomplishes the task. Yet, what looks great to one manager might appear silly to another. Managers must be able to discover ideas using methods that accelerate their creativity while maintaining their authenticity.