Jill was European Managing Director of the Gallup Organisation, following an earlier career as a Headteacher. She now works as an executive coach, mentor and team developer with CEOs and senior teams across sectors. She leads courses on Strengths Based Coaching and on using the Gallup Strengths Finder as a coaching tool.
Jill, you’re currently involved with strengths-based coaching. What is that?
Strengths-based coaching is about helping people understand what they cannot help but do well. The aim is to assist them in managing those traits so they don’t overuse them or misuse them. I also work in collaboration with clients, getting them to think about what sort of people they need around them to ensure they get the best out of themselves and those around them.
Why should organisations adopt a strengths-based approach?
Research shows people grow most by building on their strengths. For example, great footballers start out as young people who can play football well. People will have the greatest opportunity for growth when they are using their strengths, but it is clear that these strengths need to be managed. A good violinist may become a great violinist when supported in their journey and obstacles are removed.
There is a wealth of evidence that demonstrates that a strengths-based approach works, and leads to greater profitability and increased job satisfaction.
You’ve coached a wide variety of leaders across a range of sectors. What are your observations on the characteristics of the most successful leaders?
To some extent it depends on what sort of leadership you are talking about. For example, the characteristics required to be a successful thought leader are somewhat different to the characteristics of a great people leader. But there is something about having the ability to build relationships which is just so important across all leaders. Other really important characteristics include being really clear about future direction and having the ability to get stuff done. More than anything, a very clear sense of purpose and values that colour all of those things are common to those successful leaders I have observed in my work. This clear sense of purpose and values shapes their direction and their method. Few leaders have all of these things, so it’s more about leadership than leaders. In the 21st Century, organisations have become highly, and people need to build cross functional and external relationships as well. However, this makes it harder to lead effectively.
Few leaders have it all. One leader I have been asked to work with, is brilliant with his team and is like a greenhouse for talent. However, he reacts with anger when an outsider criticises his team.
What is one of the most common mistakes you see senior leaders make?
Well, one of the most common mistakes I see is leaders who are so focused on today and next week, that they are unable to look further into the future.
Leaders need to think about how to get great customers and great staff. If you don’t have great staff you are unlikely to have great customers. So everything has to be customer facing, whether it is your internal or external customers.
What book is on your bedside table at the moment?
The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life, by David Brook. This book says that when people are young they try to climb the mountain to success. Then when they find nothing there, they go through a valley to the second mountain which is about community.
The 100-Year Life, by Lynda Gratton & Andrew Scott. Lots of us may live and work until we’re a hundred, but we often don’t think like that.
Jill has recently published a book called Gob Stopper, in collaboration with Catherine Williamson. The focus of the book is on the things in life that shock us. They are selling the book for donations towards Youth Christian Charities via JustGiving.