Chris Scott is Founder and Director of Acceler8 Training, a Brighton-based training company, which creates engaging learning experiences for businesses and organisations. He first discovered At My Best strengths cards at the World of Learning exhibition in Birmingham.
At the time, he was Head of Learning & Development for Heathrow Express. When he saw the strengths cards, he immediately recognised that they would provide a smart way of exploring what is important to people – useful for setting organisational values, behaviours, and mission.
He could see possibilities for using the cards in 1:1 coaching, group training, team-building workshops and high-performing team sessions. He also saw them as an excellent tool for giving feedback.
Without delay, he bought a set for himself and his team to use.
For people in the training industry like Chris, it’s a key goal to involve participants in the subject matter and open them up to discussion. Whether the topic on the table is employee engagement issues, corporate behaviours and values, or identifying strengths in others – the cards can be beneficial.
Originally, Chris used the cards to coach senior managers through emotive situations. The picture side of the cards, in particular, proved valuable in helping individuals to explore how they were feeling in sensitive situations. Chris says, “The cards can be an effective way to cool-down conflicts, aiding calm discussion rather than confrontation.”
Now, in his role as Director of Acceler8, Chris continues to use the cards both for coaching and for focus group work with large organisations.
Chris says “They are a brilliant tool for helping groups to find the answers to key questions, such as ‘How would you describe working here?’, and ‘If your department was a picture, which picture would it be?’
“Being able to explore the images, as well as the descriptive words on the reverse of the cards, helps focus groups reach meaningful conclusions. The cards encourage people to open up about topics that are otherwise quite dry.”
An inclusive tool
Chris has found that At My Best strengths cards can be useful to people at all levels of a business or organisation. Chris says, “I use the cards with a variety of audiences, from front-line employees through to board level executives. It’s noticeable that all audiences find them easy to relate to and insightful to use. Some have a preference for using the images, others focus on the words.”
Chris also observed that you don’t need a coaching, or educator’s qualification to be able to use At My Best strengths cards. He explains, “They are informal and their success comes from enabling individuals to embrace the emotions of images, or the meaning of words.
“I find that the cards resonate really well with the participant, the words and images relaxing them and making them more receptive to sharing ideas. Some other tools that can be stuffy, written in old fashioned language, and more suited to ‘Generation Caveman’ than today’s workforce.”
Tales of the unexpected
Chris experienced the fluidity of dialogue that can be stimulated by using strengths cards – and how fantastic ideas can spring from nowhere.
He says, “I was really surprised once when I was sat with a Managing Director of a large organisation. They had a real lightbulb moment that focussing on strengths would achieve a higher level of engagement than the traditional blame culture that existed. I’ve worked with that company closely now to achieve some great engagement results – all as a result of those cards.”
What’s in it for the professional?
We asked Chris to tell us what he personally liked about using the strengths cards in his sessions. He says, “I saw first-hand how these cards can trigger a conversation that changes organisations.
“I love exploring the pictures. I see people really connect with an image and they then feel empowered to bring their story to life. It really is very surprising.
“I love the engagement you get on a one-to-one level. A simple image or word opens up an entire conversation. They are also really handy to keep in your bag so that you can use them with anyone, anywhere!”