Practitioner Stories: Meet business consultant and executive coach, Penny Tunnell

We were delighted to sit down with business consultant and executive coach, Penny Tunnell, to hear her reflections on using the At My Best® tools. Over the last few years, Penny has successfully integrated the Strengths Cards, Good Question Cards and At My Best 360 into her work with leadership teams, while also attending some of our workshops and inviting us to collaborate on one of her client projects.

Penny has become an enthusiastic advocate, so we wanted to understand why.

Thanks for taking the time to share your experience, Penny. To start, could you explain what difference the At My Best® tools have made to the people you work with?

They have definitely helped people be more self-aware and self-compassionate.  They also help people to see things from a different perspective when problem solving.  I find that once people have used the tools, they are more open and curious about what’s gone wrong, rather than being really negative; people are more interested and in a better position to find solutions: they’re more likely to ask questions like “What strengths can I use here to help me understand what’s gone wrong?” or “How might I resolve the issue and move forward?”

The other change I’ve noticed, is that if you give lots and lots of positive feedback, people are less likely to make mistakes. Regular positive feedback helps people to feel more encouraged, more motivated, more engaged and, in turn, make fewer errors.

It also gives you permission to have the more challenging conversations about your expectations and the improvements you need to see. Using the At My Best tools helps you to foreground people’s strengths little and often. Clients often remark how nice it is to be around people who are appreciative - you feel more like a team. Using the Strengths Cards particularly encourages this mindset.

 “They told me that the 360 exercise was life changing”

Have there been any particular moments when any of the tools have been especially impactful?

There have been lots of little breakthrough moments. One which sticks in my mind, was when I was doing an At My Best 360 session with ten managers. This team had never done 360 feedback before. One particular client is a very self-critical person, who probably works too many hours and never thinks that they good enough; when this particular individual opened their 360 feedback they had to immediately close it. It was so overwhelming and abnormal, to receive that positive feedback. They had to come back to it 3 times, to read it in bitesize chunks. This was because of the emotion which comes with receiving all of that positive feedback and appreciation.  They told me that the 360 exercise was life changing. It changed their understanding of themselves and also the team dynamic in a really beneficial way. They felt they could stop trying so hard and worrying, as they felt confident in the knowledge they could just be their self. 

That’s lovely to hear, thank you! Could you say more about your experience of using At My Best 360?

Everyone who I’ve used At My Best 360 with has loved it and found it extremely moving.  The idea of focusing on strengths resonates with everyone – particularly the idea of helping people to recognise their own strengths, because we’re all typically so self-critical – the 360 actively counters that.  It’s so beneficial for people to hear from their colleagues what they value in them. 

The word cloud that the process generates is very powerful too.  We are brought up not to boast, to be self-deprecating and to work hard but not expect any positive reinforcement.  So, to have the opportunity to get this type of feedback is really special and rare.

“Clients often remark how nice it is to be around people who are appreciative - you feel more like a team”

At My Best 360 wasn’t the first of our tools that you used, so where did you start? 

I started by buying a single deck of the Strengths Cards, and trying them out. I then did two online introduction webinars with Michele and Martin, firstly to learn how to use the cards in face-to-face sessions and latterly how to use the cards in an online context. This enabled me to start using the Strengths Cards more with clients; I started to notice the cards really helped clients to relax and they were great conversation starters.

Now, I always have the Strengths Cards with me. They’re very good at getting people out of their head and into the moment. They’re very grounding, especially if someone feels they’ve hit a bit of a brick wall. They can help change the dynamic of the conversation and are very helpful in an explorative way.

I know you’ve also used our Good Question Cards, what do you find works well with them?

I find the Good Question Cards particularly helpful in two scenarios. Firstly, in a one-to-one coaching conversation, where perhaps we’ve already used the Strengths Cards on a previous occasion and we are now coming in from a different angle. I think they work very well with somebody who is at an impasse and feeling stuck.  The cards are very effective at helping people to move forwards.  

They’re also really helpful when you have a business partnership, where you have two co-directors who have lost sight of the why or the vision: these questions can bring them back together and remind them of their shared goal(s). The cards can be a real eye-opener.  

You kindly invited us to work with one of your clients, which was a lot of fun. Would you like to say something about that?

I run a ten-module programme on leadership development over the course of a year, with different themes in each module.  As part of one of these modules Michele has joined us to talk about the academic background and research behind both At My Best and Positive Psychology.  This has been really valuable: lots of my clients are business people, so they really value this academic information and research.  It’s so informative.  She’s then gone on to run a second in-depth session using the Strengths cards, followed by the participants completing At My Best 360.  It’s fabulous.  The At My Best session always comes up in everybody’s top two sessions on the programme.

“Regular positive feedback helps people to feel more encouraged, more motivated, more engaged and, in turn, make fewer errors"

So, what would your advice be to someone who is thinking about using the At My Best® tools?

I would say just do it. You can’t fail with these tools. You can either follow the At My Best exercise guides, or experiment and see what happens! They’re also an amazing gift, people love to take them home and use them with families and friends.

The cards are my go-to – I tend to buy them in boxes of 10! I want to start using them more online too, with my international clients. The webinars I did with Michele were fantastic and I would definitely do that again!

Thanks ever so much for sharing your experience, Penny! 

If you'd like to connect with Penny and find out more about her work please visit her website:

What's your story?

If you've had some success using the At My Best tools, we'd love to hear from you.  Just drop us a line and we can arrange a time to chat. 

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