Christine Weeks, CEO of Eleanor Creative, sought to maximize strengths-based coaching at her branding agency. Through a consulting project with students in the Clifton Builders Program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, she learned strategies to transform culture by aligning productivity with employee fulfillment.
The Clifton Builders Program at the College of Business identifies and develops students with high leadership and entrepreneurial potential. Trained to lead high performance teams, builders turn their classroom knowledge into action by consulting with area businesses and organizations in the Building a Life for Impact (MNGT 324B) course taught by Timothy Hodges, executive director of the Clifton Strengths Institute and assistant professor of practice in management.
“Working together as a cohort, the Clifton Builders are challenged to create, positively disrupt and manage effectively. Experiential learning is a valuable part of the student experience, so rather than teach the concepts of employee engagement or work through a case study, we teach the basics and then send the students out to learn by doing,” said Hodges.
Weeks heard about the builders program through a colleague so she contacted Hodges and discovered their mutual interest in CliftonStrengths®. Like the more than 30 businesses assisted through builder consulting in the last six years, Weeks decided her team at Eleanor Creative would benefit as well.
“The students asked us to complete a survey that measures core elements needed to attract, focus and retain the most talented employees,” said Weeks, whose business is located in Lincoln, Nebraska. “After our team completed the survey, we met with builders to review our results. It was a great experience as a team and very informative for me as a leader working to find ways to keep our employees engaged and connected to meaningful work.”
Although Eleanor Creative already incorporated CliftonStrengths into the workplace, Weeks learned about additional benefits for her team. Through the consulting experience, she found ways to be more intentional with her team's CliftonStrengths and advance employee engagement.
“One of the areas we are focused on improving is making sure each employee has clear direction for their projects each day. Our project manager and account executives implemented new processes to ensure this happens,” she said.
Weeks also placed a greater emphasis on individual and team coaching and shared how each employee expressed a desire to receive strengths-based coaching. As the leader, Weeks remains focused on making it a monthly priority on employees' strengths.
“We are very fortunate to have a close-knit group, but also understand that we have to be intentional about keeping the culture we created and our employees engaged,” Weeks said. “I’m also grateful that college students are getting hands-on experience working with employers. We should all be doing our part to help so they are prepared for the workforce.”
Lucia Golfis, a sophomore Clifton Builders management major from Edina, Minnesota, consulted with the Eleanor Creative team. She noted the company’s impressive results for giving employees regular and consistent praise for their accomplishments.
“This stood out looking at their results, and you could see it in employee answers,” said Golfis. “They genuinely care about each other, and they’re very driven. They love supporting each other, but they’re also looking for ways to improve individually and as a company.”
While consulting with Weeks and her team, Golfis utilized what she learned in the classroom about employee engagement. She also gained new insights which helped shape her personal career goals.
“I realized this is exactly like the company I want to work in after graduation. I want a company that cares about me as a person and will push me out of my comfort zone to grow. Eleanor Creative does both those things,” she said.
Though Hodges teaches the class, he lets students lead the consultation process with businesses. The builders do the research, determine team member roles and communicate with the clients.
“I arrange students into consulting teams, and they decide which client to work with,” said Hodges, who picks participating organizations through a network of entrepreneurs and community referrals. “I am hands-off. Students don’t need to invite me to their client presentations or include me on client emails. I follow-up with the client after the project is complete to get their assessment of the experience, which is factored into final grades.”
Also consulting with the Eleanor Creative team, Nicholas Coffey, a sophomore Clifton Builders management and finance major from Lincoln, found translating survey results into meaningful action plans beneficial.
“I learned to leverage my strengths to maximize outcomes,” said Coffey. “Being part of a cohort with like-minded individuals allows enhanced personal development. The resources and network the Clifton Builders program offers will also help me in the future.”
To learn more about the Clifton Builders Program, visit: https://business.unl.edu/builders.