King’s College Hospital Board Development Programme


Our client runs a major London teaching hospital with all that entails: a plethora of services, a host of staff with a wide range of skills, constant (and literal) life and death decisions to be made at all levels, partnerships with countless specialist services, finances relentlessly buffeted by political headwinds, not to mention some particular challenges; their Board had recently changed and they had just completed a merger. The client briefed us that the Board wanted to work better together because the pressures on them were only growing.

This suggested to us that it would be useful to connect them to their strengths, as both individuals and collectively. This would enable them to focus on how to use and stretch them to achieve their goals while manage their ‘performance risks’ (strengths in overdrive or gaps in their strengths) so as not to derail themselves.

Doing the 1-2-1 Strengthscope™ debriefs and pre-event interviews, we noticed different levels of commitment to the process. We were then given an informal challenge by the client: if we could engage everyone on the Board, including some extremely sceptical members, we would be judged to have succeeded. We decided to take a radical, team coaching approach to the day.

This is different from merely training them (this is how you do x), or facilitating it (how do you think you do x?). It differs too from group coaching (what does the workshop – as a collection of individuals – feel about x?). Instead, it focuses on the quality of the way the team are working as a unit. This delivers something precious to a team: a chance to reflect on, and improve, their functioning as a unit.

On the day, we were challenged early. We had just asked each participant to tell the workshop something that showed their strengths in action. ‘We’ve done these sort of exercises before. What’s the point?’ We welcomed this honest offering – which is how we framed it – and took the opportunity to explain that the exercise was designed to build trust through sharing personal information, one of the foundations of effective team work. That seemed to help, and from then on, we noticed a sense of deepening engagement.

Every activity that followed was designed as a team strengthening exercise, including tea breaks. How, when, for how long? As the day progressed, the team decided on ever-shorter breaks until, in the last one, we insisted they took a short break, as in spite of their excitement and involvement in the work, we felt their energy was beginning to flag.

At the end, they had achieved an enormous amount. The strengths work enabled them to recognise ways to make more of the experience and capability of their impressive NEDs: it highlighted opportunities to use their collective strengths more effectively, not just locally, but globally. It highlighted ways to bolster activities that did not naturally energise them. It focussed their attention on opportunities for action they’d missed in the recent past, and would never miss again.

As the workshop concluded, one Board member pointed to another and said, in a tone of relish. ‘In 22 years of working with you, this is the most engaged I’ve ever seen you.’

Tim Smart, CEO: “We are a high performing team. A united Board. But we are looking at the next stage of our journey in the face of unprecedented challenges, which are no secret to anyone reading newspapers in England. Personal-Best helped us, despite a degree of scepticism, develop a clear vision of what we want to achieve and how we might go about achieving it. From a personal perspective, the ‘Strengthscope’ is providing extremely rich food for thought.”

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