The Challenge 

A health-industry marketing director at a Fortune 500 firm wanted the 40 people in her department to embrace a new way of working with internal clients. To contribute more value and fulfill the entire team’s potential, she wanted her people to focus more on acting like proactive strategic partners and less like reactive day-to-day order takers.

The Engagement 

We began by asking all 40 team members to share stories about times they felt they’d worked like strategic partners – serving internal clients at the upper end of their ability. Only three hands went up. Over the next 12 months, we planned and delivered a series of facilitated activities designed to help the team more deeply explore what it would take to work more like a strategic partner. Those activities included reading and discussing a curated selection of articles on strategic partnering, interviewing senior leaders on developing a strategic partner mindset, attending small group workshops to practice and develop strategic partner skills, and conducting frequent “teach-back” sessions where team members shared their learning with each other.

The Results

At the end of the year, we met with the team and again asked them to share stories about working like strategic partners. This time, all 40 hands went up. Every team member now had multiple stories to share. Two weeks later the department was honored with multiple performance awards.

The sr4 Insight 

We believe in appreciative inquiry, which teaches us that people (along with teams, departments, and organizations) evolve in the direction of the things they inquire about. Which leads us to questions like, “What’s working?” and “What do you want more of?” To us, that sort of inquiry is one of the most powerful tools in our toolkit, and one of the best ways to discover untapped capacity and help individuals and teams contribute at the upper end of what’s possible.