FourSight Goes to University | FourSight

Q&A with John Champlin, Human Resources Team at Wake Forest University

How did you hear about FourSight?

When I joined the HR staff at Wake Forest University, MBTI, Gallup Clifton StrengthsFinder, and the Intercultural Development Inventory were the assessment tools we used for team and leadership development. After a number of staff changes, we began to seek out new assessments that we could utilize. Our University Cabinet had completed a FourSight debrief with Dr. Gerard Puccio. Senior Officers felt that FourSight would be a good strategic fit for our campus. Three HR team members went to the FourSight certification in Orlando. Halfway through day one of the certification, I was hooked. It was different, and I saw how it could be meaningful to our university.

How did you introduce it at the university?

Before we even came back from certification, we had already scheduled a Leadership Summit with nearly 100 top University leaders, and we had promised to do an assessment. That was a welcome opportunity to use FourSight, but we needed a little practice. So we did a dry run with the Human Resources team and got one debrief under our belt.

How did the Leadership Summit go?

The event went extremely well. The summit brought together academic and administrative leaders who gained insight into how they could collaborate across schools and departments. We’ve continued to have these summits once each semester with a variety of topics, speakers, and activities. With regard to the debrief, we debated: Should we split the 80 attendees into smaller groups? We decided the value was to keep everyone together. That was the right choice. We were able to have a large FourSight group debrief with a lot of “aha moments” among our attendees. It was a good experience for this group.

What happened after that?

After collaborating to complete the debrief for 80 of the University’s top leaders, nothing else feels quite as daunting! After that, leaders who had attended the summit began requesting a review of the FourSight tool for their teams. We conducted FourSight debriefs for the Office of the Provost and the Facilities and Campus Services Leadership Team. The full-time staff at the Reynolda House Museum of Art went through a workshop, along with teams from University Advancement, the School of Law, the Office of the University Registrar, the Intercultural Center, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and the Office of the Dean of the College.

Why do you debrief teams, not individuals?

The FourSight debrief is extremely interactive. It’s put together so that people gain a good understanding of the assessment while having interactions with their teammates and colleagues. Participants find it beneficial to explore commonalities and have a shared language to use in the workplace.People especially like the prototype activity. After their preferences are revealed, debrief attendees are often surprised to see that their actions during the activity are typically well aligned with their preference. It is a truly fun and enlightening moment to see that we act in alignment with our preferences (even before we know what our preferences are).We’ve altered a few details of the prototype activity to fit Wake Forest: Our directions say, “Make a prototype for an unmet campus need.” It’s proven to be a valuable question as we help to expose broader campus needs that may trigger change. The prototypes have touched on valuable campus topics like wellbeing, faculty/staff engagement, University growth, and transportation. We fill the box with a variety of old gold and black objects, which are Wake Forest school colors, just to add some school spirit. Any time somebody misses the group debrief, we offer a one-on-one session, but it never has quite the same effect.

How do you avoid people getting hung up on their scores?

During one session, a high Ideator went around asking, “Does anyone have a higher Ideator score than me?” It’s true, her Ideator score was off the charts, but other than that, I haven’t experienced a lot of focus on the number score. I downplay it. I spend time on the “preference does not equal ability” slide. During our certification, we talked about viewing the graph as an energy wave. It’s where you would love to spend the majority of your time. That really resonates with people.

Any tips you can share after all those FourSight sessions?

Now, when I show the group profile, I do a two-part reveal. First, I show the high preferences and I ask, “How does this team function cohesively? What we do well together?” Then I show the low preferences, and we discuss how those are showing up. I used to show the whole graph, but I found that some people immediately jumped to focus on the low preferences.

Has FourSight helped your team?

When we work with teams on campus, we will often run a FourSight group profile to give ourselves a better understanding of who’s going to be in the room. The profile can help to inform what questions and activities can best benefit the group. I’ve found this knowledge helps make me a better facilitator.

How many people have taken it so far?

It’s been just over a year since we got certified. We’ve already had 270 individuals complete it on our campus, which is about 10 percent of our total faculty and staff. I am very pleased with our university’s adoption of the tool. Knowing that FourSight was first shared with the University Cabinet and then with the Leadership Summit attendees fueled the dissemination on campus. Soon we’ll be sharing it with new faculty department chairs.

Has it impacted Wake Forest’s culture?

As different and diverse groups among the administration, staff, and faculty at Wake Forest take the assessment, we can start to gain a clear picture of Wake Forest’s broader approach to breakthrough thinking and innovation. I now have all 270 people on a overall university group profile. I show it toward the end of our debriefs and ask, “What does this say about us?” Our aggregate results show that we are high Implementers and also Clarifiers. People in the room can see examples of how that shows up in how we approach challenges. One group received their results and asked me to facilitate an annual review of their year. They said, “We recognize that we’re Implementer-heavy. We look forward, but we don’t look back very well. Will you lead a reflection time that allows us to be more effective at incorporating what we’ve done?” They wanted help to be out of their preference for a little while. The low Implementers in the group had a chance to shine and it proved to be valuable time for the team.

How does FourSight compare to MBTI?

We’ve recently completed the MBTI certification. It’s interesting to see that MBTI is moving away from “type” language and toward “preference” language. I find the preference language FourSight uses is very empowering for people. It’s an acknowledgement of who they are without being “typed.”

Do you use FourSight to promote innovation?

Like many other institutions of higher education, Wake Forest works to balance tradition and innovation. FourSight reassures members of our campus community who don’t think of themselves as particularly innovative or creative that they are valuable and have much to contribute. It assures them, yes, you are creative, and your creativity shows up in one or more of these preferences. It provides an entry for people who have previously felt excluded from the conversation about innovation.

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Sarah Thurber

Sarah is managing partner at FourSight and the author of Good Team, Bad Team, The Secret of the Highly Creative Thinker, Creativity Unbound, and Facilitation: A Door to Creative Leadership. Her work helps teams and leaders think creatively, work collaboratively and achieve innovative results.