Episode 80 – Ben Bateman | Building a Strengths-based culture at Little Miracles
In this episode I chat with Ben Bateman, head of people and culture for Little Miracles Childcare, father, husband and self proclaimed adrenalin chaser.
Ben’s professional life has always centred around people development but has spanned many roles, including 8 years as a chaplain at a state high school, 6 years as a youth pastor in Australia and the USA and 10 years of professional development and management in his family run business across 10 locations.
This conversation really focuses on the significant impact that Strengths has had on the Little Miracles business through discovery, awareness and development of staff talents, both personally and professionally. We also delve into Ben’s experience with using the professional development course Transformational Leadership, along with creating his own personal development course Wholehearted, based on work by Brene Brown, Russell Brand, Richard Rohr and others.
Key episode highlights include:
- The overextension of our Strengths can often be our weakness
- Build trust through open communication, kindness, self compassion and empowering others
- Use dialling up and dialling down of Strengths as safe dialogue and a performance tool
- Broken people break people, whole people help bring healing to others
- Linking Strengths, professional development and coaching helps to determine expectation and drive clarity.
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Murray Guest 00:01
Ben, welcome to the podcast. It is so good to see you and to be chatting with you. I still reflect on our time four years ago, when you were starting at little miracles, the strengths journey, and I’m so excited to explore what’s been happening and how you’ve been bringing strengths into everything you do. But before we get into all that, how’s life?
Ben Bateman 00:22
Yeah, really good man. In a season where? Yeah, my family’s doing really well. I’m in a good space in myself as well. And yeah, really enjoying life and the work that I’m doing last a roller coaster sets and bumps but by and large might really, really well thank you.
Murray Guest 00:40
Well, good. I am missing some of your travel the sheet because I know you were a bit. You enjoy the travel? Oh, that’s
Ben Bateman 00:47
a very much a sore spot. Yes. I was meant to be going to Japan snowboarding in January. So that’s that’s very much a sore spot. And yeah, I get the guy who stays with work in budget at least twice a year normally say that’s the thing. I’m missing most. I love adventure. So yeah, he got me me.
Murray Guest 01:05
Yeah, I’m, I was meant to be in America this year at the strength summit in Omaha. And obviously that went online. We had plans for a family trip to Europe for a white Christmas. Oh, wow. So that okay, that didn’t happen. But lots of travel plans locally. And I’m just I’m loving seeing the investment in regional. Australia. Yeah. Which is driving all of that, you know, let’s get back and explore our own country as well. So yeah, looking forward to some of that.
Ben Bateman 01:36
Definitely. I’m actually in a user advice in January, man, I’m gonna get a thredbo and do some mountain biking instead this year? Oh, yeah. So I’ve never been June, the summer. So it’s gonna be cool together. There’s no reason to be in nature and explored in a different way. Yeah, I did. A man walking down.
Murray Guest 01:54
Yeah, yeah. So yeah, you know it too. And I did thredbo Ah, must have been three, four years ago, and is fantastic. Yeah, and such a great vibe. And, and I’m not as young as you, I don’t bounce as good as you. So I better see what some of the people can do down there. It’s just, you know, it’s like when you get snowboarding do so great. You get some spikes. And there’s some really good trials down there, of course. So
Ben Bateman 02:19
yeah, I’m really gonna take it easy. I am 45.
So I definitely
Ben Bateman 02:24
don’t be on either. And I’ve got into mountain biking through some of my much younger mates in their 20s. And so, you know, but I take every line very differently to what they do, mate. So we had the conversation with him, should I go to thredbo? Because I’m not, I’m, I’m going by myself too. So it’s very hard at home if I get injured. So yeah, take it easy.
Murray Guest 02:44
So you got to do there’s a couple of loop trails that are quite longer and flowing. And there’s a trail which goes from thredbo out to Lake crackenback, which flows along the river. Okay, and that’s so you got to do that one. That one’s really good. That’s just nice and flowing. Next is crystal Creek clear screen streams. It’s a fantastic how we could talk about mountain biking for the next day, or
Ben Bateman 03:08
should we could I just write that down? Because that sounds good, man,
Murray Guest 03:12
we’re gonna head out to what was the scattering but
Ben Bateman 03:15
I do ironbark with my mate. So yeah, we should do that sometime.
Murray Guest 03:18
Yeah. So mate, just to get to set the scene a little. Tell me what strengths means for you personally, and a strengths based approach.
Ben Bateman 03:28
Wow. So strength for me personally has unlocked my personal development potential. It helped me to have a language to understand myself. Like strengths talks about name, climate and payment, we’ve changed a little bit in lm. And this is me personally to strengths discovery, awareness and development. And we use a lot of other tools before from the disc assessment to Myers Briggs, but that when strengths goes to a whole nother level, for me is the development piece. Those other tools give you good discovery and awareness, but they don’t give you a great development, in my opinion. I’m sure other people get more out of them. But for me personally and professionally at the development side of what strengths has done for us, and then strengths has given me language around my talents as well that I’ve never had before. And that’s been fantastic. 45 I’m trying to be a much healthier whole human being, and actually leaning to my strengths, often to think about my constructive and destructive side of my talents. And give me a framework to think about that. And to really work on my development professionally as a parent, in the way I interact with my wife. And I’m much more gracious with myself to where I lack talent down the bottom in that bottom 10 or 12 and I feel Much more confident. Yeah, to say, look, I just like telling those areas and that that’s okay. I just need to find a partner or a tool to help me become proficient in that area. But yeah, yeah, I make sense.
Murray Guest 05:15
It makes perfect sense to me. You and I are so aligned in what strengths is meant for you. And it’s meant for me, and how it helps me show up more my true self. Yeah. And yeah, in those conversations with everybody in my life, from my children, to my wife, to my family, my biggest family, my friends, my clients, everybody and i, you said something about being a bit more gracious to self. And I’ve found it for myself and for clients to work with about strengths help us be a bit more kind to ourselves around 100 100%. Yeah, beating ourselves up about something that we’re not good at, or that we have a blind spot in. But now understand why and be kind to myself to, you know, lift me out of those dark moments.
Ben Bateman 06:03
Yeah. Yeah, we’re kindred spirits, they might, when you spoke about the true self to like, I’ve done some development work in that area of my wife, and I feel like Strengths lines up really well. We try and understand my true self and be my true self. But that kindness can pace we would even talk in our company about being compassionate, and having self compassion. That’s definitely that kindness is talking about. And I’m young, growing that area, and I’m being able to empower people to be more self compassionate as well, which is so cool. We’re so hard on ourselves. Yeah. And the destructive ways.
Murray Guest 06:41
And 2020 I think you and I were talking before we started our chat today about what you know, the years been, like, for so many people so hard in so many ways. And you know, strengths is a great way for us to understand how we’re showing up, isn’t it? Yeah,
Ben Bateman 06:55
definitely. It’s been good for me to reflect on. Where I am showing up in destructive ways that we talk about strengths a lot. The overextension of our strength is a weakness. And yeah, definitely, that’s where our most destructive often is, in my own extensions of my strengths. And just to know, that have that self awareness has helped me to not go as far down that destructive path, I still take destructive paths, I just tend to not go as fine. Yeah. And then yeah, and strength has been a significant tool in empowering me in that space. And I’m very grateful for.
Murray Guest 07:35
Yeah, I would build on that, too. And add what I’ve had that realization more and more is how it’s enabled me to explain why, or how I’m doing something with other people. Okay. And I was just thinking just recently about my communication and how, with my communication, I’m keen to talk about something and get it out. But the ideas not fully formed. The order, the words aren’t even in the right order, but I want to just talk about it. So it gives me a way to say, Hey, this is something want to talk about, but I haven’t really thought through, and this is where I’m going. And that I think is me permission and confidence to to have that conversation.
Ben Bateman 08:15
Yeah, I love what you just did there, you are aware, self aware of where communication is destructive for you. But you can actually lead with that now. And I do that with my teams a lot. I talk to them fairly quickly, when I want to partner with someone about where I’m not very talented. So that we can actually explore that upfront. This is where I can really frustrate people. And I will go there fairly quickly with teammates, based on their strengths, if they’ve got a lot of executing which I have none, my top 10 that’s going to be an area of frustration more for them than it is for me. So I need to be aware of that, trying to work on with him on that. But part of the way I do that is to help them to know that they can talk to me about that anytime. And I want them to point that out when that’s frustrating. And it will be at some point. Yeah, it’s been really helpful. For from my teams with me.
Murray Guest 09:09
It’s again, it’s a building trust, isn’t it through that permission of Hey, I want you to raise this with me if I’m being a bit destructive.
Ben Bateman 09:17
Murray Guest 09:20
Can I ask if there was one strength that you’ve just really embraced? Why not to that, you know, you just, you know, really sees you and as like a grounding strength. What’s one of those ones in your, you know, top five or 10 that you just?
Ben Bateman 09:39
Yeah, ideation is one number one. So what I’m most passionate about the one that gives me the greatest joy, but it wasn’t really until strength. So what’s up four years ago that I really wish I would have said I was a dreamer, as a kid, and even up until that stage and I have a vivid imagination. I didn’t realize how construction It was and how unique it was. That’s partly what I love that strengths is you understand your own uniqueness. Yeah. Helps me not expect other people to be able to dream or say things the way I can. But to you my ideation, something I come back to frequently when I want to feel more alive, I can use really constructive ways. And then also, I can see when my wife would say, I’m so heavenly minded, I’m no earthly good, because I’m busy having cool thoughts and dreams, and I’m ignoring things around the house or my kids or now. I understand that now. And so she’s able to gently remind me, hey, you’ve got some things to do. Besides, I can come back to that I’m in healthy ways now. But, so I’m leaning into it more and more, I’m appreciating it more and more. And I give myself time and permission to use ideation more. But are limited, that might sound weird, or give myself more time but are limited. So I, I dealt with that mean to, you know, I can overdo it, when I should be doing other things. Now, I’m trying to put it into constructive spaces. So I’ll give myself half an hour here on a set on certain days to really lean into my ideation rather than just letting it run in the background all the time.
Murray Guest 11:31
I love what you when you talk about your relationship with Nell. And just reminds me of the relationship I have with Tammy, and how strengths has enabled us to call each other out on behaviors in a positive way. And yeah, and not as positive, let’s just say in a helpful or constructive a loving way, which some people I know do some really great work with strengths and relationships. And that’s one area I really focus on. But I can talk from a personal perspective and like you can about how it just helps us support each other. And God and coach even when their strengths are showing up in in the dark and the light.
Ben Bateman 12:13
Yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely helped me to not just understand myself, but be much more gracious with know as well when she is. So achievers one of her top five. It’s really low for me. So one of the things we did, I’ve done here with staff, and with some of our parent community is to get to people’s all 34 linemen up beside each other. And we draw lines and we look for lines where, where one person has a stroke client and one person has a strength flow, and see that as a place for friction. Yep. And we look for what strengths do you have in common? And there’s real places of alignment and collaboration. So it’s been really helpful for me to know where I have. Yeah, we have. So if I pick achiever when nails running hard to achieve, and the last thing I feel like doing is actually giving her space, and also giving my space, myself space. So encouraging, empowering her acknowledging that that’s what she’s needing in that moment. But also being able to speak up and acknowledge that I don’t need that right now. So how do we collaborate somewhere in the middle?
Murray Guest 13:28
Yeah. Tammy has referred to me as her spreadsheet man a number of times, because that’s what I can bring to our relationship. You did start to touch on some of the great work you do it little miracles there. And little miracles have as I understand at the moment, 10 centers and about 300 staff is it?
Ben Bateman 13:48
Yeah, bit of Yes. 300. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Murray Guest 13:51
So tell us about what makes little miracles unique. I’ve got some thoughts cause you do some amazing work. But what comes to mind for you?
Ben Bateman 13:59
What comes to mind for me is focus on people and productivity another some really wonderful companies that Gallup does work with around this. So we’re not unique in that. But it’s something that we’re very passionate about. It does come from our our faith as well. So we are a family owned and operated business. So I’m one of four siblings, that eldest and my parents, the two founders of the business, were Christians. So we don’t want that to be an overt attack people upside the head, everybody needs to come to Jesus kind of thing. It’s by it. So we most of us are not Christians. 90% are not we don’t hire or promote based on people’s faith, we promote and hire based on people’s capacity. So where it does come in really strongly is in our values, and the way we seek to treat People. And that’s so for us, you, people are just as important as productivity or profit. And that’s a tricky balance. But it’s when we work really hard for. We don’t always get it right. But most of our stuff I want to say most, because there’s always, I guess, as a head of people and culture, I get to hear the bits where people don’t like us, from parents to staff. But we overwhelmingly happen to me again yesterday, where a staff members talking about the experience she had in her last center, and the experience, she’s having, sorry, I got that wrong. She came work for us as a trainee, she left and go to deployment position somewhere else. And she just emailed me asking me if we’ve got any deployment positions available, because she wants to come back to a culture where she’s treated with love and respect. Yeah, we hear that story over and over again. So it helps me to understand that it’s not just hot air, but we actually are living a culture where people experience where they are experiencing feeling really valued.
Murray Guest 16:14
Yeah. And I think, from my experience of working with you, you know, nearly four years ago, you know, your name, little miracles, as a organization, you truly live and breathe that know that you do that treating, you know, I would even say big miracles as well, the little miracles of your, your children that you that you teach, develop, grow, nurture, and then the miracles in each staff as well.
Ben Bateman 16:44
Yeah, we would say that everybody has incredible value, and that comes back to our face. So whether it’s a parent, a staff member, a child, or an auxiliary support, so that might be the coals man that drops off, they’re shopping for the food for their children, they are just as valuable as my parents as the founders, everybody has the same level of value, and everybody needs to be treated with that respect. So we work really hard at that, where, yeah, we have a culture called culture of honor. So we’re everybody, there were three pillars we work to that everybody would feel appreciated. Man, it was, and now it’s appreciated, understood. Counting down, and that’s really bad. So significant, appreciate significant and understood the three pillars when it comes to cultural honor. And in that back comes activator, right? So everybody would be honored, everybody will be valued as part of our community. And so we want to be a community and not just a company, we want our staff to know that they are just as valuable as a person and not just as a, an employee, or as a product. So strengths. For us, one of the ways we’ve really used it is that when we do strengths development, we don’t want to just do about their professional life, we really want to be about their personal life as well. So we spent a fair bit of time working with them around how they can use it in their personal life, because to us, that’s just as important as their productivity with us, as a professional educator.
Murray Guest 18:29
And and as you and I just touched on at the start about the impact strengths has made in our personal lives. And as an employer, I’m sure you see the impact it makes in someone’s personal life, when that person starts to embrace strengths in the way that they live and breathe with their life outside of work. And then that flows back into work as well.
Ben Bateman 18:51
100%. So one of the ways that we have done that is we have done partners strengths as well. We offered that where we run nights where a staff member can come they can bring their partner in, that might be a romantic partner, a parent or friend, or send them a code, and they can do their five strengths as well. And we pay for that. Because we want to invest in our staff, personally, and not just professionally. And then yeah, we’ll run a night where we’ll talk about how they can partner to get a better based on their strengths. And the feedback we’ve had from that been phenomenal. Yeah, I love that. And in organization of 300, we probably have 30 staff that are super passionate about strengths and go and develop on their own. They probably have another 30 to 60 that really enjoy it or take any opportunity we provide to be developed. And then we have some in the middle that that really enjoy it, but don’t really want to keep going further. And then we have some that Yeah, I like it, but it hasn’t had a huge impact. Yeah, I’ve got so how do we work with all those groups is one of our challenges and something that we are Trying to reflect on at the end of the year to look at our development process for next year. But for everybody, whether they love it or not, it’s a that’s a common language. Yeah. And that common language of strengths has been vital for our growth, and even vital to our people. Because now I can clearly see where someone’s different to me. And I can I now have a language to honor those differences. When in the past, I probably would have just talked about how those things frustrated me. Now I know where the beauty and not just the brokenness is in people’s talents that are different to mine.
Murray Guest 20:36
Yeah, I know you talk about appreciating the whole of a person that beauty and the brokenness, how does in little miracles, how does strengths help someone move through that brokenness or embrace that and understand that?
Ben Bateman 20:54
Yeah. So we’ve developed a whole another in house development program called wholehearted. And we did that because we’ve had limitations through other two tools we use, which is Gallup strengths. And then we have a leadership tool called transformational leadership. Both as tools are wonderful tools. But what they weren’t helping us to do is to help people through their brokenness, because broken people, break people, and whole people help bring healing to others, and you bring yourself to work every day. So having a culture where we ask everybody to value people, everybody around them is super tricky, right? So I felt like we weren’t actually giving people what we’re asking people to do something that was pretty unachievable. Unless we’re going to help people become more whole. They are going to do destructive things. And I do destructive things, too. So we would talk about being broken healers, we want to help people become more whole, insistently have some brokenness, and we don’t have everything together. But the more people are, the more they’ll be able to find and bring out the wholeness in others, and pre healing to other people.
Murray Guest 22:13
And if you’ve got a culture where everyone’s doing that internal work on themselves, about how I can grow, develop, be better. There’s a ripple effect, isn’t it that lifts the whole culture that lives the whole Center, the whole organization? Yeah.
Ben Bateman 22:28
Yep, beautifully put with, we’re only we’ve only had 10% of our staff go through our whole whole program. It’s only new COVID actually gave some space to work on that. But we’re already seeing an uptick in people’s ability to relate to themselves. So how hard it is to be proud of yourself compassion, knowing we are broken, integrating that, working through it through understanding vulnerability, forgiveness, love, but not mushy, romantic love, self sacrificial kind of love, and how we want to be a community. It’s all about power with and not power over. And part of our conversation as well. We are good at that to varying degrees. But that’s definitely a a goal or something that we’re working really hard towards, how do we be power? And that’s tricky and professional scripts. And because I have power over because of my role. So but how do I denaro power with to the best of my ability? How do I share power instead of you do it? Because I said, I can. I can fire you.
Murray Guest 23:42
Yeah, yeah. And I mean, a lot of teams talk, obviously, about collaboration. And you’re just framing that up in a much more, I think, even productive way, because people say I want to collaborate more. But actually, what does that really look like? And what I’m hearing is, okay, we’ve got power, everyone has a level of power, what does it look like we combine our powers. And we do that with each other? Obviously, strengths is a part of that. But what are those other elements that we bring to the table as well?
Ben Bateman 24:11
Totally. So strengths are that most common language. So we’ve been using a lot of Bernie Browns work, if you know how to program, we’re about to start doing a series with all our leadership groups going through her day to late book. So all our directors and managers we make by meet with them once a month in our three different regions, and I spend an hour talking through a chapter on a book. And then that notes in each region, any staff member from a trainee, right on the way up, if they’re not pilot leadership group can actually come and meet with me and then a group from that region to do that same leadership development. So it’s just something we offer to everybody.
Murray Guest 24:55
I just say, Oh, no, just acknowledge that there for that your time. Your investment in everyone getting that opportunity for their own development. And just that’s not a common approach. There’s been investment in the latest do that. And then I can imagine you going right on a jump in my car and head back home. Yeah. But actually, what you’re putting in place here is I’m actually going to stay and provide this to other people, to help them for their own personal leadership as well. And that’s, I think, such a great approach.
Ben Bateman 25:27
Thank you. I really appreciate that. But it’s living at those days where I can say, I care, I can say that I really well, we would talk often about we want to help everybody reach their full potential. But we need to back that up with action and not just word. And so yeah. And it’s a cost to attach that. Sure. But we believe in the investment into our staff, personally, not just investment into them professionally.
Murray Guest 25:53
Yeah. Something that’s on my mind. And that’s that in strengths we talk about two people can achieve that level of high performance approaching their work differently through their strengths. What does that look like, in a center where you’ve got people, teachers, approaching the way they might do their role through their strengths?
Ben Bateman 26:16
So yeah, beautiful question, and one we use consistently. So in a preschool room, there’s two main things that are important in any day, and that is the care of children, and the education of children. So we needed both of those things from the babies all the way up. And if in strengths, if you’re This is where we use the colors a lot, we were took a staff, the high blue, that are going to naturally see and do the caring side of being an educator. And if you hire purple, you’re gonna naturally see and do the task based things. And so we try in every room to have someone that’s high below and someone that’s high purple, in every room wherever possible, because both those things are equally important. Now, every room has a room leader, and she will usually have an error, actually the be blue, or purple predominately, or lean that way. And so one of the things we do is we actually work with her in layers to help them understand what is their natural, where, who they are first, yeah. Are they executed? Or are they a relationship builder first. And then we talk about that we actually look at the strengths of their team. And we encourage them to understand their strengths, their top five of all their team members, so that they can know where they will frustrate their team, and where they can be that well rounded team. So yeah, we’re looking to have well rounded teams wherever possible. It’s one of the one of the things we major on in strengths is having a well rounded teams and using not individual strengths, but but you’re more using the colors to go Okay, what does this team need? What is going to be the overextension of this particular room later, our room leaders meet with their air manager and their director, at least once a fortnight. And so strengths will be used in those conversations. Sometimes we use strengths for performance development, often,
Murray Guest 28:17
yep, yep. So what does that look like with strengths and performance development? How is that? Is that in a formal process, or is that more in a coaching sort of conversation, or both?
Ben Bateman 28:29
Much more in a coaching conversation. So I’ve done so all that stuff had their top five, but all of our management staff had their all 34s. So everybody, within hopefully, within three months of joining little miracles, does a one hour Skype session with myself a coaching call, usually three to four, three to six other people. And that will be an introduction. But if you’re in the management level, I do a one hour one on one around people’s or 30 fours, looking at their leadership style, and looking at their personal development. And then I will coach them from there periodically, depending on what their needs, so that most of our airmen just have a really good understanding of strengths and use it frequently. If they’ve got a specific performance problem, they will actually often ring me and our will have the phone have a conversation with the air. Imagine the director looking at that stuff in the strength and see if we can use strengths as a way to bring healthy performance management for that person and quit 80% of the time, we can look at a strength that’s being overextended yet, or we can see an area of weakness. And then we can have such healthy conversation with people. If someone’s got four, our top five blue and they’re struggling with getting tasks done, we’re not gonna smack them over the head because that’s not their natural capacity. So we need to find a partner or a tool that will help them become proficient in that area. So when when not gonna, we want to have realistic expectations. strengths helps us to have realistic expectations around what staff can actually do, not what we’d like them to do.
Murray Guest 30:13
Yeah. And if anyone listening that is new to strengths or has limited understanding. I think there can sometimes be this misconception it’s all about unicorns, rainbows and Skittles, and lovey dovey, but strengths helps have those tough conversations doesn’t it Ben.
Ben Bateman 30:30
Yeah, it makes those tough conversations so much more constructive. Yeah, is our experience of it. Because before we’d be more much, helping them with an area of weakness, and not really have anything productive to bring to that lucky vibe, let’s take your communication, which is one of the ones you love in this hall for you. If I have a staff member that’s communicating too frequently talking too much to have a conversation with her about dialing down his strength. And I love your communication. This is where your communication is really helpful to our team to get this when you overextend. Your communication is when it’s destructive. Yeah. asking her to dial down is a much easier conversation, then in the past, we would have said, Can you stop talking so much, please? That what how did she do that?
Murray Guest 31:19
Yeah. And that. And that feels like a personal attack. It’s like, I’m going to talk about an attribute a strength part of you, that you can, as we know, dial up and dial down versus making someone wrong.
Ben Bateman 31:33
Yeah, yeah. And if it’s, if it’s in your top five, you love it, it brings you so much. I’m asking you to stop doing what what you’re passionate about. Like this such. Yes, I strengths has been amazing for us in that space. And yeah, so we would often look at data and dialing down that is the tool we often use in performance development, where they need to dial up or dial down, or where is a partner or a, or a tool that will help them become more proficient? And yeah, we use that a lot.
Murray Guest 32:07
I am going back to a conversation. And when we did some work back four years ago, and one of the I think she was standing up in the director role or the center manager roll out a Blaxland. Center, and she had community competition. And remember, just this beautiful enthusiasm in a real healthy way she was applying that theme to how can we be at our best How can we, in a healthy competition, drive our observations and the development of the children across the rooms are such a great example of the the constructive way to apply that thing. And just I still use it as a an example to other people about the positive application of competition.
Ben Bateman 33:01
Yes, that’s beautiful. So one of my challenges is I’m dyslexic. So I often forget people’s names that I know really well, so I can see her face, she actually became our Director of that center long term until she had her little girl. Yeah, so but she’s still back in the center, but not in the directors role. And one of our other members of our black Center also has high competition. And yet, that center, which is a center that you we that you came in coach this in around strings, so we can get an idea whether we want to roll that strengts across the board. Blaxland is definitely our strongest center when it comes to strengths. So I don’t know if that’s all you Murray or speaks to my lack of credit. No, I’m just kidding. One. So it’s one of the most stable centers in terms of staff have been there for a long time. We are a growing company. So often we will bring a couple of experienced staff will go to the next center to bring strong culture. Yes, black vans being a Blue Mountain center, we only have two of those. They’ve been there for four plus years. So we had a lot of leadership staff there long term. And they love strengths. They’ve really embraced it. And they talk about it frequently. And it was an interesting thing. So I get what strengths has done is allowed us to have a healthy language around differences. Well, each one of my directors actually leads their teams a little bit differently. We’re a reasonable sized company. So we have a lot of policies and procedures. If you go into one little recurse center, it’s very similar to the next. But they are a little bit different because the leader is a little bit different. Yeah. How do we helpfully allow that leader to lead that scene a little bit differently, baby in the little miracles way? and strengths has been one of the The best tools are, by far and away the best tool for us to sometimes help the learner to dial back a little bit when they’re wanting to go too far into their strength when it’s not where the company’s going. But competition where I’ve seen that coming out with those girls is that they’re so staff meetings are amazing, but and the way that they they run competitions between their rooms, but that could be a really unhealthy thing that goes on very conscious of the way they did competition between there between the rooms in their center in a healthy way. And then that center does healthy competition with other centers as well, whenever we get together for big events, that sort of stuff. Black sounds very parochial, and they love to compete with everybody else. But they keep it healthy, and they’re very conscious of it and strengths has been helpful to help us think about that in a healthy way. If
Murray Guest 35:54
you’ve highlighted something to me without saying it, and I just wanted to throw this out there that strengths helps drive clarity. 100%. Yeah. And what I’m thinking is, as you’re saying about how different directors are going to lead through their strengths in a way that works best for them. And through that, combining that with, okay, but we also need to be clear around our expectations, and what is needs to be consistent. So it sort of partners beautifully with his driver of let’s make sure we’re really clear about some expectations as well.
Ben Bateman 36:26
Yes, a role clarity is extremely important for us. It’s something we had a, we’ve had a number of business coaches, and we’ve had one for over eight years. And then we got to a size that was beyond his experience. So we had another one, another business coach. And one of the things that he helped us do was bring clarity to every role from top to bottom in the business. And we’ve seen significant productivity improvements, but also relational improvements, too. Because if it’s clear, then we’re not going to have those frustrations with each other. So who’s responsible? Yeah. is a big one. And so your role clarity is a massive deal to us. But yeah, you within role clarity, we still want to have room for individuality, too. So individualization is half myself from our brother, who is the operations manager, for our general manager, who works alongside family. He has individualization that number three, I think. So, yeah, it’s a big deal to us that we have a lot of standardization. But then we have individualization alongside of that, where possible,
Murray Guest 37:43
yeah, great, great. Um, what else do you know has been really helpful to keep strengths alive and embed into little miracles.
Ben Bateman 37:56
So on doors, when you go into each room so that parents and staff can see the strengths as a photo, each team member has their top five strengths, and a little blurb about how the girls use their strengths in their role. So as a parent as you walk into the room, and before you even walk in, you can choose to look at that. The staff are saying that all the time, then inside the majority adoptees are finding out this isn’t rolled out everywhere. Yep, we have a tool called the best of us, is a strength tool. And that tool, which describes what people need, what frustrates them, what makes them tick. That’s my very loose version of
Murray Guest 38:40
what they bring and what they what you can count on from that page.
Ben Bateman 38:45
Yep. Thanks, man. Details. That’s actually on the inside of the cupboard doors. And so if a staff member is struggling with another team member, they can go to the sheet and have get a quick glimpse of how they can partner with that team. And better. casuals could use that too, as a way to go understand the people they’re working with. I don’t know if we utilize that tool as well as we could. But there are two tools that are front and center in yet. Yeah, every every center that we own.
Murray Guest 39:17
Yeah. And you combine that as you said with a strengths based process when people first joined the business about three months in the coaching you’re doing and into some of the meetings from my understanding as well some of the strengths based language and reference there as well. Yeah,
Ben Bateman 39:33
so, your language is a big one for us. So your strengths is talked about frequently. We do training days where we bring the whole company together. We do that once, sometimes twice a year. Every I get an opportunity at most of those to do some for development. And we will nearly always talk about some component of strength. So you know, we are always trying To bring strengths to the fore, and to make it a common language, that’s got to be something that we continually developing. We can’t just go Okay. Yes, everybody’s done their top five now, you’ve had the introduction session. Good luck. Yeah, if we want this to be common language, and we have to work hard to keep that at the forefront. So we, we do that. We have development channel, as part of our YouTube and on that I have a whole bunch of strings videos on there that I’ve shot with my staff. So that’s on there, they have access to that if they want as well. And make goals can be referred back to that. Um, yeah, I think they’re the main ways that Yeah,
Murray Guest 40:42
yeah, and it’s a combination, what I see there around leadership systems, and that environment, which, and, and the personal strength, space attitudes that people bring those, those four key areas to build a culture where you’re, you’re taking and moving through, which is just amazing to, it’s all those little things. And what I often say to clients is, it’s the little things that cost much to make the difference. And if you do those little things consistently, you build a culture.
Ben Bateman 41:10
Yeah. I’m incredibly fortunate that my parents, and then my siblings, or I’m really believe in strengths, all our partners have done strengths. We use it as a management team, we are all 100%, according to strengths and what it brings. So that makes a massive difference. So it’s from the top down, we believe in strengths. And we’ve seen it make a significant difference to our business. And so that then allows us to filter down, everybody knows it’s important. And then for me, I’ve worked really hard at doing the, I can’t catch 300 people, but I can coach 30. So in coaching 30 key leaders, if they’re if they are bought into strengths, and that for me, I believe means that I need to help them work with strengths that makes a difference in their, in their personal and professional life. If it does that, then they will buy in, and they will use it with their teams. So that’s how I use it strategically. Yeah, I worked really hard with our managers to make sure that they are utilizing strengths in their personal and professional life. And then from that, then they will use it with their teams.
Murray Guest 42:21
Yeah. And as you rightly put it, you’re not there day in day out by the latest they’re day in day out to have those conversations and bring it in into the culture. Something that I’m just also wondering, Ben, and that’s her and strengths based teaching. And is that a journey that little miracles are on is that sort of part of the vision going forward?
Ben Bateman 42:42
Yeah, it’s something we’ve explored a little bit. So we, as a company support a foundation in Bali called the bolo Foundation, which has an orphanage has a street center, and has a school. And one of the ways that we support biolife is, once a year, I go and work with international school teachers in Bali. And I do that by myself, we actually go with a number of primary school teachers from Australia, and some of our preschool educators as well. And we run workshops, to do a whole development for those staff. So we, the way we’ve used strengths there is really to help people understand their teaching style. The way I’ll use that sorry, is to help them understand their teaching style. And they help them understand try to help them understand students learning styles to that they have a way that they approach teaching. And children have a way that they approach approach, learning that strengths can really empower them to understand. Now that’s not a new concept. And there’s so many other ways they can approach that we’ve seen that as really beneficial. And that will be the way that we have used it so far, a little miracles, as well, that teachers understand they have a professional style, they have something that they bring, and also thinking about the children and the fact that they all have individual learning styles as well. So we use some other things around that. But that is one way that we’ve used strengths in that education space.
Murray Guest 44:27
And I think we’re combining that with the the openness of the teacher strengths for parents, that pages, then the parents will understand the different approaches of the different teachers and how they are working with the children and and from my memory, even then those conversations that teachers can have with parents around how the children’s strengths or learning styles are showing up.
Ben Bateman 44:52
Definitely, I said earlier that like 10% of our staff really embrace strengths and that really active strengths evangelists and strength spotters? Yep, so looking for strengths and other people. So that will be the other people will be the children, their teammates, and others. So those staff really are embracing it and looking at trying to spot the kids strengths and and reflect that back. For the majority of stuff, they’re probably not using it to that level. So while we try not to force things, too little miracles, the gods have so much on their plates, that strengths is part of strengths. And the way we mainly use it is for team building and development and performance. That’s strengths, main focus for us at little miracles. Can they use it for education? Yes, and some of them really do. But it’s not a focus for us. And part of it comes down to the fact that you have so much there’s so much on their plate, we try to be super conscious of only giving them tools that are going to be well, strengths is beneficial, but it’s not a necessary task.
Murray Guest 46:07
Yeah. And I guess what? Yeah, what I’ve experienced sometimes is where a tool like strengths people can start to get the blinkers on. And I’d like that that’s the answer for everything. Yeah. Whereas it’s the answer for lots of things like we’re talking about today. But let let’s not be blinding, you’re creating some potential blind spots of getting in the way of doing what you also need to do as well.
Ben Bateman 46:30
Yeah, for us. Because the girls do have a heavy workload, we’ve we’re highly regulated industry, and we’ve got a lot of education as well as care to be done. add an extra that is can become a burden. I I love what you just said in though, because part of my experience with any kind of coaches that sometimes they become that one wide, and think it is the answer to everything. I deeply appreciate that about you, Mary, that you’re not one liner, that strength, that you love it, you’re passionate about it, but it’s not the it’s not the fix everything. And we definitely approach that approach it that way at little miracles as well. It’s really good for some things. But it’s not going to help us with other things. Yeah, great. And we don’t want it to be a cure all. We have a few tools that we use. But what it does well, it does incredibly well.
Murray Guest 47:19
Yeah. Couple of last questions, just to help us wrap up, Ben, and thank you for sharing so much about the amazing work that you’re you’re doing little miracles. One of the questions I’m wondering is, what’s the future look like for little miracles.
Ben Bateman 47:39
I’d like to do a lot more development with our parents and with our staff community, for those people that really do want to go further with it. And then my brother Daniel, who is a head of operations, he has a lot of executing strengths. And he brings a lot of more of the systemization of things are thinks about approaches life, and accompany in that way, in us in a way that I just don’t. So one of things we’re looking at is pre Daniel becoming a coach at some stage in the future as well. So that he can look at the whole suite of tools that that Gallup offer, in the teaching they become a coach brings, and look at it through that lens, because I think they were missing some things because of my lack of talent, certain areas. And now, I feel bad about that by any stretch. But I want to we would love to get better. And one of the ways we can get better is that, like on on a well rounded coach, if we bring another coach on board, we can become well rounded together and be deliver better outcomes for our staff and families.
Murray Guest 48:44
And that’s that’s great awareness as a coach that how your strengths show up in the way you coach. And as I’m sure you’ve experienced, like I have, it’s often about the relationship. So what’s the relationship between the coach and the coachee? Like, and sometimes there’s someone that’s better for that person than you?
Ben Bateman 49:03
Yeah, yeah. Beautiful, man. I love individualization there. Yes. I think it’s super healthy, though. Yeah. Like you as a coach or not, and not the answer to everything either in strength line. Yeah, if you can understand that. And not be so egoic you’ll be a much better coach, you provide much better solutions and fear for people that you will so I was a very healthy thing. You’re doing that good brother.
Murray Guest 49:30
No worries, my friend. There’s some really good things that you’re also doing as little miracles. I know your mom released her book about a year ago or early this year, and you’ve got the enjoying parenting podcast, which is just fantastic. And you were talking before we started today, just about the ups and downs, the constructive destructive behaviors and the roller coaster parenting, which I love. So, I’m going to make sure to link to that podcast so people can listen to that and plus your YouTube channel that you mentioned, make sure we get that on there as well. And, of course, the website where you’ve just doing so many great things, and you’ve got some blogs and things on there as well. So, yeah. So to wrap us up, Ben, tell me what’s your definition of inspired energy?
Ben Bateman 50:15
spot energy. So for me, I think inspired energy is energy that brings inspiration to me, but also brings inspiration to others. So when I think about energy, I think about that flow, so taking people forward. So I want to have inspired energy, and I want to be inspired energy fathers. And that’s an energy that Yeah, is taking people into their, the fullness of who they are.
Murray Guest 50:51
And I think, as we’ve talked through the great work that you you, and your brother and your mum and dad, and everyone’s doing little miracles, you just explained inspired energy. By the way, you don’t just work with your staff. But they’re part of the team and their partners and the community. And that inspired energies report affecting everywhere. So I feel inspired. I’ve got my energy at the end of this conversation, the start. So that’s just awesome, mate. So you’re doing amazing work. And I’m sure that there’s all these little miracles lives that you’re changing through the work that you do. So thank you so much for sharing so openly, honestly, how you’ve embraced strengths, but how it’s part of the culture you’ve created. Really appreciate it.
Ben Bateman 51:39
Pleasure, mate. It’s great to talk to you. Thank you.
Murray Guest 51:42
Great to talk see on the mtn bike at some stage
Ben Bateman 51:46
can be seen.
Murray Guest 51:48