RI Strengths Tours

“Sharing our story far and wide will have profound benefits and affirm LRI’s role as a thought leader in strengths psychology,” Cooper says.


Capitalizing on the success of its Make RI Stronger initiative, Leadership Rhode Island is putting out the welcome mat for out-of-state visitors interested in learning what’s going on in the nation’s first “strengths-based” state.

Starting in 2018, LRI will offer “Strengths Tours of Rhode Island,” an opportunity for visitors to see local businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies where strengths-based practices are flourishing. The tours will be customized to reflect the interests of each group of visitors.

The first-of-a-kind tours, says Kevin Cooper, LRI’s Strengths Expeditor, are intended to make valuable external connections with executives and businesses, boost the economy and foster deeper levels of local pride.

LRI, which has turned its strengths initiative into a revenue-producing social enterprise, stands ready to provide consulting services to out-of-state visitors who want to introduce strengths-based management approaches in their home states.

“Sharing our story far and wide will have profound benefits and affirm LRI’s role as a thought leader in strengths psychology,” Cooper says.

LRI’s strengths initiative was prompted by Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace Report which concluded that Rhode Island had the highest percentage of “actively disengaged” workers in the nation. LRI viewed the finding against the backdrop of a longstanding concern that RI suffers from pervasive negativity.

Make Rhode Island Stronger was launched in 2014 to improve worker engagement through strengths-based management and to counteract widespread negativity through strengths-based psychology. “No one had ever used strengths-based psychology to alter the culture of an entire state,” says Cooper. “We did.”

Gallup’s most current data on employee engagement, released earlier this year, reported that RI experienced unprecedented improvements in workforce engagement. The national comparison by state shows RI moving from #50 to #15 on the actively disengaged scale, and from #49 to #1 on the workplace performance measure: “At work I get to use my strengths to do what I do best.”

According to Gallup, RI’s percentage of actively disengaged employees dropped enough to add at least $112 million back to the RI economy.

The results drew high praise from Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup, who said: “What you are doing is one of the most important experiments in the history of local human development – you are changing so many lives…this would be cool if this started a leadership movement across all states.”

The Make RI Stronger effort was also recognized over the summer by the national Association of Leadership Programs which gave LRI its Excellence in Innovation Award. LRI’s strengths initiative has even caught the attention of a professor of management at Menlo College in California who wants to use the Rhode Island story for an academic journal on workplace engagement.

To date, more than 12,000 individual Rhode Islanders have discovered their greatest strengths — referred to as their Top Five — by taking the online CliftonStrengths assessment. Of these, about 350 are Core Program participants, leaders from roughly 250 organizations, businesses and public sector agencies.

Now nearing the end of its fourth year, the social enterprise continues to gain momentum. Clients from more than 60 different entities representing the private, nonprofit and public sectors have embraced strengths-based development practices and received guidance from LRI-trained coaches.