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Feeding Talent: CliftonStrengths in a Multiethnic Workplace

Feeding Talent: CliftonStrengths in a Multiethnic Workplace

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 7, Episode 40
  • Listen as two passionate CliftonStrengths advocates share the vital role strengths is playing in a multiethnic company whose mission is to feed hungry people.

On a recent Called to Coach, we spoke with Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos, HR Manager at Edesia Nutrition, and Marcus Jannitto, a Strengths Coach with Leadership Rhode Island. Priscilla and Marcus spoke passionately about how -- over a relatively short period -- CliftonStrengths has become the 25th language (24 spoken + strengths) at Edesia's manufacturing facility in Rhode Island (United States); and how the "gift" of CliftonStrengths is reaching such a diverse group of employees and is moving them and the company's mission to feed hungry people forward.

Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including time stamps. Full audio and video are posted above.

Jim Collison 0:00

I am Jim Collison and live from the Gallup campus here in Omaha, Nebraska, this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on October 25, 2019.

Jim Collison 0:20

Called to Coach is a resource for those who want to help others discover and use their strengths. We have Gallup experts and independent strengths coaches share tactics, insights and strategies to help coaches maximize the talent of individuals, teams and organizations around the world -- literally around the world this time -- and you'll want to listen carefully. If you're listening live, we'd love to have you join us in our chat room. There's a link above the video window to get in there. If you are listening after the fact and you have questions, you can always send us an email: Maika Leibbrandt is our host today. Maika is a workplace consultant here with me at Gallup, and Maika, we're usually doing this on Thursdays but Theme Thursday but welcome to Called to Coach.

Maika Leibbrandt 0:54

Thanks, Jim. It feels more than like my pleasure to get to spend an extra day talking about this fantastic community that we have of strengths and to get to hang out with you and our fine friends from Rhode Island.

Jim Collison 1:06

So we do we do have some fine friends here today. We've got a very important one. And I think if you're listening to this with some earbuds, or you're, you're out for a walk, buckle up! Like we've got some great stuff ahead for you. Maika, take a second and introduce our guests today.

Maika Leibbrandt 1:22

Sure. So today, buckle up, because you're in for some fantastic stories. I remember years ago when I heard that the state of Rhode Island here in the U.S. was gearing up to be what they called very nicely, and very accurately, it turns out, the first strengths-based state. And there's a great group of folks through Leadership Rhode Island who have been committed to actually making that happen. And today we get to hear about the surprises and the excitement and the journey that has unfolded in one specific chapter of a group of folks in Rhode Island.

Maika Leibbrandt 1:53

First, we're going to hear from Priscilla Gonzalez Santos. She is the HR Manager at a company called Edesia. Then we're also going to be joined by Marcus Jannitto. He is a Strengths Coach with Leadership Rhode Island. And both of these people bring, I think, just that real-life perspective of what can actually happen when you're focusing on strengths and trying to use strengths to help people truly improve what they do every day. What you're going to find, as we tell this story and as we learn from these two experts is that oftentimes, there are some surprises; there are some hidden little gems that maybe show up as bonus when you when you truly immerse yourself in this experience and open yourself up to what it could be. So I want to start with Priscilla. And Priscilla, I'll just give your Top 5 as a way of a CliftonStrengths version of your introduction, and then we'll hear from you of what you'd add to that. But Priscilla leads with Harmony, Relator, Discipline, Focus and Restorative. She has a brilliant resume that if you checked out eventbrite you can probably see some of the details of everywhere that her strengths have taken her. But Priscilla, welcome to the program. Thank you for being here.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 2:59

Thank you for having me. I'm excited to talk for the next 50 minutes.

Maika Leibbrandt 3:04

We're excited to have you. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you became involved with this?

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 3:11

So, I work for Edesia, we're a food manufacturer here in Rhode Island. We make products that look like this. It's a peanut paste to treat and prevent malnutrition in children. I first came across strengths in 2017, when I joined Leadership Rhode Island's core program, and I got a chance to learn about my own strengths and how to apply them in the workplace and also personally, and just fell in love with the idea that there was an assessment out there that was intended to celebrate everyone and sort of bring everyone to an equal playing field. And immediately thought that this was something that I wanted to bring to Edesia for everyone else to benefit from. So It's been quite a journey the last 3 years.

Maika Leibbrandt 4:03

I can't wait to hear more about it. First, I want to introduce our other player in the in the quadrant if you're watching our "four box" here on the video screen. Marcus, your Top 5: Connectedness, Relator, Developer, Belief and Positivity. How did you come to be involved in this?

Marcus Jannitto 4:21

Interestingly enough, Mike Rich, who's the Executive Director of Leadership Rhode Island, asked me to take on this training and partner with Edesia. And I really didn't know anything about the company, of course, did a little bit of research and creeped on their website, which I try to do before going in to any training situation and got to know them a little bit. And you know, the funny thing is with Edesia, I realized that that they made the product but in my my former life, flying C130s for the Air National Guard, we delivered the product.

Marcus Jannitto 4:58

I mean, we would fly over areas and sometimes a product had to be delivered via airdrop. And we would -- we would drop the product over areas where we couldn't land and deliver it. But but we did a lot of work for USAID, and in delivering into areas that were stricken by man-made disasters or natural disasters, we brought a lot of this product to where it was needed most in the world. And it was so cool. The other thing is that Edesia's plant is located right next to the airport where we fly from. So out the window during the training, there go with the airplanes right outside. So we had -- we had a natural basis for a connection between between us it was it was it was a great way to start.

Maika Leibbrandt 5:46

So I think there's a couple bullet points we need to connect to tell this story. We've got strengths. We've got a company in Rhode Island that makes peanut paste bars, and then we've got Marcus as their strengths coach who realizes, I used to deliver these. So let's also remember you've got Connectedness No. 1. Marcus, what was that moment like for you when you realized all of these things were connected?

Marcus Jannitto 6:13

I, when I start a training, I mean, I have to feel some kind of connection; I have to build a connection with -- between Relator, Developer and Connectedness, the introduction for me is important. And in going into to our series of trainings, having this premade connection already, it made me feel like I was part of their team, you know. They -- once that product leaves their plant, it's out of their hands. And then this was kind of like the delivery end of it, even though it was done through the Air Force and in a in a U.S. government asset, trying to do good things out in the world. It was so cool to continue that journey beyond the walls of Edesia and and get it out there. It was a -- it was a, like a beautiful connection.

Maika Leibbrandt 7:04

So the stars are aligning and the players are meant to be where they are. Let's back up just one step. Priscilla, can you tell us what is Edesia and what's unique about your experience as their HR Manager?

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 7:20

So Edesia is a nonprofit that manufactures ready-to-use foods, foods that look like the pouch that I shared before. It's a peanut-paste product to treat and prevent malnutrition in children all over the world. Since we started in 2010, we've shipped to over 55 countries; we've reached over 10 million children that are experiencing all types of malnutrition, from severe cases -- the ones that you probably recognize from looking at UNICEF ads on TV -- to the cases where you find children who have some access to food, but not the right variety of foods and need some preventative products to make sure that they're fully developing and growing as children should be.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 8:07

And so I've been there for 8 years; I joined the team in 2011. And I've seen the company go through so much growth and evolution and it's a wonderful, magical place to be in because you're, you know, doing something I love which is connecting with people and seeing people thrive and grow. But I'm also -- I also know that every single impacts that we make at work is impacting the lives of young children all over the world. And it's it's a great feeling to come -- to go to work and leave work and know that you've made a difference in someone's life. Someone's alive because of some work that you've done. And, and it's, it's, it's what makes it so special for us.

Maika Leibbrandt 8:52

Yeah, that's incredibly powerful. How did CliftonStrengths become something important to you, thinking about this manufacturing environment?

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 9:02

So it was evident when I joined LRI [Leadership Rhode Island] 2017 class that, like I said before, this was something that was celebrating what was right in people, and really equalizing the playing field so that everyone felt like they were contributing something to a cause, to their workplace. And I wanted that for all of the employees at Edesia; I wanted all 105 employees to know and to feel that they were being celebrated for what the contributions that they've made so far to this mission. And to not focus on what's wrong with them and the weaknesses they have but what is right with them.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 9:47

And for some of our employees -- we have a group of employees that are refugees who have resettled in Rhode Island, and this is their very first employment opportunity ever. We have employees who grew up in a refugee camp, were born and raised, and this is their first chance to really make a life for themselves and for their families have gone through a lot of trauma and have heard over and over again: Something's wrong with me. Life has just sent them all these messages and all these traumatizing experiences. And to me, this was a gift that we were able to to share with them to say, Look, you've got 5 things that make you who you are, special, unique. And let's take an opportunity and understand what those 5 things are; celebrate you. And and that was one of the most incredible I think takeaways from our experience in the last 3 years.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 10:48

Some people were not very comfortable with that in some cultures, talking about yourself and self-reflecting on yourself is not a place of comfort. But I think Marcus and I work together to try to make make it an opportunity for them to understand in a way that -- we met them where they were. So we tried to find ways to explain strengths in a way that they could understand, that they could relate. And like I said before, they they're now reflecting on what those strengths are; they're utilizing them day to day and and we try to celebrate them in different ways, whether it's posting things on our facility or interviewing a couple employees a week to spotlight their Top 5. They get to talk more, and the conversation hopefully will continue to grow from here.

Maika Leibbrandt 11:41

I am just -- I knew this. I didn't know all of this. I'm just kind of blown away by how many things you just leaned into that typically scare people away from from talking about strengths. I mean, the industry alone is an excuse that a lot of people use of -- this isn't a typical work environment; or they're not going to have time for this; or they're not used to having a coaching conversation. Then you had the fact that you've got people where this is, in many cases their first experience in a professional setting like this. And what did you say, you have 24 different languages being spoken among, among the people here at Edesia?

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 12:19

We just added (No.) 25, 3 years ago. So 24 spoken and our 25th language is our strengths language. It's a common language that regardless of our, you know, skill level, or what role we play in the organization, whether you work packing the product or cleaning the floors, we all understand enough about strengths now that we can carry a conversation -- difficult ones, ones about growth and potential for growth in the workplace. So we're 25 languages and 23 countries represented in our team.

Maika Leibbrandt 12:58

I want to hear in a moment about the process of how you started this and what you've done along the way. But before I do that, I'm just really want to know what made you think you could pull this off?

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 13:11

I didn't think about that in the moment; I just thought about the opportunity that I had in front of me and how can I take that opportunity that was given to me through LRI and share it with those that I spend most of my day with? And let them know that there was this special way that they could be celebrating what's right about them. And I didn't think about how hard it would be. I didn't consider, you know, the language barrier, in some cases. I just knew that we had to find a way to explain this and meet people where they were to understand what's right about them, what's valuable in them and and that's, I wasn't, at least I wasn't afraid to jump into this.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 14:05

And I and I walked side by side with Marcus and who was somebody that I connected with in my class and hearing from his experience and hearing that he had delivered these products, I said, this is this is the person that was meant to cross paths with me to make this happen at Edesia, so. And everyone there thinks the same, which is great. They all love him and they all talk about him, remember those Aha! moments during their trainings and ask what's going to happen in 2020. What are you bringing to us and and want to learn more, want to explore more, want to want to dig deeper into this. So that's a great feeling.

Maika Leibbrandt 14:49

Marcus, tell us a bit about how these paths crossed. What was the first thing that you started to do and how did this plan become reality?

Marcus Jannitto 14:58

Well, you know, first talking with Priscilla, we we started back in in 2017 with the senior managers and so there were probably 10 or 12 in a room, and it was the -- for me -- pretty typical 3-hour intro to strengths training; this is what it's about. And of course you mention that you know fluency and learning this new language is important. Fluency comes with practice; it comes with mindfulness of what these words mean and and how you see them in the workplace and in your personal life and in each other. But But fluency, as as you heard Priscilla talk about, took on a whole new meaning down the road a little bit.

Marcus Jannitto 15:46

So we started in 2017 with the with the senior managers. That was fun. I got a tour of the plant. I got to know a little bit about what Edesia did. But mostly the people that we trained then were born and raised in the United States. And like I said, pretty, pretty typical training. And in February 2018, we went back to --- and Priscilla, jump in here anytime -- we went back and talked to managers, directors and supervisors to try to use strengths to solve a business problem. They were growing so much they were adding a line, they were adding a 3rd shift. And they were having these growth issues with any business that's trying to do that. We said let's try using strengths to to tackle some of that.

Marcus Jannitto 16:41

And we we actually had had a pretty cool session. Some things were coming out there, excuse me, between the senior managers to say, and we we really used the Best of Us worksheet. And so so we have the warehouse person say, "You'll get the best of me when you're telling me how much product you want to store, you can add all the product to the line you want, but I just have no place to put it." And the people looking at him going, "Well, you'll get the worst of us when you don't tell us you need more space." And, and so great, you know, really cool things came out of that meeting.

Marcus Jannitto 17:17

But it was it was the 3rd iteration where Priscilla called and said, "Hey, you're coming back to do everybody on all 3 shifts." And so and I think a 2 1/2-week period, we hit every person and all the shift workers and their first-line supervisors. And that is where everything changed. You know, up until then, it was it was a business issue and not so much an employee engagement story, but really more of the technicality of strengths in a business environment and and how that can work.

Marcus Jannitto 17:53

But man when we brought the shift workers in and we did, like, you know the intro slide, tell us where you're from, what you do here and how you first used a strength in your life. You know, when you were young, how do you see one of those strengths being manifested? And the stories that came out in that introduction as they went around the room, you know, when when somebody says to you, I was born in a refugee camp, and I use the strength just to survive and get the food we needed for our family when I was younger. What What do you say to that, you know, how do you how do you use that? And I was, I knew that this was going to be a very different turn with this organization from that point on.

Marcus Jannitto 18:43

And, and I have to tell you about Priscilla because, you know, talk about terrific! I mean, she was in every training. And she was -- when we did the shift work, the shift folks, she was walking around to everyone, looking in their eyes, saying, "Are you getting this?" And then pulling them aside, speaking to them in a different language or a language that they may be able to understand a little bit better, until they she saw the recognition in their face. And then they came back to the table. I mean, she was all around, just really making this happen. I have to tell you, when, when we would take a break, and Priscilla would talk to me, she knew the background of every person in there. She could tell me where they were from, what their family situation was. I mean, she is so tightly interwoven with everyone there to -- talk about pulling out the best in people. I mean, without Priscilla, none of this really would have happened. So it was so cool to be able to see her at work. And just sit back and go, Wow! This is pretty cool stuff!

Maika Leibbrandt 19:46

Let me just jump on that bandwagon. I was going to save this for the end. But Priscilla, the way you answered my question earlier about what made you think you could actually do this. I'm probably going to steal as an example when I teach how to select for talent. I mean, just your instinctive, "I never thought I couldn't. And I was driven by the mission that it had to happen." That's pretty beautiful. I'd love to know from both of you, so whoever feels like they have an answer first, just go ahead and jump in. What were some of the most memorable moments as you were, as you were starting this or even as you're thinking about even just day to day? What are those nuggets of interaction that really stick in your mind as you were rolling this out?

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 20:29

I mean, for me, definitely that first question where all of our employees on the shift trainings got to share what was their first memory of using one of their Top 5, and it sort of validated some of the things that come out in the workplace and the things that they feel most strongly about and the things that they they want to explore further.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 20:58

So one example I can share is we had a lot of Learners in the room, and their experiences growing up and how learning became such an important aspect of their life. Even in the most severe cases where, you know, learning was at points not an option, they found incredible ways to continue to fulfill that need. And so how that plays out in the workplace and how they're never satisfied with the status quo; they always want to learn more, they always want to explore different areas of the business. And so we do a lot of cross-training.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 21:36

You know, one of the one of the special things I believe at Edesia is that we're not we're not promoting staff based on length of service and based on how a specialized skill you could have in one area. We are, we are giving growth opportunities to everyone on that manufacturing floor and we value what how many positions they have learned; how many different workstations they have been able to train and be certified in.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 22:09

And for a lot of our Learners, this this was this was another gift -- to just work work somewhere where they weren't told, you're just going to pack boxes of these sachets for 8, 10 hours a day, every day, 6 days a week. No, you're going to get to do that on Monday. And on Tuesday, you get to work in the warehouse and drive a forklift and move the pallets. On Wednesday, you'll get to make the paste. On Thursday, you may get to do the quality checks for everyone on your shift.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 22:39

And that was one of the big takeaways to just hear in the room how this was important to them. And as an HR manager, to ensure that when I walked out of this training, I went back to our operational managers and ensured that they had the time, the flexibility to continue to prioritize cross-training. One of the things we do is we we carry more staff intentionally to make sure that this is happening. So that it's never an excuse that if we have people out on vacation, or that we are running so lean out on that floor, that the person that really needs that to have that learning opportunity to feel fulfilled at work, that they don't get that opportunity.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 23:24

So those are business decisions that have a lot of implications, but it -- it validates this family environment that we've fostered over the last 9 years, that it's not just about getting the work done; it's also about making sure that this person is happy, fulfilled, productive. And not just from the mission standpoint, which is sort of the gift we all get to work at Edesia. But just every day -- what's important to you? What do you need to be successful? That came out in those conversations -- during those during those trainings with Marcus and for everyone, and they were they were in a safe environment to speak out about those, those challenges or those needs they had, and to also validate to us that some of those needs were being addressed by us. So that was really important. That was an important moment.

Jim Collison 24:19

Did you find in that, and Marcus, maybe you can answer this question as well, that because of the self-awareness, and because of the framework, which they began to be able to talk about themselves and put some of these things they knew they were intrinsically good at, now they have a framework to talk about it. Would they begin to sort and maybe this is an HR thing as well -- did you finally begin to sort into areas where they may come back and say, "Hey, I really would like to try this" or "I'd really like to move into this area and do these kinds of things more." Did you -- did you find that began to happen because, in a, in a, in a lot of places, they never get that option. It's come and pack, right? That's what you're saying. But did you find as they began to go through that self-discovery process, those conversations they felt freer or those conversations happened more?

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 25:08

I think it became easier to have those conversations. We also incorporate strengths in our performance review process for year-end. So that that's a pass -- that's an opportunity to open the door to have those conversations with their direct manager, to talk about what are the important things for them for the next year in terms of hitting those objectives. But to be able to use that 25th language and say, "Look, this isn't just important to me, because I want to be promoted because I want to make more money to be able to provide more opportunities for my family. But because this is something I need. I need this in order for me to feel fulfilled, successful and productive here." And to know that the managers understand that this is important for them -- that if they are using strengths and in channeling those Top 5, then they're going to they're going to listen more intentionally to that request and they're going to make sure that that happens.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 26:12

Now, you know, we do have to run certain areas of the business every day in order to meet this mission. So they understand that too. But in those cases where we have those opportunities -- for example, we have employees who might cross-train with quality for a couple of hours a day might work with a, you know, with a particular team on a project, we will make sure that they get pulled out so that they can have that opportunity. For those that have communications and like to be part of our tours -- we have tours almost every week where we get to share our, you know, our story, walks through a manufacturing facility which is very high-tech, so a lot of people love to come by and see all of the automation there. Those employees that really enjoy to be on the spotlight and like to speak and communicate and interact with people get those opportunities. We we try to keep that in top of mind and and provide those opportunities wherever we can. Does that answer your question?

Maika Leibbrandt 27:20

Yeah, that's great. What kind of investment did you make in manager education so that you you made sure that the people who were interacting with your frontline workers really understood the nature of strengths and how they could support them?

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 27:34

So first we started with managers and directors, as Marcus shared. We wanted to make sure they understood the understood the framework first, in order then to be able to bring that to our shifts. And in those trainings, Marcus addressed -- gave them the information or the background that the foundation of what strengths is and you know how it comes out in the workplace but took it a step further to talk about how to use that and how to best leverage that in in each individual working for them.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 28:09

So there was a lot of open conversation about that. And Marcus, you can share a little bit more about some of the techniques you used there to get the supervisors to understand, like, this isn't just about you gaining this, but how could you take this a step further and bring it -- bring it to your team?

Marcus Jannitto 28:27

Right. So we, we, for me, a big part of strengths is philosophy. And, and I realized this pretty quickly when when I started getting out there and coaching that I always believed this stuff. You know, I coached boys' and girls' high school volleyball when I -- when I was starting, I was still coaching. And I coached in college for a long time and this is what coaches do. We, our job is to quickly assess who's going to be good where, and then, you know, develop their positional talents of each player and get them to come together as a team to, to use those talents to -- for the end goal of of what we wanted to accomplish as a team. And so so I see my job when I go into a training just -- and Edesia was no different -- is to convince them that they already believe this; that this is already their philosophy.

Marcus Jannitto 29:36

That they believe in looking for what's good in people and leveraging what's great about them to make it even better. And then looking around and seeing how, when a particular task is there, how people who have other strengths can fill in to to have more a more complete picture and work together as a team to accomplish that goal. So So the interesting part is always convincing them that that they believe this anyway and then here's how you can put it to use day to day in your work and as you interact with each other, as you look at yourself and also as you as you go forward with with the mission and growth of Edesia.

Maika Leibbrandt 30:20

Marcus How did your experience with Edesia change your practice as as a technician, as a facilitator? What do you do differently now because of this experience?

Marcus Jannitto 30:31

Well, Maika, it just opened my eyes to the possibilities. And if if I would -- if I could preempt your, your probably ultimate question is, what would I tell other coaches?

Marcus Jannitto 30:43

It would be this: It would be always be open to the unexpected. Always be open to these light-bulb moments or what I would call really some magic that's going to happen that you really were a part of, but then took on a life of its own. And that's exactly what happened at Edesia. When when we sat in a room with people from 16, 17 different countries, and we see them regardless of their background, understanding why when somebody walks in a room it all of a sudden brightens up because this person has Positivity and they look around and say, "Yeah, that's her. That's her." Every time she comes in, they get it. They understood it and to see those light bulbs go on and people to realize that universally.

Maika Leibbrandt 30:43

Mmm-hmm. (Yes.)

Marcus Jannitto 31:37

I mean, we talk about a universal language. This is No. 25. It's not English; it's not Spanish; it's not anything else. It's strengths! In this environment, it was it was just so cool, so cool to see that happen. And then then things became easier -- things became, things became more fun to watch, and if I was going to tell coaches anything, I would say, Man, just be open to some unexpected possibilities as you open people's eyes to the potential of seeing what's right with people, what their gifts are and putting them into the position where they can use those to the best of their ability.

Maika Leibbrandt 32:20

It does sound like philosophy is maybe of underrated importance in how you teach strengths is making sure that just understanding what the idea of strength is comes across. For either Priscilla or Marcus, were there different ways of explaining that philosophy that really translated well across language or even specific ways of saying it in certain languages that made that light bulb come on?

Marcus Jannitto 32:48

Hey, Maika, I'm going to jump in. I'm going to preempt Priscilla for a second. This is the this is the most fun part! So So everybody either had a parent or is a parent, right? What do parents do with their kids? They look around when they're very young to see where they -- what what opens their eyes to things? Do they plink out things on a piano? Do they start dancing in front of the TV? And then what do you do -- what do good parents do? They give them opportunities. Oh, she dances all the time. Let's get her into a dance class or let's give them music lessons or let's take them outside and kick a soccer ball with them if they're showing some athletic ability.

Marcus Jannitto 33:29

They they put them in that position to to fertilize that natural talent that they're seeing in their kids, whether it's math or athletics, doesn't matter. That's what good parents do. And that's kind of a universal, universal thing. And almost everyone has watched sports, everybody appreciates some kind of athletics, whether it's Olympics or or their favorite team. So I put up a picture of my senior volleyball guys from 2016 and you got one guy who's this tall. A couple of the guys are that tall. You got a couple of guys that are really short. And I asked him, I said, "If you know nothing about volleyball, who would you put on a front row?" And they go, "Oh, 22, 15 and 7." Why? "Well, because they're tall."

Marcus Jannitto 34:16

I said, "But you don't know anything about them with their abilities." "Yeah, but they're going to be able to jump and swing at the ball up there." I said, "What about Pete? Pete's 5'6"." "Oh, we wouldn't put him up there!" I said, "Why? Maybe he could really jump." They said, "But he'll never be able to jump as high as as No. 22." And I said, "See you get it. You understand this!"

Marcus Jannitto 34:36

Pete has other abilities. It's Pete who is the quickest guy on the team that can save the ball so that the big guys can get their shoulder over an 8' net. But now they say, "Oh, yeah." I said, "This is what you need to do at work. To figure out -- " I said, "What's the what's one of the jobs for athletic coaches? To figure out what each player is going to be good at." Right? We're not going to take Tom Brady and put him on the line in football. He's just not built that way. His head's not built that way. And he's too valuable where he's at. We wouldn't do that -- we wouldn't do that with our kids. Why would you do it at work? So, so it's it's a fun conversation.

Maika Leibbrandt 35:17

It's really helpful to just think about it: Convince them that they already know this.

Marcus Jannitto 35:21


Maika Leibbrandt 35:23

Selvam from Mauritius is joining us in the chat room and asks, Do we have any examples of return on investment? Priscilla, anything that you can talk to around what kind of a difference this made?

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 35:39

It's hard to quantify in that way. But I will say that the self-awareness that came from understanding what they were naturally good at, and having that chance to celebrate what they're naturally good at, gave us sort of a faster track in our cross-training efforts. Which, as any company can appreciate, is a huge expense in terms of time, money and energy. So being more self-aware of what people are naturally good at, while also going through this cross-training effort that I had shared before, just gave us that chance to say OK, well these are the people that we need to focus on on these particular areas or pieces of equipment, based on what we already know of them.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 36:32

That that's sort of the way that we've we've taken that and used that in our in our management team discussions on how to get everyone cross-trained and, and ready to go. And, look, in our in our line of work, we have to have always the staff available to run all all lines. I mean, we're getting calls from UNICEF, World Food Program, the U.S. government. When we get -- when we're getting those calls and they're sending orders to us is because the situation is pretty serious. And the last thing we want is to not be able to say "Yes" to that order, because we understand the impact that that answer has on the children.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 37:14

And and take it a step further, we have to say "No," because we don't have the team in place to be able to make that happen. And so we talk a lot about that with our team at Edesia. And like I said, we use -- we have used strengths to be able to inform that conversation of those cross-training efforts so that we are always have that A-team ready to go. When the call comes, we're ready.

Marcus Jannitto 37:44

I think, though -- and, Priscilla, jump in here because Priscilla and I were talking about this the other day. This story is about the humanity of strengths. It's not about the numbers. It's not about what it brings so much -- some of the intangibles or immeasurables. But think of the value of having workers who see this as a gift. When you receive a gift like this, and Priscilla will tell you, they are grateful. They're grateful for what Edesia is doing for them. They they come to work joyful; they are enjoying each other's company. They're the hardest workers you're going to find. And you ask them to come early or stay late or, or add, you know, change the shift around. They are there to do it, because they see what Priscilla is doing there as a gift. And I think that's where the value is. Priscilla, talk about that a little bit. Just the same stories you were telling me yesterday.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 38:45

Yeah, so I mean, there are a lot of manufacturing companies out there, but who's going to stop for 3 hours, arrange a training like this? Have everyone take their assessment. I personally took the time to sit down with every person at before these trainings came about to print their assessments, to read it through with them; to make sure that they understood those Top 5 words and their descriptions underneath each of those; to pair them with individuals that spoke the same language that could do that with them. Because we want to make sure they understood what makes them who they are, what makes them special.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 39:35

And, you know, that I don't know what number you put on that. I don't know what price tag that has. I can tell you, I have employees thanking me all the time, asking me for Marcus to come back, asking me for, you know, utilizing those words to be able to to to ask for more growth opportunities, more challenging opportunities at work.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 40:02

The other piece we haven't talked about is conflict resolution. And in a company with 24 languages and several cultures and different literacy levels, how do you address conflict because that will happen in any workplace. And so to be able to talk about strengths in that capacity, and to be able to have people understand where each other is coming from, because of these 34 words and descriptions that we now have available to us has been powerful.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 40:36

Why does the person that exe -- is in the Executing domain needs -- does that need to have feel like they are accomplishing things, that they're checking things off? Versus the person that is, is a Relationship Building person needs to have those conversations before helping you check off those boxes. Or the person in the Strategic and who's so focused on the future and doesn't really care about the day to day. And, talk about conflict -- when you've got to get the work done and you have to focus on the day to day, but you'd rather be talking about what's going to happen 5 years from now.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 41:19

And how do, you know, how do people perceive that in the workplace? And how can you get people to understand each other and where they're coming from, and just give them that nugget of what's important to them first, before you have that difficult conversation? And so I sit through a lot of facilitated meetings as you probably can appreciate, and and strengths is is part of my toolbox. I bring that out right away. And I first talk about, well, this is where Marcus this, let's talk about strengths. And let's talk for a minute about what is important to Marcus and how he might have perceived this situation. And let's talk about Jim and how he might have perceived the situation, based based on what is important to him, based on his strengths.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 42:06

And you just see the nods, like, Oh, I didn't consider that. I didn't consider that at all. And it just makes the conversation go much more smoother because it's, it's not about the problem; it's about people and just how we all react to things in different ways. So that's also been another takeaway for us. And in one that I encourage anyone that's in a role where they're facilitating conflict resolution -- which every manager is and coaches obviously are sometimes brought in for that as well -- to just use that as that language, that vehicle to be able to talk about, you know, workplace situations, which happen all the time -- even in a beautiful, magical, special place like Edesia, where we all love to come to work to. We have disagreements; we tackle issues differently. And we prioritize things in different ways, based on what's important to us.

Maika Leibbrandt 43:09

Priscilla, did you have a specific push around -- this is how you use strengths for conflict resolution? Or is it just in how you have facilitated the conversations?

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 43:20

No, I didn't have a specific push. I think I saw this as a as another tool that I had available at my fingertips. And I wanted to leverage that in this capacity too. I didn't see -- it just became natural when I had 2 people in a room that didn't understand where each other was coming from and could not talk to each other about how that -- how that particular conflict, how they perceived it to be, how they felt in that moment. And it gave us the language to be able to speak around that.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 43:54

It just came natural. It wasn't something that was intentional. And as soon as I saw that it was a successful conversation that we had with a few folks. I said, Oh, I've got to keep this going! I've got to keep using this! And so people expect it now. People expect to hear just the reminder, OK, let's just step back for a minute and let's talk about, you know, how this this would have played out if you would have channeled, you know, this person's strengths and, and what, what's important to them. And, and that's been that's been another beautiful gift of this experience, this journey.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 44:39

We have all of our strengths in our cubes, in our offices. I do strengths spotlight of 2 individuals once a week where I sit down with them and interview them on what, you know, for for developing further the Best of Me tool. Post this everywhere in our facility, and these are ways that we're keeping the conversation alive and going. So you know, I have Discipline and Focus. People know when that door is closed, I am rocking and rolling and in my lane. And I am not self-aware of what else is going on in my world. And so to walk into my office and see that as a reminder, they won't take it personal; they won't hopefully feel as strong about, well, you know, her door's closed. I can't access her. What kind of HR manager is she? No, this, this is where I'm at my best, when I'm focused, uou know, when I'm when I am in doing one thing and doing it well. And, and that's that's been one of the other experiences we've had is, you know, to lighten up the conversations that are very difficult to have.

Maika Leibbrandt 45:54

There's so much about this that's really beautiful as part of my role is to help consult around how organizations can make the change that you've talked about making. And it's really easy for people to get lost in the, What tools are we going to use? What kind of modules do we need to offer? What kind of collateral do we have? Even beyond strengths, when you ask people, you know, How do you build a culture? All too often I have people tell me, we have a monthly gift card drawing, or we have a recognition program. And what I'm learning from you and is becoming really clear in my mind's eye is that when you lead with philosophy, then the idea of strengths isn't so much about the flashy toys. It isn't so much about the activities. It's let's ground people in what they already know to be true and then release them to go do it.

Marcus Jannitto 46:42

That's right.

Jim Collison 46:44

I want to ask the importance of Leadership Rhode Island to both of you, and Marcus, let me start with start with you. How important has it been for both of you to have Leadership Rhode Island behind you, with you, walking with you along the way on this?

Marcus Jannitto 47:00

Well, I mean just the mechanics of coaching, you know, they schedule, they, they match coaches with appropriate venues. They look at, you know, they look at our own schedules and and they do the paperwork. So so we show up, and we engage. That's it. We don't we don't have to do the background information. We don't have to prepare the package for everybody. We show up and coach, and they make it easy for us to coach.

Marcus Jannitto 47:31

They also really are great with the network that we have of the thousands of graduates that have been through the program. They spread the word and, and the word gets out there pretty quickly through the Leadership Rhode Island network. So always behind the coaches 100%, always giving us everything we need to do a great job and free us from from the the "administrivia" and just let us have fun with coaching.

Jim Collison 48:03

I like that word. Priscilla?

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 48:06

So look, if it wouldn't have been for the 2017 core program in being introduced to Leadership Rhode Island a few months earlier than that, when I applied, I wouldn't have known about strengths, really, as early as I did. Of course, probably Rhode Island's pretty small. Everybody knows everybody, and I probably would have come across it at some point, but I wouldn't have appreciated it to the level that I have today.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 48:33

There's other -- there's also another 4 individuals at work who have gone through the core program; every year since 2016, we have been sending one individual to participate. And so these are ambassadors of strengths and the value and impact that it has at Edesia too. So it's not just Priscilla driving this bus. It's I've got a whole gang behind me, ready to go and speaking eloquently about strengths and and utilizing them for, like I said, conflict resolution and promotions and growth-opportunity discussions. And that was thanks to Leadership Rhode Island and putting this on the forefront, putting this right in front of our face Day 1. I mean, I think it was the first session day that we discussed strengths amongst the class. And and got a chance to see some of the tools and use some of the tools that we have -- have now implemented at Edesia.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 49:34

And they're a great resource. They've been a great resource, a great partner. I'm always proud and excited to say that I'm part of part of this distinguished group of people who are celebrating what's right with people and and always ready to share this story with anyone and encourage others that are in this journey or trying to find a resource or a tool to jump right in and see if this is something that fits their organization because it has fit mine. And even with all the challenges we have, we have found it to be a great gift for us, so I'm always pro-Leadership Rhode Island.

Maika Leibbrandt 50:19

As are we! It's fantastic to really get to see that this entire movement around having a strengths community is all about the connections that you make and having that shared philosophy and that shared belief that this is worth investing in; it's -- to borrow your words -- I'm proud and excited to be part of a community that includes Leadership Rhode Island and all of your your fantastic folks there at Edesia. I want to give Priscilla the final word so I'm gonna go to Marcus first. Marcus, what else needs to be said or heard or celebrated about this story?

Marcus Jannitto 50:49

It's -- it's just such a compelling, compelling story when when, you know, for for most of the trainings, it stays at the business level. But this goes far beyond the business level to really the humanity of strengths. I know I've said that before but but I can't say it enough. Really opened my eyes. And, of course, 4 of my (Top) 5 are in Relating, so totally at home with with the Edesia environment. But just just so great to get there and and and so great to have been able to partner with Priscilla especially in Edesia in general. Good stuff.

Maika Leibbrandt 51:30

Thanks! Priscilla, the last word goes to you. What do we need to say, share or celebrate?

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 51:36

I think we've covered most of it at this point. I just, you know, just it's been an unexpected journey that we've gone on and hope to continue to be on for the future and to bring everyone that's coming new to the organization into this fold and to appreciate what others have already learned to appreciate. And like I said, you know, it's it's a gift. And that's how we we put it out to to all of our employees and our managers. This is a gift, this is an opportunity to celebrate what's right in people.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos 52:12

And if you focus on that, it's not as overwhelming and you don't get bogged down by the technicality of what this could be. This is really simply what's right in people, what makes them special, what makes them tick, what what what are the things that they value the most. And if you really focus on those things, then, then you'll be good. And you'll be able to really carry this out, you know, whether you're in a smaller organization or not, don't have the right funding to be able to put out all of the different programs and different ways to keep the conversation alive. If you focus on that, then you will, you will have achieved the goal of putting strengths out into the organization. So, yeah, that's what I would share.

Maika Leibbrandt 53:05

Thanks for thanks for joining us to tell this story today. Before I hand it back to Jim, I also want to say "Thank you" to him. I don't always get to join Called to Coach. And this is really the first seed of how do we connect a community was this podcast and this this YouTube experience right here that in fact started just as a conference call idea that Jim Collison said "Yes" to. So Jim, thank you for everything that you do. I think today's a great full-circle moment to get to see how all of these seeds that we're spreading out there are sprouting and growing and changing and just becoming something -- as you said, Marcus, really about the humanity of the experience.

Jim Collison 53:41

I'll also I'll throw in one thing, you know, you guys, your your mission is to feed hungry people. And really, in the workplace, you're feeding hungry talent, right? There's people coming who are hungry to use their talent on a daily basis. That's all they really want to do. And so what a great way to kind of tie that together as the mission and purpose of what you're doing. I showed your website a little bit earlier on that and we'll have some information in the show notes about how to get connected to that if you want more information. But how great it is for you to be able to share that with people who are hungry to use their talent. So I appreciate you guys coming on. Thanks to Mike for calling me and saying, "Hey, I got this great story we need to tell." And and so we jumped on it and got it done. So appreciate you guys. You guys hang tight for one second.

Jim Collison 54:29

For those listening, we'll remind everyone to take full advantages of all the opportunities we have available, and all the information we have available through our new Gallup Access platform. You can head out to Send us your questions or comments. You can send those to us in an email, or if you want to connect, you can't figure out how to do that, if you want to connect here, you can send us an email: You can also catch the recorded audio and video of this program as well as all the past ones that we've ever done -- lots of case studies just like this, literally hundreds of them available on our YouTube channel. Go to and search CliftonStrengths. Or if you're a podcast listener and you like to listen to them on your phone, you can do it that way. Any podcast player, put in Gallup Webcasts and you will see all the podcasts that we have available for you there. If you're interested in any training that we have available through our site, you can head out to If you want to get registered for one of these live sessions that are coming up, you've enjoyed the live experience -- by the way, I want to thank the 25 or so who've joined us live right now and the questions that came in -- you can do that through our Eventbrite page. That's just And of course, join the conversation on Facebook: I want to thank you for joining us today, and we'll look forward to the next Called to Coach. With that we'll say, Goodbye, everybody!

Priscilla Gonzalez-Santos' Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Harmony, Relator, Discipline, Focus and Restorative.

Marcus Jannitto's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Connectedness, Relator, Developer, Belief and Positivity.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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