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Using CliftonStrengths With Military Veterans

Using CliftonStrengths With Military Veterans

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 8, Episode 11
  • Learn how a Marine Corps veteran and a psychologist are using CliftonStrengths coaching and camp programs to bring self-awareness and life purpose to veterans.
  • Interested in learning more on this topic? Read more about how to improve teamwork in the workplace.

Jennifer Selke, a psychologist and CliftonStrengths expert with 29 years of experience as a summer camp director, and Brent Taylor, a Marine Corps veteran who left active duty in 2009, were our guests on a recent Called to Coach. Jennifer and Brent shared about their work at a camp for veterans founded by country music artist Zac Brown and how, via CliftonStrengths, the camp's programs are bringing veterans self-awareness and life purpose in their continuing transition to civilian life.

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

We've created the ultimate guide to improving teamwork in the workplace!

Jim Collison 0:00

I am Jim Collison, and live from the Gallup Studios here in Omaha, Nebraska, this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on February 28, 2020.

Jim Collison 0:21

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. If you're listening live, love to have you join us in our chat room. There's actually a link on our live page right above me here, it'll take you to the YouTube instance. Just use your Google account. You can log in there. If you have questions after the fact, or if you're listening to the recorded version, you can send us an email: Don't forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast player. All the cool kids are listening to podcasts these days; you should be as well. Any podcast player, search "Gallup Webcasts," or subscribe to us on YouTube if you're watching right there. Love to have you as part of it. You get notified anytime we publish something new.

Jim Collison 1:04

Brent Taylor and Jennifer Selke are our guests today. Brent is a United States Marine Corps veteran who left active duty in 2009 -- by the way, Brent, thank you for your service -- to pursue a career in the firearms industry. His CliftonStrengths Top 5: Strategic, Arranger, Developer, Activator and Maximizer. Dr. Jennifer Selke is a UC Berkeley-trained psychologist and strengths expert, helping veterans and individuals maximize their talents to reach the goal -- their goals to end to find new purpose. Jennifer retired after 29 years as a summer camp director (that couldn't have been easy) and now works with Zac Brown's Camp Southern Ground to bring her experience in strengths and program development to support military veteran transitions to civilian life and enhance post-traumatic growth. Both of you, Brent, Jennifer, welcome to the program.

Jennifer Selke 1:54

Thank you.

Brent Taylor 1:55

Thank you.

Jim Collison 1:56

Good to have -- good to have both of you today. And, and Brent, I said, "Thank you for your service." I always appreciate that and folks who have done that. And I know we have an international audience today. But thanks for all you do. Jennifer, you probably don't get thanked enough for 29 years of summer camp! and appreciate the work that you've done there. Jennifer, let's start with you. Can you give us a little context today on on what we're going to talk about before we kind of dive in?

Jennifer Selke 2:23

Yeah. Brent and I come to you from Camp Southern Ground, which is a nonprofit started by Zac Brown of the Zac Brown band. Some people may not be familiar with him as a Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter -- just creative, amazing, creative individual who had a heart for camp and veterans. And since he was 14 years old, his -- told his parents he was going to start a summer camp. That's Futuristic. That's what Futuristic looks like at 14. And, you know, the goal of having programs that really, you know, his whole passion is about helping people define their, you know, strengths -- have experiences where individuals can define their strengths and magnify them themselves -- in themselves and then in others.

Jennifer Selke 3:10

And so that was really the impetus of kind of where Brent and I have landed. And the -- in the summer, we run programming, very inclusive programming for kids, summer camp children. And then in the offseason, the rest of the year, we are running programs for military veterans. And a big part of that, you know, my background, my, my really first job and how even got into recreation was on a military base in England. My husband was in the Air Force and we were stationed overseas, and that really kind of started my career in recreation, but also in thinking about veterans. My dad was an army veteran and, and so that part was was huge and sort of, you know, my initial development. So to kind of have it come full circle, in moving, relocating from, you know, my job at UC Berkeley over to Georgia to be part of this program. And I started volunteering my services as a strengths coach, and ran, you know, strengths workshops for veterans in this program. And that's, you know, where I met, met Brent.

Jennifer Selke 4:10

And so a big part of what we want to talk about today is, you know, that veteran experience, you know, what is it that, that coaches can learn about coaching veterans? How can they, you know, help veterans in that context? What's different or not different about veterans? And, you know, Brent's gonna be able to provide a lot of experience related to that. And so that's our kind of goal today.

Jim Collison 4:31

That's perfect. Brent, let's get to know you a little bit because I think this is unique when we think about your experiences. You spent, you spent some time in the Marines. I have a Marine son, so I understand the process that you go through. When you, when you overlay now your understanding of who you are and an understanding of strengths, and then think about it in the time that you were in the military. How would you compare those two? Did, did you -- did you just kind of discover strengths in the military or was it after that, that you took CliftonStrengths?

Brent Taylor 5:02

It was definitely after. So, you know, I joined the Marine Corps, I was in the DEP program, which is Delayed Entry Program, for only about 6 days. So whenever I decided I was going to be a Marine, I was in the recruitment office and then I was on the yellow footprints within about a week. So it was, it was a quick pace for me. I ended up getting a job in the military MOS that I didn't really enjoy. But you know, it's just like everything. You take a test -- ASVAB -- and they just kind of assign you where you need to go. I did pretty well on the ASVAB. So I got a job that was communications repair. I didn't even know the Marine Corps did stuff like that. I thought it was, in the Marine Corps, it was different jobs that had to do with what kind of gun you carry or a radio operator. I thought that was just a grunt that, you know, ran the radio or somebody who drove the truck was a grunt that, you know, drove a truck. I didn't know that there was a big difference between all of them.

Brent Taylor 6:02

Looking back, I was actually lucky that I got into that because it was a, it was a harder school. But what I found out quickly was, I didn't like that job. I didn't want to do that. Even though I could do it, I was capable of doing it, it just wasn't something that was enjoyable to me. So I would volunteer for every temporary assigned duty that came about. I spent two years as a marksmanship instructor. Even the job that I did whenever I was deployed didn't have anything to do with repairing comm equipment; it had to do with being a liaison, basically, between civilian contractors and military personnel, training them to make sure that they had what they need and to where they could get to where they're going; things like that. I was just somebody that kind of took care of people in a sense.

Brent Taylor 6:44

And you know, you identified my Top 5 strengths, and I really have to kind of say this. I did, like most Marines do -- or probably most military people do in general -- I got out and I thought I could do like 3 things based off of my skills from the military. I thought I could go be a cop, a firefighter, or go work in a gun shop. So I went and worked in a gun shop while I was putting in packages to be a police officer. And then I found out there that I'm pretty good at sales. It wasn't that different from what I did, like whenever I was in the military. I would find a need and I would figure out how to make that need go away by fixing it for them or getting them what they needed or getting them where they needed to go. Just kind of like being a "fixer" in a way. I would always use, like, looking back I was using Maximizer and Arranger and Strategic; I was using all of those things. And then whenever I was a marksmanship instructor, those teaching skills, like so Developer, all of that stuff.

Brent Taylor 7:42

Well, I was never happy in the gun industry. I didn't know why; I just kind of thought everybody hated their job and you just do it because it's what makes money for your family. You go to work and you do what you're good at. You do what you're supposed to do; what other people expect of you. And then that's just kind of how life goes.

Brent Taylor 8:04

Well, I came to this program. I'm friends; he and I served in the military together. His name's Joey Johnny Jones. And he was one of the developers of this program. He brought me in to do the pilot. And, you know, thank goodness Jen was there to be our strengths coach, because she really displayed my strengths in a way to me that just kind of clicked. It was such a profound experience for me whenever I came here. And I -- looking at my Top 5 strengths, it was like, yeah, Strategic, Arranger, Developer, Activator, Maximizer. But we had to look at the whole 34 really to kind of get the sense of what was going to make me happy because my next 5 strengths are Empathy, Positivity, Includer, Individualization and Responsibility. Which, if you're familiar with strengths, you know like those have a lot to do with relationships. They have a lot to do with people.

Brent Taylor 8:57

The reason why I was good at sales in the in the gun industry isn't because of what I was selling or technical knowledge or technical background or anything like that. It's because I legitimately cared about that person's business and like how I could make it grow. And I was just doing everything I could to help them out. So I was a different kind of salesperson, I guess, than what they had typically been around. And that just kind of got leveraged into other jobs -- a lot of after-sale support type stuff. So I kind of leveraged things in a way to where I started to develop my strengths to do what I want to do and not just do what I think other people want me to do. And so much so, whenever I came to the program, and I was, you know, just here at this camp at that time, I went back and talked to my boss, where I was working at the time, and basically told him that I wasn't going to do this anymore -- in a polite way. He gave me a letter of recommendation and I brought that back here.

Brent Taylor 9:59

And I guess my Top 5 strengths sometimes can come across as arrogant in a way. I thought I knew what they needed. So I wrote together what I thought I could do here and why they needed me, and presented it to them. And luckily, they agreed. And so I quit my job and just basically started here. I lived a long ways away. So I had to kind of drive in here, but I just knew that I was able to use my strengths in a way that was completely different. And now, looking back at my military experience, that's what I always did. I -- there was a job that I could do, but I was always using those Top 10 strengths, not just the Top 5, to kind of develop other people, to teach them things, just to be a part of people's lives -- seeking that significance in other people's lives. If I don't feel like I'm useful to you, then I still care about you, but I'm going to go somewhere where I feel more useful.

Jim Collison 10:55

Yeah, it's a, it's a tough experience coming out of the military, in figuring out, because it's such a different system, and figuring out what you're best at. My, you know, my experience was, I took that ASVAB and scored the lowest as a mechanic. And I thought, well, why not improve those skills and be a mechanic? And I hated it! Right? It was just awful. And it took me a while, once I got out, to figure that out, right. And, and now knowing that framework, it's, it's like, "Oh, yeah, no, this makes sense to be doing what I'm doing. Jen, would you add anything to his story? How else have you, as you guys have kind of come together and started working on this, how -- would you add anything else to that -- from what you've seen from your side?

Jennifer Selke 11:35

Yeah, I mean, I think the really cool thing is, especially when you have like Maximizer, Developer, Individualization, you have some of those in the top, you know, that Brent has in the Top 10 that is really on like coaching and developing people around strengths. And I feel like sometimes you find those opportunities that our -- which we're all looking for, that's something that really matches what you love to do and then where the need is. And I think when you find that alignment, that just amount of engagement and wellbeing is just magnified.

Jennifer Selke 12:08

And that's the whole mission here at Camp Southern Ground is, like, really figuring out your strengths in yourself first, and then in others and magnify them in others to profoundly affect the world. Like that's our mission statement. And to kind of see that in just Brent's story has been really significant. And the way, just in tying together that information for other veterans, you know, because that's part of it now is what we're doing is, you know, we're running, you know, couple hundred veterans through our different programs every year and then having that ability to like have a story that's so meaningful that other veterans can relate to.

Jim Collison 12:42

For those who don't, or haven't been around a military group, Jen, what kind of unique -- and Brent, you can answer this as well -- what kind of unique challenges are there with this group that may be different than your typical college student or, you know, somebody graduating from high school? What are the unique challenges that you have there?

Jennifer Selke 13:03

Yeah, and I'll let Brent start because he's been really thinking a lot about this and also did a lot of investigation with the individuals that have come through our program. So we had a lot of people -- we asked this question, too. So I'll let Brent start that way.

Brent Taylor 13:16

I think the -- so there's a lot of different ways to answer this question, to be honest with you. My personal opinion, I think, as veterans, we really need somebody to challenge our perceptions of who and what is important. It's so deeply ingrained in us. The structure, the timing of what it is that we do, how we go about things is so structured. And the military actually does a really good job of what it is they do. I mean, if you really think about it, logistically, like the military is an incredibly complex machine that's out there. So when you go from that structure, where you literally stand in formation. So we're -- let's go back to the perceptions of who is important. Because this is something that's really been deeply ingrained in me. And it's something I've had to kind of take a step back to go, OK, what -- is this -- is this -- is this something that still benefits me now -- this way of thinking -- or should I change this to, again, maximize what it is that I'm doing now?

Brent Taylor 14:20

So we stand in formations, which are, you know, basically big boxes by -- and they're organized by who's important. The person standing in front of the formation is the most important. But even inside that box, you have, whoever's at the front of the box is the most important in that line. And then it kind of goes back from there. So literally everything is based on whoever's in front of me is the most important at all times.

Brent Taylor 14:44

And you take that to a role which is a matrixed organization that's completely different. Now, all of a sudden, you're looking at people going, all right, who's important now? Because that's a lot of your survival in the military is to look at who is the most important; who do I need to be listening to right now? And you're constantly just trying to find who that person is.

Brent Taylor 15:07

Well, you take that out of the military, and you put it into a different organization, we really have to kind of challenge our perceptions of that. Because my own personal experience from that, so, going back to my time working in the civilian sector, but in the gun industry, sometimes that person who is an intern but has the most creative ideas, like during a catalog shoot or whenever we're doing something that they're uniquely qualified to do, they're the most important person right now. They might not be the CEO or the COO or somebody who has an executive function as far as the business goes, but right then, they're the most important person.

Brent Taylor 15:46

And you got to take a step back for a second from your military career and go, OK, what does that mean? How do I treat this person now? Because if you just go around and you only treat the person in the front as the most important person, it kind of makes things difficulty. So I guess what I'm really saying there is, is the culture shock is the big thing that we have to really address here. And we have to address it in unique ways.

Jim Collison 16:10

Jen, you want to add anything to it. You have a uniquely -- I mean, you grew up with some military in your background; you have a little a unique experience. So would you add more to that?

Jennifer Selke 16:19

Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, in terms of -- and I kind of saw somebody else who asked this in the chat -- about, you know, does it take another veteran to relate to another veteran on CliftonStrengths? And, you know, Brent's the veteran around that, that has that connection, has that really great grasp of strengths. I'm not a veteran; my husband was in the Air Force. And so while I did work on a military base, and I was within that structure, I'm not a veteran. And what I have found in terms of the difference in connecting -- and most of the coaching and the work that I did before was with the sort of 16- to 25-year-old, you know, group -- is that there's a lot of similarities in terms of people are finishing whatever their life experience was for, you know, kids out of college, they're just out of college thinking, what in the heck am I supposed to do with what I just have? And the veterans are thinking the same thing. What am I supposed -- here's what I've got: training, education. What do I do?

Jennifer Selke 17:15

So in that sense, there's a lot of similarities. And I think coaches are really primed for that. The other thing: I don't think you need to be a veteran to be sensitive to veterans' issues. The other piece is, is to -- which we need to do as coaches -- to be aware of all individuals' processing styles. But when you're working with the veteran population, there is no one same experience. So to have one veteran that may have difficulties from maybe TBI, which is traumatic brain injury, you know, a lot of people are coming out with being around blasts that have really shocked their brain. And in, in that situation, people are going to be processing differently.

Jennifer Selke 17:54

So it's not about assuming, oh, you have a vet -- you're a veteran or you have TBI and therefore you have this; it's that you know now to check. Hey, how do you like to get information? Is it overwhelming to hear a lot of verbal information? Do you need -- do you prefer to have things written down? Do you like to meet in person? A lot of those things in checking before you assume, I think is really critical. Because when you do have things like traumatic brain injury, you know, you're thinking of even just individuals that have executive processing difficulties. As a coach, you may really overwhelm them with, like, here's a lot of steps; here's a lot of things you need to do next. And, you know, especially if it's a lot of talking, a lot of auditory information. It's just good practice for anybody. But I think it's helpful to be aware of, in terms of, in terms of working with veterans.

Jennifer Selke 18:42

The other thing I've seen a lot and that we've just been really sensitive to is, you know, we just have a really profound respect for those who have signed up to, you know, die for our country, and their family and what their family goes through. Their kids, you know, they move around or their, you know, parent all of a sudden gets deployed at a moment's notice for a year. That we have a lot of respect for that. And sometimes it can lead civilians to apologize for, like, Oh, I'm not a veteran, you know, but I'm your coach today, or whatever that is. And, and I think we want to really discourage that. And I mean, you know, Brent might be able to speak a little more to that.

Brent Taylor 19:16

Yeah, absolutely. You know, one of the most important things that I feel that I've benefited from in being in this program at Camp Southern Ground is the model that we have where the facilitators are both veterans and civilians. I believe wholeheartedly that we're better together. And that, that means that literally we're better together. Veteran is a title. It's not a demographic. It's just a shared experience that I have with other people who exist out in the world. But we're just as diverse as America itself. You talk to 20 different veterans, they're going to have 20 different life experiences. They, they, they're gonna be in the same spectrum of diversity as if you were to walk into a high school or a college or anything like that.

Brent Taylor 20:08

Now, I'm not trying to diminish the veteran title by any means by saying that, but I am saying, like, if you're a civilian coach, and you're looking to talk to veterans, do more to unify that, not to show that we are different. "You're a veteran, and I am not." You wouldn't go up there and say, "I'm a coach and you are not"; you would go up there and say, "Hey, I'm here to help you develop whatever it is you have inside of you."

Brent Taylor 20:33

One of the things that I really tell people here who are civilians, who go up to facilitate is, You don't need to say that because we know already. It's one of those things where it's -- you can state the obvious, for sure, if you feel like that's important to you. But you need to know that I'm here in this course because I've researched and I'm seeking your help. I don't need you to explain how we're different. I need you to explain to me what it is that I'm here to get from you; not anything outside of that. If you want to know about my specific experience, well, get to know that individual the same you would anybody else, I feel, in that coaching environment. And I think a lot of people already innately know that; it just sometimes needs to be stated in a direct way so that we're like, Well, yeah, no, I get it.

Jim Collison 21:22

Well, and I think sometimes, we'll say civilians who don't have any prior military experience can be in an advantage at times, too, because they, right, they can come at it from a different perspective. And I think that's super helpful. When I was in the military, we worked with some civilian contractors, and I actually appreciated their point of view -- that they weren't necessarily held to the same or in the same environment. So I love what you said about, you know, don't apologize for that. It's just -- right. It's just an experience you didn't, you didn't have, and you may bring, bring your own unique experiences to it.

Jim Collison 21:54

Let's talk about unique experiences as we -- talk a little bit more about the program. So let's -- what are you doing? How does it work? How does it function? How do folks get involved? What does it look like? Let's talk a little bit about the, the kind of the mechanics.

Jennifer Selke 22:07

Yeah, I can give an overview of our two programs. And I can let Brent also kind of do a deep dive in kind of some of the stories and some of the successes that we're seeing in there. We have two main programs here at Camp Southern Ground, serving post-9/11 veterans. One of the programs is our Warrior Week program. And that was the program that we've created here at Camp Southern Ground. Jake Dukes and Joey Jones were the kind of authors and creators of this program. And it is specifically designed to help veterans discover their strengths, define their new purpose -- you know, their purpose has been kind of ripped away from them, you know, either when they were medically retired or, you know, got out of the service -- and then help develop a plan around what's next.

Jennifer Selke 22:52

They, the veterans that come, have a wide range of interests. Some are -- have a nonprofit, are starting a nonprofit, are interested in sort of building their own business. And some may be medically retired, but they are still looking for like, What in the world am I supposed to do with the rest of my life? Like, I can't just sit in a recliner chair watching TV. And so everybody needs a purpose, whether it's considered something for financial gain or for personal, for personal gain. So that's our, our program that's really focused on work transition.

Jennifer Selke 23:22

That program brings in and out a lot of different support individuals. So we have a business leader panel where leaders come in and talk to veterans, specifically about what civilian culture is like, you know, how is that code switching going to go? You know, what is it, you know, what -- the environment that you're coming out of in your military community is different than what the civilian world is going to expect. And so we do a lot of talking about that as well. And so we have financial individuals that come in and talk about financial wellbeing; we have, you know, spiritual wellbeing. We are really trying to cover a lot of these different aspects in that program, and we're really interested in looking at wellbeing -- and, you know, Gallup's studied wellbeing quite a bit -- to see how that's affecting our outcomes. And so that's our main, our main program.

Jennifer Selke 24:11

The second program that we run is called Warrior Path. And this is a program that is an 18-month program that starts with our 1-week initiation here at Camp Southern Ground. And that's for individuals with post-traumatic stress. And we're really looking at -- it's a nonclinical program, run by other combat veterans like Brent. Brent's one of our instructors in both programs. And that program is specifically looking at, you know, a lot of these traumatic experiences and converting that into post-traumatic growth. That it's this idea of, it's not what's wrong with you.

Jennifer Selke 24:45

You know, a lot of times, veterans are going to the VA or, you know, healthcare providers, and it's a lot of, "This is what's wrong with you." Whereas, we're really looking at, It's just what happened. How do we convert that story of trauma into a story of growth in those two types of programs? So that's kind of the general overview. Brent is an instructor in both programs and for -- until the time being was also one of the sole coordinators of Warrior Week program as well. So he was doing quite a bit of work. And so I'll let him kind of talk more about the kind of success stories and what he's seen coming out of there.

Jim Collison 25:23

Brent, as you, as you do that, we've -- how are you, how are you guys using CliftonStrengths in this? I mean, how, what kind of role does it play in there in that success?

Brent Taylor 25:33

CliftonStrengths is used in our program to get about self-awareness. I think that at the core of what it is that we do, it is labeled as a transition assistance program or a transition program. But I would go even further to say it's a personal and professional development program. Whenever I was in different industries, you know, we would go to classes to learn how to refine certain skills. That's what I think is great about our program is, this isn't a program for veterans, so to say. I mean it is, but I think anybody could come to our program and benefit from it greatly.

Brent Taylor 26:16

CliftonStrengths comes into play in the fact that we do so much with it. There are games that we play to kind of identify things as far as how we communicate to one another. Because one of the difficulties I will say with military veterans is if, if you're familiar with ropes courses, so high ropes and low ropes are the two types of ropes courses, right? You have high ropes where you actually go up on some sort of contraption; and low ropes are anything that's not high ropes. So low ropes can be games or they can be small obstacles that they have to get over.

Brent Taylor 26:49

If you put a bunch of veterans on a low ropes course and you say, "Hey, you've got to do this task," they're going to be mission-oriented. They're just going to go after it. They're just going to figure it out. They're going to have people covered down and aligned in order to get get past whatever it is. So we have to go at that at a unique way. Because if you put a bunch of veterans into an obstacle course, they're just going to tackle it and get done with it. And some people might get left behind in the back, but they'll pull them through. Like there's not going to be anybody left behind. There are certain things are definitely going to happen with a veteran population versus a different population that might come in.

Brent Taylor 27:18

One of the unique things that we do here, in my opinion, in my experience, is how we kind of integrate that into everything that we do. We put it on the name badges that they wear around. So they're constantly looking at their strengths. They're constantly gaining vocabulary that says, This is why I'm worth a million dollars. I'm worth a million dollars and I know how to raise my hand whenever this project needs me, rather than waiting for somebody to call me. Because again, that's another veteran thing. "I'm going to stand in formation until I'm called on because I'm not going to step out of line in order to say like I'm the best person for this. I'm going to let my merits be shown by somebody picking me." And that's not necessarily the best way to get stuff done. And that's what's really cool in that integration.

Brent Taylor 28:06

So, myself included in this, and what's funny is like, as a Marine Corps veteran, I don't want to admit that I have vulnerabilities that I have self-worth stuff. Like, I'm going to sit quietly until somebody needs me. I'm gonna wait for my boss to tell me that they need me for this before I speak up. And if I do that, then I'm not necessarily going to get to do the things that fill my bucket the most because I'm going to get left behind sometimes.

Brent Taylor 28:30

So the thing that we do there is we add vocabulary words that basically tell other people why you're worth a million bucks. So you can sit there and you can talk about yourself in a positive way that doesn't feel weird, that doesn't feel like you're self-important or self-centered or anything like that. Because that's another thing from the veteran community is you're taught, "Ah, you don't need to do that; your, your rank speaks for you. Your combat badges on your shoulder speak for you. Whenever you're wearing a uniform that's a dress uniform, all of those badges that are across your chest, those speak for you. You don't need to go around speaking for yourself to say, 'Hey, you're working on a project that I think would be really beneficial on. Put me in charge of this and I'm going to nail it for you.'"

Brent Taylor 29:11

And that's what we do as far as adding, again, those vocabulary words. I know I keep saying that, but it's so important to be able to have access to words that identify what it is that I want to do, because we don't necessarily get that from the military. It even goes back farther whenever I'm talking about my specific MOS. The things that I did in the military that gave me the most fulfillment were things that had nothing to do with my MOS, but I didn't have the vocabulary words whenever I transitioned to say the reason why I was good at these TAD assignments had to do with Relationship Building; had to do with soft skill stuff.

Brent Taylor 29:45

I mean, you don't instantly think "Marine Corps veteran -- oh, soft skills! He probably really cares about people individually. He's looking how they're important. He's looking at where they are going to benefit things the most." That's not something that is super obvious, in my opinion. But again, it goes back to the veteran as a title, not a demographic. And there's 100 of me out there in the military, in the Marine Corps. in every single MOS that exists out there. It's just giving them the captive audience and the words to be able to speak that into life.

Jim Collison 30:16

Yeah, you -- I'm sure you've seen some pretty good examples when we think of, you know, the work that's being done there. I'd love to kind of hear or you guys kind of flesh out some, some examples of how that's worked out in individuals.

Brent Taylor 30:31

There's so many good examples. It's almost overwhelming for me to try to take just one. A lot -- there's a joke that we kind of tell around here. And the biggest success that we have is sometimes giving people exposure to their strengths or these things that have to do with themselves, and they go home and then quit their job, which is not what we're trying to do.

Jennifer Selke 30:57

Even though it's what Brent did!

Brent Taylor 30:59

I know! And it's almost like, I don't know if I should tell people that that's what I did. But it's also the thing that made me the happiest because I was given the ability to to confront something in myself that needed to be confronted so that I could get to a point to where I was living a meaningful life. Another thing that I tell people all the time, whenever they're thinking about coming to this program, or even while they're here -- because I'm a challenger, I do have Empathy. I do have those strengths that make me care about people. But I care about you in a way that I want you to find what makes you fulfilled in life. And sometimes that can come across real hard-nose.

Brent Taylor 31:38

The thing that I tell people a lot is, if you're thinking that you're going to leave here and your life is just going to be happy, this isn't the right program for you. But if you're gonna leave here, and you're going to find meaningfulness in everything that you do past this, that's what we can help you with the most. A lot of times, happiness and meaningfulness kind of go hand in hand, but they're not always the best of friends. So in thinking of successes that happen with that, I get emails and text messages and messages on Facebook all the time from people who personally reach out to me. And they brag on the other people that are here and they tell me about how this has lifted their spirits in ways.

Brent Taylor 32:22

We have guys who have came through -- I won't say names because I still want to protect their privacy -- but there's a man who came through, he was an Army Special Forces veteran. There was a time in his life where he was -- his injuries were so complex that he was nonverbal. So you can imagine to go from nonverbal to verbal, he already did a lot of work before he even came here. He and I kind of worked back and forth together, and he just presented at a symposium for veterans about complex issues and, and the tools and resources that are available. And he presented this to a room of like 500 people! Whenever he first came here and, and we were kind of talking about stuff, he was uncomfortable even talking in our small group, which is, you know, 16 people plus him.

Brent Taylor 33:17

So to see that kind of stuff, to see that kind of fulfillment happen with people, where now they're engaging whole audiences and they're understanding how much individual worth that they have -- not, not in spite of their story, but because of their experiences -- like, man, does -- I'm getting excited just thinking about it! Like it's exciting! It's cool to see that manifest in people in such a beautiful way. It's just, it's just a wonderful thing to be a part of.

Brent Taylor 33:44

There's another guy that I keep in touch with regularly. He and I just went to Israel together on a trip with another organization. He's, he's one of those guys that didn't, didn't want to get out. He was injured in a way that he was more or less forced out. And he didn't want to go out. So, so now he's on the outside, really wanting to get back in. So watching him struggle with that kind of back and forth, you know, it weighs heavy on me. But we talk a lot about his individual strengths and what it is that unlocks things inside of him that makes him have more opportunities or whatever. And he's gotten really heavily involved in his community. He's finding a lot of purpose in the volunteer work, which I don't think is something he would have experienced before. But he's seeing what it is that we see, and that's that you can leverage your strengths in all types of different ways. It doesn't have to be something that's monetized necessarily. I mean, everybody likes to be paid. I'm not going to say I don't want to be paid for this job, Jen, like, I know you're my boss but I still want to be paid for this.

Brent Taylor 34:57

But there are lots of other ways that you can find meaningfulness, where you can find purpose outside of something that is monetized. And luckily for him, with his military history and being retired, he does have residual income. So he's able to do that. And now he's in a position where he's finding so much worth in himself. And it's just, it's, it's cool to see this. And this story is the same over and over and over and over again. We've got guys who came through here, one of the guys that came through here -- again, it's another one of those complex injury kind of things. He came through here. We exposed him to some different ways of kind of working out, so another wellness cycle thing. And he's lost something like 80 pounds. He does hot yoga, like 4 or 5 times a week, and he is just chomping at the bit to start using those life skills or using those strengths in order to volunteer and inspire other people in his community. And he's seeing the validation from StrengthsFinder, from the other assessments that we do, and he's going, "Yes, this is what I want to do! I want to inspire other people to grow. And for me to do that, like, I've got to grow myself first."

Brent Taylor 36:14

So that just makes him more motivated to go out and do even more of what it is that he's already doing. I mean, losing weight is, is a great thing. But it's all of the things that go around that that caused that to happen is the realness of -- I always refer to strengths as being real "sticky." It's one of the things is once you get it on you, you can't really get it off. Like you've really got to rub stuff in order to get it off. It's like turpentine or like pine sap, you know it, just once it sticks to you, it's on you. And it's, it's better to just get more on you and just let it be a part of you than it is to try to wash it off because you're not gonna be able to wash it off.

Jennifer Selke 36:50

Yeah, I want to add, you know, there's -- one of the things for coaches to consider is that some veterans leave voluntarily, leave the service voluntarily. They wanted to do their 4, 8 years, you know, 20 is typically a career, and some people have control over when they have exited service. And, you know, the, the military does a lot to train, you know, our service members to do particular jobs. You know, you can be an 18 months-plus, you know, depending on what career you have, to do all this training. But when it's time to leave, you know, you get a couple of weeks and then out you go. And you don't get as much training on the other side. And so that's where, I think, some of the, the, you know, difficulty is.

Jennifer Selke 37:38

And then there's a lot of individuals who have planned on being in the military for their whole career. This was a life choice they made and they were doing -- going to be a "lifer." And injuries happen. And, you know, 2 years in, 3 years in, all of a sudden they're out. And they hadn't considered another career path. They hadn't considered what else they were supposed to do. And, and that is also a different individual, when you're working with that, you know, sense of just loss and grief over what I thought was my life service.

Jennifer Selke 38:11

We had an individual come through our last program, who was just really feeling down about, you know, you've lost, you know, they know that a lot of the Gallup research on wellbeing shows that active-duty service members have higher wellbeing than the general public. And yet veterans now, no surprise, have a lower wellbeing than the general public. So they go from this high level of purpose and wellbeing to, you know, a real decrease. And that, that feeling of loss and "What am I worth? I'm not worth anything!" You can imagine the spiral; we've all had many spirals where we are not feeling good about ourselves. And we do an activity around our strengths here. We do about 6 hours of official sort of strengths workshops in addition to integrating, you know, for the whole week. You just can't get away from me and Brent talking about your strengths.

Jennifer Selke 39:04

And we do an activity at the end where they are able to -- it's an appreciation activity, they kind of wear paper on their back like a cape and, you know, with their strengths listed on, their name at the top and their strengths, and the team goes around, and you write on people's backs, like how you've seen their strengths kind of in action. And, you know, then they get to pull it off and look at it. And it often brings people to tears. And we had one individual that it was just so overwhelming to just have somebody see so many positive things -- that was just a new experience. And he -- it was, it was overwhelming.

Jennifer Selke 39:40

There's another veteran I worked at. We do, we do some coaching. Our Warrior Week program is a 10 of a 12-month program that starts with this 1-week initiative, and then we're doing monthly calls throughout the rest of the year that, that the veterans jump on. And so we do have an avenue for some coaching but, you know, we don't have a lot of coaches here on our team yet. But we have volunteer opportunities. I saw somebody asked for that in chat -- that people can, you know, volunteer. We want to create a coaching network for those veterans who are ready for that next step.

Jennifer Selke 40:13

And I was working with a veteran the other day on a coaching call who is -- started a nonprofit, and his board is getting frustrated, like, What are you getting done? Like we're struggling to get things done. Well, let's take a look at his strengths. He had one Executing strength in his Top 10. And it was Responsibility, and it was at the bottom -- was at the bottom of the list; it was No. 10. And so it was, like, enlightening for him to go, "Oh, gosh, no wonder, like, you know, I'm not deficient! Like this is what I'm good at; this is not what I'm good at." And then he still has to get things done. So then it's about OK, how do we leverage what you have to make things happen? And sometimes a coach can just be that accountability buddy, to be like, OK, here's 3 things that you can get done. Let's look at what we're going to do. You know, we're going to talk next week. These are the 3 things. Like that, sometimes, is what people that aren't driven with those Executing themes, Sometimes having that accountability partner, that complementary person that can help you, is really critical. And I mean, those are just two that that really come to mind in kind of how we're impacting people.

Jennifer Selke 41:14

But it's profound when you walk away -- as I think a lot of us that are listening to this know -- it's profound when you walk away with words that explain your excellence. And to realize you even have excellence, you know, when you feel like you are part of this community and your, your excellence was because you were part of the community, or part of your team, part of your, your tribe. And now you're not anymore. And did that strip all your worth? And to then have this to go, It didn't strip all your worth. But how do we find you a community again? Because isolating is where we really find a lot of, you know, mental health difficulties is when you lose your community.

Jennifer Selke 41:51

And when we think about veterans, veterans transitioning, you know, a lot of the research is showing that they're, you know, they're missing their community. They've lost their community. They're now entering a civilian workplace when all of their resume looks like a military resume, like, how do I even translate those terms into what job that is? How do I have those conversations? The culture of these people, it's like an all-out for yourself now, and often a corporate environment. It's "Look out for me" when I just came out of "Look for each other." And so there's a lot of things that, that they're able to code switch, but having that coach or somebody to kind of think about it with them and just give them encouragement has been really huge.

Jim Collison 42:32

Jen, did you say -- so, are you starting a coaching network around the United States?

Jennifer Selke 42:36

Yeah, we're looking, yeah, we're, we're looking to build, you know, what we really want to have is people that are willing to vol -- you know, donate, you know, coaching sessions for military veterans. And because we have veterans come through that are at a point where they can actually take advantage of coaching. You know, a coach is in at every -- for everybody at every time, but we want to make sure people are really able to take use of somebody's time; to start to think about that, because we really believe it's those one-on-one communications that need to keep happening for individuals.

Jim Collison 43:07

Yeah. How would -- if individuals were interested in getting more information about that, what's the best way?

Jennifer Selke 43:12

Yeah. On our website, you know, At the bottom, you know, on the Veteran page at, there's a contact form, and they could say, "Volunteer coaching network," and we'll, you know, get them -- we're kind of building that list of names. So then when we start to have veterans, I can say, "Hey, I've got somebody for you."

Jim Collison 43:31

If somebody is not certified, but they would love to be a mentor, could that be a similar? Could they kind of play a similar role as far as mentoring, maybe, somebody who's coming out?

Jennifer Selke 43:40

Yeah, I mean, we have, even for other veterans that are in the audience, we have -- our Warrior Week transition program has post-9/11 veterans, so anybody knows anybody that's a post-9/11 veteran. Our programs are free -- 100% free to the veterans. We will fly you here. You know, you're staying in our world-class accommodations. And that program is provided at no cost. But our Warrior Week program has a spot for prior generation mentors, somebody like you, Jim, who was, you know, not a post-9/11 veteran, but part of a prior generation who has made that transition, who is able to provide hope and perspective to our veterans. So we have that position as well as openings for post-9/11 veterans. So for those coaches that may be coaching veterans, you know, we're not here to steal your clients or, you know, we're an add-on to whatever you're already doing, to get that sort of next step moving. So.

Jim Collison 44:38

Jen, you're reminding me of a story. When I first got out of the military, I worked, I went right to work at a bank as a bank teller. And the the bank I went to had been just open for 5 years and it was a mess. And I asked, I remember asking the the manager -- actually, I think I just did it without even asking. I started organizing everything by, you know, I started stacking things and labeling things and I was like, I can't live this way! Like, how can we live with this stuff a mess, and it was definitely a military, you know, kind of a, I had 5 1/2 years and this military reaction, right? So I need some order, I need, I need things labeled.

Jim Collison 45:12

And it was really kind of interesting that then that was actually honored by, by the employer of like, Oh, great. What else could we -- what other roles can we put you in? This is before I knew I had Arranger and Maximizer, right. It was kind of before I had that terminology. How great is it that you're giving these tools now early to them to say, Hey, here's a framework for us to begin to talk about these things. Brent, you you kind of alluded to this as you were talking about it to say, Yeah, now I have a framework to claim the, the talents that I am best at, and then how do we get those aimed? Because I really think that's the hard part of this is you get out of a system that took care of everything, and now nothing is taken care of. And it's like, OK, I've got to do all these things on my own. How do I how do I know what I'm good at? And then how do I begin to, to move in that direction. Are you guys, from a from a career standpoint, are there opportunities in the program for them to talk about, try out, think through, mentor in these roles to give them some ideas of where they can go?

Jennifer Selke 46:11

Yeah, I mean, one of the things that we work with an organization called Higher Heroes USA. And that's an organization that kind of partners with us for those veterans that need to take that, you know, job search into the next level of finding maybe a mentor within the particular, you know, work category. So maybe if you're interested in doing something in healthcare, it might be helpful to have a mentor that would be willing to talk with you. You know, it's the typical informational interviews we ask people to do all the time. But Higher Heroes USA helps us kind of find those partnerships for that mentor, for those practice interviews. They're like expert at the resume writing. But to sometimes have a coach or somebody to also partner while you're going through that, like to reassimilate this information, so much of what's available for veterans in terms of services really require the veteran to crank the wheel, which is obviously important. Like, you want the job, you know, you got to do something. But at the same time, it can feel really overwhelming, and to have somebody that you can partner with that can say, all right, you're calling Higher Heroes next week. Great. We'll talk on Friday. You know, like, to have that partner to just kind of walk with you is super meaningful.

Jim Collison 47:26

Yeah. Brent, would you add anything to that?

Brent Taylor 47:28

Yes, accountability partners are so important. And I think that we do that by keeping each other accountable. But at the end of the day, everybody needs to be able to experiment with their strengths and then go back to somebody who is a strengths coach to say, Hey, I did this. I noticed this. What do you think about that? At least I personally benefit from that. It's like having my own personal strengths coach, Jen, at work every day has been overwhelmingly significant in my individual growth. So I can only imagine if we were able to get together a network of people who would just have conversations with veterans, who understand these new words that we have to identify ourselves with. If they had access to people who I could go, and I could experiment a little bit and say, No, I volunteered for this project, and it really gave me life and the fact that I got to use my Relationship Building strengths and my Influencing strengths and what do you think about that, like, what else do you ... ?

Brent Taylor 48:35

It just, it's so, so critical, so important, and we do as much of that as we can individually with them. But you can understand as this program grows, as more people come through, just having more access to people. And then the -- so I'm always thinking about unintended consequences, which is a, is a, is a darker way of thinking that but it's actually a really good thing. The unintended consequences of this is now you've got veterans and civilian coaches working together hand in hand all of the time. And it kind of goes back to that model where I believe that we're better together. That's just so important to me to put out there into the world, to not separate ourselves from the veteran population, and then vice versa, because that is one of the negative stigmas from the veteran culture.

Brent Taylor 49:19

Even me and how I'm presenting myself right now. I mean, I'm tattooed, I have a hat on, I've got a beard. I carry this around, but at the same time, a very empathetic person. People tell me, I've got a Santa Claus vibe, which I'm owning, I love that. I'm the first person to give you a hug. I'm the first person to ask you about your day. But for me, that's because I'm trying to own the image, but then kind of change the stereotype to a certain degree. I want to be that big bear, but the big cuddly bear at the same time. I want people to know that you can approach me even though I look like this, to know that I do deeply care about you, all of those kinds of things. But if you're going around, you're wearing a T-shirt that has, you know, violent stuff on, it's like, that's not really going to attract people toward you. So there's a happy medium in there, and the more that we do about getting each other together in those networks, having Strengths Coaches access to them, I just think it's a great thing.

Jim Collison 50:17

Jen, last question, why, why Zac Brown. and what's his -- what's the connection in this? You know, people think Zac Brown Band, musical, musical talent, real popular -- military? Like what's the connection there?

Jennifer Selke 50:29

Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, I think the initial connection, like I said, started he was a product of summer camp, in, in North Georgia, and a product of an inclusive summer camp. So he really grew up with this idea of, you know, being around all kids makes everybody better as a, as a camper himself, and then as a camp counselor. And so he saw such a profound impact, not only in others, but in himself, in learning to play guitar by chord. You know, he's already playing the guitar, but playing in a new way, playing in front of people, playing with other people, for him, happened at camp. And so it profoundly affected his life.

Jennifer Selke 51:07

And that's why, at a young age, he started telling his parents, "I'm going to build a camp." Which, you know, that is, that's what Futuristic looks like in a, in a kid. Where they're like probably like all people, it's like, "Sure, you are. Yeah." And, and he's an incredible visionary, in terms of what he's doing. And so this camp does exist, like it's a, you know, an amazing -- we have about 411 acres here in South -- we're just south of Atlanta in Georgia.

Jennifer Selke 51:38

And so when you think about a summer camp, that's really just the summer program, and he really wanted to make sure that we were using this facility and veterans, he had a veterans, you know, friends of his. It was just a part of his life growing up with that. Friends of his parents were in the military. And that heart for the veteran -- and if you listen to Chicken Fried, which was his, you know, really first big, you know, hit, one of the lines is that, you know -- and in the concert it's, it's amazing to watch, where they bring out a, you know, military veteran comes out in uniform on stage and in the part where they, you know, they sing about saluting the ones who died, the ones that give their lives so we don't have to sacrifice all the things we love.

Jennifer Selke 52:23

And that's like in his heart from the beginning, and so, making sure that veterans are served as well was a big part of just his overall mission; serving the country and respecting, you know, what that service means. To not only -- you know, we have kids that come to camp from military families, Gold Star, Silver Star, White Star, in bringing kids to camp, as well as providing these services. So it's just so just a part of his, and he'll describe this camp as, it's not just, you know, for some people, they put their name on something and it's just this, you know, project that maybe the PR firm says or it's a write-off. And it's exactly the opposite for him. It is the reason he is, you know, the tour is starting this weekend. Like it's the reason he's on stage every night is because he wants to make sure these programs are successful. It gives him his "Why" to get up on stage and travel how many days of the year, you know, to make sure that he's getting out there, but it is in support of this mission back at home.

Brent Taylor 53:22

I'd like to touch on that. The one thing that -- so, if anybody questions this, I need you guys to understand that I personally would not be here if I didn't think that this was authentic. I don't know Zac personally, but I have heard him say that the music is his platform, but this camp is his passion. And I believe that wholeheartedly. How I got involved here was through my friend Joey Jones. Joey and I served in the military together. He stayed in, went EOD, I got out. He ended up losing his legs in Afghanistan. And we reconnected after he was in his healing process. And he basically drug me around to every nonprofit that he kind of worked with. And that's how he and Zac got connected was through another organization called Boot Campaign.

Brent Taylor 54:17

Boot Campaign basically started by seeking out celebrities to take pictures with boots on to kind of bring about some military awareness, at least as far as veteran needs might be. Well, Zac agreed to do that, if Joey would come take a look at the camp to see how they could kind of work together. And you just don't do that unless you really do care. He could have easily taken the picture; it would have been a great PR thing and then just moved about, but he saw an opportunity there to integrate even more of what he's passionate about there. So from my personal viewpoint, seeing how that really did manifest and that it's not just some written thing that we have to say over and over again. Because you got understand, I don't get paid to talk about this program like that. I get paid to facilitate this program. So it's, it's real. It's authentic; it's genuine. It's, it's one of those things where we're not a catch-and-release program. We're not a program that says, "Hey, here's the kayak; I hope you feel better about yourself." We're about those unique experiences that bring about life-giving things, and I think that that's something that is going to be around for 100 years, or at least I hope it is.

Jim Collison 55:31

I get requests all the time for famous people's Top 5; Jen, maybe we need to get Zac on the list so folks know. It's a super great mission. Anything else that I might have missed in the final minute here, as we think about this? Anything else that you want to say? And then, Jen, say again just how folks contact you if they want to volunteer or donate or -- what's the best way to do that?

Jennifer Selke 55:55

Yeah, the best way is through our Contact page. It goes to Brent and myself. We both -- we get the email. So it's not going to some mysterious person sitting anywhere; we get that. And it's and you click on Veteran Programs and there'll be a Contact Us in there. And we would love to hear from people who either, you know, want more information about serving veterans themselves or want to find out how to send veterans to us maybe that they're coaching or even spreading the word, you know. The, the program grows because other people tell, you know, veteran -- there's a lot of veteran programs out there serving different causes. And so it's hard for veterans to find the right one for them at that particular time.

Jennifer Selke 56:36

So the more you know about it, you can go, "Oh, maybe this one's for you" or "Check this one out." That's been really critical. And, and we have veterans that come back, you know, or we have tribe leaders that come back. So when you come to a program as a new, new student, you're then able to come back a second time or a third time and be a tribe leader. And a lot of them, hearing the strengths, and they say just it's so much more meaningful even the second time through, you know, which leads me to believe that coaches, you know, make such an impact. So if people want to volunteer, if you're in the Atlanta area, we have other, you know, bus driver duties and things that people can do. But if you're even, you know, located somewhere else and want to do beyond the coaches network, we'd love to add your name.

Jim Collison 57:19

Awesome. Any any final words from the Marine?

Brent Taylor 57:23

Yes, if you are listening to this, I want you all to email Jim and encourage him to come to our program and participate.

Jim Collison 57:31

Well I can, I can at least volunteer here in the, in the Omaha metro as a mentor. We have a big Air Force base here.

Jennifer Selke 57:36

We can have a veteran, a veteran meetup at the Strengths Summit in June. Brent and I will be there with another colleague and we need a little veteran ... yeah, that would be fun.

Jim Collison 57:44

Yeah, I think we should do that for sure, by the way. Yeah, no, I think we should do that for sure. That, that sounds fun. Brent, Jen, thank you both for taking the time today. I appreciate it. When, when you told me about this a couple months ago, you were here in Omaha. We sat down for a coffee and you started, I was like, What are you doing? And so you told me the story, and it was "OK, we gotta get this on Called to Coach!" A lot of great comments in the chat room. If, if you guys didn't get a chance to see them, go back -- this video, if you watch it on the YouTube side, the chat will go along with it. And I would encourage you guys to go back and listen to that as well.

Jim Collison 58:17

We'll remind everyone to take full advantages of all the resources we have available. If this is the first time maybe you're listening to this and introduced to CliftonStrengths, we have a ton of resources available for you. Go at the, and just a ton of information there. Click on Resources or click on About when you're on that page, if it's new to you. Lots of information to get you started. While you're out there, sign up for our CliftonStrengths Community Newsletter that's coming out each and every month now -- a way to kind of keep up with all the things that are going on. If you have questions, you can send us an email as well: Someone will get right back to you. If you want to join us live for these live presentations -- like I said, it's more fun live. Follow us on Eventbrite, so go to; create an account there and just follow us; you'll get a notification whenever we publish something new. Jen mentioned the Summit that is coming up June 1, 2 and 3 of 2020. If this, if you're listening to this after that, I'm sure there's another Summit scheduled. But this one's scheduled: to get signed up, there are spots still available if you want to come out and join us. There's nothing more beautiful -- and I know you'll debate this, but -- nothing more beautiful than Omaha in June. It's a great place to be; you'll want to be here as well. We'll get that veterans meetup -- I'm gonna make sure that happens, by the way -- we'll get that veterans meetup going while you are here, so if you want to join us in that as well. If you want to stay connected to us on Facebook, go to -- all one word. And on LinkedIn, just search "CliftonStrengths Trained Coaches." You don't have to be a trained coach. But join us on that LinkedIn group. And I put announcements there all the time. We want to thank you for joining us today. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

Jennifer Selke's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Learner, Maximizer, Relator, Self-Assurance and Individualization.

Brent Taylor's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Strategic, Arranger, Developer, Activator and Maximizer.

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

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