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Reinventing Yourself via Training, Strengths in San Antonio

Reinventing Yourself via Training, Strengths in San Antonio

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 8, Episode 78
  • Listen as the creators of a workforce development initiative talk about their program -- its inception, its challenges and its successes.
  • Interested in learning more on this topic? Read more about how to improve teamwork in the workplace.

Marisa Ortiz, an Intercultural Talent Development Consultant, and Sean Attwood, Vice President of Business Development at the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, were our guests on a recent Called to Coach. Marisa and Sean talked about their partnership in building a strengths-based performance skills curriculum to serve a diverse group of students -- many of them nontraditional. Their discussion included:

  • How the research surrounding CliftonStrengths makes strengths vital to their work
  • The role of soft skills, such as strengths, in preparing people for 21st century jobs
  • How training and strengths powerfully combine to help people move into a new career

I am passionate about connecting people from different cultures, through strengths, to the universal language of talent. And ... strengths does such a, I mean, it's the only tool that I use, proudly ... because the results are there.

Marisa Ortiz, 5:49

It could be a missed opportunity not to look at integrating the whole person experience into learning, and bringing in strengths and other types of soft skills that prepare folks for especially these 21st century jobs.

Sean Attwood, 23:31

It was really ... how [participants] were reinventing their lives completely, and how bringing strengths to them was a lot more than just getting that technical certification, but now seeing themselves in a different light.

Marisa Ortiz, 24:26

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

Jim Collison 0:01

I am Jim Collison, and live from our virtual studios around the world or at least here in the Midwest today, this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on November 20, 2020.

Jim Collison 0:22

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, we would love to have you join us on our live platform -- actually, right above me on our live page is a link to the YouTube page. There's a chat room embedded in there. Many have made their way over there to get that done; about 21 of you watching it in the chat room. But we'd love to have you there. Click on that link, head over there, sign into the chat room. If you have questions after the fact, you can always send us an email: Don't forget to subscribe on YouTube while you're there. There's a Subscribe button over in the corner. And of course you can always listen to us as a podcast. Just search "Gallup Webcasts" on any podcast app.

Jim Collison 1:09

We have two great guests today. Marisa Ortiz is an artist and entrepreneur serving clients as a Intercultural Talent Development Consultant. Marisa, that sounds super important. She educates visionary leaders and mission-driven organizations by bringing people in multicultural workplaces through the customized training programs that facilitate and facilitating workshops on performance skills, integrating a strengths-based culture. Marisa, welcome to Called to Coach!

Marisa Ortiz 1:35

Thank you so much. It's great to be here!

Jim Collison 1:38

So great to have you. I'll introduce also Sean Attwood. He serves as the Vice President of Business Development at the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, using a talent-driven economic development approach to attract high-paying jobs to the San Antonio region. Sean leverages nearly 20 years of combined experience (Sean, I wouldn't have guessed that by looking at you) in previous Information Technology and Workforce Development roles to identify opportunities to broaden access to training for San Antonio residents that prepare them for digital jobs while simultaneously making the pitch to growth-stage companies to locate jobs to San Antonio. Sean, welcome to Called to Coach!

Sean Attwood 2:16

Thanks for having me. I just want to let you know, I'm experiencing a lot of gratitude for even being here today because I've always been a big fan of the strengths movement. So thank you.

Jim Collison 2:26

Yeah, it's good to have you both Marisa, let's start with you. That was a big, you know, big, impressive intro. But I always ask folks, like, what do you really do? So if you -- talk a little bit about your role, like, from your perspective. Give us your Top 5 and just a little, maybe a little bit of background on you before we get started.

Marisa Ortiz 2:43

Sure, thank you. My Top 5 strengths are Connectedness, Input, Learner, Empathy and Positivity. And I am a Talent Development Consultant or Learning and Development Employee Training Consultant. I've been doing it for around 5 years, serving clients in, in different industries. And what I do is I offer strengths-based courses. The majority of my work is in employee training, team training. And of course, the vast majority of my work is through strengths. So what I love to do is to customize the curriculum to a specific target. What is it that you want to do with strengths? Not just the strengths class, or the StrengthFinders class -- as, you know, still a lot of people recognize it as StrengthsFinder.

Marisa Ortiz 3:33

And, and yes, and of course, I do coaching. I am a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach. I was trained in Gallup D.C. in the fall of 2014, and then became certified by January of 2015. And I've been very blessed to keep my certification and keep doing strengths work. So yes, that's what I do. And and prior to my consulting and being a business owner, entrepreneur, the gig economy, you name it in the digital era, of course, I worked for a strengths-based organization, a strengths-based IT company. That's where I really became acquainted, and actually trained. I worked in the HR department as a trainer for the majority of my 8 years that I worked there, so I had a lot of opportunity to, to work with, mainly IT professionals through their strengths in the hundreds, because this was a company -- like many others in IT -- that had a huge growth, you know. And we were, in the HR training department, we were having new employee orientations of 120 people per month. And they had to be brought into the company culture, the strengths-based company culture.

Marisa Ortiz 4:49

So I did a lot of, a lot of work that I felt that helped me sharpen my saw. But then I didn't start working outside of that organization until 2015. So that's what I do. I call myself -- thank you for your feedback. You know, I think global, but I implement very local, obviously here in San Antonio, Texas. And I, it took me a long time with this Input of mine, to come up with how I'm going to brand myself. You know, I've been very blessed as a consultant to have organic work, you know, someone that saw me. You know, us trainers are very, you know, on stage, right, we are the vocalists of the band. You know, so I got, I got, you know, very blessed to -- one gig led me to another. So it took me some time to kind of, like, finalize the name that I wanted to brand myself, and I just recently actually got my domain and have my website.

Marisa Ortiz 5:45

But Intercultural Talent, I decided to call it that way. Because what really, what I am passionate about is connecting people from different cultures, and through strengths, you know, to the universal language of talent. And, and I think just strengths does such a, I mean, it's the only tool that I use, proudly, because, not only because of its credentials, obviously, and the amazing work that you guys do at Gallup in research, but because the results are there, you know. And you see it in different industries and different sectors, you see, you know, how humans react to reading the reports for the first time and how the conversation dramatically changes when we start talking about our talents.

Marisa Ortiz 6:28

So, so that's what I do. And I -- my passion is bridging people in multicultural workplaces. I love working with diverse audiences. I speak some Brazilian Portuguese, to your earlier points, and I speak you know, decent French, and I'm originally from Mexico. So I also work in Spanish. I'm here in San Antonio, Texas, but I do a lot of, a lot of work in español as well. So that's what I do, in a nutshell.

Jim Collison 6:57

What's the, what's your favorite? If you had to kind of pick one thing about the favorite part of your job right now, what is that?

Marisa Ortiz 7:03

Wow, what is my favorite? Probably connecting, you know, like, in, you know, in the pandemic, right, that we're going through, this COVID reality, of course, I -- it was hard for me not to see people in person, you know, with Connectedness and Empathy, right, in my Top 5. I am addicted to looking at people's faces, you know, like on Zoom, and I bring in like a cofacilitator friend to help me with chat rooms, because I just cannot stop looking at people. So what I really enjoy in 2020 is being able to have a close-up of the individuals that I am talking to, without the distractions of the outside world. And, and just really enjoying the moment and, and, you know, I realize, like, what a blessing and you know, what a Connectedness statement. You know, what are the odds in the universe that, you know, in this moment, I'm having this amazing conversation. So, so that's what I enjoy the most that, you know, traveling has become irrelevant. Technology, we can be anywhere, in anywhere, in any part of the world at any time, and connect.

Jim Collison 8:13

Yeah, no, for sure it, the world got smaller as we all went home, and we got these opportunities. We've been doing this on Called to Coach for 8 years. And so we like to think of ourselves as pioneers kind of in that. But Marisa, thanks for. Thanks for coming on. Sean, let's -- let me ask you the same question. Vice President of Economic Development sounds super important, but what do they really pay you to do? Like, what's your job? And what's your role there?

Sean Attwood 8:40

Yeah, no, good, good question. So I'll start with my Top 5: Individualization, Input, Futuristic, Connectedness and Learner. And those Top 5 really help me do my job. So economic development really is a team sport. So, you know, at the EDF [Economic Development Foundation in San Antonio], you know, we are charged with the responsibility of leading the messaging and much of the workforce development components that go into building a city that is producing talent, and not just merely expecting to import talent. You know, even though we've been getting noticed lately, and we're enjoying that, we play a really big role in bringing together, you know, the community that represents K through 12, the community colleges, the universities, the large employers in town, from all different industries, and create the conditions so that high-paying jobs will continue to flourish here in San Antonio. But also that we create the conditions that attract high-paying jobs and investments in San Antonio.

Sean Attwood 9:49

You know, what's interesting is economic development, you know, it's been going on for decades and decades in major cities, and our organization is about 45 years old. But we're going through an interesting time right now in society, and you see a lot of change in this space, and I expect to see a lot of disruption and innovation in this space. And really what it comes down to is ensuring that everybody has access, or at least we find where the barriers might be a little bit higher and create equitable access, so that folks can, you know, access the training and the other conditions that allow them to become certified to get high-paying jobs, or to become entrepreneurs and to seek out the resources needed, so that they can take risks and they can find opportunities for, for basically, having a good life, right.

Sean Attwood 10:45

So, you know, an example of the workforce development work that we do is we go out there and we seek gaps that might exist between the local education system, going all the way K through 12. And ensuring that we're filling those gaps by creating internship programs, apprenticeship programs, linking them to everyone from students to adults to young adults, to dislocated workers that want to make a career change. God knows there's a lot of that opportunity right now. And I don't say that lightly. So that's a major component is that workforce development piece.

Sean Attwood 11:25

But then the other piece, that you know, it's a little bit more sexy, but it's going through disruption right now, is we get to sell the city of San Antonio. And that's a lot of fun, as somebody who grew up here and absolutely loves it here. It's a big decision when companies decide that they need to go to a new market, whether they relocate or expand. And so we provide a lot of data. We use that data to help folks, you know, make decisions on what cities they'd like to evaluate. And our goal at the end of that process is to end up on the short list by proving that we have the type of city where a company can come establish themselves. People want to live here. People want to work here. We have a sense of place here, allowing individuals and companies to build wealth here.

Sean Attwood 12:15

And every city has its own philosophy on what's important to its society. And I'd like to say that San Antonio is a very inclusive and a very equity-conscious city. And so you'll see in many of the programs that we have here in San Antonio, they really do look closely at the individual, the family, some of the interconnected barriers that might get in the way of prosperity, and, and really, as a team of a county government, city government, local nonprofits, San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, academia, K through 12, we all work together to stay on top of those most pressing issues and find solutions to solve them.

Jim Collison 12:55

That's, that's impressive. Sean, what's the, what's the, your favorite thing to do each day? Why do you wake up in the morning?

Sean Attwood 13:02

So my favorite thing to do, so I'm a real big strengths nerd. And if you asked me 15 years ago if I was going to be doing this kind of work, I'd say, "I wish!" Because intuitively, it connects to what I know is real now, and this is a people business. I mean, you really do have to value the individual, right? You have to remove biases, and you have to understand that there's opportunity with everybody, right. And so the Individualization's my top. Connectedness, I think, is it's No. 4. And, but sometimes I feel like Connectedness leads me, and, you know, but if it leads me to a basement, you know, I might have to suppress it a little bit. But I do geek out on the fact that I do believe that we are all connected within just a couple of degrees of separation.

Sean Attwood 13:48

And, you know, that said, there are many folks that are interested in this type of work. But my favorite thing about this type of work is finding those organizations, finding that energy, finding that funding that goes towards the greater cause of building a community. And there's so many elements that go on in the background. You know, when I used to work a typical 9-to-5 job for a great company, I had no idea. You just think, "Oh, the schools run the way they run, you know, businesses come and go and, you know, funding is used for mostly roads," and things like that. But there's actually a lot of work that goes into preparing young folks, you know, adults, mid-career folks, all the like, and ensuring that they have really multiple pathways and there's no wrong door to success. And so I like the fact that our job is never the same every single day, but, but the vision is clear, and it's about building community, and being a part of that is amazing.

Jim Collison 14:51

Thanks for that intro, Sean. Oh, Marisa, you, you beat Sean at Connectedness -- you have it [No.] 1; Sean has it 4. So I'm gonna ask you this question: Why are you guys connected? What's the partnership there between the two of you?

Marisa Ortiz 15:06

Sure, well, we worked at the same strengths-based organization. I was there for 8 years. And Sean, you were there for 11 years, if I remember correctly?

Sean Attwood 15:18

Yeah, about 11 1/2 years.

Marisa Ortiz 15:20

11 1/2 years. So that's where we, that's where we connected. And coincidentally, I was working as a trainer, and I had the privilege to interview Sean for a position, and I was just blown away with the depth of his answers. Because I was the teacher in the room, right, the one teaching the, the theory behind the roles and behind the teams and how the work should be done because of the systems, yada, yada, yada. And, but you know, but I was disconnected from the business, right? Because I was in the, I was in the training room. I was, I was training. And I just remember feeling, you know, listening to Sean and, and, and listening, I mean, Intellection -- that's what comes to my mind when I think of Sean, you know, of a very profound thinker. And ever since that day, I became a fan.

Marisa Ortiz 16:14

So, you know, we continued to bump into each other in the business, you know, in different things. And, and after I left, of course, you know, through social media, we, we kept in touch. And, you know, the universe has brought us together in other areas of our lives, you know, personally. You know, we're part of the community. So I consider Sean my friend, and it's a beautiful serendipity that we get to continue partnering together after all these years. Oh, my gosh, yes.

Sean Attwood 16:45

Very nice of you. So nice --

Jim Collison 16:48

Sean, with you having Connectedness as well, anything you want to add to that?

Sean Attwood 16:53

Yeah, you know, gosh, what can I say, geez, I feel embarrassed. That's so nice of you to say, Marisa. But, I mean, you know, the feeling's mutual. Look, I mean, I, you know, that that saying, "Real recognizes real," right? And that happens in our lives. And there's just certain people that you stay in touch with because, you know, you connect on maybe ideological things, or, you know, maybe you have the same, you know, mutual friends. I know, we have a lot of mutual friends. And that's just part of what makes it exciting to get up every day. You know, whether you're thinking about your, you know, you're focused on family only today, or I've got a heavy career day, or I've, you know, on this amazing podcast, you know, there's always going to be quality connections that are paying attention, or waiting -- and not in vain -- for that next opportunity for you to discover something new, learn a new insight, use a different perspective to leverage your own. And that's really what strengths is all about.

Sean Attwood 17:49

And so, I mean, I'm a big nerd about this stuff, to the point where I'm still trying to figure out what to do as a coach because I got certified as a coach, but I haven't gotten into it to the level of Marisa has excelled in it. And so I'm just fascinated by her, you know, particular angle on it, which is, is pretty nontraditional but very effective. And I'll, Marisa, I won't steal your thunder, I'll let you go into that. But, you know, someone that grew up with a spiritual family, you know, they had military parents growing up during wartime looking at things a little bit differently. You know, I was always showered with all those type of philosophies, right? And so Marisa has an integrated approach where she takes some of these more Eastern philosophies I've noticed and, and integrates them into Gallup strengths.

Sean Attwood 18:38

And so, you know, it's this kind of Eastern-Western logical, and, you know, you know, whole human-centered approach to helping folks, you know, really go a lot further than just the academic portion of training, whether it's personal development or anything else. And so, you know, we reconnected, and I'd love to dive into that story. You know, we, we, we reconnected after I left Rackspace, we both worked at that. OK, that was a company we both worked at, and I went to work for the community college. And it was a big career jump. I wanted to get into community-building work. It was always a passion of mine. There was an opportunity that opened up and anyways, I had the opportunity to work with Marisa on some integrated professional development work, using strengths as a center for individuals that were going through technical training programs on a program that I was hired to run there.

Jim Collison 19:37

Marisa, that's a great -- Sean's just doing my job for me. That's a great segue. Let's talk a little bit about this strengths-based performance skills curriculum. You, you referenced it early. Give us a quick overview of it, and then let's kind of dive into some success that you're having with that. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Marisa Ortiz 19:54

Sure, about the program itself?

Jim Collison 19:56

Mm hmm. Yeah.

Marisa Ortiz 19:59

Yes. Yes, of course! Well, I mean, to piggyback on, on, on what Sean was explaining exactly. Sean was, as a director for the local communities, local junior colleges organization, he, you know, he did something pretty impressive. I mean, I don't want to talk about your vision, Sean, of how you, you know, cause Sean actually supplemented a grant-based program and brought soft skills. You know, that was not the original plan, it -- was that right, Sean?

Sean Attwood 20:31

Yeah, to be specific. So it was a Department of Labor program called America's Promise. And what they did is they funded it through H1B applications. And the whole spirit of it was to create training programs for dislocated workers. And by that, I mean they lost their jobs through either no fault of their own or what not, right. And so, and for underemployed folks that might have had a degree in something that wasn't a match for what they're doing today. So they would qualify to go through these programs. And it was pretty expensive, you know -- $2,000, $3,000 per person to either learn, you know, computer coding, or software development, or administration or cybersecurity. I don't want to go down the rabbit hole too far.

Sean Attwood 21:16

But in the back of my mind, I could never forget the impressions of working for our previous company and how what they would do is they would hire for aptitude. They would hire for aptitude, they would put folks through what they call their company university, but they would layer and integrate the strengths approach. And there were some really impressive folks that would come through, and within a couple years, they would become principal technicians. And they would be managing large accounts and solving problems for customers that were running huge commercial websites.

Sean Attwood 21:46

So I couldn't get off the fact that, look, we need to figure out how to integrate this program. So I'll just be brief. I got shot down at the Department of Labor who funded us. Got shot down through some different levels at the community colleges. And not because there wasn't a belief that we shouldn't integrate these type of, this type of programming, you know, positive psychology, strengths-based, you know, first professional development into technical training; it was just there's rules and regulations and red tape that allow just certain funding to do certain things. So in short, after knocking on a lot of doors, and just obsessing over it, and this is really one of those Connectedness stories, my neighbor next door down the hall, he was running a program, he was trying to find some funding too. So we put our heads together with some other folks. And we reached out to a large employer in San Antonio, we made the pitch.

Sean Attwood 22:43

And my pitch was that we would put every student that goes through this program through a strengths module. It would be custom made, it'd be owned by the colleges. And, you know, we had to back it up with some white papers, and we actually got a lot of support from Department of Labor, and then they hooked us up with somebody with the International Economic Development Forum, created a presentation, a lot of documentation -- academia likes that. And then they said, OK, you're cleared to go pitch on our behalf. And we got some funding. And so what it did is it paid for the curriculum development, the programming, training for a few folks at the college to provide, you know, auxiliary services to students that wanted additional one-on-one coaching. And, and it really did, it really did become a success.

Sean Attwood 23:31

And so, you know, part of today's storytelling around that, also will, will end up really as a call to action to show other municipalities, states or workforce boards that it's really -- it could be a missed opportunity not to look at integrating the whole person experience into learning, and bringing in strengths and, you know, other types of soft skills that prepare folks for especially these 21st century jobs that require technology and our ability to use our human creativity and highest, you know, human potential to, to, you know, create a lot of leverage and productivity in these types of service-oriented jobs. So that was a little long winded, but it gets me excited because I see the potential just nationwide, worldwide, especially as we recover through this pandemic and we transition to a different economy.

Jim Collison 24:24

Sean, I think, I think it's important that end of the story, though, so Marisa, thank you for, for letting Sean talk about that a little bit. Because it, it's those, like, we can have the greatest ideas in the world. But if they don't get funded -- if they don't find a home to actually get deployed into -- they never happen. And so I think that's an equally important part of it. Marisa, we'll bring it back. I'm, I'm, everybody's wondering, OK, what is this? Like what did you develop? So dig into a little bit; talk a little bit about the program.

Marisa Ortiz 24:51

Of course. Thank you. Sure. So what we did is I developed a curriculum that would prepare IT professionals to reenter the workforce with their certifications. So with, you know, the great support of Sean, we went back and forth. I developed 3 modules. The first module was introduction to positive psychology and strengths, you know, the typical, they would take their assessment prior to coming to class, all of that. And, you know, from the positive psychology agreements to the different reports, reading the report, Naming, Claiming -- Naming, Claim and Aim -- the basics. That was the first module, to kind of introduce them to strengths.

Marisa Ortiz 25:19

And then I transitioned into module No. 2, and that was strengths-based communication skills. This is something very important, not just in, for IT professionals, but, you know, the more we connect digitally, the sometimes the less we're able to connect with people and know how to manage conversations in an effective way. So this was communication skills in the digital era. So it was very specific, you know, even though it was 2018, it was still very specific to social media and the internet, the reality, how is it that you manage yourself, you know, as a professional online? And we, you know, to Sean's point on the ancient wisdom traditions that I totally appreciate, and thank you, Sean, for, you know, calling out on my Connectedness and the cosmic nature of my work.

Marisa Ortiz 25:42

But we both agreed that we both love the book, The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. I actually remember asking Sean, "Hey, have you read this book?" And, sure, so we went, you know, down the rabbit hole of both of our Inputs on the Four Agreements, and I integrated that book into, you know, how to use your strengths to practice the Four Agreements, right. So it's very, this is the way I like to do curriculum and do strengths. You know, it's like, let's do something with your strengths, even, you know, after just, you just just learn what they are, and you're just learning the themes, but guide, those facilitate those conversations.

Marisa Ortiz 26:58

And then the third module, that was really the, you know, the heart was a strengths-based career management. And I would, I would -- divided the module into four by the 4 Domains of Talent, pretty much, the 4 functions, so Executing, I connected to productivity, right. And I would leverage, I mean, other books, I'd leverage this, you know, GTD, Getting Things Done by David Allen, a system that I'm very familiar with. And how to, you know, become more productive through your strengths. And of course, we would get into, you don't have to have Executing talents to Aim them, you know, you can Aim a Relationship Building strength to Executing and productivity.

Marisa Ortiz 27:38

So Influencing I connected to job interview, salary negotiations in the digital era. I leveraged amazing thought leader in the world of HR, Liz Ryan from The Human Workplace, and one I admire and follow on LinkedIn, because I think she just rocks. And we would engage in these conversations on like, you know, your social media, is your resume online? How are you conducting yourself, right? you know, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, you know, being mindful of what you're doing on your Facebook, on your Instagram, you know, employers are looking at this, right? Because again, we were working with students that -- participants, a lot of them nontraditional students, that were reinventing themselves. So this was a very interesting component of the applicability of the delivery of this curriculum.

Marisa Ortiz 28:29

Finally, Relationship Building I connected to the concept of personal Board of Directors. So we would leverage another book by a local author, Lorenzo Gomez, and the name of the book is The Cilantro Diaries, and even students would get a copy of the book. It was about the importance of our relationships, and, and, you know, creating a personal Board of Directors concept. Because, you know, we're all, we're all entrepreneurs, right? The startup of you, which is, you know, something that other concepts that incorporate into the module was that, you know, the, from the LinkedIn founders, we are all managing our careers. So we talked a lot about that.

Marisa Ortiz 29:09

And, and, of course, then Strategic Thinking was about critical thinking, right? How do we foster critical thinking? And I would leverage some other materials from Ted education to foster these conversations with the participants. So it got pretty, pretty nerdy. It got pretty geeky and, and, of course, these are geeks. So it was thoroughly up in their alley. And it was great. I got to deliver it to all 130 participants in 10 different cohorts through community partners, through organizations that, you know, that were involved in the process. And it was amazing. Each cohort was a different universe. It's a blessing as a trainer and facilitator to facilitate the same curriculum for several times. You know, that's, for me, that's a blessing now that I am a consultant because you can perfect, right, you can polish up, and you become, you know, so knowledgeable of what comes next that you can -- for me it was so much easier to facilitate and go with the flow.

Marisa Ortiz 30:13

And of course, it's whatever the students brought as well, right? I mean, that's another huge component of this success story is, you know, the reason why, you know, my Connectedness connects to, you know, how Sean had the vision to bring in something soft skills, which is even a word that I stay away from, that's why I call that "performance skills." Because, you know, in the world of IT, no one wants to be soft! You know. So it's like, as if it's less important, you know, yet it is of utmost importance nowadays that we are so disconnected in person and only connected through devices, first, to be able to read body language, to be able to be mindful of what comes out of our mouths, how we communicate, what are the words we choose to express ourselves has become, I think, you know, that this, there's this microawareness that comes with, with the technology that we have today. So, so that was, in a nutshell, the 3 modules of strengths-based performance skills, and again, we, I delivered it four -- first four -- in a day and a half. And then I was able to, you know, compact it and deliver in a full day of strengths training. And it was, it was awesome, what can I say?

Jim Collison 31:28

No, that sounds great. I love how you connect it to the, to the 4 Domains. And I love this idea also, because four or five are Influencing for me, so I, I feel like maybe I'm an Influencing expert at this. (Maybe I'm not.) But that idea of personal brand too -- you didn't say it that way, but I'm sure, as you think about it in job hunting, right, you're creating this idea of personal brand. One of the things, one of the modules in, in Gallup's onboarding kind of documentation is a whole unit on personal brand. And what does it mean? And who do you represent? And who do you say you are? You, you alluded to that with, we are who we post on social sometimes. Right? And so what is that representation of that? And how are you living those out? Sean, would you add anything to that? You, you saw it from the outside as she was doing this. Anything you want to add?

Sean Attwood 32:19

Well, yeah, I wanted to dig in a little bit on the, the participants. You know, I think it's important for us to talk about this, because it's happening across the country right now, you know. We're in a pandemic; that pandemic is putting a strain on the economy. And, you know, we've seen unemployment numbers rise into double digits and back down, God willing, to single digits for larger cities, but it's in the higher single digits. And we're still trying to figure all this out as a society. But one thing that's occurred is there's been a pretty large cash infusion that's gone out to major cities and to states for a recovery for this pandemic. Now, what we're looking at is something that's being funded at scale, that's been happening for the past several decades, even when times are good. And that's that, that funding goes into local workforce boards, or through state workforce commissions, and then there's grant-writing activities that create programming so that folks that, you know, need that assistance to get over some financial barriers or need wraparound services so that they can focus on getting into their technical training program, you know, in any industry that they choose. That funding has always been available.

Sean Attwood 33:51

But now it's, it's not only available at scale, but it's being experienced by, you know, hundreds of thousands ordinary -- of ordinary Americans, some of which never saw themselves in this particular situation before. You compound all of that -- I know it's a lot -- you compound all of that with the fact that, you know, just we were already on this path, but because of this pandemic, and because of working from home, and everybody's just, you know, human ingenuity -- is at a green light right now. Whatever we could do to keep working, we're going to do it, but we're going to stay safe. What that's done is that's accelerated technological advances that are, you know, going to -- all the way of automation and, and consolidating services and integrating and, you know, that's, that's creating new jobs.

Sean Attwood 34:49

But, but, but that's not what we're thinking about. We're thinking about the, the immediate pain, you know, when that band aid's ripping off, is that folks are losing their jobs. Or they're being forced to train for new ones. And unfortunately, myself included, you know, I went to public school, you know, it -- unless we had the privilege of being surrounded by, you know, I'm fortunate to have great parents, and they had friends that provided a really solid kind of influence as I grew up, but not everybody has that. And, and that's where you get your self-actualization, you know, that, that kind of puts you on the path, and, you know, kind of not, you know, the Four Agreements covers it pretty well. I think it's, you know, be impeccable with your word; don't take anything personally; don't make assumptions; always do your best, right? You know, some people are fortunate to have those concepts, whether it's through that book or just in general, infused at an early age. And so it's easier to get new skills when you have that level of confidence, you know where you're coming from, so you know where you're going, right?

Sean Attwood 36:01

But being completely transparent, because of the way that our school system is set up and the hustle of our society, I think some of that stuff gets pushed to the side. And to your point earlier, Marisa, about soft skills, and we need to change that word: You're right. You know, I think they need to be "essential skills." Because what's happening now, with all of this activity going on, and with, you know, what people like to call the Fourth Industrial Revolution, just digitization and service-based economy pushing tech into all industries, what makes us innately human is now the most valuable skill set on the planet. Because everything else gets streamlined. It's automated, and it frees up our brains for more creativity, judgment, discernment, problem-solving, you know, that all stems from critical thinking.

Sean Attwood 36:57

But if we don't know enough about ourselves, and we don't know enough about just the general what, what, you know, all the components that make people human and drives those, those, those human talents that are really ahead of the economy right now, how are we going to work effectively with other people? How are we going to know, and how are we going to use discernment, really understand, you know, what motivates people, how they think, how they relate to others, how we relate to others, how we relate to ourselves, how they influence others, what's their work style? And whether we're managers or we're coming up the ladder, and we're, you know, trying to chase that job, understanding that is a critical component to 1) career exploration, which is a huge theme right now amongst, you know, whether it's children that are thinking about what they want to be when they grow up, to adults that are reinventing themselves, to executing on that plan and Aiming your strengths. And it all ties in together.

Sean Attwood 37:56

And so -- I kind of got lost in my train of thought, but I know it has to do with what you're asking around Why does this all matter? Right. And so what, what I see is a very important opportunity for us, as a society, to have a mainstream conversation about the importance of these things too, and what it means to become a fully integrated person. And, and, and now we're, you know, it's not so academic in nature. And now we're hopefully not talking about putting all the funding into technical skills training. Although important, those technical skills training, they, let's be honest, most technical skills, unless you're an artist or you're doing something very personal, they have a diminishing rate of return.

Sean Attwood 38:46

But what makes us powerful as human beings does not, and it actually has an increasing rate of return. And so it's just opportunity to share a story and also a call to action on how we can maybe reconsider the way we're funding these programs. Because they're, they're, they're here to stay. The city, you know, voters, about 70% or more voters just passed a proposition in San Antonio a few weeks ago. For the next 4 years, it's going to put about $70 to $80 million a year into workforce development programs to help folks get over those barriers, some caused by the pandemic, some caused just by the changing economy. So it's interesting to take this program that we worked on a couple years before all this happened and now see that it's more relevant than ever. So you know, just thanks for letting us come on and talk about it today.

Jim Collison 39:37

Yeah, Marisa, I want to ask you. You've got some very concrete results on this program. Sean, thanks for that overview. I think it's inspiring, by the way. Early in the program, someone had mentioned in the chat room, like, I so want to do this, but there's so much red tape. And even in your story, like it sounds easy now, but I'm sure you went through a ton to get there. So Marisa, what, what are some results? What did you see come out of the back side of this as you did this training?

Marisa Ortiz 40:05

Sure. Well, I think, you know, it was a successful program. You know, Alamo Colleges District, you know, finished very pleased with what we sent to the grantor, including a lot of comments from participants that, you know, documented their, their feedback, after training. But even during training, you know, even just in my interaction with them, it was such a blessing for me to, to see the journey and be able to jump-start a strengths journey for 130 San Antonians reinventing themselves in their careers. And again, many of them were not necessarily your traditional "college-age" participants. I had immigrants that had arrived from the Middle East with a solid career, and learning English and reinventing themselves through some software development, a new career.

Marisa Ortiz 40:59

I had women who were now grandmothers, and they needed to, to provide better to support their grandchildren. And, and needed to be parenting, you know, later in life, and they, you know, wanted to be coders. And they got on it. And they were extremely passionate about, you know, becoming the change they want to see in the world. I had, I had an attorney, I had an attorney that left his practice after several years, and he was totally burned out as a successful attorney. He, you know, he was a partner in, in the, in the firm. And he decided one day, I'm not going to do this anymore because I am not, you know, he had four Strategic Thinking in his Top 5. And he was just like, I'm done with this. I am overburdened. I'm going to reinvent myself, like, I'm going to become a software developer.

Marisa Ortiz 41:55

And he went through software development technical training, as an attorney, as a J.D., and his reaction towards his report -- immediately, he said, "This makes perfect sense." You know, "This gives me the awareness that this is the missing piece for me. You know, of course, I had this issue with myself, like, how am I going to abandon after law school, you know, and after the sacrifice of passing the bar and everything, and I'm going to totally give that up to reinvent myself."

Marisa Ortiz 42:23

So very different stories, you know, like very different realities about these students. You know, again, some of my students, in the most underprivileged parts of San Antonio, I had to bring coffee and pastries and fruit trays for -- to class to, just to make sure that they had something in their stomachs, because I had some students that struggled so much financially. But they were there, you know, in class, not missing class, doing their reading, their Signature Themes reports, you know, as prework, you know, and coming back to "OK, this is what resonated with me." And, and incredible questions, incredibly honest questions about -- of course, positive psychology, I mean, completely blew their minds. You know, you know, they'd been focusing on, on their weaknesses all their lives. And in a way, that's what got them there. You know, and then they come here, and like, "What? There's nothing wrong with me?"

Marisa Ortiz 43:19

And so, I mean, I really think like, what, you know, one of the pluses that came out is that, besides, you know ... and the client being pleased, and we got the numbers, hee, hee, ho, ho, ho -- that was fine. It was really more the, you know, amazing conversations with the participants and how they were reinventing their lives completely, and how bringing strengths to them was a lot more than just getting that technical certification, but now seeing themselves in a different light. Understanding, to your point, Jim, this is so huge, you know, that your personal brand, understanding that, you know, your career is in your hands. And, and you're gonna drive that. And you are a business, you know, you're, you, your person is a business. And, and we are entrepreneurs by, by nature. We've been exchanging goods and services since we were in caves, right.

Marisa Ortiz 44:09

And engaging in that conversation and getting them on LinkedIn and, and getting them to behave on social media and like, "Stop that crap! Sorry, you know, but you need to be professional, and you need to, you know, like, you're part of the workforce, and we need you, and we need to transform San Antonio. And, and you love it here? Well, me too. So, you know, we all need to grow together; we need to elevate our community." And that's, for me, that's really the biggest, you know, golden -- that was the golden coin of the whole experience was experiencing that process with my, I don't want to call them my students, you know, because I feel that I was not really their teacher, but just their coach, their facilitator growing with them.

Marisa Ortiz 44:50

And absolutely, there was a ton of red tape. Oh, yes. You know, I think it's, you know, it required patience. You know, that's really, in, in retrospect. Now I think about and I laugh. At the moment, I was like, you know, like, I did pull my hair a few times. But I, in retrospect, it was just patience, you know, it was just letting things run its course, you know, what a Connectedness statement of my part. You know, but just letting things flow, right, and giving my very best, you know. Once you're in the classroom, once you're in the training room, and you're on stage, you are the one -- you know what I'm saying? It's my voice on the microphone, right. And it was my opportunity to -- let's engage in this amazing conversation that I hope you remember for the rest of your life. You know, I don't want you to think about a class, you know. Uh-uh-uh. This is like, you know, an intervention, you know, this is a life intervention we're going to get into. And so those are some of the, some of the stories and some of the things that I feel, in retrospect, were the, the pearls of experience.

Sean Attwood 45:53

I just wanted to make --

Jim Collison 45:55

Go ahead, Sean. Go ahead.

Sean Attwood 45:56

Well, I did want to make one comment to, just to speak in the language of folks that might be listening today and maybe they're running similar programs, or maybe they're on the side of influencing where these funds go, whether they're at an executive level or they're at a more middle-stage governmental level, but, you know, they have the ears of maybe elected officials and other administrators is that, you know, one of the big key metrics, as they'll know, is completion rates. It's always a big key metric for these kinds of programs. Because you know, if we're, that's kind of the starting line understanding how valuable is this program that we're spending taxpayer money potentially on, right, is to what degree can they be completed? And I think average completion-rate targets are usually somewhere between 70% and 80% on these programs. And Marisa, if you don't mind, I mean, you know, maybe just share some of your insight on how this program has impacted completion rates alone.

Marisa Ortiz 47:01

Well, and I'm sorry, I may not have the stats right in front of me. I remember we shared in preparation for this call. But yes, I mean, one of the questions we asked in the post-training feedback survey was, Do you feel that this training, do you feel eager to apply what you learned in this training in your career? And do you think that this is, you know, helping you in your career? And, you know, we got like, in the, you know, 89%-90% of participants were like, "Absolutely!" Yeah, was that right?

Sean Attwood 47:34

It's around, it was around 90%, which isn't perfect, but it, to me, that's, that's a very, that's a significant increase from what you normally see. I saw a lot of stuff between the 60s and 70s, you know, with similar programs, and so just, just some of the ROI based on completion rates alone, when these metrics are looked at, you know, it's worth considering. And then job placements, job placements naturally are higher. But, you know, that, that could be a whole other podcast.

Jim Collison 48:09

OK, friends. For part of the program that we call the "Lightning Round," we've got questions coming in from the chat room. We won't be able to spend too much time on -- I do want to get to a few of them, because they're good. So let's, we'll have to, we'll have to roll through this piece. But Kristal had asked, Do you have any special tips -- Marisa, we'll start with you -- do you have any special tips for introducing the concept of positive psychology/strengths to skeptics? I'm sure both of you had this, or I'll let you both in. But, but Marisa, you -- any, any tips on when folks -- ?

Marisa Ortiz 48:35

Sure. That's just the stats. You know, all I did was, you know, in Module 1, and when I have that type of challenge sometimes to the audience, I, from the get-go, I start with the Gallup numbers, so what research says. You know, what are, you know, what are the the, the, the KPIs that increased tremendously from engagement to sales to profit by a group having a strengths intervention? So what I do is like, it like, "It's not me. I'm not the one doing the research; I cannot even keep up with a spreadsheet. You know, it's Gallup!" You know, so that's, I'm very good at making that distinction that I am not saying is, you know, you know, the best thing, you know. No, it's, it's the numbers. Like if you can bring another tool, another instrument of its kind that is also research-based and that is the scholarly approved that have these numbers, then sure, I'm happy to engage in that conversation. But of course, they can't, so I think just research -- just show the numbers.

Jim Collison 49:34

Good. Sean?

Sean Attwood 49:36

I would say positive psychology, I mean, first off, it, it honors the subjective, but it doesn't, it doesn't take the eye off the ball to the objective. And I think the killer app in positive psychology is that everything's an opportunity. Right? Yeah, sure, problems and, and whatever, they're there, but they become an opportunity, right? And so it increases long-term thinking, and long-term thinking is what we all need. But in order to get there, we need to learn how to find common ground. And positive psychology helps advance that. So organizationally, it just, it just makes sense. In a family, it makes sense. Amongst friends, it makes sense. If it becomes a dominant part of our culture, I think it could change the world.

Jim Collison 50:24

Yeah, I think, I think well said. Justin asks a question to Marisa: How long did it take you to design the program? And we'll forgive his misspelling there ["programme"]. And what was the greatest challenge on creating it? (I'm joking about the misspelled!)

Marisa Ortiz 50:36

It's not misspelled! It's correct. Thank you for the question. I would say took me a couple of weeks to create this curriculum. And of course, you know, I, you know, I had a draft and I sent to Sean, right. And Sean, and I, of course, you know, we're geeking out about it for a little bit. And then I'd make a few other tweaks and send back to Sean, like, sure, you know, you know, maybe you want to do -- I remember you, Sean, mentioning, "Oh, balconies and basements, you know, how about here?" So it was awesome to be able to have a fellow, you know, Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach help me develop the, the curriculum. And also, you know, that we had that connection in IT and we knew the sector and we know our community. So we really had in mind very much our audience. But, of course, it, you know, every time I delivered the course, I learned -- it was a lesson for me as well.

Marisa Ortiz 51:28

So I would say, Well, as I said before, to kind of perfect it. And you know, each cohort of students will bring a different set of challenges, to answer to the portion of what was the greatest challenge. And I would say the, the greatest challenge sometimes was uncertainty that I went through as to, you know, not, not sure how soon we were going to have enough people to have another cohort, little things like that, you know. And, you know, when you work with a grant-based program, you have certain parameters that you have to work with. And I, you know, of course, I got a little nervous a couple of times about those things. But I overall, it was a great experience, a very positive experience working with our community partners and with Alamo Colleges, you know, was very positive.

Jim Collison 52:12

Sean, don't worry, you get your own question as well. So, Lisa asks, Sean, you did an amazing job of sticking with funding for your program. What strengths did you bring to that? How did you -- cause you got to stay with this thing, so -- you can go outside your Top 5, if you want.

Sean Attwood 52:28

Maximizer, I identify with Maximizer, and that's my, that's my No. 6. I think that's what drove it, primarily. But what kept me calm, and what always keeps me calm, for the most part, is probably the Individualization and the Connectedness, right? It -- especially the Connectedness, it, it helps me not give up, right? It makes me stubborn as a mule sometimes, but it helps me keep my confidence in maybe sharing the vision when it, you know, you get knocked down and you fall flat every once in a while, but it's, you know, it's very similar to Belief in a weird way, you know, even though my, my Belief is much, much lower. The Connectedness is a big confidence booster, for sure; keeps me going.

Jim Collison 53:19

No, good to hear. As, as we do kind of final thoughts. I want to ask you this question: If you were to give one piece of advice -- Marisa, we'll start with you -- If you were going to give one piece of advice to somebody who is thinking about doing this in their city, what advice would you give them, going in?

Marisa Ortiz 53:33

Oh, wow. What a great question! Well, I would say to think global, apply local. I would say to spend the time to develop the curriculum and any other pieces of the project, right, with really the audience in mind. Who are your students, and the, the slight differences there might be within that community? You know, I think this is very much about -- this is not a cookie-cutter solution, right. But if you have in your community the opportunity to customize, to really work for the needs of your learners and really address the needs of your learners, that's what works best, right -- to meet the learner where they're at, and, and, you know, and transform lives that way. That's what I would say. Just keep it as local, as relevant as possible.

Jim Collison 54:28

Like it! I like it! Good. Sean, what would you give?

Sean Attwood 54:32

I mean, that's, I think that's, that's the key. And I would say, never underestimate the, just the power of a private partner, private-public partnerships. You know, that's, that's what really helped get the funding in this particular case. But, you know, thinking locally is very powerful. Almost every city or town has, you know, proud employers or organizations that -- whose, whose beliefs and culture align with investing thoroughly in people, right, and not just talking the talk. And so, you know, aligning with those organizations and taking your time to really craft the vision and know that there's gatekeepers along the way. So the first "No" doesn't really matter, just keep going, you know, and, and keep the vision clear and, and then just, just know when to move on. But, but really work on those, those partnerships. Because, at -- look, as the, especially we're talking about the public sector here, as, as our society ages, I mean, you just see the public sector borrowing more ideas from the private sector. And so, you know, the glue there are those partnerships, and there's, there's an appetite for them on both sides.

Jim Collison 55:55

We just did some internal training here at Gallup. I was recording some training, and the instructor said, "In some cases, it takes 18 to 25 "Nos" before you'll get a "Yes." And lots of people give up after 3. So, Sean, to your point, I think, if you want to be in this space, especially in the public sector, you're gonna have -- you're gonna face opposition. If you don't, you're doing something wrong, probably, or you're not doing something right. And too, you're gonna probably take a lot of "Nos" and a lot of frustration. So --

Sean Attwood 56:24

Yeah, and just to take a positive psychology approach to that, when you do get a "No," you might uncover a new opportunity, you know, a new way to serve.

Jim Collison 56:33

Right on. Marisa, Sean, thank you for giving us an hour today to kind of, to go through this. It's been great to get to know you through this process. This has been super fun for me to get to know you guys.

Sean Attwood 56:43


Jim Collison 56:44

Through putting up the, putting up the invite to our call this week; a real joy to spend time with you guys. So thanks for coming on. I appreciate it. You guys hang tight for me here for one second. We'll remind everyone to take full advantages of all the resources we have available now in Gallup Access. So if you're wondering, gosh, where do I get some great information on this? Head out to And while you're there, sign up for the CliftonStrengths Insight Newsletter. It comes out monthly. We just put one out the other day. At the bottom of the page, there's a newsletter signup, on every page at So get signed up there as well. If you're interested in coaching, master coaching or becoming a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach like these individuals are here as well, send us an email: We can help you get through that. Stay up to date with all our webcasts by visiting Follow us there; you'll get an email notification whenever I post anything new. So follow us on any social platform just by searching "CliftonStrengths." And we do want to thank you for joining us today. If you liked it, well, click the Like button to begin with, and then, second, share it! We'd love to have you share this around, not just locally, but around the world. Great opportunities to do that as well. We want to thank you for coming out today. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

Marisa Ortiz's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Connectedness, Input, Learner, Empathy and Positivity.

Sean Attwood's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Individualization, Input, Futuristic, Connectedness and Learner.

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

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