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Called to Coach
How Knowing Yourself via Your Strengths Can Fuel Change
Called to Coach

How Knowing Yourself via Your Strengths Can Fuel Change

Webcast Details

  • In what practical ways can understanding and applying your strengths change you?
  • How can your relationships and your workplace benefit from this?
  • What insights do leaders need to know as they embark on a journey of strengths-based culture change?

Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series -- Season 9, Episode 57.

Below are audio and video plus a transcript of the conversation, including time stamps.

Change starts with one person. We've all heard this maxim before. But how does this change come about? In this episode of Called to Coach, Narinder Ahluwalia, Chief Solutions Architect for Covalience in India, encourages us that digging deeply into our own strengths will generate changes in the way we understand ourselves and navigate our relationships -- whether with family, friends or coworkers. As a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, Narinder has seen how applying CliftonStrengths has changed his own life, as well as the lives of students, coworkers and leaders he coaches -- and how strengths can change organizational cultures. Join us and gain insight into the broad impact CliftonStrengths can have on you, your relationships, your workplace and society as you know yourself better.

It's only when I learned from CliftonStrengths that this is Input working in me and in my life ... that I now understand that if I were to collect stuff, it should be stuff which is useful to me and to others.

Narinder Ahluwalia, 9:42

Not only [in] the corporate world but even in social circles like orphanages and schools and other places, CliftonStrengths does a magnificent job of helping people.

Narinder Ahluwalia, 49:53

My message to the industry leaders is ... find a coach near you. ... Feel that essence, feel that pleasure of knowing about yourself. Because if you know about yourself, every morning, you set out on the right footing.

Narinder Ahluwalia, 57:28

Jim Collison 0:00
I am Jim Collison, and this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on November 23, 2021.

Jim Collison 0:18
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 just a link right above us up there to click on that, jump in the chat. If you have questions after the fact, you can always send us an email: Don't forget to subscribe to Called to Coach on your favorite podcast app or right there on YouTube. There's actually a link below the Gallup logo. Well, that way you get notified of new, any new programs that are coming up. Deepanjan Deb is our host today. DD, as we like to call him, is a Market Leader for Gallup and is located in our India office and is doing a great job in India. DD, thanks for coming back. His Top 5 -- let me read those really quick: Context, Individualization, Learner, Strategic and Achiever. DD, great to have you on Called to Coach. We got a great guest. Welcome back!

Deepanjan Deb 1:14
Thank you so much, Jim. And once again, it's great to be in the second edition of the Called to Coach for, for India with the year 20, with respect to the year 2021. And Jim, thanks a lot for taking time out. It's, I know it's late over there in the U.S., but you have been the biggest ambassador for us globally.

Jim Collison 1:34
Never, never, never too late, DD. We've got a great guest. I'll disappear, and why don't you introduce him.

Meet Our Guest on This Episode

Deepanjan Deb 1:40
Thank you so much. It's a great pleasure for me to welcome Mr. Narinder Ahluwalia as our guest for the month of November. Mr. Ahluwalia is the Chief Solutions Architect for Covalience, a software development company headquartered in Chicago in the U.S. Narinder, as he would like to be called, got certified from Gallup in 2016 and is currently playing the role of a coach and a mentor in his organization. He is also in charge of mental health for the employees of his company and is also playing the role of a brand ambassador for the company for partnerships with academic institutions. Now, during his journey as a Gallup coach within the organization, he has helped coworkers, business owners, teachers, social workers, professionals, church leaders, homemakers and students understand the philosophy and be the better version of themselves. And more importantly, these individuals have reported benefits from becoming aware of strengths-based lives. We'll learn more about this as we talk to him during the show. A very warm welcome to you, Narinder, and your first thoughts on being a part of this Called to Coach?

Narinder Ahluwalia 2:53
Hey, Deepanjan, or should I call you DD? It's been absolute a pleasure to be here on the show. My first thoughts, if you asked me, are that whenever I speak to most people here in India, not many know about CliftonStrengths and the amazing benefits that accrue to people and organizations who use this. So my agenda today is to share my life experiences and professional experiences so that I can reach out to those people who do not know much about this, and they can benefit as well.

Deepanjan Deb 3:26
Great. Why don't you start with your, you know, a little bit about your journey, postcertification. And also tell us a little bit about your Top 5 strengths, and how do you see them manifest?

Narinder Ahluwalia 3:40
I still remember that morning when we trooped into this room and, at just close to the Delhi airport, we had this first day of the coaching program -- the Accelerated Coaching Program -- and I was not sure what's coming. But by the end of those 5 days, I had seen a different world altogether. I had known about the filters that I always used and never realized I'm using them. It was an amazing start of my journey as a coach. Initially, as most of us do, instead of doing Name it, Claim it and Aim it, I was always doing Name it, Name it and Name it, which meant that I was so obsessed with telling people about what their, each talent them meant, that I kept on doing that.

Narinder Ahluwalia 4:34
But soon these, this turned into great ideas that came out of it, how they can benefit from it, how they can meet their challenges, overcome problems and stuff like that. Talking about my Top 5, my first one is Belief and the second one is Developer, followed by Input and then I have Connectedness and, finally, Adaptability. So these are my Top 5; I can share some more information with you about how I view my Top 5 and how they have changed me as a person.

Top 5 Strengths and Life Change

Deepanjan Deb 5:10

Narinder Ahluwalia 5:12
So talking about Belief, it was in the year of 1990 in the month of March, my wife Rani told me that her sister Ritu, is getting married. Oh, I was very happy to hear that. I immediately called up my father-in-law. I told him, "Dad, congratulations! Rani just told me, Ritu is getting married." He thanked me, but I could sense a hint of concern in, in his voice as he responded. I asked him "Dad, what's wrong? Can I help you in any way?" He said, "Well, the thing is that the groom's parents are wanting dowry, and I'll have to raise a loan to do that."

Narinder Ahluwalia 5:59
So for those of you who do not know what dowry is, there is a practice, which is not very popular anymore in India; it used to be very popular in the past, wherein when a girl gets married to a boy, the girl's parents are expected to pay some money or other things to the boy's, boy's family or to the boy, but this is fading out now. So since this was back in the day, so it was quite strong at that time. And then what happened was, when I heard this, instantly, I felt a lot of disrespect for Ritu's would-be husband.

Narinder Ahluwalia 6:37
But fast forward. Today, this family, Ritu and her husband, are well-settled. They have two beautiful daughters. They live in New Jersey. And I realized that I became polarized from Ritu's husband because of my first talent theme, which is Belief; I had a very strong value system because I did not -- and even today, I do not believe in the practice of dowry. So I got polarized. But when I went through CliftonStrengths, and I understood that this was one of the basements I had, I now understand that it was the culture which was driving this, not that Ritu's husband was a bad guy. He's a great guy; they have a great family.

Narinder Ahluwalia 7:27
So now I have understood that although I have my values, that, but I should look at values of other people in a positive light. So that's my Belief, in a mature form, playing a role in my life today. Similarly, on a similar footing, if I talk about my second talent theme, which is Developer, so since I live in Chandigarh, so what happened was, this was way back in 2009, I suddenly had this idea of identifying the athletic ability of kids in the neighborhood. So I said, "Hey, kids, why don't I organize a cricket match for you?"

Narinder Ahluwalia 8:12
So you said, "Wow, that's a great idea." The problem was -- for those of you who do not know what cricket is or what kind of a playing field cricket needs -- just to give you kind of a perspective on this, a soccer field measures 7,500 square meters, whereas a cricket field measures 17,000 square meters. So there was this big government school nearby, and I went and met the caretaker over there and I requested him to allow us to have this match in his ground. He gave me a look as if I'd lost my marbles. He said, "No way! This is the government property. I will not allow any outsider to play here." And DD, I remember till date, I used my salesman skills to the best ability to convince him successfully. We had the match. I bought the prize for the winning team, gave the price, felt great about myself.

Narinder Ahluwalia 9:12
The next day, in the morning, I was reading the newspapers. Suddenly the bell rang. When I opened the door, I saw three of these boys from the losing team trying to convince me that the other team had cheated, so they don't deserve the prize. I felt very bad. I thought, "My goodness! I had thought that by doing this I'll be doing a great job, a great favor, a great service to my community, my neighborhood. And look, I have created misunderstanding." But CliftonStrengths helped me later on to know that due to my Developer theme, I need to be very particular about who I'm helping -- whether the person is deserving or not -- I have to determine that first and not just go helping anyone. That's what I learned from -- .

Deepanjan Deb 10:04
I will, I will pause you for a second and ask you a follow-up question here. Now that you are aware of who you are, what your strengths are, what do you do naturally, what is your natural equilibrium position, what perhaps you shouldn't have done. When you encounter such situations now, both in the professional space as well as in the personal space, are you able to preempt them and take necessary course of action before?

Narinder Ahluwalia 10:35
That's a great question. I am usually able to preempt them when I'm not under pressure. But sometimes when I'm under pressure, I tend to go back to the default. So that's a, that's a great observation, DD, I must say.

Deepanjan Deb 10:51
Sure. So you can continue with the next, please.

Narinder Ahluwalia 10:54
Sure. So the next one is Input.

Deepanjan Deb 10:57
Yeah. How they, how they manifest. Yes.

Narinder Ahluwalia 10:59
Yeah. So regarding Input, DD, fourth of November this month was Diwali. And Diwali is a very big Indian festival. People light their houses with colorful lights, and firecrackers go off. And people wear new clothes, exchange gifts, and so on and so forth. I was visiting a friend. And as I sat in the living room, I found her son Anhav a little grumpy. I said, "Anhav, what's going on? This is Diwali, man! Why are you grumpy? It's time to be joyous." He said, "Well, my, my dad threw away all the broken wall tiles I had collected from the neighborhood parks." I felt so bad for him. He's just 9 years old.

Narinder Ahluwalia 11:48
But I was taken back in time, because as a kid, I had this habit of collecting different shapes and sizes and colors of stones. And one day, I remember my mom gave me an ultimatum. She said, "Narinder, if you don't throw these out, I'll have you sleep in the living room for the next one month." And so I had to say, "Goodbye," to my beauties. And I felt very bad about it. But later on in life, I kept on collecting different kinds of things, almost like a junkie. It's only when I learned from CliftonStrengths that this is Input working in me and in my life, in my way of behavior that I now understand that if I were to collect stuff, it should be stuff which is useful to me and to others.

Narinder Ahluwalia 12:36
For instance, I collect books, which I share with other people who are deserving, who want to learn. And DD, the next one, which I can think about is about Connectedness. To tell you about Connectedness, I'll have to take you to the last century. This was the summer of 1980. I was visiting Chicago at that time, and I was at the Rotary International's very big function going on there in Chicago, and I was there as a guest. I had a friend whom I had met in Chicago, not a very old friend. So suddenly, he turns to me and says, "Hey, Narinder. It's getting boring here. Let's, let's go out somewhere. Let's do some sightseeing." An inner voice told me, "That's a bad idea." But as you know, DD, I was young, I was brash, I didn't realize. I just stepped out and I followed him.

Narinder Ahluwalia 13:34
In about 45 minutes, this guy turns around and says, "Hey, I want to go back to my hotel. I can't take you there. But I have to really, really go. I have just recalled something very urgent." Now I was in a big city, all by myself, without $1 in my pocket, because I was traveling with my uncle who had all the money. I still thank that chartered bus driver who drove me to my hotel, absolutely free of cost. But that taught me a big lesson. So today, when I look back at that, and I see it in the perspective of CliftonStrengths, I realize that I have this inner voice that prods me on, that helps me to take decisions, helps me to get into action. But what I do today, I listen to it. And mostly, that voice has been very constructive, useful and positive. As a young guy, I had no idea that why this voice is there and what should I do about it?

Deepanjan Deb 14:41
So you have, I think, one more -- you have the last one too.

Narinder Ahluwalia 14:48
The last Top 5 that I have is Adaptability. In 2019, my wife Rani and I, we were visiting Canada; we were in the city of Edmonton. And it was late October and very, very cold. It had snowed all night. Early morning, we got together; we were staying with an elderly couple, Dan and Melody. I, I asked Dan, I said, "Dan, is it OK for me to go out for a run?" Dan said, "Not a good idea. If you really have to run, go to the gym, around the block, and use a treadmill. And remember to take your phone with you; you might need it." Now I had a very short span of attention. So I was very excited. I just finished my coffee and I stepped out into a chilly Edmonton snowy morning. I completely forgot to take my mobile. I even forgot to note down the house number of my host.

Narinder Ahluwalia 15:54
Long story short, it took me 3 hours to return back to that house because I had no clue; all the houses look very similar. I had no clue where Dan's house is. And I still can't forget the look on my wife's face when I came in. She had a very vivid imagination. She said, later on, that "When you didn't show up for a long time, I thought you had been run over by one of those big Canadian trucks." So but now I realize that I am able to focus much more, thanks to CliftonStrengths, which has helped me understand that this is something I need to improve upon. And I have done that successfully. My attention span is much better now. I'm able to register things better and take immediate action. So, DD, those are my Top 5 and how they played their role in my life.

Deepanjan Deb 16:44
Thank you so much, Narinder, because this is gives us a very beautiful start for the discussion, because you've brought in historical context about how things were and how things are now, as, as, as you view them through the lens of strengths and, you know, how the changes happened, right? So it gives, you know, people who will, who are listening and who will be listening to this in the future, a perspective of what the StrengthsFinder does to your perception of things in life. Now, as a follow-up to that question, I just want to ask you one pertinent question before we go down to the, you know, nitty gritties of certain things that you, that you have observed within your company, things have changed.

Strengths and Culture Change: Embarking on the Journey

Deepanjan Deb 17:37
Your, during your journey as a Gallup Coach, you've helped many people, you know, and I think you've also mentioned that these individuals have reported benefits from becoming more aware. Right? So once you got certified and went back to your workspace, for someone who comes from the business side of things, what were the things that you did in the organization? I remember that you had started implementing through certain assessments and codes and all those things. But this is kind of a culture change, right. And, you know, I remember you sending us this beautiful note around some of the changes that you saw that happened in the organization some, some months back; we will definitely talk about it. But before we go deeper into that, my question is, What were the first things that you did to ensure that the benefits of this, this movement can, can be seen within the organization first, within a small space and then, of course, dissipating to a larger spectrum of people?

Narinder Ahluwalia 18:48
That's a great question, and that deserves a very specified answer. Let me tell you this -- when I finished my coaching training, so to say, I first looked within as to how can I change myself? How can I overcome certain habits or behavior patterns and understand my filters? How do I relate with other people, whether in my office or at home or friends and all of that? Then, from there, I expanded that to how others can benefit from it.

Narinder Ahluwalia 19:27
So one of the things which caught on to me very strongly was in order to make this successful in my company; in order to completely embrace the idea of strengths-based work or strengths-based life, I need to make strengths language a common language in my organization. So what we did, interestingly, we set up certain kinds of book studies within the organization. For example, we talked about the different, different talent themes we have in CliftonStrengths and what they mean. And we got books from the market, written by Marcus Buckingham -- First, Break All the Rules. And so those books gave us a pretty good perspective. And you would, you would know this pretty well, that Marcus' book talks about the Q12.

Narinder Ahluwalia 20:24
And so all of those things were done with a specific intent of helping my coworkers and managers to understand that, you know, you have been doing things in a certain way all this while. And you have had conflict; you have had challenges; you have given up; you have been frustrated. So, let me show you a new way of catching people doing things right, instead of finding faults in others. So the entire concept of positive psychology, as propagated by Dr. Donald Clifton, we brought that in. When I say "we," I mean, Jennifer, my CEO's wife and myself, we were the two people who went in for coaching for CliftonStrengths. So we then planned that and brought it in.

Narinder Ahluwalia 21:13
And ever since, we have been helping all of the employees who are interested. One of the things that we have done in our company is we don't force people to come in for coaching; we let them have that hunger and thirst for it. Because it's like, two guys get coached. And then they go and talk to their friends and say, "Hey, this is great. You know, I used to think about this in this manner; now my perspective has changed and I feel much better." And what we are finding is, more and more people have embraced this idea.

Narinder Ahluwalia 21:46
Followed by that, DD, we started doing something called Games and Quizzes around strengths. We have an amazing employee. She is the office manager and employee engagement manager, Chitwan. She is gifted, I mean, her first one is Maximizer. So she is gifted in this area of giving you an experience that you will remember for a long time. So she brought in all the matter about CliftonStrengths, which Jennifer and I helped her understand. And these were wonderful quizzes. They were around Bollywood personalities; we used to talk about different movies -- OK, in this movie, this hero, this heroine, what kind of personality traits were those? What kind of strengths were being shown there? Then it became very interesting to them.

Narinder Ahluwalia 22:31
Because if it's just bookish knowledge, that, "Oh, you must remember, Strategic means this, and Analytical means this. And you know, Restorative means ..." it's very, nobody remembers that. When you connect it with something which they like, like Bollywood movies, masala movies, then it becomes interesting. So one of the reasons why it got really accelerated, and we saw the benefits coming through is because we connected it with the everyday life events. So that's what we did, in a nutshell.

Deepanjan Deb 23:00
That's a very powerful, you know, it's a very interesting and rather practical way of implementing this, because we tend to, you know, associate things with what, what we follow, right? So even if you're teaching something to, OK, you're teaching something to a new person, the way you can explain it is that you can correlate with something that he or she can, you know, relate to.

Narinder Ahluwalia 23:25
Very well observed. Yes.

Strengths and Mental Health

Deepanjan Deb 23:28
Now, as we go down deeper to your, you know, it's about 5 years, almost more than 5 years since you got certified and you've been applying this, right. I also understand that you are in charge of the mental health for, you know, employees within your organization. And we, and mental health has reached a state where we know, it's become a very, very important part of our lives and how we navigate this. So, have you seen a difference of people, you know, the moment they start applying, you know, strengths around things that they like to do, the other, around things that they, that they're naturally good at doing? Have you found any, you know, correlation, or have you found any observation in your role, in your, in your role as a charge of mental health, where the StrengthsFinder has come into, into the picture?

Narinder Ahluwalia 24:31
Awesome question. I was waiting for you to ask this one. I definitely have a real-life example. And I have taken my coworker's permission to use his name on this. So this is Rakesh, and Rakesh was always suffering from anxiety. So when I spoke to him as a coach, I asked him, "Rakesh, how do you view your team?" Because he's the project coordinator, so he has a lot of people who report to him. So he said, "I am really frustrated. Because when I tell the team to do certain things in a certain way, they tend not to do that in that manner. And they tend to have their own ways of doing things. They don't listen to me. They don't respect me."

Narinder Ahluwalia 25:20
When we went a little deeper, DD, what we discovered was that Rakesh had this feeling that each and every person working in his team is a clone of his: They think exactly the way he thinks; they view life exactly the way he views. Then, when we explained to him the fundamentals of CliftonStrengths and how each one of us is different, and we use different filters to view and process information, that was an Aha! moment for him. And that same Rakesh today is a much better manager. He now understands how other people are different, and how other people can achieve the same result in their own style, in their own process, in the method they want to use, because their filters are different. So that's a great example, a living example, in our company.

Deepanjan Deb 26:19

Narinder Ahluwalia 26:19
I have one more, if you want more.

Deepanjan Deb 26:22
No, I think you've, actually, it's very, very, you know, lucidly explained the way it helped him more effectively and positively from what he was going through. Right? One question for you is the fact that you also mentioned to us on how some of the changes that you saw, is the fact that employees are aware of their potential and work in harmony with in, interdependent teams, of course, which is what the StrengthsFinder talks about. So can you a little bit explain to us, or share with us, a few examples around the fact that how collaboration within teams has become better. Because you, you guys are a software development, you know, organization, and where you would need a lot of interdependency on teams, you know, functioning together to create, you know, productive output. So, and also the fact that now, of course, we're still in the, in the pandemic times, and how this is, this is manifested, both pre-pandemic as well as the, during the pandemic times, where people have been working in the virtual environment.

Narinder Ahluwalia 27:46
Right, so let's start with the pre-pandemic times. We have a practice lead by the name of Vivek. So, Vivek has Activator, Intellection, and three other strengths. But I talk about Activator, Intellection because that dovetails into your question. Vivek used to be always ready to take action without thinking through. And his Intellection gave him a lot of ideas -- how to do things, and he used to be convinced that this is the best way and just get into it. Now, what that used to do, many a times, the decisions that he took, were not in accordance with what the team wanted or what others in the team felt. When he was coached; when he came to know about CliftonStrengths and how this works, and what does Intellection mean for him, and what does the Activator theme mean for him? And he could then himself decipher as to which are the areas he needs to change?

Narinder Ahluwalia 28:52
And I was talking to him last week, and he said, "You know, Narinder, now, whenever I have to take a decision, I definitely give it a thought. I think through the whole thing. But then I ask my team, How would they want to do this? And one of the people in his team has Deliberative. So he now understands that I can utilize the talents of the Deliberative person to think through before I take an action and jump into the fray and start doing things and later repent. So, that has been a great example of collaboration and a great example of an interdependent team.

Role of Strengths in Reducing Team Conflict

Deepanjan Deb 29:35
Lovely. Now, when we go back to collaboration and teams, we also see that, you know, sometimes knowingly, unknowingly, most, many times unknowingly, conflicts happen, right. So for example, if, suppose I have high Activator, and suppose you have very high Deliberative. You would take your time before responding to an email. But because I have high Activator, and I'm not aware that you have high Deliberative, so if you're not responding to an email, I will think that, "Why are you ignoring me?" And this is kind of becoming an unintentional conflict because I don't know that you, who you are. So, have you seen conflicts get reduced a little bit or any, any observation in the changes that you've seen on conflicts when, when, when people are starting, you know, viewing things through the lens of strengths?

Narinder Ahluwalia 30:33
Absolutely! This takes me to our Lead System Architect, Gagan, and Gagan has Self-Assurance. He was confessing, he said, right from his college days, he did not have many friends. Because your Self-Assurance, and he is very strong in that area. It was -- his, his attitude was, "My way or highway." So, as a result, he lost many friends. When he came to work with us, and he's in a pretty senior position, and about eight, nine people report to him. So he used to always dictate to the team what should be done and how, because he felt whatever his views are, are the only ones which are correct. Everything else is not right. And this created a lot of conflict. People were really, really troubled by that. And we had these conversations around this conflicts, as to how do we resolve this? Until Gagan came in for coaching.

Narinder Ahluwalia 31:42
Like I told you in the beginning, DD, we never force anyone to come in for coaching; we let them realize it's required. The day Gagan came in for coaching, and he sat down opposite me and we started talking about this, by the third session, Gagan could figure out where the problem is. He said, "Narinder, I realized it's the talents of my Self-Assurance -- the basements of Self-Assurance -- which is causing all this problem. So I need to understand this. And I need to back off. I need to give other people a voice to speak and make their opinions important to me; I hear them out and listen to them." So with some effort and some coaching and, you know, asking some questions to Gagan, he was able to devise a way that whenever they had, had those team meetings and discussions, he would actually let other people speak, and listen to them. That same Gagan is a very popular supervisor in our company now.

Deepanjan Deb 32:46
Very, very powerful, you know, example that you've shared. Before we, I go into, you know, my next set of questions, I just want to bring in Jim, if he has, you know, any questions from the first set of, you know, discussions we've had. And I must thank Narinder for sharing some very, very powerful stories, because stories are a very powerful medium to express the, you know, the concept that, that we learn. You know, Jim?

Changes in the Indian Workplace Regarding Strengths

Jim Collison 33:15
Yeah. Thanks for having me back in. Narinder, I wanted to ask you, you know, we've been doing Called to Coach in India for 6, 7 years now. Have you, and especially as we think about the last couple years of the pandemic, what kind of changes have you seen, generally, in the work, in the workplace in India, as far as the acceptance of strengths? This idea, this, this idea of focusing on what you're best on and minimizing your weaknesses? Has, has there been any, has there been any significant changes overall, culturally, in that in the workplace in India?

Narinder Ahluwalia 33:52
That's a wonderful question, Jim. And as you would probably know, India, like any other Asian culture, is a very relational culture. So working from home, working virtually is something very difficult to wrap your head around. In India, people believe in meeting across the tables and in parties and functions and houses. People visit each other. So when pandemic hit, and we were forced to close our office, one of the first things our management took a decision on was that to give the opportunity or the option to the employees that if they would like to work from home, they can.

Narinder Ahluwalia 34:33
But this is in the beginning of the pandemic. And if they still want to come to the office, we will create a situation which is free from all hazards, and they can come and work there. But soon this became -- and the COVID became so strong that we had to completely close down. When that happened, we had orientation. We usually have orientation twice a year. In that orientation, we were able to bring in especially the newcomers, because the old employees knew about us -- how we work, our culture and everything. And we were able to explain to them about what CliftonStrengths is. I remember, our CliftonStrengths session was the most loved session, because the orientation is some, called something like GPS. It talks about your passions and what you like, what are your value systems -- it talks about all of that. But the CliftonStrengths portion was very, very effective.

Narinder Ahluwalia 35:32
So what we realized is that when people came to know from their reports that what are the strengths they are, they possess innately, that helped them understand, and we made breakout rooms for them to discuss with each other that how can they work in a collaborative way, although they are not meeting each other? So we let them lead the way, instead of we dictating to them that these, these are 3 things you should do, and these 4 things you should not do. Because CliftonStrengths has this amazing ability, if somebody is able to break it down to a simple day-to-day living experience, people get it. They don't have to really think through a lot, as if it's rocket science. I really, really love the way CliftonStrengths goes about explaining how we should live life and do stuff.

Jim Collison 36:25
No, I like that. I found, during the pandemic, I started connecting with people one-on-one more. And I really enjoyed it. It was one of those moments for me. I have high Woo, but I also high Relator. And it played it, that played into that. And it taught me that I could, I could continue to do the, you know, do the one-on-one conversations and be very effective. I also have regularly scheduled calls during the week that's the same person every week. Monday morning, I get a call from a friend, catch up on the weekend. What do you got ahead for the week? Right? It helps kind of build that, you know, kind of helps build that.

Strengths and Workplace Pressures, Employee Wellbeing

Jim Collison 37:05
Have you found, you mentioned onboarding. And you also mentioned -- let me, let me, let me rephrase this. You mentioned, I want to mention wellbeing. And what have you learned, as we think about employees with their strengths and their wellbeing, during this time of pressure? You know, you said in the beginning, "Well, my strengths are great when I'm not under pressure. But when they get under pressure, I kind of revert back," right. And I think we all, we all kind of do that. Wellbeing and wellness in this, in the, in the area that you're working on was put under pressure. What have you learned about wellbeing and strengths in your organization? And how are you pushing that forward?

Narinder Ahluwalia 37:43
Yeah, I would first like to take a cue from what you just said. And that's a wonderful observation, the one-on-one stuff that you mentioned. So it just came to my mind that we at Covalience did a very similar thing. Apart from all other orientations and all of those, we made a schedule of meeting each and every employee at a specific day -- maybe once in 15 days, we used to do a call. And that was really helpful.

Narinder Ahluwalia 38:12
Now talking about how the strengths played a part and when people were under pressure, now, obviously, everybody has different filters. And they are, they are not able to think the way their partner or their coworker thinks. But the good thing is, I'm so glad that we were equipped with this armor of CliftonStrengths. Why call it an armor? Because it helps you to break down behavioral patterns of your coworkers -- makes it so easy to understand.

Narinder Ahluwalia 38:45
I'm not saying that we put labels on people, but we get to know, OK, this person would like to be addressed, would like to be approached in this way, because that is the way he thinks. And like DD has mentioned, a great example, he said, somebody with a high Activator will send an email, and somebody who's a Deliberative maybe would not respond for a long time. But if you understand that, because this armor of CliftonStrengths is with us, we got emotionally and morally protected against anyone blowing the fuse. That was a huge, huge upside for us. I really cannot thank CliftonStrengths enough for giving us that amazing armor.

Jim Collison 39:29
That's, that's good to hear. One of the things I like about DD is he has Context and Individualization, and that makes for a great question asker. So DD, I'm going to pass it back to you, and, and I know you got a few more questions.

Moving From Boss to Coach in India

Deepanjan Deb 39:43
Yes, I do. And I was listening to both of you, you know. And I think you've got a very important point around wellbeing because, you know, the importance of wellbeing has manifested more in this pandemic times, both physical wellbeing as well as, you know, the mental side of, side of things. Narinder, one, one of the things that you also mentioned to us for you, you saw an increase in employee engagement. And of course, we at Gallup closely work around the integration of employee engagement and strengths. And -- but you also mentioned something that actually is now a Gallup product. I'm using the word "product" a little, kind of loosely, but I'm just mentioning because it's something that we have worked significantly in our research to create solutions for our clients.

Deepanjan Deb 40:41
You mentioned to us that managers are no more micromanagers, but they come across with a coach mentality. And one of the things that we observed in our research is that we're trying, what managers, what people want is not their managers to not be a boss but be a coach. And we've created programs around it, which is called transitioning from a boss to coach. So can you shed a little light on how things have changed around this? Because I'm sure there will be a lot of managers within your organizations who are, of course, not certified from Gallup. But they are playing the role of a coach or having the role of, playing the role of a mentor.

Narinder Ahluwalia 41:26
Yeah, I will take you back to that answer I gave you when you talked about, What did I do after becoming a coach? So like I said, one of the things we did -- we made the strengths language a common language across the whole company. Now, initially, it was a bit strange and a bit new, ideas very fresh to most managers. We started by becoming models for them. When we started interacting with managers, we used to make sure that they understand what their strengths are. And then when they came in for discussions, we used to talk to them. And we used to point at their talents and appreciate them because of those things. And they felt really great. And they were, they were actually quite amazed at how did we come to know such intimate details of how they think and behave?

Narinder Ahluwalia 42:17
That's when we pointed at CliftonStrengths -- that, you know what? The way you are liking this, would you not like the same feeling to, to, to be given to your reportee -- a person who's in your team? So gradually, we found that people saw a lot of sense, because we modeled this first. At Covalience, we believe in modeling behaviors than just teaching theory. That really helps a lot. And because of that, most of our managers have become good at asking questions like a coach. And there was a time I remember, for a few weeks, we've made it a point in every meeting that we are in, we will ask questions. If somebody asks us a question, we will first ask questions back to that person instead of giving an answer straight away, so that we can process that information. So that was really, really helpful, DD, if that answers your question.

CliftonStrengths and Developing Listening Skills

Deepanjan Deb 43:14
Yes, it does answer my question. And there's, a follow-up to this is, When you come to the topic of asking questions, many a times, the problem in meetings is that people are not listeners, so they don't want to listen. Have you seen any change in that?

Narinder Ahluwalia 43:33
Yeah, that has been, that has been a struggle, I would say, honestly. Not that we have completely overcome it. But we are at a better place than where we were before. We imbibed the entire culture of CliftonStrengths. So before that, what used to happen, like you rightly said, people were very impatient. They were wanting to speak before the other person completed his or her sentence. So during this orientations, we had stuff like role plays, in which we help people understand. And above all of that, the management or the leadership of Covalience models this behavior with all the managers that they come across. So modeling that behavior has definitely helped. But to be very candid with you, DD, I'm not saying that everyone has become a great listener. But we are at a much better place; there's much improvement, and, which is, which is evident from the numbers I shared with you. And I can tell you where those numbers come from.

Deepanjan Deb 44:41
Yes, because I just thought because, you know, listening is something which is universally kind of something that we don't want to do -- unless, of course, you are more aware of things as a person. Because that's a problem that is prevalent everywhere, right? Because usually what happens is it becomes more lecturing than listening. Because you solve a lot of problems by listening properly. Right?

Narinder Ahluwalia 45:08
Sure. Sure. Sure.

Helping Students Know Themselves

Deepanjan Deb 45:10
So I'll divert a little bit from, from the corporate space and come to something that you have also mentioned that, you know, you have helped people beyond the corporate space. And also, in fact, I would also want to hear from you around your role as a partner in the Industry-Academia Partnerships, where, have you been able to dissipate the message to the students who eventually, you know, become corporate citizens around how do they benefit from knowing themselves? Right, there are a lot, I always believe that the StrengthsFinder is most powerful with students because, as a student, if you really know who you are, what are the things that naturally comes to you, a lot of things in life becomes much, much more scientific that, you know, what I don't need to do, right? It eventually manifests in the things that you do as a student, but your, you know, any, any examples or any, you know, observations you've seen in your role in, with the Academia? And second is, How have you seen other facets of, you know, noncorporate life get affected through the StrengthsFinder?

Narinder Ahluwalia 46:33
That's my favorite question, I must tell you that. Why it is favorite is because whenever I get to speak at various universities, a specific example comes to mind. Four years ago, I was invited by IIM Rohtak to be a keynote speaker for their HR conclave. So as I was talking about it, I had, a number of IIM students and professors were listening to me. So I actually explained to them the entire concept of CliftonStrengths. And, to my astonishment, that while I was talking to them, they were busy on Twitter, talking about this all over, which I came to know later on. And it caught on like a buzz. And many of these students, they requested me to accept their invites on LinkedIn. And they are till date connected with me. And sometimes they ask me questions and all of those that, "How can we benefit from it?" Some ask, "How can we become a coach?" Some ask, "How can we get coaching?" And even the professors they said, "This is something very new."

Narinder Ahluwalia 47:40
I ended up doing a workshop over there just to explain to them the entire concept. It was, it's like a 4-hour workshop explaining CliftonStrengths, as best as I could. They referred me then to a very old school in Mumbai -- it's called the Christ Church School -- they had the same thing. So it was kind of a domino effect. It happened in different, different places. And being a brand ambassador facing Academia gives me the unique advantage of reaching out to these impressionable minds with the concept and ideas of CliftonStrengths for sure.

Narinder Ahluwalia 48:16
In addition to that, since you asked me about other areas where I have coached or shared this, yes, there's this huge orphanage, in the city of Pune. It's called the PRMM, Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission, very famous orphanage. It has about, more than 2,000 inmates there. So the social workers who are responsible to take care of the inmates, they were part of my workshop, followed by one-to-one coaching. And they reported a huge difference in their attitude, not only towards the kids, but also towards their coworkers. Inside that orphanage, there's a school, which is up to grade 12. And the principal of that school, Mrs. Sujata, she went through coaching as well. And she was amazed -- she said, "If, if I had had the chance of going through this coaching when I was in college, I would have been a very different person. I would have been, had a much better relationship with my coworkers."

Narinder Ahluwalia 49:28
And because I was talking to her coworkers also, teachers who used to report to her, so a couple of them -- because obviously, when we talk about coaching, we say everything is confidential. So I will not give any names here. But they definitely said that we are not very comfortable with the style of functioning of the principal. But after the coaching, all of them said it's a day-and-night difference. So that was very encouraging, that not only the corporate world but even in social circles like orphanages and schools and other places, CliftonStrengths does a magnificent job of helping people.

Deepanjan Deb 50:09
Sorry, I was just saying that it's a very powerful message that, you know, Narinder has shared, you know, because how it impacts different spectrums of society. Jim, I know that you have been, you've seen a significant amount of the application of strengths in students, and your thoughts on what Narinder has shared, and any, any takeaways from that?

Jim Collison 50:31
Yeah, I think -- and Narinder, you can, you know, chime in on this -- I think sometimes we don't give students enough credit early. Like, I think they, we think they may not be ready for it, or they don't fully understand who they are. And they may not. But, but we have found, as we work with students, you know, 15 to 21 -- in that, in that kind of, in that kind of age group -- that they're very capable. They, they just need to spend time talking about it. Like, we need to spend a lot of time working through it. And not, you, you, you stole my line in the beginning of the Name it, Name it and Name it, you know, not telling them who they are, but listening to who they are through their dialogue. Would you, would you add -- in the work that you're doing with students -- would you have, would you add anything to that, as far as what you discovered they really kind of cling to?

CliftonStrengths and Students: Three Benefits

Narinder Ahluwalia 51:27
Yeah, what I discovered, that students, when they are exposed to CliftonStrengths, they tend to analyze that and try to see how they can benefit in three areas of their lives. This is my general observation. The first area that comes to their mind is their career. That how can a specific choice of career can be aligned with my strengths? Or the other way around, How my strengths can be aligned with the career that I'm thinking of. Or should I think of something else?

Narinder Ahluwalia 52:02
The second thing they think of is that how can I use my strengths, and the strengths of my friends and others, to form, to, to, to form solid partnerships and collaboration. So that if we have an idea of a startup or something, what kind of a team should I gather around me? So they look at that very positively.

Narinder Ahluwalia 52:24
And the third thing that they look at is that when they go back into their families, that OK, I have had this grudge against my uncle, or my dad, or my mom, or my elder sister. What was going on there? How do I analyze that? How do I break it? So those three areas are very helpful for them, because those are very important aspects of their lives at that point in time.

Jim Collison 52:49
I love that breakdown that you, when you really, I think we just need to give them more opportunities to learn and grow in that space. You had mentioned about listening. We were talking about that a little bit earlier. One of the things that's made, that's helped me improve my listening is learning how to ask really good questions. Like, in this job that I do, I can't just, I have to listen to be able to ask the next good question. Right. And, and I don't know if that necessarily comes naturally. I think you have to be curious and, and really want to hear what the, what the other person has to say. Right? And then be ready to form the next question -- not to teach but to go deeper, right? I mean, for me, that's just made me a better listener. Narinder, would you add anything to that?

Narinder Ahluwalia 53:42
Yeah, that reminds me of a talk I heard from Simon Sinek that he talks about, usually leaders, they, they are about me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, right? Whereas we should be having a giving attitude. To be a good listener, the first thing you need to develop is a giving attitude, that I'm here to give something -- a part of me, part of my knowledge and experience -- to the other person. And not try to impress that person that Hey, you know, I know more than you do. Right. So if we have that attitude, definitely listening becomes a tad bit easier than otherwise.

Jim Collison 54:22
Yeah, no, I love that. I love that idea of giving, kind of giving into the relationship. I think we could spend a whole bunch of time developing strengths-based listening opportunities, how, based on, on what I'm good at, what are my listening styles? I've never heard somebody work through that. But DD, maybe that's the next project we can work on together: strengths-based listening. DD, we have just a few minutes left. Any final questions?

Meeting the Challenges of Culture Change via Strengths

Deepanjan Deb 54:50
I have a final question too, you know, Narinder, and it's about the message that he has for organizations when they kind of start implementing StrengthsFinder from, from the beginning, right? And because the results will not show immediately; it will be gradual, right? It's a culture change. And it helps people to be the best version of themselves. And eventually, you start looking at it through micro-level changes, right? Like the examples you mentioned. Right? So what is your message to organizations who, who want to implement it? And what is the right way you feel they should go about implementing it?

Narinder Ahluwalia 55:34
DD, I love that thing that you mentioned in between in your question, where you said it's a cultural change. Definitely. So every industry, every company, every business has a culture. And I cannot comment upon the U.S. But from India, it's a top-driven culture. When I say, "a top-driven," it's driven by the CEO or the founder or the president of the company. Not that I agree with that kind of approach; I'm just stating a fact. Now what I have noticed in my journey as a coach, talking to other companies and leaders in other companies, whenever I have shared with them, they love the idea. But the inertia comes because they think it's an uphill task to change everything, because now you're talking about not only bringing in a change about how you view things, but you're also talking about being vulnerable. And that's a difficult one. Because when you are in that stuffy suit as a CEO, or whatever, it takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable. And that becomes a big problem.

Narinder Ahluwalia 56:45
But otherwise, yeah, in one-on-one talks, maybe on flights and hotels and meetings and conclaves, they all agree: "Yeah, this is a great idea." So this is what I was telling you right in the beginning that I want, that the industry or the business, at least in India, where I'm from, should start recognizing CliftonStrengths is a great gift to the industry leaders to change the way they do things for the better. And I can give them examples after examples of how this has helped our company. But then taking that question of yours further, DD, I would like to also add my message to the industry leaders is that instead of trying to implement everything in one shot, find a coach near you. Go through your coaching. Feel that essence, feel that pleasure of knowing about yourself. Because if you know about yourself, every morning, you set out on the right footing. That's my message to them. Look for a coach, and please go ahead.

Deepanjan Deb 57:57
That's a very powerful way to, to, you know, end this. And I think, Jim, this has been a very enriching discussion, especially from my perspective of, you know, knowing more about what he has done, Narinder has done, in his personal capacity as well as in his capacity within his organization. So that's all from me, Jim.

Jim Collison 58:20
I agree. Narinder, thank you for taking the time today to be a part of this and bringing the stories and the experience and, and all the wisdom to it as well. Thanks for joining us today. We appreciate it.

Narinder Ahluwalia 58:31
You're welcome, Jim. Thank you. Thank you, DD.

Jim Collison 58:33
I'll ask you, I'll ask you guys to hang tight for me one second. Just a couple quick reminders. One, lots of information and learning available on, in, now in the Gallup Access platform. You can get that: For coaching, master coaching or if you want to become a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach like we've talked about here, you can send us an email: And then we'll help you get through that process of getting that set up. And you can find us on any social platform just by searching "CliftonStrengths," and we want to thank you for listening today. If you don't, if you haven't done anything, go ahead and subscribe wherever you're listening today, so you make sure you never miss an episode. Thanks for joining us. With that, we'll say, Goodbye everybody.

Narinder Ahluwalia's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Belief, Developer, Input, Connectedness, and Adaptability.

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

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