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Called to Coach
An Opportunity to Bring CliftonStrengths to the Deaf Community
Called to Coach

An Opportunity to Bring CliftonStrengths to the Deaf Community

Webcast Details

  • What unique challenges arise in creating ASL signs for each of the 34 CliftonStrengths?
  • What are some keys to understanding and working with the Deaf Community?
  • What can you do to support Gallup's effort to reach the Deaf Community or to learn ASL yourself?

Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series -- Season 10, Episode 13.

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

Bringing CliftonStrengths into the U.S. Deaf Community is not as easy as it might seem. Although it is possible to use closed captioning or to spell out theme names using American Sign Language, a more inclusive way to reach this community would be for each of the 34 talent themes to have its own ASL sign, created by community members. This is the challenge that Shelina Valmond, advocate and interpreter for the Deaf Community in North and Central America, addresses as she sweeps us into the world of the deaf and hard of hearing and imparts her vision for a fully functioning strengths community among the deaf.

ASL has its own grammatical structure, which does not follow the English structure ... you're using, again, visual examples, as opposed to auditory ones. So that makes a huge difference when you're talking about strengths.

Shelina Valmond, 17:35

When you take the strengths community and the language and the themes and what it does for us as individuals, and you bring that to a community, you're changing the world on a fundamental level.

Shelina Valmond, 29:37

I think when you encapsulize the "everybody needs a coach" idea, this is the one that struck home with me the most -- my Woo, Positivity, Empathy, Includer just wants to know that everyone has access to this.

Shelina Valmond, 44:09

Jim Collison 0:01
I am Jim Collison, and this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on March 22, 2022.

Meet Our Guest on This Episode

Jim Collison 0:19
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 -- a few of you out there as well. Right above me there on the live page is the link to the YouTube page. It's got the chat room in it. Sign in with your Google account, and join us in chat. We'll be taking questions during the program. If you're listening after the fact, and you have questions -- in this case, you want to contribute in some way, you can send us an email: Don't forget to subscribe to Called to Coach on your favorite podcast app or right there on YouTube -- it's actually done over in the corner over there -- so that you never miss an episode. Shelina Valmond is our guest today. She is an ASL interpreter, author and actress -- that sounds very busy of you. And that's just a few of her favorite jobs. We're gonna get to know her here a little bit more. She's an advocate for the Deaf Community in North and Central America for over 3 decades now. She says learning about the strengths at the start of the global pandemic saved her sanity; we're going to hear about that. Shelina, thanks for coming out. Your Top 5: Communication, Woo, Strategic, Learner and Input. The audience will ask that if I don't put that in. But welcome to Called to Coach!

Shelina Valmond 1:37
Thank you, Jim. It's nice being on this side of the podcast with you for a change.

Jim Collison 1:42
Yeah, you listen to it from the other side, right?

Shelina Valmond 1:44
Yeah, most of the time, I'm on the other side. Just a little bit about my background. For those of you who are who are familiar with sign language in the United States, I've been a certified interpreter in the U.S. for, up until just a couple of years ago, really. I'm in Canada now. So obviously, that's, doesn't apply here. New roles, new place, new roles. And I'm currently working as a language tutor, and I'm an author. So I do a lot of writing in my free time and publish my work.

Jim Collison 2:20
What do you like to write about? What's your -- tell us a little bit about what you write.

Shelina Valmond 2:24
You know, that Learner, so I'll basically write anything. But right now my focus is that I have two pen names. One is science fiction fantasy, and the other is contemporary romance. It's actually -- I call it dangerously sweet romantic suspense.

Jim Collison 2:42
That's a creative way of saying it. I like that. I like it, I like it indeed. Let's talk about your journey to ASL first. How did, how does one become an interpreter?

Shelina Valmond 2:51
Well, not to start too early, but as a child, my favorite show was Sesame Street. And the first deaf person I ever saw was Linda. And I, that was the first time in my life where, as a No. 1 Communication, No. 4 Learner, I believed I could teach myself a language. So I went to my public library and started pulling out books and, you know, teaching myself some signs. I know I'm not alone in that journey; I've met many people who've had a similar experience. But then I got to high school, and the counselors start asking you, like, "What are you going to do with yourself?" And I basically wanted to do everything. As my resume will attest, I actually did do everything eventually.

Shelina Valmond 3:32
But sign language was something that was always with me. And I met my first interpreter while I was in high school. And so I peppered her with questions about, you know, "Do you get paid for this?" You know, "Do you get to, you know, what kind of other jobs do you do?" And now I'm on the receiving end of those questions, because that was basically my life. But I did go to college. I went to an interpreting program in Minneapolis, Minnesota, shout-out to my Minnesota people. And at the time, it was the only medically, medical interpreting program in the U.S. And so that's what I did. I went into medical interpreting and, from there, everything else? Yeah.

Deaf vs. Hard of Hearing

Jim Collison 4:12
When we think about deaf and hard of hearing, I think, for a lot of individuals, the "deaf" part makes sense -- can't hear at all. What's that "hard of hearing" part? And what's that community kind of look like?

Shelina Valmond 4:24
Yeah. So really in the community, you're going to have various levels of deafness. For example, medically speaking, you can go in and have a certain percentage of hearing in one ear or the other, or both. And really, the, the terminology of deaf and hard of hearing depends on the individual. They will choose that label for themselves. If they feel that they are a part of the Deaf Community, they will label themselves as "deaf." If they feel like maybe they're not really in that community, but they have a hearing loss, they still know sign language, they might label themselves as hard of hearing. And as a member of that community, we accept them at their word, whatever they choose to, however they choose to identify, that's, that's fine.

Jim Collison 5:09
And they will choose to sign, not -- so how does that, how does that work in the community?

Shelina Valmond 5:15
Yeah. So in, in interpreting, so we've seen it all, you can have, if you think of it like a spectrum, you can have people who are, you know, on one end, using ASL sign language, you know, with all the grammar, all the syntax that that entails and not speaking at all, maybe not able to hear at all. And then on the other end, you might have people with maybe quite a bit of hearing who don't sign. They prefer to lip read, or they consider themselves more in the hearing community, rather than the Deaf Community. So you're gonna have people anywhere in that spectrum of deafness. And we try to meet people where they are.

CliftonStrengths and the Deaf Community

Jim Collison 6:04
It's, that's good. When, and listen, as we've been working, I'm going to talk about this project here later. But I've been working in the project and kind of coming back to the community and remembering some things. As we think about our coaches or just individuals that are working with interpreters in some of the work we're doing, it's becoming more and more common. I'm hearing more and more folks saying this. Could you give a few tips just for us who are -- this is a, this is a culture and a community we don't know very well. So as we're interacting with that, can you give a few tips to kind of help us just think that through and not make all the mistakes that I made again, when, when working with the community?

Shelina Valmond 6:44
Oh, this is a tough one. OK. So maybe let me go back first, and talk about how I came to strengths. And then we can talk a little bit about what we can do in the strengths community to be welcoming to the deaf and hard of hearing. So a couple years ago, this crazy thing happened in the world. I don't know if you guys were around for it. But I discovered that I wasn't doing so good on my own. I started to feel the weight of things happening around me, and I really wasn't sure what was going on. So I started looking for answers. And in one of my author groups, a coach came along, Becca Syme, who focuses on strengths and specifically works with writers. And through that relationship with that coach and her amazing team, I was able to discover what my Top 5 are and my strengths.

Shelina Valmond 7:40
And that journey led me to basically, as any Input knows, devour everything I could get my hands on related to strengths. I went back every, to the very beginning of the Theme Thursday seasons and watched you, Jim, and Michaela -- Maika -- come along and, and talk about the strengths. And that really spoke to me about, like, how it could apply to me, not just at work, but like anywhere in my life. And so while I was experiencing that journey -- I have No. 11 Includer -- I noticed almost immediately that there was no sign language version of the, of the strengths. I was looking for, like, well, Where's the Deaf Community in all of this? That's just kind of naturally where I, where I go, where my mind goes, because that's the community I'm in the most. So I'm always looking for Where's the, you know, the deaf versions and the sign language versions of things? And I didn't see any.

Shelina Valmond 8:40
So I thought, Well, OK, maybe it's new. You know, I'm still learning. I'm still learning the strengths; I don't know how long it's been around. But that, the key where, I think there was one of the videos that talks about Donald Clifton's original, you know, focus of "Everybody needs a coach." Like everybody needs a coach. That's the, that's the goal. And I, and that kept hitting me, you know, kind of in the chest, like everybody needs a coach. So that means deaf people need a coach too, you know, everybody needs a coach. But I didn't see any. So I started to kind of just keep my ears open and look around and look for those places where the Deaf Community might be included. And I caught a podcast, a Gallup Live, where you, Jim, were speaking about your experience in the Deaf Community. And that was like, Ooh, ooh, ooh -- here we go. There's, there's something here. Can, do you mind sharing that story about how you, how you know about the Deaf Community yourself?

Jim Collison 9:42
Well, we were contacted initially by a Certified Coach who had said, Katie Christensen had said, Hey, I ran into this situation where I was asked to do this presentation, right, and folks were there -- we had, they had deaf folks there and an interpreter, and I never worked with them before. And so that really kind of opened up, you know, she says, "Have you ever come across this?" Right? And, and I hadn't. And so we put a call out to the community and, through the Facebook group and said, Hey, anyone working in ASL or working with deaf and hard-of-hearing communities? We didn't get a lot of feedback; we got a few -- Justin, who's in the chat room, got in there. So Justin, thanks for your help with that, and a few others jumped in in the process.

Jim Collison 10:27
But that, that was kind of, for me, that was the, the genesis for this. We've been doing, I've been doing a lot of work with translations as well. So we've been thinking about, How do we translate all this verbal content that we create? In fact, we're using a translation transcription engine right now that'll do both for us, available as a separate app. If you're watching this now on YouTube, and you're watching the podcast version of it, we transcribe and fix all the English transcriptions as well. So that's available for you. But that was really the first, like, I started thinking like, Hey, this is really another language. But it's different in the sense that it, I couldn't just approach it like I would approach --

Shelina Valmond 11:13
Captions aren't going to do it this time. Yeah. You're right about that. You're right about that.

The Visual Medium of the Deaf Community

Jim Collison 11:16
Yeah. And even from the very first meeting, Audra, who was our interpreter, I think I might have even said the word "translation." And she says, "We call ourselves interpreters," right. And so I want to ask you, I kind of want to come back around to that question, because there was a lot of things I learned. I'll, I'll add some in if you don't hit them. But as we think about that, then, working with the community, it's, it wasn't, for me, it wasn't as easy as just setting up a Zoom call and talking about it, because it's different. So talk a little bit about that, as we, as we think about working with the Deaf Community.

Shelina Valmond 11:51
Yeah, it's very different. Yeah, when you're working with the Deaf Community, one of the main things to, really for us who are auditory and usually depend on the audio is to kind of switch that around and recognize that we're working now in a visual medium. When you're in a visual medium, everyone needs to be able to see what's happening at all times. So auditorily, you can listen to a person speaking; someone can interject; you can follow kind of the flow of the conversation, even if people are talking over each other. That's something we've learned to do since we were children. In the Deaf Community, that doesn't work. Because in sign language, you can only be looking at one person at a time. So it really requires turn-taking when you're in a group setting. That's, that's one of the No. 1 things as an interpreter we, we try to encourage our clients to do is just if there's more than one of you, please take turns, because the interpreter is trying to capture everything that's being said. And the deaf person can only follow the one signer.

Shelina Valmond 12:58
If there are multiple signers in the room, same thing -- one, one person signing at a time is all you can follow. One of the other key things is, a lot of times, if you have Includer, you are going to be looking for the person who's quietest in the room, and sometimes that's the interpreter. And you're going to, you're going to want to draw them in to the conversation; you want them to kind of be a part of it, because they're there. But really, their role as an interpreter at that time is to work. They are the voice of that deaf client. And that's their, that's the only way the deaf person can be involved. So by involving the interpreter, it kind of cuts off the deaf person's involvement, if that makes any sense. So it's key that the interpreter is recognized that they're there, that's fine, but not necessarily drawn into the group conversation, because they're not going to be able to participate as a participant because they're, they're in the middle of a different kind of role at that time.

Jim Collison 13:57
Yeah, that was the mistake you saw me make. The last time we were in a meeting together, we invited you in, and I kept trying to engage the, the interpreter like, like they were in the conversation. And it was a real mind shift for me in thinking, No, this person, even, I've done meetings where we've had interpreter, where we've had translators -- someone speaking, you know, both languages. And in that case, I was able to engage them, and they would talk, and they could flip back and forth. But it really was, and now that I think about it, maybe that's even, we need to treat that that way as well, because it's their job for, you know, the languages going back and forth. So that was a learning experience for me. And I, thinking about if I was in a situation again where I had an interpreter doing their job, it would, it, we so engage them at times and talk to them. And they're like, No, it's like you're talking to the deaf person. So, right. That was hard, that was really, really hard for me.

Shelina Valmond 15:03
Because that's, that's the service they're providing. They're there to make sure that the, the entire meeting is accessible to the deaf. And when we kind of include the interpreter, it's like you're taking away the accessibility that you're trying so hard to, to have. But I will say this: There are, there are times to have an interpreter. Like, if you're looking for the voice of the interpreter, then you have a separate person. That's, that's when you grab another interpreter and say, Hey, you know, we've got an interpreter working, and we've got an interpreter that can kind of speak to the interpreting process. That's, that's where they could come in and be that voice in that time. But yeah, it's tough when you have, when you have the strengths that really want everybody to be involved and everybody to get a chance to talk.

Jim Collison 15:49
Well, and Lisa says, Actually, people who speak even, you know, speak the different languages, they also prefer to be called interpreters. I think there's, you know, in that space, I think it's OK to ask, right? I mean, and I think, for me, the learning experience was to make sure if I don't know, just stop and ask questions, right?

Shelina Valmond 16:08
Exactly, exactly. There's nothing wrong with an honest-hearted, genuine question. A lot of people worry that they're going to offend someone or step on toes. It's like, you know what, when you're dealing with two languages, you're dealing with two cultures, things, it happens. But asking the question in that sincere way allows the parties to answer, like, according to how they would like. Because you might have one person say one thing and another person say another.

Shelina Valmond 16:37
I mean, I've been in circumstances where, you know, I'm working as the interpreter, but the, the people involved wanted me included, and did everything they could to include me. You know, I, that's their prerogative. But the role, you know, the role that I'm taking on as the interpreter is really to facilitate that communication, which kind of brings it back to the language piece where, you know, as an interpreter working in this community, it's, it's particularly complex, because we have a language; strengths language is not English. I mean, it's different. We have names for things for various reasons. And those things don't necessarily directly translate into another language.

American Sign Language (ASL) vs. English

Jim Collison 17:21
Yeah. Can you talk about that a little bit more? Because I think sometimes we think ASL is just a direct translation of English. Can you, can you talk about the nuances and why that's not necessarily true?

Shelina Valmond 17:33
It's, yeah, it's definitely not true. ASL has its own grammatical structure, which does not follow the English structure of the way we put words together. There is definitely a different way of describing things in, in ASL because we're, you're using, again, visual examples, as opposed to auditory ones. So that makes a huge difference when you're talking about strengths. Because strengths are, you know, we've, we've, we've been given this language; we've been given the definitions of each theme. And that's how we come to understand it. And the deaf need that, that exact thing in their own language.

Shelina Valmond 18:14
So just like French, just like Spanish, you have to come up with what's that, what's that word that's going to be the thing that we use to represent, for example, Woo -- that's one of the more complex ones. How do you, how do you describe what is Woo to a person who speaks English? It's tough, because it's like, well, what is Woo? That sounds so strange, and you have to kind of explain it. And it's going to be the same in, in sign language. So because the, the language structure is different, and because it does not follow an English word order, there needs to be an interpretation done. And that's where interpreters come in.

What ASL Interpreters Do

Jim Collison 18:55
When I'm, when I'm speaking, say, you and I are speaking, and this is being signed, right? They're following our, they're, they're following our sentence structure. When I have to -- and it, it, sort of? No?

Shelina Valmond 19:09
Sentence structure, no; your message, yes -- and your affect. So if someone was interpreting for both of us, they would be signing the words we're saying basically, like the message, but they would also have our affect -- whoever is signing for me would kind of mimic me in a sense, and whoever is signing you is sort of taking on your affect and the way you deliver your message -- that's a part of the language, actually; it's not something -- a lot of people see interpreters and they're like, Oh, that's so beautiful! This, this language is pretty! And it's like, Yes, but it's also targeted. Like if someone is giving a specific kind of message, it can be very direct. It can take on the emotion and the, and the affect per se of the speaker -- and it should, if it's done well.

Jim Collison 19:55
I think for, for those of us who just see it from the outside, we, we just see it as one hand and a series of letters, but it really is a three-dimensional representation, right? Our face, both hands, body, and maybe mimicking. Yeah, and -- I didn't even think of this -- in mimicking the person; "mimic's" probably not the right word.

Shelina Valmond 20:16
Yeah, not, not quite; it's more like a, it's more like you're adapting their affect in order to deliver the message in the way they intend. Because just like if you say something like, Oh, Get out of here! Get OUT of here. GET out of here. Like, it can be very different, depending on who's saying it. So you want that to come across as the speaker intends. And that's what you're really trying to relate to the, to the clients.

CliftonStrengths and Signing People's Names

Jim Collison 20:44
One of the challenges is that in CliftonStrengths, we have this framework, right, we have some assumptions. Now, if you're new, whether you're, whether, you know, regardless of where you come from, when you come to CliftonStrengths for the first time, you have to kind of learn the framework. There's a lot to it, right? But we decided, as we were thinking about this project, how could we at least get a sign for all 34 of the themes that represent it in some way? And I was thinking, Oh, that should be easy. But there's a little bit of a nuance in the, in the Deaf Community that, that you don't give signs. I think the indication of it is in people's names, right. And maybe you can show, show how you sign your name. But they're not, you don't choose that, right. It's chosen for you?

Shelina Valmond 21:30
Well, yeah, so as a person who's learned sign language, and that means learned -- I'm not a deaf person; I'm not in a family of a deaf person. I have come to sign language from the outside -- as far outside as you can get. I did not name myself; I was given a name by a deaf person who worked with me every day and needed to call me something. So she called me "Shelina"; that's. Oh, I should sign this way -- SL, on the cheek. So that's my sign name. That has been my sign name since it was given to me at 16. And the people who know me or, or are introducing me, that's the, that's the name they give after the finger spelled, like you were talking about, the letters. After you give the letters, that's the name I would, I would show. But that did not come from me; that came from them. And in general, culturally speaking, you know, to be sensitive, the deaf like to have that option to give you the name; that's kind of a part of being a part of the community.

Shelina Valmond 22:28
It's -- I hate to use "rite of passage," but it's kind of like, you know, you don't come in and say, "Hey, this is what I want to be called." It's like, No, you're coming into this language, you're coming into this culture, and the people who get to know you and know what you're about and learn a little bit about you, they're the ones who usually give you a name, which gives this whole project with the strengths kind of a different nuance. It's like, Yeah, I mean, we could all sit around and just say, Hey, this is the sign. This is the sign; we're just gonna give it to you. But it's really good if we have the Deaf Community's involvement. Why? Because they're diverse within themselves as well. And they have a voice, and this is our opportunity to give them that voice so that they can be a part of this community and not have this community try to absorb them. Like let them, let them come forward and help with that process. And I think the, the result will be even better, you know, than just kind of the think-tank idea, you know?

Jim Collison 23:24
Yeah, and, and I think, simplistically, we would have, before I kind of started digging in and learning all of this, it's been a, it's been an amazing learning experience. You know, I went to, the elementary school I went to was a, was a deaf school. So we had both hearing and deaf students. Not necessarily integrated. We didn't take classes together; separate classes. But we played on the playground together. We all had to learn sign language. But coming back to it, you know, at 50, you know, 40 years later, it was like, Oh, man, I have forgotten a lot! I think from a, from a, you know, from the hearing community's side, we'd say, "Well, just spell the words." Well, what's wrong with that? One, "Individualization" is a super long, right? But what adds, as we go along and as we just think about adding a sign to each one of these 34 words, what does that add to it, in your opinion?

Giving the Deaf Community a Say in Signing Strengths

Shelina Valmond 24:23
Oh, it adds a lot! First of all, when, when I think about the first time I heard of the strengths and the language, as a No. 1 Communication, that's the first thing I'm diving into is what are these words mean? And that's what we want for the Deaf Community as well: We want them to see these signs, and then have a connection with that sign to what it means for them and their strengths. So it's important that they have a say in that process. Really, there's really no other way to put it, other than to say, you know, having that input really does make the difference and, when it comes to the language.

Shelina Valmond 25:03
Because spelling, let me tell you, if I was an interpreter, and they called me to a strengths conference, and they said, "We want you to spell every single one of these words." Every time we say, "Individualization," I would like you to spell it in letter. Like, that's a lot of work. That's a lot of -- and think about it, if you're a hearing person, and someone said to you, "OK, every time we talk about I-N-D-I-V-I-D," like, you're not going to feel any connection to that language. Because the spelling is not the language; it's the sign that is the language; it's the word that is the language.

Shelina Valmond 25:36
So it's weighted. And it's important that we have that to speak from. And languages change. They grow and develop and, you know, they're not always the same. I know, there was a time when we had different names for the themes at times; they've changed over the years. And that's a process that will also happen here. I think, in ASL, we see it all the time. There's signs for things like Zoom. I mean, there was a time nobody had a sign for Zoom. What's a Zoom? Like, we had to come up with that, because everyone was on Zoom for a while. You know, so languages change, and I think that'll happen here too. But it's important to have a nice foundation in the Deaf Community for that start, that start of talking about strengths and themes.

Jim Collison 26:21
Justin makes a nice comment. He says, ASL uses gestures and positions to relay the depth of meaning the way verbal languages use multiple words to do so. And we, what got me thinking about this, too, is, as I've heard, as the community manager, I've heard a lot of feedback from the other languages that say -- let's just take Spanish, because they're, they're really close to us. The Spanish would be like, "No, that word doesn't mean that!" I've heard this from our Germans too, by the way. And, and then I've heard them argue with each other that, like, you know, then they start, It should really be this and it should be that.

Jim Collison 27:00
And I think, in some cases, we've thought in the English community that we're, we're not a part of that. But we are. We do this; we just don't know we're doing it. Right. So when we've changed words, you know, you mentioned that a little bit earlier, a little bit, just a minute ago, we actually do that. The example that you used with Woo is a very good example. So not, and that's maybe one of the worst representations of what it actually is. Because what do we do? We go, Oh, Woo-hoo! Right. I mean, OK, yeah, exactly. Well, OK, but you just used body language to describe -- did you know that?

Shelina Valmond 27:36
Always, always.

The Power of CliftonStrengths in the Deaf Community

Jim Collison 27:37
We have these both verbal and nonverbal cues that go into this, and we do it in English all the time. There are certain words, there are certain of the 34 themes that need to be explained. And so we spend some time explaining them. There's also different, when we think about creating the signs, we're not trying to encapsulate the entire definition, right, in this, but just get an agreed-upon word or sign in this case, right? To, so that it can quickly, right, can kind of quickly be -- Do you still find, as we, as we do work, so we get beyond the words, are there other, how else can CliftonStrengths help the Deaf Community, do you think, beyond just coming up with words?

Shelina Valmond 28:24
I think, when I think about the CliftonStrengths in general, I think of the world as being like this ocean of things. We're navigating along the sea, along this ocean with waves and ripples, and, you know, different kinds of inclement weather. And on the horizon is a, is a lighthouse that's lining up to, to show us where the rocks are, you know, where the land and the rocks are -- things to avoid, the obstacles. And I feel like with strengths, it does that for us on a certain level. When you know what your superpower is -- and I do say "superpower," because not everybody has what you have -- when you have that enlightenment of, of who you are as a person, it can help you navigate through life and the various obstacles that are there.

Shelina Valmond 29:16
And to me, you know, it's, it's not only our responsibility -- I don't have high Responsibility, so I'm, I'm not talking from, you know, capital "R." But, you know, it's really the community's responsibility to make sure that everyone has access to this amazing insight. And I feel like when you take the strengths community and the language and the themes and what it does for us as individuals, and you bring that to a community, you're changing the world on a fundamental level. When I think of, you know, what is the world like with, with strengths, you know, people seeing each other for, for who they are, the superpower that they bring. That to me is a phenomenal message, which is why I feel free to talk about it, because it's like, you know, this is something I can get behind. And, and I think that's why so many people become coaches, because they realize the difference you can make in the world by bringing strengths to others.

Signing the 34 CliftonStrengths: A Call to Action

Jim Collison 30:18
We're gonna need, we were gonna save this for the end, but I'm gonna throw it in now just because we're kind of talking about it. As we think about creating these 34 signs for the 34 as a, as a place to start, we've got a group that we've put together made up of a couple of interpreters and some, some folks, some hearing folks as well. But we do have one deaf individual, but we need more. And so we're asking for the community to say, Hey, we need you to ask some questions. First of all, you have no idea who's deaf in the community that you know, and you should, right? Just start asking some questions, so of saying, Hey, who do I know, who's in my community? I need you to reach out into your networks and find, find individuals who are deaf who would be willing to help us in this community figure out these signs.

Jim Collison 31:11
One of the great things -- I don't have Responsibility either; I'm not going to be making the signs. And I actually think that's pretty great. Because I'm like, OK, it's on you guys to do this, right. But we're gonna need, we're gonna need individuals to come together as a community and kind of battle a little bit, right, to get, to get the signs put together, Justin, who's in the chat room, he straddles both worlds. He can sign, but he's also hearing. So, but we're gonna need, we're gonna need some deaf folks to help us. What, what else would you add to that, as with this callout for individuals? What else do we need?

Shelina Valmond 31:47
I would say, the biggest thing we can do is, you know, check, check your home base -- family, friends, friends of friends, people in your community. That's, that's a great place to start looking for those who are deaf and hard of hearing who use sign language specifically as their, as their language of choice. And because this is sort of an international group, especially coast to coast, it would be great to have deaf individuals from the North, from the South, from the East, from the West, because we know each region sort of has their preferences in their sign choices, and we'd love to have them all at the table giving their input, because once it's decided and agreed upon, then that gives us a place to start.

Shelina Valmond 32:33
And, and I, I foresee in the future deaf coaches. You will, you will have no need for an interpreter when you have a deaf coach with a deaf client. You don't have a need for an interpreter when you've, when you've got a vlog or YouTube podcast -- I don't know what they call a YouTube podcast. That's just two people signing. There's not going to be a need for an interpreter in that case. And I think that beauty is what we can bring to Gallup together, if we kind of reach out into our community and see who we can find. And, and the more, the more deaf individuals that we have contributing, I think the richer the language will be in sign language.

Jim Collison 33:15
Lisa says, Do the people who are deaf need to know strengths? I'm gonna answer that and then I'm gonna let you. And I think it's super helpful if they do, because it, the speed at which they can kind of come up or the, the, yeah, the pace at which they can come up to speed on that and contribute would be much faster. It would be tough because they'd have to kind of learn all that behind them. You want to add anything to that?

Shelina Valmond 33:38
I would agree 100%. Yeah, it's best if they know or are familiar with the strengths, because the language that we're going to be working from is that base. If they don't, it doesn't mean they don't have anything to contribute, it just means it's going to be a little bit more of a learning, you know, they're gonna have to take some time to learn before they can contribute to the progress of this particular project.

Jim Collison 34:02
So this is great. Sarah played right into my segue on this. So thank you, Sarah. Will there be something we can share on LinkedIn or Facebook or with our networks? So the best way is to share from your heart. Say, Hey, I'm looking for some, some deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals who know ASL, who would, could help out with this project around strengths. You can email me: If you can't remember that, just email and tell them to pass it on to me. And we'll kind of begin to gather this group. It's going to take months at this point because of the way we put this out and, and, and folks listening to this, and that's OK. We did an initial reach, and we have a group that we've put together. And we'll do a bigger kind of reach to it. And, and, and then we'll see, we'll see who we get. We, we're going to need some individuals to be able to help us kind of get this done in the community. Anything else you'd add to that? I want to transition a little bit to this idea of captions, but anything else you'd add?

Shelina Valmond 35:10
No. I think we, I think we've covered the basic project and what we're looking for at this point. Moving forward, like you said, it's going to be a process. It's going to take some time; it's definitely not going to be an overnight thing. But I think with this outreach into the community, we're going to have some amazing results in the end.

Other Sign Languages Around the World

Jim Collison 35:30
Lisa asks another good question, and it's a good spot to get an answer. This is about ASL or American Sign Language. I know we're just at the beginning. There are others, there are other versions of this, right, as well.

Shelina Valmond 35:42
Yeah. There is.

Jim Collison 35:42
Do you have any idea how many and what does that look like around the world?

Shelina Valmond 35:46
I do not. I have no idea how many. But I do know, there are countries who speak other languages that use American Sign Language, like Puerto Rico. And there are other countries that are really close to each other that each have a different sign language, like Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala -- their signs are not the same, even though, proximitywise, they're very close to each other. There is basically a different sign language for every country. Just kind of keep that in mind.

Shelina Valmond 36:17
There is no -- well, I shouldn't say there's no world sign language. There's like an initiative to have a sort of world sign language that's used for big events like the Olympics and things like that. But there, there's no consensus on what signs are being used individually. And most individuals in other countries only know their one sign language. So with that in mind, yes, this is kind of like starting Gallup in one language, and having it slowly translated into other languages. And this will be similar. It'll be, it'll start with ASL because we're in North America, and that's the sign language we have here. But that doesn't mean there won't be an international push sometime in the future.

Jim Collison 36:59
Yeah. In, like in Latin America, is it, is it based on Spanish, then? So is, are they -- ?

Shelina Valmond 37:06
So it's interesting,

Jim Collison 37:07
How does that work?

Shelina Valmond 37:08
You know, it's funny. Sign language does not develop the same way as the spoken language. So sign language, for example, in the United States was brought over by a Frenchman who came. So originally, we signed French Sign Language. And then eventually, we made it our own, like we do everything else in North America, and it became its own thing. And it's now named ASL and it looks nothing like French Sign Language, by the way, nothing. It doesn't really resemble it at all. So when you're learning another sign language, it's like learning another language. And each country that has a different sign language, it was developed differently. Nicaragua, for example, did have some deaf visitors, but they basically developed their own sign language in house. So they kind of have these signs that even the hearing people in the community know, because it's something that's common to them in their culture. So yeah, it's not, it's not really consistent. So it's not like there's a Spanish sign language, for example, because Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Spain, Mexico, they all have their own. Yeah, good question, though.

Jim Collison 38:18
Well, and it's, it's just the challenge, right, in this? It's just the challenge. I actually, I like the challenge. As we started thinking about this, I was like, Ooh, a new puzzle to solve! OK, yeah, exactly. I got, I got kind of amped up about it, I thought. I think, just for individuals thinking through, and I did put my email address in chat. If you're watching this on YouTube, you can look at the chat room, and that's there. But we're going to, initially, once we get community kind of buy-in on some signs, we'll, we'll create some YouTube videos. Very, just very, well, we'll create these 34 YouTube videos with some instructions that have a YouTube on it -- that are on a YouTube channel that interpreters could go to, and say, OK, here's the signs; this is what they look like. Just some simple, just kind of something simple and see if we can even pull that together.

Closed Captioning: A First Step

Jim Collison 39:10
Listen, it's not guaranteed that we're going to be able to get this done. Like, this sounds like Oh, yeah, this will get done. We're gonna need a lot of help and a lot of community involvement to get this done. So the pragmatic folks may be thinking -- but, but ADA -- the Americans With Disabilities Act -- says that captions, like closed captions, that's what's required. Why, why can't we just use closed captions and be done with it?

Shelina Valmond 39:36
Yeah, the thing about closed captions is that, like reading subtitles at a movie, it gets old really fast. Even if you understand every single word that's coming across in the captions, which, you know, sometimes you don't, it's not the language of the heart. It's not the language of their, the mind. It's just, it's just words. And for, for any of us, when it comes to thinking about, like, well, what is that like? I say go to one of the Gallup videos, that's in a language that you don't speak, and watch it with the captions, and see how you feel. Do you feel connected to it? Do you feel like it's getting you jazzed up? Or do you feel like, Wow, my eyes are tired, and this is really boring, actually. Because I can't really -- the, the captions are not necessarily going to be at the same time as the, the facial expressions, and you're looking at the text instead of the facial expressions, you're losing a lot of the body language and the essence of what's being said, because you're looking at the words. And in sign language, it's 10 times worse.

Shelina Valmond 40:38
So the, the captioning is a great first step, because that gives access to people who can read and English is, you know, a strong language for them. But sign languages is the next step. And that's why Gallup is making a point of reaching out to the community now, and, and we can do our part to support that by finding deaf in the community and bringing them to the strengths. And hopefully they can help us develop that language.

Jim Collison 41:06
If you want to try it -- if you're watching this on YouTube (not the live folks) -- in fact, I threw the link in the chat room. Live folks, you can participate right now by clicking on the transcription-translation app that we're using right now. Turn down the sound, and only read. Now, we're getting close to the end. So, well, I bet you can't make it 5 minutes. I bet 5-minute challenge on captions, right?

Shelina Valmond 41:31

Jim Collison 41:32
We do, for, for both the video and for the audio that's produced, we do correct the captions, because it's very, very important. Captions are somewhere, 80% to 85% accurate, which is better than nothing. But it's not accurate. And it's, sometimes it's difficult. And the errors are hilarious. My editor and I spend time a couple times a week joking about some of the transcriptions that were autocreated. I think a lot of people, that's gotten a lot easier. And that's gotten a lot better. There are some services out there that will do it for us. But it's still not, it's still not 100%. We spend a bunch of time correcting them, reuploading them to YouTube so that they're correct. They're available in a blog post for each one of these episodes, so you can go out and get the, the transcripts that are available.

Jim Collison 42:19
But, and I know in the community, there's different thoughts on this, but there are a bot-like sign services. In other words, you know, they're, they're characters, and that's, that's -- I'm having trouble with the word -- avatars. That's what, I think that's what we call them. We call them "avatars" where it's automated signing. So think about closed captioning, automated, automated signing. Any thoughts on that? Because I know the technology is out there. The community, some are for it, some are against it. Any thoughts on that?

Shelina Valmond 42:54
I don't have any personal thoughts about it. I've not used that technology, Jim. I've found that if things are really good, then the deaf will be using it, like, predominantly. And that is not something I've heard a lot of in the Deaf Community. I still think it's, we might be a little far from being able to depend on that. Again, if you've got automatic, anything, it has to be corrected. How do you correct an avatar midstream when they sign something that isn't correct? Like I don't know how that would work. I know that as an interpreter, I've never been out of a job. Not yet. They haven't found anything to replace me, Jim. And I know they've been looking for a long time. But I think, you know, in this case, we're going to need, you know, some skilled interpreters for a little bit here. But then once we have our, like I said, signing coaches and deaf coaches, that, that element isn't as necessary. And then there can be that direct communication in the home -- not the home, but -- in the common language.

Giving Everyone Access to CliftonStrengths

Jim Collison 43:57
Shelina, any other thoughts on, when we think about how this helps with, with inclusion and diversity in the community? Any other thoughts on that of how we can help in that way?

Shelina Valmond 44:09
Again, I think when you encapsulize the "everybody needs a coach" idea, this is the one that struck home with me the most -- my Woo, Positivity, Empathy, Includer just wants to know that everyone has access to this. And I think that, when it comes to how we can do that is being aware. And those of you who are here today on the live, you're the first, our first line of defense, so to speak -- our offense going out there looking. And, and anybody else who comes to this video later on, they'll be able to do the same. And, and with many voices, we can maybe make that kind of change. But yeah, I feel like, you know, the more, the more hands we get involved, the better in the end.

Jim Collison 44:59
Literally, right?

Shelina Valmond 45:00
Yeah, literally!

Jim Collison 45:01
The, I'm going to ask you, if you would, we're going to make a little clip that we're going to use. I'm going to slide you over to this side, and I'm going to make you big there. So nobody wants to look at this guy anyways. So would you, for folks who are trying to do this "ask" out to their communities, or for any individuals who are currently deaf or hard of hearing, I've, I've asked Shelina; she'll sign this to them. This "ask" for the community. So I'll stop talking and let you do this.

Shelina Valmond 45:29
Oh, I thought you were going to talk, and I was going to, and translate what you were gonna say. Oh, I got it all mixed up. OK, so --

Jim Collison 45:36
Are you OK with that?

Shelina Valmond 45:37
If you, if you would speak it, it would make it a lot easier for me to interpret the call to action -- basically, what you said before about, you know, reaching out to everybody. And then that way I can be in the role of the interpreter, so they can see it live.

Jim Collison 45:51
That's fine. I was, I'll, you know me -- I'm never at a loss for words! So, for those, for those who are in the Deaf Community, and would like to really help us identify these individual theme names and create signs for them, we're looking for individuals who can help us with that by joining us. You can send us an email: And then we will get right back to you with more instructions, more options, ways that you can help. And we'd really love for you to be a part of this community and help us get all 34 CliftonStrengths themes in ASL for you.

Jim Collison 46:37
All right, how'd I do? You looked great!

Shelina Valmond 46:44

Jim Collison 46:45
You looked great.

Shelina Valmond 46:48
Two decades-plus of, you know, work, you know, it's like yeah, old hat.

Jim Collison 46:51
Well, we'll cut that part out and make it -- I'll just make a short video that then in the community. So for folks, if you're sharing this to your communities, and you want that link, it's gonna take me a little while to get that cut out, but send me an email: And we'll get you the link to that video that you can share with your community as well. Anything else? Let me, I'll give the chat room here a second to ask any final questions that they have. But anything else that you want to throw in before we wrap our time together?

Shelina Valmond 47:27
I was just gonna say the, again, going back to the importance of having a coach you can relate to is, is so important in this community. There are lots of coaches, and everybody's bringing their "A game," you know, no shade to anyone. But there are coaches who can speak to you in a way that really connects. And it can really help your development. And I think that, in this case, having coaches who can sign, having deaf coaches on our team, is nothing but a benefit. So the sooner we can get the community's involvement, the sooner we can make that happen. And many thanks -- many, many, many thanks to the interpreters who've already been involved. You've already been trying to, you know, get us on the right track here with the naming and, and the signs, so that your job can be a little bit easier. And you can help us reach that community. So we are really appreciative of that as well.

Jim Collison 48:24
Got a lot of work to do. This won't be easy. But we, we are looking for a community grassroots movement on this to, to really spend some time kind of thinking about and, and discussing this. And so I'm excited for it. Listen, I love, I love the fact that you called out coaches. Because if we're going to think about inclusion, we've got to have coaches doing this, just to be honest. You know, I need some ASL deaf coaches who come at this from, from that world. Because I, listen, I don't have any idea.

Shelina Valmond 49:05

Jim Collison 49:06
I don't --

Shelina Valmond 49:06

Jim Collison 49:07
And I can't speak to it. And I can't --

Shelina Valmond 49:08
If you're a hearing person, you don't know. Yeah, you don't know the, I mean, even on the surface -- I mean, I've been in the Deaf Community a long time -- I can't claim to know that experience. Only they can. And I think they would make the best coaches for that community as well. So that's up to us to help get them, get them trained.

Learning ASL: Where to Start

Jim Collison 49:26
By the way, I just thought of this. If you're listening and you're in one of those other communities that has other, you know, where it's not ASL, contact me. Let's see if we can throw something together and get it. We have to have people to be able to do this. I can't make it up. This is great; I'm off the hook already. Like all I have to do is bring people together, right? I'm not going to be creating this. We need the community doing it. So, OK, one more question from Justin and then we'll wrap it: How could coaches who want to learn ASL start to learn look for ways -- that's a great question -- look for ways to learn? So if I'm thinking about learning more, how can I do that?

Shelina Valmond 50:06
Wonderful question, Justin! I would say start in your local community. Now, let me back that up; scratch that. Start with your strengths, how you learn best. If you're the kind of person who learns best in a class setting, look at your local colleges, look at your local community schools. There's bound to be a sign language class, because sign language, ASL specifically is considered a second language now, so they're offering it in the high schools and college levels. If you are a person who needs a one-on-one kind of situation, I would Google it online. You know, again, you're going to find a ton of people offering courses and classes. I, that's something that I also help with in, in my own community. But yeah, look at how you learn and what situation might be best for you. But there are a lot of deaf instructors out there teaching ASL, and it would be a benefit, if you're at all interested, to take a class. That's the fastest way to learn.

Jim Collison 51:04
Then I think Caitlin asks this great question that fits right in: What's the best way to feel comfortable signing in public without being embarrassed? Listen, I, it scares me to death to pull out what I remember. So how do you do that?

Shelina Valmond 51:17
Well, I'm a No. 1 Communication, No. 2 Woo. So I have no idea what you're talking about. I can stand on, I can be anywhere talking about anything, you know, I'm not embarrassed. But if I were to put on my Empathy hat now, Empathy No. 7, I can feel that pain. Like you don't want to look silly doing it. But let me say this to you. When someone who doesn't speak your language comes up and tries to talk to you, how do you feel about them? Do you feel like, "How dare you even try to speak English! I mean, I can barely understand you"? Or do you feel like, "Oh, look at you making an effort!" And that's what they feel as well. The majority of the time, I can't even name a time where I've gone up to a stranger who was deaf, and said, "Hey, you know, how's it going?" and they looked at me with any kind of derision. It was always like, "Wow, you are using my language. And that's kind of cool. So how did you learn it?" That's the initiation of a relationship, initiation of a conversation. And I would love for more people to put themselves out there and risk being embarrassed for the, for that connection.

Jim Collison 52:19
We learned on a call that air quotes like this means themes. And I was like, I've been shouting "themes" in all these, you know, in ASL, have been shouting "themes" -- a great way to, so you already know, everybody already knows one, right, themes. I was in a -- I'll wrap it with this story -- I was in a subway in, in Paris with my mom. We were taking a train down to the, the, you know, the tourist sector. I didn't know any French. So I just, I thought, Well, I'm gonna, maybe they know German, right? And so I just started speaking German to them. I knew a little, enough German to converse with them. And she just looked at me and smiled and said, "That's so cute!" and then started talking to me in English.

Shelina Valmond 53:02
That's about right.

Jim Collison 53:03
Like, just to your point, right? Make an effort in that. And listen, I have that fear. So if anybody -- and I have Communication 4 and Woo 2. And I have that fear. If I have it, lots of you do. Let's give it a try. I just think the experiment of you reaching out into your networks, those of you who are listening, and finding out, like, at the depths of the networks, who, who is deaf and hard of hearing and who isn't? And who, how you can help with that, I think that could be eye opening all in itself. So Shelina, thank you for --

Shelina Valmond 53:39
Thank you, Jim!

Jim Collison 53:40
Thanks for coming on and for saying, "Yes." Thanks, by the way, thanks for being bold and reaching out to me. You just, that was, listen, that was the last 3 minutes of a live show that will never get published. And you heard me talking about this to Jaclynn. And I was excited about this project. And you said, Oh, you sent me an email right away. So I'd encourage, I'd encourage others, you know, if you hear something, if you're thinking of something, let somebody know, right? These kinds of things can happen. Well, with that, we'll remind everyone to take full advantage of all the resources we have available -- maybe in the future, some additional resources -- out in Gallup Access. Head to For coaching, master coaching or to become a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach -- and we'd love for, for a, for a deaf strengths coach or two or 10 to be out there as well -- send us an email: We can get you set up on that. Join us on any social platform just by searching "CliftonStrengths." We want to thank you for joining us today. If you found this useful -- and I'm not, I always say, "If you found this useful, share it," but I'm gonna beg you to share it at this point, and help us reach others in our network. Thanks for, for those who came out live, thanks for joining us. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

Shelina Valmond's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Communication, Woo, Strategic, Learner and Input.

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

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