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Called to Coach
Coping With Life: The Enduring Value of CliftonStrengths
Called to Coach

Coping With Life: The Enduring Value of CliftonStrengths

Webcast Details

  • What does leaning into your strengths look like when life brings difficult events your way?
  • How can reflecting on the past provide added encouragement and insight during hard times?
  • How can leaning into the talents of people in your life be an important factor in moving through adversity?

Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series -- Season 10, Episode 24.

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

As coaches and leaders, though we often focus on our coaching, managing or leading, we're also living life. And sometimes life throws some unexpected obstacles our way, including illness and the passing of loved ones. Traci McCausland, cancer survivor and founder of Follow Your Strengths, has experienced this firsthand. But as someone who is "good at seeing other people's strengths," she has learned to lean not only on her own strengths but on others' strengths as well -- in good times and bad. Join us for an inspiring look into how CliftonStrengths can help you cope with what life brings.

Life doesn't go on pause while you go to work. So I think it's fair to acknowledge that we all have different seasons that may be harder or easier than others.

Traci McCausland, 16:12

It's fun for me to see people's strengths. And once you ... have this language, it's just really quick to ... see it, and I appreciate it. I'm so grateful for people being there for me with their strengths.

Traci McCausland, 45:14

Take care of yourself, right. ... And ... as coaches, I think Dean Jones says, "If you're worth your salt as a coach, you got to have your own coach too."

Traci McCausland, 54:27

Jim Collison 0:00
I am Jim Collison, and this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on May 25, 2022.

Meet Our Guest on This Episode

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 or on our live page -- -- there's a link right above me to our live page on YouTube. Click on that. The chat room is there; we'd love to take your questions live there in YouTube chat. Or if you're listening after the fact and you have a question, you can always send us an email: Don't forget to subscribe on your, on your favorite podcast app or right there on YouTube, so you never miss an episode. Traci McCausland is my guest today. Traci is the founder of Follow Your Strengths and provides organizations training and coaching so they can leverage the strengths of their people to develop leaders, build better teams and become a great place to work. Traci loves working with people who are looking to dig in -- and we'll talk a little bit about that today -- and do the work to learn and grow. She's enjoyed partnering with over 3,500 individuals in Fortune 100 organizations, nonprofits, K-12 schools and higher-education institutions. Traci does have a master's in counseling and psychology from the University of Kansas, and is a SHRM Senior Certified Professional. Her Top 5 -- her CliftonStrengths Top 5: Individualization, Harmony, Maximizer -- ooh, I like that one -- Learner and Belief. Traci, welcome to Called to Coach!

Traci McCausland 1:45
Thanks, Jim. Good to be here.

Jim Collison 1:47
Great to have you. And I read your bio. But, you know, when people read bios, they kind of check out. It's better to hear it from you. Give us a little bit from, from your, your little elevator pitch, when you tell people, you know, "Hey, tell me about yourself." What do you tell them?

Traci McCausland 2:01
Yeah, I mean, I think just high level, my background's in HR and psychology. I'm, you know, passionate about creating better places to work. I think we spend a lot of time at work. And, you know, if anybody's ever experienced, like I have, being disengaged in a workplace, it's just a real bummer. So, you know, I like to work with teams and just give people the time and the space to get to know each other better, to be honest, and, and look at each other maybe a little bit differently through that, through that strengths-based lens. I've been doing this since -- 2014 was when I went through the certification at Gallup. And I was fortunate enough to learn from Heather Wright, who is awesome, and Curt Liesveld. And when I went through the program, I didn't know it would turn into a full-time gig. But here it is, here, here I am -- what is it, 2022? -- 8 years later, and I've never done a job for -- 4 was my longest before. So this is like double, which is starting to freak me out a little bit. But I'm enjoying it and, you know, love the strengths work. And I think, I think it makes a difference.

Surviving Cancer: A Health and Life Update

Jim Collison 3:18
We had talked a little bit about preshow, you know, I've never done anything -- jobs very long. I think as we get older, maybe that gets a little easier, as we kind of discover some of those things that we're better at and maybe put ourselves in different roles to be able to get that done. Eight years since you took your initial training. We had you on a while back because you're a cancer survivor. And so we talked a little bit about kind of a strengths-based approach to that and what you did. Can you, can you update us on your, your own physical health since we talked about that the last time you were here?

Traci McCausland 3:51
Sure. I think you had me in May of 2018. And actually it was just two weekends ago was the 5-year mark. So I was diagnosed May 15th of 2017. It was Mother's Day weekend. And, you know, I almost thought, maybe I should get those great big balloons, how they have those big balloons of numbers, and put a "5" back here. Kind of feels like a -- some people call it a "cancerversary." It, it felt kind of good to hit that 5-year mark. I just go to the doctor about every 6 months in Iowa City for checkups. You know, so far, so good; fingers crossed. But yeah, I think, you know, sometimes -- I go both ways.

Traci McCausland 4:44
Like sometimes I'm like, I'm good. I'm fine. I'm normal like everybody else. But then there'll be things that remind me that I am still dealing with, you know, the ramifications of having -- and I had breast cancer. I mean, I take a pill every day that I'll have to be on until December; it's called tamoxifen, and just frankly, it kind of sucks. But anyone that is on it can, we can, you know, moan about it a little bit, but it cuts the risk of cancer coming back by 50%. And I don't have Analytical Top 10. But I know that that's a number that you're like, I'll take a pill and have some hot flashes and maybe be tired every day for 5 years, if you can, you know, reduce that risk. So -- but yeah, I'm good. Thanks for asking.

Jim Collison 5:30
You know, I understand. I had a little prostate cancer scare myself; it's kind of not a matter of if, it's kind of when at this point. But it does, I think it sets some priorities for you when you have those kinds of events happen in your life. It's a marker, right? You remember May 15th. You remember what year it was. It kind of, sometimes it sets a marker for us. On the other hand, you know, you think you can go back to your 2014 time with Heather and Curt, right, and talk about how that changed things for you. And of course, those two worlds collide a little bit. Since then, you've had some other, I mean, some pretty stressful things. We, of course, have gone through a pandemic, but you've had some other stressful things kind of happen in your life. Talk a little bit, if you would, just talk a little bit about that over here, over the last couple of years.

Traci McCausland 6:19
Yeah, you know, and I told Jim this before the show, I was kind of, I've been nervous the last couple days. I'm like, I don't want to come on here, just Hey, welcome Debbie Downer! Like, and sometimes in training, you know, obviously, once we've built up strengths, and it might be, you know, a second or third session, we're talking about weaknesses, but I do put a slide in -- it's like Debbie Downer's face from "Saturday Night Live." Anyway, so I'm not trying to do that. But it is just, kind of been the reality of our world. You know, I've just got great family. And I can't see if my mom's on here. But she said she was gonna join, so, Hey, mom!

Jim Collison 7:04
She can type in the chat that she's here. In fact, why doesn't everyone -- Traci's watching the chat. So why don't, if you're here, just check in, so she can see who's here. Just put maybe where you're listening from in chat. So talk a little bit more about the, the last couple years.

Traci McCausland 7:20
Yeah, so we've just, I mean, I've got great, awesome parents. My dad just turned 80 in January, and they're celebrating 50 years of marriage in June, and we're having a party June 24. And mom, she's very sarcastic; that's how they show their love. And she's like, Don't print those invitations too soon. You know, like, we haven't made it to 50 years yet. But anyway, and my husband Kent and I have been married 20 -- 2004, so about 17 years. And he gets along great with my parents and sister and her husband, and I've always gotten along great with Kenny's mom and dad and his sister Amy and her husband. So we've had just, you know, really fun memories as families kind of coming together through marriage and holidays. And the kids, you know, go into the kids' performances and sports stuff. And, and, and just, yeah, a lot of love there.

Traci McCausland 8:20
And so Jim mentioned the pandemic. That, you know, definitely shook things up in my business. We can talk about that later. But then just, we, we really got the wind knocked out of us in September of 2020. My mother-in-law just passed away unexpectedly. She had been a caretaker for her husband Bill, who was battling dementia. And he had had, he had lung cancer the same time I had breast cancer, and his grandkids joke that he had 9 lives. I mean, he just was like, lung cancer, no big deal, ring the bell, bills, you know, he just kind of kicked a bunch of things to the curb and just, you know, kept on keeping on. But Linda really was an amazing caregiver. And we know the stress and the toll that that can take on somebody.

Traci McCausland 9:12
And, you know, it's just so sad thinking about the pandemic. And Bill was in a nursing home at this point, and the very last picture of them together is them holding hands like this through the glass shield and through those gloves, if you ever saw pictures of people doing that at nursing homes. And she's just beaming, you know, being there with him, even though it was just through that glass barrier. But she would get to see Bill when he'd go to get his infusions. And he went to the hospital locally on a Monday to get his infusion. So that was really keeping him alive.

Traci McCausland 9:48
And she had, you know, a minor heart attack there. They said she had a heart attack and they call it -- I'm blanking on it -- if someone in chat can help me out, but it's, it's when you're overwhelmed of emotions of a loved one: "broken heart syndrome" is what they call it. So she had both, which is, I mean, she was just like the epitome of an amazing caregiver. And anyway, they checked her out Wednesday, so kept her a couple of days; at first, they didn't think it was a heart attack. And they were like, You did have a minor heart attack, but we can't stent it. There's nothing to do. And I picked her up on Wednesday and drove her home and then went and got the kids. And we got, you know, dinner and balloons and roses, and grandma Linda's home! And, you know, I said, Do you want them to come over? Because this was still like September of 2020. Do you want them to be in the house? She's like, Yes, I need this. I need to, you know, be with, with, be with all of you.

Traci McCausland 10:46
And, and we did that. And, and then that night, you know, we all hugged and said, "I love you," which we didn't always do. I mean, she lives half a mile from us, and -- but it was just like big hugs and I love you. And then that ended up being the last time that we saw her was Wednesday. Because Thursday, my son had a COVID exposure, and so we weren't going to take him over there. And then Saturday, she got up and went to the farmers market and went to coffee with her girlfriends and bopped around and texted us: "Hey, I picked up a pumpkin; I put it on your back porch." And I was like, "Oh, thanks so much!" And then like at 12:30, she was walking her dog and, I mean, really died right with her neighbor, right in front of him, and there was nothing to do. And it was just like I said more than I plan to -- I didn't really rehearse any of this and don't have notes. But it was awful. Like, it was just awful.

Traci McCausland 11:36
And I think, you know, her friends and family and loved ones would agree, because she was just freaking awesome, you know, as a person. And so it really took people around here -- you know, we're in Waterloo, Iowa. I mean, like her girlfriends that are golfing. I mean, one of her golf mentors is 16 years older, and she had people older than her at the coffee that morning. And they were like, "What?!" Because she had just been active and healthy and, again, had filled that role of caretaker with Bill. So, you know, that was, it was just awful.

Traci McCausland 12:10
And then on Monday, Bill's kids came to town from Minnesota, and, you know, kind of evaluated the situation at the nursing home, and they brought in hospice, and he died, you know, the next weekend. So he died 8 days, 8 days after she did. So my kids lost, you know, grandma on a Saturday and their grandpa Bill the following Sunday. And that's just like, that's just a lot of loss, you know, in in a really short time. And my husband had just wrapped up the, you know, there's so much work that goes along with loss -- I'm sure anybody watching knows this -- of paperwork and, you know, you start getting their mail and, you know, their homes and things that we were, were working through. And then he just kind of had finished, like, the business side of loss (I hate describing it that way, but) in December. And then he went on a little golf vacation to Arizona, late January of 2022.

Traci McCausland 13:14
And my husband Kent landed on Saturday, Feb. 5, and we get a call from Las Vegas coroner that his dad had died at his home in Las Vegas. And he was just waiting for a ride to the airport to come back to Waterloo. And they pulled up, and the guy Mike is awesome in the community; he takes us all to and from the house when we land or go back. And he pulled up to Mack's house, and the garage door was down and he's like, This isn't good. And he got his neighbor, and he had passed in his bedroom, just, you know. So I think it was two -- I mean, my husband and sister-in-law last their parents, who were awesome people, in 16 months. And then Linda's husband Bill. And so for, you know, me, I lost three in-laws in 16 months; my kids lost three grandparents. It's just, just a lot, you know. So I'll stop talking and get your thoughts.

Jim Collison 14:14
Well, listen, I appreciate you sharing that, you know, because that's, that is, you know, sometimes we spend a lot of time on Called to Coach talking about all these success factors and all these things we did to be successful. And, and that's all great. But, you know, life is real. And these things, I, you know, I recently lost my mom. And these things are real, and so we have to live in them. We have to be, they're gonna affect us in some way. And I think, like our, like where we work or what we do or how we choose to handle situations, we come at these kinds of situations, especially in crisis. And we spent time with you thinking through this stress of cancer that you had and how you approached it. I think, and, so I was really anxious to talk to you about this, with just losing my mom myself, of like, how do we approach this? How do we approach loss? Stress? Of course, the pandemic adds in a whole bunch of, you know, you and I, we're admitting somehow we handled the early days of the pandemic, right? As you think about your, your strengths, and you kind of think back, and you know, you've got a bunch of coaches listening who are helping people at work handle these kinds of things. They do happen. And they're not going to stop happening.

Traci McCausland 15:30

Leaning Into Your Strengths: Life Doesn't "Go on Pause"

Jim Collison 15:31
What, what's your initial thoughts on -- just for yourself; let's talk about you here for a second. As you were going through these times, can you think through your strengths and, like, how did you lean into this? Listen, and there's no success here; it's just getting through it. Let's not think about this from a success standpoint; let's think about how did we manage and cope? And how did you, what, how did you lean into this, kind of just thinking about your, your strengths?

Traci McCausland 15:56
Yeah, I think you're exactly right, Jim. And that's why I was OK, I guess, going there in today's Called to Coach. Because the reality is people, there are people in your workplaces that are dealing with this as well, right? I mean, life doesn't go on pause while you go to work. So I think it's, you know, fair to acknowledge that we all have different seasons that may be harder or easier than others. And as team members, you know, you, like, you know, you bring your strengths when I need them, and that maybe I can bring my strengths when you need them. And, you know, step up when, when people are, when their gas tank is a little bit depleted. I think from a strengths perspective, I feel like -- and I'm sure the coaches listening today probably agree with this -- where you walk around and you hear people talk or you see things, and you think right away of, you know, of their talents and, and of these strengths. And so I saw people's strengths right away when I was diagnosed with cancer, and then just going through the loss in the last year and a half. Yeah, people stepped up and let their strengths shine where they needed to be.

Traci McCausland 17:06
A couple quick examples. Like, I've always been kind of a weirdo about death. Like, it's really fascinating to me. Maybe I should have gone into funeral planning. I actually worked with a funeral home doing their strengths years ago. And there was one guy there him and I had 8 of the same Top 10. And I was like, "Rick, maybe I missed my calling." And then he goes, "Maybe I missed mine." You know, and so we always kind of joke about it. But you know, I think it was really, you know, I guess for going through something so hard, with loss and a sudden death, it was cool to see people step up and rally and, and my sister-in-law, Amy, for example, she's an, a really awesome musician. And so in planning the service, you know, we said, "Amy, would you handle the music arrangements?" And she's like, "I can do that." You know, and she's just lost her mom.

Traci McCausland 18:02
And then, you know, Jenna is Linda's grandchild. And, you know, they've always been real creative and good with music and jewelry and theater. And Jenna helped with wardrobe -- you know, what, what should grandma wear, and what color nail polish and lipstick? And, and all of that. And my husband's got strengths like Analytical, Consistency, Intellection, Harmony we both have and, and he very much runs like this. And he was a rock for the family, you know, really the one making critical decisions, kind of running point on a lot of communications and back and forth with the funeral home. And so him and then my brother-in-law Ryan were very much like, steady, logical rocks for the family. And then you asked about me, so I guess I'll share. I have Individualization No. 1. And right away I said, I'll write the obituary. And one, I knew it was something that I could take off of, you know, the plate of Kent and Amy, of, of Linda's children. But two, I also know sometimes with our strengths, we got to step up. And when you know you can deliver and, you know, and, and do something well, raise your hand. Right.

Traci McCausland 19:33
So, you know, it was, it was cathartic. It was a way that I could honor them both. I love them both so much. And when you think about success, you mentioned, and in this, I feel weird saying this, but writing both Mack and Linda's obituaries is the one task in my life -- two tasks -- that I've gotten the most praise or compliments on. So, you know, there is something to kind of these talents and what they allow you do, to do and to show up. And I've always been annoyed by super boring obituaries, you know, that are so templated. I'm like, Oh, really? You lived 82 years, and we're gonna just put, you know. Yeah, I mean, it's just like, oh, it's so boring. And that's always annoyed me. And I think with being very curious and interested in people, I've always just thought we could do, definitely do a better job with then obits. And then, of course, telling people all these great things before they die, right? So --

Jim Collison 20:38
Yeah, we, we, I wanted to make sure that, you know, with my mom, we knew her health was beginning to fail. And I, for the last decade, I've tried to live like every day with that. Like, and they're not close, right, but I tried to live every day like it could be the last, because you just don't know. And I think there's some, some of those, you know, during these times, as I would talk with my siblings, you know, I would say, Look, I don't, I don't need to rush to say things; I've said them to them already. And I think there's some universal principles in there, I think even in the way we treat each other with that, is that, is we got these opportunities, and we need to take them when we have them. Certainly with a background in counseling, if you think about what stops people, and I know you said to me in the preshow, like, you know enough to be dangerous in that area.

Moving Out of Life's Ruts

Jim Collison 21:26
But I want to, as we think about it from a coaching perspective and what you know from your education, what do you think, either as a coach or as an individual, when we're in those moments, what stops us, what stops us from, from deploying maybe those themes, those strengths, those, some of that work? And what do you think, how do you get -- because you, sometimes you just get in a rut, right? These things happen; you get a punch in the gut, feeling sorry for yourself. Like you're like, Oh, this is, you know -- how do you, how do you really drive that, drive yourself out of that to get, to get moving in a positive direction? Any thoughts or, just thinking about even the way, what, what did you do to make sure you either didn't live in the rut or you got out of it?

Traci McCausland 22:17
Yeah, and I think, I would shift gears to the, you know, the global pandemic hitting. I'm sure many people on here watching and listening can relate, but my work just evaporated. It's like, Bye! Whoa, whoa, come back! Right? It was, I booked some really great contracts. 2020 was gonna be my best revenue year yet. And then, you know, that Monday of kind of the week that the states, the U.S., really kind of shut down, I mean, I was in San Diego doing a leadership development training, you know, around strengths with about 40 to 50 awesome leaders, some from, had flown in internationally. Tuesday, I went to the airport in San Diego, there were maybe four masks; three or four people with masks on. It's like, OK, you know, and then flew home. And Wednesday was when the NBA stopped during the middle of a game. And we're a big basketball family; my husband and boys love watching the games. And when the NBA stops, it's like the McCausland household's like, comes to attention -- What is happening?

Traci McCausland 23:24
And Thursday, I taught locally in our, in the College of Business at a university here, and I was emailing the Dean the night before. I was like, Are we still doing this? Are we rolling with it? And it's funny thinking back, because that was on Q12; they had deployed Q12 throughout the entire college. Those professors, I mean, this would be in, the marketing professor, the management professor, right. And they're probably sitting there going, Ah, we're going to need to take our courses online. And, you know, and in the meantime, we were doing this Q12 training. And we did move forward with it, but then that was kind of like, End scene. My work was done. Like, you know, people weren't bringing in trainers, speakers. I mean, and I, I wasn't pushing. I mean, you know, my husband does insurance and commercial insurance. I mean, he's getting questions like, Is there business interruption coverage for a global pandemic? You know, and, I mean, people were dealing with things we'd never dealt with before.

Traci McCausland 24:25
So, I guess I would say I wasn't like marketing or selling to clients. I mean, checking in. I know I did do kind of a push on strengths-based leadership, like, in June and either mailed or hand delivered around town about 50 Strengths Based Leadership books and wrote people notes like, "You're crushing it! Great job!" You know, but just kind of be their support, but it was hard. And I really felt like I floundered during that time, and I struggled with not being essential. You know, the essential workers, like, of going, I like my work -- I mean, I've been doing it for 8 years. I typically get bored or things like a year -- OK, I've done that; time for the next thing. But I really kind of struggled with just how fleeting, you know, and just how quickly, like, our work as consultants and trainers kind of disappeared. It came back slowly through that summer. And then the, my big contract came back in November. But again, that was shortly after we lost Linda. So it was a lot.

Traci McCausland 25:48
What's interesting, Jim, when you think about strengths, like, maybe sometimes we know this stuff so well; we know the strengths. Then we forget, oh, yeah, you can use it on yourself. Like, oh, reminder, you're, you know, you're not immune to this just because you're kind of living and breathing these webcasts and your trainings and your work with your clients. But I do remember walking with one of my best friends here. And I said, and this was early in the pandemic, and I said, I'm already annoyed -- or not annoyed, but I said, people, when this pandemic is over, there are going to be people that have written books. They will have lost 100 pounds. There are going to be people that are doing all these amazing things, and I can't pull it together. And my friend goes, I'm feeling good if I get food on the table for the boys at night. You know, she's like, maybe ratchet your expectations down a notch. But, but yeah, I think, you know, I, in preparing for this, I think if there were three grades, like, I think I did pretty well with my strengths during cancer. I think I did pretty well with my strengths during grief and loss. I don't think I did as great during the pandemic. So two for three. How's that?

Jim Collison 27:02
Well, that's, yeah, I think if we all did kind of an assessment that way. And, you know, for me, I think my family life, like, there was some great things that happened during that time. I took advantage of being closer to my daughter and just the time that we spent around that. I probably was a little bit of a disaster in, I probably enjoyed, you know, beverages a little too, too much or too, it was just convenient, out on the deck, right. But at work, I created massive amounts of content that I'll never get a chance to do again, and there was some great opportunities by, you know, leaning into Arranger-Maximizer. That's my, you know, no, waste no good opportunity that is there, you know, anything worth doing is worth overdoing. So, you know, well, that's, that's, and I turned that, I made that productivity work for work, right. And so it was just, it was incredible. What kind of, so let's fast forward a little bit. So, so it's today, right? And, and we have individuals, we're kind of, we're kind of coming out of this a little bit. You never know; it's, it's still weird times.

Reflecting on the Past for Learning, Encouragement

Jim Collison 28:10
And I think, by the way, I think it's always been weird times. It's just these are so, so focused in on, we spent some time on it. Knowing what you know, what, what do you think you what, what kind of advice -- because I, you know, we had Brent on and we had Maureen on and we had Charlotte on. We've been talking about these, What have you learned about that today? What do you think you would want to pass on to other coaches, to other individuals, to just say, Here's what, here's what I learned. And here's how I want to move forward. What kind of advice would you give them?

Traci McCausland 28:43
Yeah. You know, I do think it is turning back on your strengths. And sometimes it's just a simple, almost like a filter of going, you know, through your dominant talent themes. And I got in a little bit of a rut, even January of 2021. I was just like, aah! Get, I do get a little, I think consulting is good for me because there's a variety with people and clients and places that you can typically travel. And I think that that was weighing on me is like the lack of face-to-face training, the lack of traveling, seeing something different. But I just, I thought, Well go through your strengths. And Learner for me was one. And I thought, oh, well, what, just like if you're coaching somebody or in a training, what action could you take? And I took my Audible; I listen to books, and I took it from one credit to two. So I paid a little bit of money; it was an investment.

Traci McCausland 29:41
And then now I'm thinking about taking it even more. Because that, you know, gives me energy and gets me going. And then that kind of can translate into, like you said, get out of this rut. Move on, but always kind of coming back to, to the strengths piece. So I don't know that it's, that I've got any, you know, great advice. I think, you know, I listen to all of the people that you mentioned -- Charlotte and Brent O'Bannon. And Charlotte's a good friend, and Maureen is awesome. So I listened to theirs and I was like, Whoa, they came prepared with, Here, let me go through 12 tips, and let me go through. And I just, I didn't really do that for today.

Traci McCausland 30:23
But leading up to today gave me a chance to reflect back on my business from 2014 to today. And I would say, you know, people listening, if you do this type of work, or if you're running your own shop, do that. You know, and I do, I've done it more frequently than once every 8 years, but it is a good exercise of going, Oh, I've, I've done a lot, you know, or I've made a lot of improvements, or what I was rolling out in 2015 looks a lot different than what, you know, clients are, are, you know, receiving today. And so I think that was a pretty fun exercise, just preparing for today, to say, You know what, like, my first training, I didn't, I'd just gotten an LLC. I didn't have folders. I didn't have business cards. I hadn't even like named -- oh yeah, I guess I'd just named my business. But the person that hired me happens to be a really great friend of ours, and he was like, T Mac, I know you. I trust you. You know, do your thing. And so it's just kind of funny looking back, and how excited I was when I got my first one-pager created and folders that I could bring to workshops, you know.

Traci McCausland 31:34
And, and so kind of, you know, I think I sometimes struggle with the loneliness side of doing this and not having a boss or somebody to go, Oh, good job, pat, pat me on the shoulders. So I think if you're independent consultant, trainer, coach, do some of those, the reflecting, you know, and oftentimes, like with Maximizer, I'm always looking forward to get better. Like Maximizer and Learner, I'm trying to get better; to learn and grow and make this year better than last. And that's great. It just can get tiring. And so it's good to kind of say, Oh, yeah, you know, the proposal process has come a long way or, you know, these things. But I will say one thing I did do, Jim: I didn't overprep, but I quickly on my phone this morning, I was doing mock interviews at the junior high, which was super fun. I saw a bunch of my son's friends; I didn't see my son. But you know, there's been a lot of bad stuff, a lot of bad things in the news. And today is pretty tough after awful, another school shooting in Texas.

Leaning Into the Talents of Others

Traci McCausland 32:45
But walking into that junior high and like sitting with those kids interviewing and, like, you know, it kind of gave me a little bit of hope. And I wish that, you know, the adults and the leaders, so-called leaders, you know, would do better, could do better. That we don't have to wait for these kids, right, 8th graders. But anyway, I derailed there, that was a sidebar. But in between those interviews, I made this list. It's like all these people that have helped me. It just, this list of -- you're on there, you know, friends at Gallup and Adam and Heather Wright, Maika, JerLene, Curt and Rosanne; friends that I've met in the coaching community. Some of you out there now on chat -- Brea, I saw you out there, awesome! Mentors, you know, I've worked with our local small-business development center, which has been really cool, great consultants and people that can help there. If you're not looking into, if you have a small-business development center in your state, which you do, I, the resources are awesome, and they're free.

Traci McCausland 33:53
I've hired paid consultants, had somebody first that, she was asking me, I was having her help me decide what to charge. I had no clue. But I paid somebody to help me work through that. I hired a story brand consultant. That's a great book for marketing -- Story Brand by Donald Miller. And then I had a paid consultant that helped me create my website using that framework. I've got multiple paid coaches. Christi Hegstad is in Des Moines, Iowa. She's awesome. Maggie Jackson is my organizing coach. She's got a business, "The Organized Life," but she just retired it. But her No. 1 strength, of course, is Discipline. And so she helps people like me that I'm always coming in hot or flying by the seat of my pants. So she helps me organize just like mentors from ICF and SHRM and, you know, intern that I had Callie Reed was the bomb in 2016, helping me. But it's just like, wow, it's been fun to reflect on, you know, to be able to go out and do this training, there's all these people that kind of helped get me to this point in 8 years.

Traci McCausland 35:02
And, of course, my mom -- we call her the PA, personal assistant, because she, she's really good at things that I suck at, like mail or laundry. She even went to a career fair with, or not a career fair, but a booth, you know, an exhibit booth when Tom Rath keynoted in Des Moines, and mom and I were working the table together. And that was really fun. And even my son, I've had my son, I hate doing like the prep before a workshop, like putting things in folders and -- . So I've paid him and his friends, Here's 5 bucks; do this for me. You know, so that might be a little bit of advice. And I think, in the report on Harmony, it's maybe not one you would think of, but Harmony talks about leveraging experts. And I know, I'm very clear of what I'm not. And I think as strengths coaches, once you meet more people that have these strengths that are lower on your list, you're like, dang, I'm really not that. And, you know, so I think, Thank you! to everyone I just kind of rattled off there, but it's just like, get some help, you know. Just like practice what we're preaching of, you know, the things that, that you're OK at, somebody else is, is amazing and better than you. So that's taken time, though. And I realize you gotta have revenue coming in to do that. Right. So I couldn't start out at the gates and be like, I need an assistant. So, but I'd say build up to that.

Jim Collison 36:31
We might have some coaches listening that are also embedded in organizations where they have a support structure in their organization, and may or may not -- they may need to reach out and develop that support structure inside their organization to get that done. Listen, I'm, I'm intrigued by this list. What -- because I think, I think there's great value in lists. And I don't think there's one theme that does it, that creates that list. But as you think about your strengths, and sitting down and writing out that list, what, what's driving that for you inside? Because I think it's super, it's a super valuable, for everybody, it'd be a super valuable exercise. I may do it tonight. Like, I'm intrigued by it, but how do you think you approached it?

Traci McCausland 37:16
I think with Individualization-Maximizer, and you've done the research that those are the two most commonly found themes in people that do this type of work. They're not the most commonly found strengths globally, but, you know, I guess, I'm good at seeing other people's strengths. Kind of feel weird saying it, but I am pretty good at that. And once I have people that do things better than me, they probably want to run away from me, but I'm like, Oh, yeah, you're gonna do, you know, helping with that. And, and, yeah, I think that's probably what drove it. And then I do have this desire to just each year get better and better. And I've been doing some new things with, with my business. And it's kind of fun to look back and saying, Oh, you're doing this now, and you weren't doing that 5 years ago. So that Learner talent, for me, I think kind of is that engine to keep growing and getting better.

Jim Collison 38:14
I love that thought. I talked about this before on Called to Coach, but there's a biblical term called an Ebenezer. They would set up a pile, just a pile of rocks to remember something. And I think sometimes, you know, we do things now in the corporate space, you know, little awards, or those kinds of things to remember these, these moments that we had, these successful things or these things that we want to remember. And, or you can just go in your back yard and pile up some rocks if you want to get, get it done that way. But I think this list writing for you, as, as I heard you reading these names, it wasn't just who, who helped you today, but it was, you went back 10 years. You went back 8 years and said, Hey, all these people have been a part of my life.

A Grateful Look Back: How Others' Strengths Have Helped You

Jim Collison 38:58
We have this board of directors exercise that's, it's part of the, the training and the learning that that our certified coaches go through. And I think this is kind of an extension of that. But I'd love to see a lot of coaches do this for themselves -- or individuals, even; you don't have to be a coach -- is to go back and write down and remember, right? Remember these things. What were these moments that are important? And some, maybe not all of them are success moments. Maybe some of them are, this person helped me when, I mean, think about your early days dealing with cancer and having to remove all your hair and the scary treatments that -- I remember, I remember doing that interview with you as we talked about this, right?

Traci McCausland 39:43
Yeah, my hair was like all on my head and very short in 2018. Yeah.

Jim Collison 39:47
Yeah. And, and just having these, because I think those are powerful memories. Do you also, when you think about those people, because your Individualization is so high, and you're remembering them, do you also remember them by their themes, by their strengths? Do you have these thoughts, like, they, this was, they affected me in this way because of this?

Traci McCausland 40:07

Jim Collison 40:08
Yeah. And how helpful is that to you, I mean, in remembering those things?

Traci McCausland 40:12
It, like I said, I mean, I just think when I teach, I'll say, I have contacts, you know, and you've got your glasses on. It's just kind of, they help us see. And, you know, in the morning, when I wake up, I can't see anything. But I think about obviously, strengths we talk about as lenses or filters. But it's, I just say to people, this is the way I wake up in, in the morning. And you're, you know, we all wake up a little bit differently, see things a little bit differently, but I've always got kind of a lens on people and the people side of it. And, I mean, I'll fire off some quick examples, but the appointment where I had my mammogram, I had a mammogram, and then they must have like a, like, I don't know, some code or something like, We got a live one here. You know, and it was like mammogram, ultrasound, real lung ultrasound, and then they did biopsies right away. And my husband Kent was there. And he has Analytical No. 1.

Traci McCausland 41:08
And he came, you know, to my side and said to the radiologist, Meg, Dr. Meg, you know, "In your experience, you've seen a lot of the, you've seen a lot of these. Given Traci's age and what you've seen, what percentage," he said, "what percentage would you say she has breast cancer?" How's that for Analytical No. 1? And she put her hands right on me. And she said, "I know you came here for an honest opinion. And I'm 95% certain." And that was a Friday of Mother's Day weekend. And I walked out of the hospital, I mean, like, Kent was just bringing it with his Analytical strength. You know, here, I'd just found out I had cancer, and I'm like, Look at your strengths shine! But it was actually, oddly, kind of nice to know that, Hey, this is what we're dealing with. And we started that weekend already making plans and talking with people. And then when I got in the car, I called my mom, who's on here, oh, I'll probably get a little choked up. But I felt like, you know, with mom's got Restorative high. And it's almost -- it's 33 for me, so she fixes problems. And she's amazing. And also Empathetic, and Responsibility is high.

Traci McCausland 42:28
And she was, it was very much like, OK, and kind of just gave me that confidence of like, we're, we'll, we'll be OK. And we'll get through it. And we'll, you know, we'll make it together. And so her strengths were really grounding for me and gave me like this inner confidence. And then I after I hung up with mom, and I called my sister Carrie, who's awesome, an ICU nurse at the Children's Hospital of Kansas City; Empathy, No. 1 strength. And she, ooh, she's my little sister, is about 5 years younger. Some, sometimes 4 years, sometimes 5 years. I made a stupid joke at Accenture once. With all these smart people around, I said, "I love my sister. Sometimes she's 4 years younger than me, and sometimes she's 5." And then my husband was like, "Oh, my God, they're gonna think, how do we," she's 4 1/2 years younger. Anyway, she started crying. And it was like one of those cries that's like, I'd never heard before, you know? And then, that gave me permission to be like, Yeah, this is, this is sad and it's a little scary.

Traci McCausland 43:40
So just within, you know, 30 minutes of receiving a cancer diagnosis, my, my, my husband and my mom and my sister were just like crushing it with their strengths. You know, which, just to me, it shows that we all, like we can all be there for somebody, you know, and really, we need to be bringing it. And I even went so far as to give my care team in Iowa City the book StrengthsFinder 2.0. And I wrote them, of course, each different letters, customized, and had them take the assessment. And then it was cool, like my surgeon has Deliberative, so she's cautious. Well, that's, yeah, you probably want a cautious surgeon and someone to walk you through. I had a really tough treatment choice to make after surgery was if I was going to do radiation or not. And Dr. Sugg was like texting with me from an airplane which made me, like she's just a baller. And she's like, I got to dig into the research tonight, and I'll get back to you. I was like, Yes. You know, and she's got Achiever and Deliberative.

Traci McCausland 44:50
You know, and my oncologist Dr. Phadke is amazing. And she's got Relator, so she was very authentic, real, genuine. She's not sugar-coating breast cancer. And, and she's an educator, it's an, it's an education-based hospital. So she, there was always someone in the room, and she's a great teacher. So for me, I guess it's nerdy to admit this, but it's fun for me to see people's strengths. And once you kind of know this language, I mean, I think I've always been looking at people's strengths and talents before; having a background in HR and psychology and sociology, that's always been my lens. But, you know, when you have this language, it's just really quick to, to kind of see it and, and I appreciate it. I'm so grateful for people, you know, being there for me with their strengths.

Jim Collison 45:42
Lisa in the chat room, says she just loves hearing about these partnerships. And I think, you know, this is kind of a clinic a little bit on how important these partnerships are. It's fun to hear your Individualization come out, as you know and remember all of these things about people. It's super helpful. I, I don't have those skills. I have, it has to be at a high level, but I can handle hundreds or thousands of people at one, at a time type deal. And it's just a different kind, it's, it's a different way. I, I broadcast those themes a little bit different in situations. But, you know, where I like being a little bit in crisis mode. I mean, I kind of I, that, for me, I'm a firefighter, not a farmer. I don't, I want something moving, and then that's OK, right, that works, that kind of, that kind of works for me.

Jim Collison 46:33
Catherine says, and by the way, a chat room, if you have any questions for Traci, let me know; we'll bring them in here. She says, I just wanted to send you a bunch of hugs. And so there's a few. And Lisa, another good comment, says, Knowing strengths helps us trust and appreciate those who help us even more, right. It's, it's such, yeah, no, and as I hear your story, it is a version of a story. There, I'd love to hear this from your mom's perspective, like, you know, because she has her own unique view of this and how that, how this comes together, or from your husband's perspective, how he, you know, how he kind of put the pieces together to get it done.

Embracing Future Challenges

Jim Collison 47:23
Anything else from a, from a learning perspective? If you were to encourage those coaches listening going forward, what kind of, cause it's not getting any easier, Traci, we're not out of the woods. And there's no woods to get out of. It's just like, it's tomorrow is just another hard day. And so as we think about, you know, as you think about all the things that you've learned, anything else that you'd add to coaches, just kind of thinking through advice or maybe even how you're going to approach the coming years as you think about this? Any other thoughts on that?

Traci McCausland 48:01
It's not going to be a great direct answer to your question, but I just started writing a bit more and sending two emails a month. That's a big commitment for me. Consistency is pretty low for me; I don't do much of anything the same every day. Anyway, so don't, don't take that advice for me. Marketing experts would say, You got to do that every week, or -- but anyway, for my next one, I've got to write about some advocacy work that my husband and I recently did. We joined a team of women locally here, and we went to Washington, D.C., late April, and did advocacy work as part of the National Breast Cancer Coalition. And you could probably tell from earlier, I get a little frustrated with politics. And for me, it's a simple reminder, I have Belief No. 5.

Traci McCausland 48:52
So for me, it's that simple reminder of like, Hey, you've got this purpose engine, you know, and kind of this mission and serving engine. And I also was able to take the time and afford a hotel room in Washington, D.C., to go advocate on behalf of people, you know, that are, have stage 4 breast cancer, don't have access to care -- even to a system that they paid into. And some have to wait 2 years before they get medical treatment, when, on average, once you have stage 4 breast cancer, you only live 3 years on average. My amazing neighbor next door, Sharon Juin, a local legendary leader here in Waterloo, just passed away, and she lived 12. But she was an anomaly. But I think I'm finding myself going back to these reminders of strengths and being like, use it, use it, use it. You know, just, it's kind of that practicing what, you know, practicing what you preach. And I got a little off -- what was, go, tell me again what we're talking -- ?

Jim Collison 49:54
Any other, any other advice that you would give to coaches? We're not out of the woods. There you go. Did you get it?

Traci McCausland 50:00
Yeah. And so, for me too, I think, with this writing that I'm doing, I'm gonna fold in like that Washington, D.C., trip and a little bit of the advocacy work, but we started playing the song, "We Didn't Start the Fire." Remember Billy Joel from the '80s? And we played it for the boys, because I've got two boys -- 13 and 9, J and Casey. For spring break, we did a road trip. We just drove to Memphis, and they got to do the NBA game. We went and saw Ja, Ja Morant play; it was awesome. And then I got to take them to Graceland, which is Elvis's home -- for anyone that's not up on your Elvis history. But anyway, they, you know, they kind of liked the Elvis thing after that. So we played this song, "We Didn't Start the Fire" because of "Elvis Presley, Disneyland," And they go, he goes through all of these big things in history. And it's like, "We didn't start the fire. It's always burning since the world's been turning." And honestly, my little son Casey's pretty musical; he was like, "This song's really catchy." And I think I'm just gonna throw it out in the newsletter, because, you know, just as freaking hard as everything feels right now.

Traci McCausland 51:19
And, you know, certainly, people have had their own experiences through the pandemic. You know, not only a global pandemic but with social justice and racial reckoning and workplaces being flipped on their heads, all kinds of things. And then oh, by the way, we're all living our lives. Like you lost your mom and I lost in-laws and people are having their own health crises, like things are happening in the midst of this. I think it is kind of a reminder of like, that resiliency piece, and, you know, hanging in there, and just listening to some of those things in history. It's like, there's always things. There's, always have been things; there always will be things. So it's not really great advice. But I just thought, if that song, if knowing that song, you know, kind of helps anybody, that's what I've been thinking about lately, and I'm gonna write about it.

Jim Collison 52:13
I appreciate that. I hear perspective in that. Like, I think sometimes we think yesterday was the worst day ever. And, and not that it wasn't. But there were days before it that were bad too. And we live, that's the world we live in, right. And there's some great things. I think for a customer, we changed the song, that to, "We started the fire." And it was, it started to talk about the engagement in their organization, the, the fire of engagement, the fire of productivity in the organization. We changed all the words around so it would, and it was personalized to that organization of getting them to look back at some of the things they had done to bring that engagement, to bring that, to bring in strengths. And so I think every day, we've got equal -- I hate to use that word "equally" -- but we've got good and bad things that happen. And the perspective on that is how we, how we choose to respond. And a couple -- but you want to add to that?

Traci McCausland 53:09
In the recent email that I sent out, there's a great quote that I saw from a writer -- don't, I won't know her name off the top of my head. She's new, kind of new to me. But it was during the wildfires in Australia. And she said, "I feel dumb washing my face at night, and I feel dumb not doing it." She's like, "It's dumb to wash my wash my face on the other side of the world. It's also dumb not to." And she goes -- she's a really good writer, but goes on to say like, you know, in, in apartment buildings, there are people clinking champagne glasses celebrating something, just as somebody else is mourning a loss. And just kind of that perspective of it's all happening together and it always has been, I think is just, it's really, it was kind of powerful and touching for me.

Traci McCausland 53:55
And then I did think of something succinct for advice, because I tend to ramble: Make sure that you're getting, that you're having a coach. Make sure you're, you know, turning to your coach. I've been doing that lately monthly with Maggie, my friend who's a business coach. And then if you need counseling or therapy, do that too. And I've done that since the pandemic hit and dealing with loss and grief and went on a little medicine, which was helpful for me. So, yeah, I mean, take care of yourself, right. And those would just be things that have been helpful for me. And I think as coaches, you know, I think Dean Jones says, "If you're worth your salt as a coach, you got to have your own coach too." Yeah, yes, Catherine.

Jim Collison 54:40
Coaches need coaches. Yes, they do. They do indeed. Couple quick questions before we go. Brook had asked -- Top 10? So, do you, can you rattle off your 6 through 10? We know your Top 5, but what's 6 through 10?

Traci McCausland 54:54
Then I have Empathy 6, Arranger 7, Achie -- or Responsibility 8, Achiever 9 and Developer 10.

Jim Collison 55:04
Yeah, you have that Developer-Empathy-Individualization triplet, which is just crazy. Like, I want to be your friend and I glad, I'm glad I am your friend. I'd love, I'd love to spend time with you because you really can dig into those individuals and know them and know them well. And not just know them but do great stuff for them because you know them. So that's --

Traci McCausland 55:24
I love people so much.

Jim Collison 55:26
Pretty great. That is pretty great. When, Catherine's got a question: With the return to the office and hybrid/remote here to stay, what's your primary focus when working with your corporate clients, and how do you approach it?

Traci McCausland 55:39
Yeah, I'm doing both. I love getting out and, you know, traveling and being on site with, with teams. And then, like, tomorrow, I'm doing a remote workshop with a Fortune 100 organization of about 75 women leaders. So it's a women leadership development program, and that will all be done virtual. So I'll, I do both, you know, and, and I think you can get the same outcomes with both delivery methods. But I guess, you know, my focus really is leadership development and team development, and even just helping people discover their strengths and spend some time together.

Jim Collison 56:22
Yeah, awesome. Well, Traci, thank you for being vulnerable. This is some of my favorite -- I, like, I enjoy these. And, I mean, I enjoy the other ones, too. But I really enjoy this time. I was really looking -- all week, I've been looking forward to spending today with you. And I was like, this is just going to be so much fun spending -- and, you know, again, sometimes we talk on about the corporate stuff, and life is real. I mean, life is the foundation for all of those things. And we know, I mean, if you're, if you're struggling, if you're suffering because of some of these things, it affects all layers -- work, home, family, however you want to add those things in, right. And so I always just appreciate you being open and vulnerable and willing to talk about it and to share some emotion and to share that and be OK with it. Thank you for being vulnerable in this. I appreciate it.

Traci McCausland 57:18
Yes. Thanks for getting me through this, Jim. I was nervous for today with all these experts on the line, but I hope maybe people could take a little nugget away.

Jim Collison 57:27
I think they will. And I think they've appreciated -- if you're looking at the chat room, I think they've appreciated that much. While I'm closing chat room, why don't you do me a favor. Some of you have done this, but while we're, while I'm closing, would you appreciate Traci in the chat room? Just throw that in there; she'll see that as I'm closing. Give her something to do while I'm wrapping this up. With that, we want to remind everyone to take full advantage of all the resources we do have available now in Gallup Access. Head out to For coaching, master coaching or to become a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach like Traci is and if you want to be a part of that group as well, head out to, or send us an email: We'll get somebody to get back with you on the details. Stay up to date on all the webcasts that we're doing. And slowing down; I'm taking my own personal break this summer and slowing down the webcasts just a smidge, so that we can, so that I can, I can get a little bit of that time. But you might be listening to this years from now, and so if you want to see what's current. Find us on Facebook: Join us on any social platform just by searching "CliftonStrengths." And we want to thank you for joining us today. (Traci, don't you go anywhere.) Those that are listening live, thanks for coming out and being a part of this. We'll, we'll be live again -- oh no, actually Portuguese tomorrow and Spanish on Friday. If you want to join us for those, I have the translator turned on, and you can join us for those: Get, expand your horizons. Listen to these in another language that would be -- I do. It would be a lot of fun to have you here.

Traci McCausland's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Individualization, Harmony, Maximizer, Learner and Belief.

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

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