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Called to Coach
Advancing Intercultural Awareness Through CliftonStrengths
Called to Coach

Advancing Intercultural Awareness Through CliftonStrengths

Webcast Details

  • What is a good place to start team intercultural conversations?
  • How can coaches foster help teams acknowledge and appreciate their differences?
  • How can a multicultural perspective on CliftonStrengths help team cohesion?

Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series -- Season 10, Episode 27.

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

So you are coaching a global team, or a team from diverse backgrounds -- or you want to expand your business to include clients with diverse teams. Where do you start? How do you help people step outside of their comfort zones and talk about their own cultural lens -- and appreciate the cultural lenses of others on their team? And what role can CliftonStrengths play in bringing a diverse team together? Marisa Ortiz, Intercultural Talent Consultant, joins the webcast to bring you insights on the conversation about culture and strengths, and shares how to foster team cohesion and productivity through diverse talent themes.

In intercultural work, we talk about having a twofold approach. The first one is awareness of the self. So we always start with unpacking our own cultural background.

Marisa Ortiz, 12:39

Teams come together for a reason. We're here to accomplish something together. ... How can we ... adjust the way we work so that we all feel we can be culturally free, we can be ourselves, which is 100% compatible with strengths?

Marisa Ortiz, 18:04

As coaches, we need to nerd up, Jim. ... We need to consume all the amazing content you guys produce for us, to keep that so sharp and make sure that we are staying on top of ... the latest and greatest.

Marisa Ortiz, 48:25

Jim Collison 0:00
I am Jim Collison, and this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on June 22, 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, love to have you join in with your questions and comments on the YouTube chat. Or if you're listening after the fact, you can always send us an email with your questions: Don't forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast app or right there on YouTube so you never miss an episode. Marisa Ortiz is my guest today, having worked as a Strengths Program Manager in IT for 8 years and serving as an Independent Consultant and Entrepreneur for the last 7 years. Marisa leverages strengths to appreciate how talents manifest in the backdrop of cultural social constructs, and the coaches -- and coaches leaders and teams to become culturally intelligent to successfully navigate today's global marketplace and workforce. And Marisa, that sounds super important. Welcome to Called to Coach!

Marisa Ortiz 1:18
Thank you, thank you for having me. It's my pleasure.

Jim Collison 1:21
So great to have you. I, you know, when you read someone's bio, people start to check out. So I want them to check back in with you talking a little bit about yourself. Give us -- and I'm most interested kind of in the last 7 years that you've, that you've had. Can you talk a little bit -- just give us a little elevator speech about yourself?

Marisa Ortiz 1:40
Sure. Well, I call myself the Intercultural Talent Consultant to go by my name, to do business, Marisa Ortiz. And I've been serving close to 7 years clients in different industries and sectors through CliftonStrengths, customizing workshops for them. And those are mission, mission-driven organizations and visionary leaders who appreciate the importance of intercultural awareness. So it is across the board. I do have a lot of nonprofit clients that I absolutely love working with. But I also have very amazing corporations that are making a lot of changes, social entrepreneurs that are making a lot of important changes. And of course, even in the second sector in government, I do have those mission-driven organizations reaching out and interested in bringing the profound self-awareness that CliftonStrengths brings to individuals and teams in, as you said, in the backdrop of our own social cultural constructs or cultural social constructs, I should say. So this is based off of the premise of what would happen if we were to think of what is right with people, rather than fixating on what is wrong with them?

Marisa Ortiz 3:00
So the way we define right and wrong is different across cultures. Just that in itself, right. So there are simple examples, such as punctuality. We know that in a lot of cultures, not just in the United States but outside of the United States, there's a lot of cultures out there that time is very fluid. Therefore, arriving right on time or early to an appointment is not as important as building a relationship with that particular person or group. So in places such as Latin America, Latin Europe, all of the Middle East, including North Africa, and South Asia, and even parts of Southeast Asia, time is a more fluid concept. Meetings are scheduled for 2 to 3 hours. There are lunches and dinners that are very long -- and these are business meetings. And people socialize and eat and drink and laugh and build lots of rapport. And no one arrives on time -- ever, and, and it's actually sometimes even frowned upon, if you're going to a business gathering for like 3 hours at dinner, if you arrive right on time. We even have a an expression in Spanish that says "llegaste barrer" -- you arrived to sweep the floor, right, now you arrived too early. And, and so people tend to arrive 5 to 10 minutes late, because it's a courtesy because we're here to hang out for 3 hours, 4 hours.

Marisa Ortiz 4:39
But in other cultures, such as in the United States, you know, the standard American culture, meetings are booked nowadays for 30 minutes, because it's on Zoom. Right? And we have Zoom fatigue. And of course you have to arrive on time because you have very limited time. You have an agenda, and you stick to the agenda, and you go to the point, and you're done. And beep-beep-beep, you know, back in the day, you know, when we will use regular phones, it's just, "I'm done. Bye!" Beep-beep-beep-beep. So those little things make a big difference in the way we interpret our strengths or specifically the way we Claim our strengths and therefore the way we Aim them. So my, my emphases in the way I coach and I, I serve my clients is in the back, backdrop of those social constructs of the different cultures that are involved in that particular setting.

Jim Collison 5:38
Now, you took a very American approach to this podcast, and you got right to business. I was hoping to get to know a little bit about you and some of your background, and you took -- so I don't know, maybe there's some U.S. influence on that. Let's get to know you. Let me, let me back up a little bit. Let's get to know you a little bit. For the folks who don't know you, give us a little bit of your background, where you come from, and how that, how that influences you.

Marisa Ortiz 6:05
Thank you. Yes, well, I was born and raised in North Mexico. Didn't want to go back too much. And I migrated to the United States when I was 16 years old to start college. I had an amazing experience in college. I double majored in French and political science, with a concentration in Middle Eastern Studies, because I coincidentally come from a Muslim neighborhood in North Mexico. And that influenced a lot my, just my appreciation for Middle Eastern culture. And then I moved to San Antonio, Texas, where I've been for almost 20 years -- you know, 20 years in beautiful San Antonio. And here I was given an opportunity by San Antonians With Disabilities. I worked in an independent living center for the first 5 years. They sponsored my first work visa. And I ran a lot of training programs and did a lot of community outreach and independent living activism about integration and respect for people with disabilities.

Marisa Ortiz 7:12
And then from there, I transitioned to the IT sector and was recruited by very good friends with Gallup, Rackspace, the IT company, to serve specifically the Asia Pacific market. So I managed the book of business in South Asia in the Indian subcontinent for close to 2 years. And then the, I transitioned to the HR department, became a trainer and continued my tenure in the IT industry, providing training. So that's where I was exposed to CliftonStrengths or StrengthsFinder for the first time. And in those 8 years that I served in IT as a woman of color in tech, I also worked in the Latin American division by creating it from the ground up, serving clients, both in Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese, which is a language that I decently speak -- Brazilian Portuguese.

Marisa Ortiz 8:03
And, and then after that, I became a mother and decided to take a plunge into entrepreneurship, and I absolutely adore strengths. It's really helped me as a minority woman, as a Latina, in tech. And, you know, I'm talking 2007 to 2014-2015. And it really empowered me. I became the Strengths Program Manager of Rackspace for my last couple of years there. And just it was a great boot camp to train and coach through strengths very diverse Rackers, from all backgrounds from all around the world, in different functions.

Marisa Ortiz 8:43
So that was my, my own training before I became Gallup-Certified, which I did. I was trained by, by Mr. Curt Liesveld, you know, bless his soul. I was very, very blessed to be trained by him and by Blanca Estela, together in Washington, D.C., and got my certification at the very beginning of 2015. And it's been an amazing journey. Even though it's going to be 7 years, quite frankly, I feel in diapers when it comes to entrepreneurship, because it's the universe opens up in regards to growth and learning. And of course, Learner is in my Top 5. So, so yes, ever since I started as an entrepreneur, I've been serving in the three sectors: corporations, government agencies and most definitely nonprofits. And the vast majority of my, of my work, I would say 80% of my work, is facilitation of customized strengths workshops. I did, of course, a lot in person and then, you know, with pandemic, I was blessed to pivot to virtual successfully.

Marisa Ortiz 9:51
And, and then with pandemic, I got a lot more coaching gigs -- I -- one-on-one coaching -- a lot of leaders wanting to reinvent themselves and kind of figure it out. So that really helped me sharpen my saw on coaching one-on-one. And at this point, the coaching that I offer, it tends to be supplemental to the workshops to my clients, and every once in a while some VIPs that I, that I say, OK, let's, let's engage in a coaching relationship. Because I have Input in my Top 5, I'm very thorough. And I'm very much aware, as a Latina, that I can talk for the Olympics and go very deep into the weeds. So yes, I mean, I just try to stay on point. But that's basically a little bit about me. I don't know, was that able to answer -- was that better?

Cultural Awareness -- a Starting Point

Jim Collison 10:42
That was perfect! I was feeling incomplete. I needed to make sure we spent some time getting to know each other; that the audience -- because they're part of this as well. We started a few minutes late today, just to honor that, that true. Yeah, you know, you want to be on time. So we were a few minutes late getting in here. You, Marisa, you talk a little bit about these, you know, having cultural awareness in it. And you certainly have spent, we're going to spend some time on what that means from a CliftonStrengths perspective here in just a second. But I want to go back to your, as we kind of kick things off, and you kind of talked about this idea of meeting times. And I think it's just a great example to work through in the work that you're doing with organizations. And I want to spend a lot of time on that.

Jim Collison 10:41
When I lived in Europe back in the '80s, when the earth was still cooling. We, you know, I had a friend go to Spain. And I said -- he came back and I said, you know, "How was it?" And he said, "Oh, you know, everybody says, manana, right? Aah, tomorrow; we'll do it tomorrow, whatever. Right? Whatever. Well, we'll do that, you know, and from a cultural standpoint, as we think about two cultures colliding -- now, I'm, we're doing webcasts now in 7 different languages. And I'm colliding into cultures all the time, right. And yet, from my culture, I, I, I have a certain culture that I adhere to as well, things that fit for me. What kind of advice -- when you have cultures colliding, right, just in this area, as an example of, of arriving, right, setting up a meeting -- how do we help -- or what's the starting point? Because it's, it's two cultures, and this may not even -- if we take the U.S. out of it, we might have an Australian culture and a culture maybe from Mexico. How do we, how do we work better together? What have you seen that works to get both cultures engaged and working? What's, what's the best practice there? Can you talk a little bit about that?

Marisa Ortiz 12:37
Sure, absolutely. So in intercultural work, we talk about having a twofold approach. The first one is awareness of the self. So we always start with unpacking our own cultural background -- whatever that is, right. So, for example, Australian professionals, Australia as New Zealand as the United States are, you know, British offspring, so culturally speaking --

Jim Collison 13:07
We threw off those shackles long ago.

Marisa Ortiz 13:10
Yes, sir. That is correct. That is correct.

Jim Collison 13:13
July 4 is coming up.

Marisa Ortiz 13:16
Yes, we're still having this conversation in American English and not in Shirocki. So, so yes, I mean, it's just from an intercultural perspective, I guess we categorize the regions of the world in, in certain categories. So because of historical reasons, you know, in Great Britain, when it was called Great Britain, and it was an empire. So we, you know, it has to do with the colonization of -- big time; that's very, very important colonization. So we tend to categorize the world and categorize cultures based on their history. And that helps us understand why people have the tendencies, the cultural tendencies that they have. So in the case of Australia, being a British offspring -- I mean, that's one way in which we explain it sometimes -- it helps us understand their values.

Marisa Ortiz 14:10
So Australia is considered ideal-driven instead of relationship-based, like many cultures that, of course, tend to be postcolonial cultures of other empires, not necessarily Great Britain, because they're more idea-oriented than relationship-oriented. They're also going to be more punctual, more go to the point, maybe lower context, compared to a culture like Mexico, which is an offspring of Spain, as the rest of the hemisphere. I mean, from Tijuana all the way to Tierra del Fuego, all of that Latin America.

Marisa Ortiz 14:47
And within Latin America, we include the Caribbean, but we have huge diversity in the Caribbean islands that is not necessarily from Spain, or Hispanic, right? That's what Hispanic means -- "from Spain." So, in the, the first step is that profound self-awareness of our own culture, and what are those behaviors that we consider important, such as what do we consider respectful? What do we consider professional at the workplace, right? So once we have that profound self-awareness, then the next step would be to learn history and just knowledge of the region, the country, the culture. It includes a combination of history of just business protocols. What's politically happening in that country is of utmost importance. Because whether we like it or not, politics dictate what we're able to do, what we are allowed to do as citizens, right. In this day and age, even travel protocols, right, in the post-pandemic reality that we're living in. And then having an introspective conversation as to in which areas are we going to flex? Or in which areas are we going to adapt? And that is the question, my friend, the intercultural question.

Cultural Awareness Conversations

Jim Collison 16:09
Do you have that conversation? Like I think with teams and strengths, where the earlier you introduce strengths into the, into the team dynamics, the more impact that can have, because you have a framework in which to talk about the team's talents, right? From a cultural standpoint, do you recommend having a similar, using that framework of historical context, social norms, how we operate, if teams are getting together, and maybe you can use, use me as an example, I'm working with teams from Brazil, from Taiwan, from -- which is primarily Chinese -- from, from Japan, from Germany, from France. OK, that's a pretty, very, and from, from Mexico. It's pretty varied, like I have a lot of cultures to deal with, right? I mean, I'm gonna be a super human cultural machine here in a second as I adapt to all these cultures. Do we have those same conversations early and talk about OK, rules of engagement for how we're working together? Talk a little bit about what kind of advice do you give to teams around getting those standards, if we can call it that, out to be discussed?

Marisa Ortiz 17:23
Sure. No, that's an excellent question. Absolutely. I think that before we even set up some standards, I think it's more of a curiosity standpoint, right? Let's, let's talk about this. Let's talk about what are going to be the best practices, since we are a global team. And that is the reality of so many organizations at this point -- global teams working remotely -- and having huge diversity in the same team. It is important that as, as early as possible, to start, you know, bringing this conversation to the table on what are going to be our best practices or what are going to be the expectations for the best of the team, right? Because the teams come together for a reason. We're here to accomplish something together. That's the priority, right? How can we adjust our protocols, adjust the way we work so that we all feel we can be culturally free, we can be ourselves, which is 100% compatible with strengths, right, positive psychology. But at the same time, make the adjustments so that we don't run into cultural clashes on a regular basis.

Marisa Ortiz 18:32
So absolutely, it, just like the strengths conversation, the earlier it happens, the better. We don't want to wait for cultural faux pas, because those cost a lot of money, you know, cultural faux pas. At least, you know, my background, I came into the intercultural conversation from an international business perspective, you know, global business. And, you know, a lot of it is manufacturing, international trade, sending executives from the United States as expats to other parts of the world, moving them with their families. Right. I mean, completely uprooting families from one part of the world to another, you know, putting a lot of effort and time and money in such movements for those expats not to be prepared for the culture that they are joining, right, or for those international teams not to be prepared to work with their diverse leaders, you know, both sides, right.

Marisa Ortiz 19:35
So that is the reality, has been around ever since international trade started. But that conversation, intercultural conversation has evolved most definitely, and even within a domestic or American context. If we just stay in the United States, it has evolved into diversity, equity and inclusion, because we, the United States, are an extremely diverse country. And we have a lot of nuances within those cultures. We can talk about it from a racial perspective. Nonetheless, race is a social construct that doesn't truly exist in all parts of the, of the world. We can talk about it from just an ethnic group, cultural group. But at the end of the day, it has to be based from those definitions that the own team members bring forward.

Marisa Ortiz 20:28
So in my work, what I do is I ask participants of my workshops, in my needs assessments, which, I don't call them needs assessments, because they can get confused with the strengths assessment. So I call them pretraining surveys. But the very basic question of my needs assessments is, How do you describe your ancestry, racial, ethnic or cultural background? And it's an open-ended question. I don't give them choices what I think it should be, right. And I work with their own definitions. And of course, you know where I'm going, and it is connected to their strengths.

What to Do With a Team's Cultural Data

Jim Collison 21:06
Yeah. Before we get to the strengths part of it, so you get these answers back. Give us a little idea, how do you work through those statements, right? How do you, just how do you do that? Because I think for a lot of people, they would be a little overwhelmed. OK, I've got, I've got these cultural constructs; what do I do with them? So give us a few clues in there, if nobody's done this before. Because I don't know if a lot of people are doing that. I think they show up the first day at a meeting or, and it's like, OK, I'm off to the races with my own cultural context. I'm running the meeting the way I'm going to run it in the, you know. Or I'm going to do the training, for our Certified coaches, I'm going to do this training like I've, like I want to do it, as opposed to taking in some, some, you know, some cultural competencies at this point. So, talk a little bit about your own thought process. Once you have this data, what do you do with it?

Marisa Ortiz 22:02
So once I have this data, if the group is very large, then I gather them all with my Input. And I remove the words that are irrelevant, like prepositions and, you know, the elaboration and I just pick though the key words: Caucasian, White, Latino, Hispanic, names of countries as well, names of regions -- Midwest, Asian, Asian American, Asian descent. I pick their own keywords. So I clean it up, and I create a word cloud. So the larger the word, the more times it was repeated. And the purpose of that word cloud is just to bring awareness to that team, to that group of learners, of their own cultural identity as they define it themselves.

Marisa Ortiz 22:54
Yes, you are spot on, Jim, there are individuals that either answer like, "I never define my culture," or they answer with, "That's not important to me." They answer with words such as, "I am a culture. My culture is working hard." You know, there are people that don't mention race, ethnicity, a region of the world, the region of the United States, a city, a state -- nothing. And I respect those answers. And if the, if the team is smaller, then I just show the answers as they are. And it brings a lot of awareness to those individuals that responded that way how their own peers do define themselves, versus how they choose not to define themselves.

Marisa Ortiz 23:41
So what I really do is just, I just bring a mirror. Because I personally -- this is me, I think there is tremendous value in bringing in our Caucasian White brothers and sisters to the conversation of your own ancestry. What's your ancestry? Right? I mean, beyond the words we use to define race in this country, you have an ancestry. Everyone has an ancestry. So that is what I'm interested in, so that you have awareness of where these, you know, cultural expectations come from. Not just minorities should be talking about culture or should be like, you know, bringing up the fact that they belong to a minority. All of us have a culture. There is a culture of musicians. There is a gender-based culture, the culture of women. There is, I mean, at the end of the day, how we define culture is another conversation for a different glass of wine. But the point is --

Jim Collison 24:43
Wine is a culture; just be careful there.

Marisa Ortiz 24:45
There you go! Indeed, indeed, wine is a culture. So my purpose is to bring a mirror and to show the team to help them connect and have awareness and connect how they Claim their strengths based on that, you know, social construct, and even how they choose to Aim it. So I mean, I know that I'm getting ahead on strengths. But, you know, there's, that is the purpose, right? The purpose is that how you're going to use your strengths, now that you have awareness of how they manifest, because those, because of those social expectations?

Approaching CliftonStrengths From a Multicultural Perspective

Jim Collison 25:24
Yeah, I'm gonna, we're gonna transition to strengths here. But it's interesting. So I just came back from a family gathering. So all my brothers and sisters, we were together for my mom's funeral this last weekend, and so we're in a, you know, everybody's there. And we're having, we're spending some time chatting with one another. And even in the same family, we have five distinct cultures -- at least in my family, I, I don't know about yours. But with my, all my brothers and sisters are super different than me. I was just spending some time with my daughter last night on the deck talking about this and all the difference, the way my brothers see the world versus the way my sisters do. And, and even I'm kind of the odd man out among my brothers; I'm very different than them. And you'd think, same family, same mom, same dad, we grew up in the same spot in California. And yet, we're all very, very different in the way we approach this.

Jim Collison 26:21
And I think this gets to the essence of the strengths conversation. And when you and I were discussing this before the program, I always think of it, you'll appreciate this, because you're a Rackspacer, ex-Rackspacer. In a multidimensional database perspective -- in other words, strengths is one bit of data, but our culture is another one. And there, one is not more important than the other. But they have to both be considered, right, in what we're doing here. We can't, we, and I think this is the conversation we see a lot. We produce these strengths definitions, whatever, from a certain cultural viewpoint at times. And when we bring in the other, the other element, the, the, this, this other data point of culture begins to have an influence over the way people see those strengths in themselves. So talk a little bit about when we take these, these strengths definitions, and we introduce them into other cultures, what else we -- how do we, how do you do that or how do you think through that? So for, for coaches who are outside -- well, listen, we're all outside of a culture in some regards, right. But talk a little bit about how you approach that from a strengths perspective.

Marisa Ortiz 27:34
Absolutely. That is a phenomenal question, because I teach strengths in espanol, in Spanish, as well. And it's, it's a very different experience, for all kinds of reasons. The definitions, I just remind my students all the time of the first of the 5 guiding principles of use and strengths: Themes are neutral. They're neutral. They're not right; they're not wrong; they're not better than the others. They're just human talents. And I do explain to my students that it's extremely difficult, if not impossible, for Gallup to come up with a definition that would please absolutely each and every person around the world. We can translate it to many languages, but we still have to, again, keep in mind that the origin of the tool is American, and that Gallup is an American company. But you guys are a global company, and you do a lot of work in other countries. And this data is organic, and Gallup is in a constant, you know, evolution and redefinition. And, you know, fellow coaches, we know, like, don't -- no longer use this; we're no longer using that tool anymore.

Marisa Ortiz 28:46
Now, remember, don't have people take the assessment so many times, right? I mean, you guys provide that guidance as a research, and your own experience as a company has taken you to this journey. Right. So in my opinion, to my fellow coaches, I think it is very important to stay on top of what's the latest and greatest that you guys are sharing with us, because you guys are the ones crunching the data and having to revise some of those definitions here and there, right, receive the feedback of your global audience. And making sure that we don't stay in an older version of strengths or in a tool that or, you know, aid, right that we are no longer using. Because after so many years of using it, we learned that, you know, there are some, some gray areas that we can get into. So even in, in English and here in the United States, at the end of the day, another component that I share with my students frequently is that a definition, the raw definition in a Signature Theme report, or in, in the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, is the raw definition by itself. But that is going to be peppered by your other 4 strengths in your Top 5, right?

Marisa Ortiz 30:01
So each and every word and each and every sentence, it's impossible that you're going to relate 100% to each and every word in every sentence, right? Because your other 4 strengths are going to influence that particular strength, and so on. And to make sure, right, that we are taking into consideration that cultural component, the key question is the following: How does your own cultural background judge that behavior? Because it is about how we judge the behavior, as they say, "The only difference between a weed and a flower is a judgment." That's it, right? So how we judge those behaviors is 100% cultural.

Opening People's Minds to Cultural Differences

Jim Collison 30:47
I love that. And I might even throw in the word how they value it. Like how do they val -- how do they, how does the culture value that, whatever that may be? In our opening example, Achiever may be, you know, the theme -- big capital "A," Achiever -- might be seen differently in the American culture and in, in, in a Latin America culture in the way that's done, right. And so, Page asks a great question, I think, around this. And she says, How do you help organizations open their minds? Insert "people" into that "organizations" word, right. So how do you help people open their minds to this approach when they say -- not if, but when -- when they say, "I don't need it," or "I don't want it," or "I don't want to be a part of this"? Or, you know, there's kind of, there's been a backlash to culture, too, as well as, "I don't want to change. This is my culture. I want to, I want to participate in my way." How do you approach that question?

Marisa Ortiz 31:52
Wow, that's a great question. And I want to take an opportunity to throw a kiss to Page, whom I appreciate very much. Thank you so much. So how do I help organizations and individuals open their minds? I guess I ask them questions about their minority team members. You know, every minority in the United States fully understands that we have to learn how to navigate the American standard culture to con-, to be considered successful at the workplace. Absolutely every American and immigrant with a green card in this country, who doesn't come from a pure American culture for, you know, various reasons, totally understands that at the workplace, we are expected to exhibit certain behaviors that are of course compatible with a white standard heterosexual behaviors, in order to be considered professional and, and therefore, respected at the workplace. All of us go home or hang out with our homies and, you know, relax, and, you know, become ourselves.

Marisa Ortiz 32:57
So, if the leader is not receptive to this knowledge, to be honest with you, I let it go. And I, and, you know, I politely and lovingly don't insist very much. In my experience, I'd rather work with those visionary leaders that are eager for this knowledge, and they're eager for this type of work. And there's plenty of them out there. I call them "visionary" for that reason. And, and I focus on those leaders as well as those mission-driven organizations that perhaps they may not be fully aware that what they like about my service is the intercultural component, but they keep bringing me back.

Marisa Ortiz 33:43
So in a way I, you know, because of my Empathy and my Positivity -- and I have Harmony Top 10 too -- I like, OK, you know, my job is to train, to coach to, I'm a teacher. There are others out there whom I deeply love and admire who are activists. And I, in a way, I kind of like leave that work to them, and I admire them and work with them and learn from them as well. But because I am in the trenches of, you know, each and every workshop, each and every coaching session, I do not get more confrontational. I provide sometimes data on money that can be lost, but Analytical is in my lesser talents, so, so, I mean, I'm being like very transparent here in this conversation, that I don't insist. At the beginning of my tenure, I was more interested in kind of breaking them down. And at this point, I learned that I'd rather stay with that audience that is receptive and focused and keep doing the work to the best of my ability.

Meet Our Guest on This Episode -- Part 2

Jim Collison 34:56
We left your Top 5 out of the bio, and I forgot to announce -- I should have said it early on. But I think this is actually a good time to bring it in. And let's, let's Focus on You a little bit, walk -- because you've alluded to this, right? Walk us through your Top 5 a little bit, and then give us a little cultural context of what that looks like for you, and let's practice this a little bit. Give us a, give us, school us on this a little bit through your own Top 5.

Marisa Ortiz 35:25
Of course! Well, my No. 1 strength is Connectedness that I probably inherited and learned through my parents; they were both hippies. And in north Mexico, my father was a pilot of Cessna, you know, little planes, and he, that was his vocation, and he loved it. So I grew up watching a very happy dad, a pilot hippie, who, you know, every Sunday will go to nurseries and get plants. My parents bred birds. They had at some point over 50 singing birds in beautiful, you know, huge cages in our backyard. I grew up in the desert, so there isn't much of a lawn; it's more of a patio. So my Connectedness is the sun of my Top 5 strengths. My other 4 just, you know, gravitate around my Connectedness. And yes, definitely growing up in north Mexico, growing up in a Muslim neighborhood across the street from a mosque, listening to the, to the call to prayer 5 times a day, really fostered that Connectedness, you know, growing up.

Marisa Ortiz 36:31
My second strength is Input. And Input is the strength that I struggled the most to connect with when I started my strengths journey. Because as a Latina, as a, as a Mexican girl, my mom was always a stay-home wife, a homemaker. And there was still the expectation for us daughters to help her a lot in housekeeping and cleaning and organizing that my brother was not expected to, because he was a boy, right. So there was some, you know, gender inequities there. So my Input is just something that I got. I became, I was always very inquisitive. But it was a problem because I always had lots of things in my room and lots of things in my drawers. And my mom was worried that I was not going to find a husband because I was not neat and organized. And that's my Input.

Marisa Ortiz 37:27
My No. 3 is Learner, and most definitely, in my cultural background, in my upbringing, my parents, I was very blessed that they took me to music lessons since I was 9. And I took, you know, voice lessons, solfeggio organ, electron organ, which is an old instrument by the Yamaha house of music, and dance. And of course, I went to very good, highly academic private schools growing up. I am a woman of privilege in Mexican society; I am also light skin. So just by the way I look, people treat me very nicely without doing anything to deserve it. So growing up in that environment, highly academic, lots of classes really honing that Learner for me.

Marisa Ortiz 38:13
My No. 4 is Empathy. And I just, you know, in my culture in Mexico, it's totally OK to express your emotions to the fullest. You know, so since I was, you know, a baby, I would laugh out loud. We have a word for this big laughter called "cargajada," which is a ha, ha, ha, ha. It's like big laugh, you know, but it's, it's applicable to every emotion -- to sadness and drama. And that's just the world I grew up in. Everyone, most people weren't like that; mostly women. Men, another gender inequity, they were not necessarily allowed to cry or to express certain emotions, right.

Marisa Ortiz 38:58
And finally, my No. 5 is Positivity. Most definitely inherited that from my father as well, who would be cracking jokes all the time. People never knew whether he was telling a joke or telling something like a real anecdote. He was extremely funny person. People really loved him. He woke up in a good mood every single day at 5 in the morning, made coffee, to fly that day. He loved his job. He loved life, and he adored us, and I was, I was his youngest. I was his baby. And I look a lot like him. So I was so spoiled and I got that Positivity from him, and quite frankly, in Mexican culture, you know, and we even have a song, you know, that says that, that we, in Mexico, you know, we, even though there is a lot of suffering, we laugh a lot ourselves. Even though there is a lot of inequity, there is extreme poverty, not just in Mexico, of course; in so many postcolonial societies. But we, you know, Mexicans and other Latin Americans from keep that ability to be happy. It's a mindset. And I definitely learned that growing up in my North Mexican culture.

Lessons Learned From 7 Years of Intercultural Coaching

Jim Collison 40:13
I love that. I, just as you were talking about that, you were explaining the great things about yourself through a cultural context and giving me some clues, as we work together, giving me some cultural clues on OK, your Learner sees the world through this lens. And I just love that. I think sometimes, I think some coaches -- maybe all of us -- can add that in as we have people, we -- at Gallup, we call that a Focus on You, what we just did -- you're spending some time working through those. More detailed, maybe, than you might have time for in a big setting. But I loved that understanding that not just what I get done, because we say that a lot, like strengths is what, you know, but how I am doing it through a cultural lens. And I think being open to adding that question. We may not do it that way unless we say it that way.

Jim Collison 40:13
Like we may, we may have to prompt people to say, "Tell me a little bit about your Top 5, but I want you to bring your culture in too," I'm giving you permission to say it. And in some cases, we might need to do that, right? Might need to give individuals permission to do it. Question from the chat room: What advice would you have given yourself at the beginning of your coaching journey, knowing what you know now -- I think this is a real popular question for anything. But what do you think? And then where do you want to take your journey ahead? Let's take the question, the first question, which is, What advice would you give to yourself now? Or what advice would you give to coaches? And I want to specifically talk about this cultural awareness lens. You've been learning even some things about it. What, what kind of advice would you give yourself?

Marisa Ortiz 41:59
Wow, I think that is related to the previous question. I think the advice that I would give my, myself 7 years ago, knowing what I know, now is not to push the intercultural conversation in groups that are not ready. And that's OK. That's, that's fine -- to meet the client where they're at, you know, to, that might be my Adaptability in Top 10, you know, that, OK, this is where you're at, and I respect that. I respect that, for, you're calling me for a reason; I'm honored by your interest in my service. If the client is not ready or not there -- in their mindset, that's not part of their intellectual appetite -- to respect that and to adjust and bring value through CliftonStrengths in a way that is more compatible to them, perhaps. So I would, I would definitely tell that my, to myself 7 years ago.

Marisa Ortiz 42:56
But as far as, you know, what I want to share to other coaches, at this point in the game, if I may, Jim, I mean, I'm interjecting here a little bit, but since the tool is so popular at this point, and we've been doing strengths for so long, there are a lot of people that have taken the StrengthsFinder assessment by this point. So my humble suggestion to all my fellow coaches would be to ask if a person has ever taken StrengthsFinder, and either use original reports and upgrade to Full 34. But please don't overassess people five, six, seven times with Top 5, because I really think it defeats the purpose. And it kind of devaluate a little bit the power of those Top 5, when they don't have, never had visibility to their Top 10 and never had visibility to those fluctuations. And -- because I've seen that, you know, I've seen that at this point a lot more. As well as every once in a while, I run into a person that says, "I looked, I read the book, so I picked my own strengths. And these are my Top 5." And like, "Well, why don't you want to take the assessment?" "Because no, I don't, I don't want to take the assessment," or "I took it, but it's wrong." And it's sometimes people with Arranger in Top 5 rearrange their own strengths, right.

Marisa Ortiz 44:15
But I feel that we have to, in a way, protect the integrity of the tool and keep sharing in a loving but firm way the way to correctly use StrengthsFinder as a tool. And it is a StrengthsFinder; it is not a strengths picker, right? You don't get to pick your own strengths. You know, and quite frankly, in my experience, coaching those individuals, they pick strengths based on their own cultural biases, right, in their own culture -- they want to have the sexy words in Top 5: Command, Strategic, Achiever because in their culture that is what is applauded. Right. Or maybe in another culture, maybe in the nonprofit sector, I have social workers crying because I should have Empathy in my Top 5; I'm very empathetic all the time. And, and they already reject some of their Top 5, even though they're the ones who took the assessment. And we know the algorithms are pretty spot on for the 99.99% of the population of the world. So, sorry for the, you know, little interjection there, but it reminded me like, you know, what is your advice to other coaches? Definitely, that's in my mind.

Ensuring That CliftonStrengths Isn't a One-Off

Jim Collison 45:29
Yeah, no, I love the, I love the discussion around that, because I think each culture has a ideal representation where people feel like they have to live to be the best version of themselves, as long as it matches this cultural idiom of sorts. And, you know, there, and then, like you said, even within a single culture, there might be subcultures that think through, like, OK (we hear this all the time) -- "Oh, I'm an executive, and I have no Executing themes. Like what do I do?" Or "I'm the head of strategy; I have no Strategic Thinking themes." They do. They just, they just, right, but they just kind of start like, Oh, my gosh, I, should I -- ?

Jim Collison 46:13
And I, you know, I really love the point of no, this is to open discussions about that. Like, don't get too hasty on trying to figure out what should be and what shouldn't be; let's talk about what is. And I think you'll start seeing, you'll start, you're, you're beginning to see something or you'll see something there. John asks this question, I think it's a good one: Have you found, what have you found most helpful for engaging with teams over time so they don't do one-offs? And it's kind of a derivation of the, I want to take the assessment over and over and over. And listen, trust me, we're the only organization that sells a product and then says, "Only use it once." Like, everybody else should be saying, "No, no -- take it as many times as you like." How, in this setting that John's asking for, what kind of conversations do you have to keep the strengths conversation going so it just doesn't become a one-off reading, so to speak, of their strengths?

Marisa Ortiz 47:11
Absolutely. Sure. So I think that the starting point is to build a relationship with that client, with that leader that is bringing you in. I also think running a needs assessment or pretraining survey and measure the current level of awareness of strengths of the team, measuring their intellectual appetite, as well as what's going on for them right now. I mean, we have to have that professional context to come in and deliver a strengths session that is relevant to what they're working on. to what they're doing. I will also say that it is important not to say, "Well, this is THE strengths class." The strengths is a tool. What do you want to do with it? How do you want to angle this particular workshop? Is this for team building? Are these, are these your managers? Is this in relation to how they manage their people? Are these for leaders, and is this more of a leadership conversation?

Marisa Ortiz 48:08
I would also suggest to start creating in your menu of products your beginner, intermediate and advanced strengths class. And obviously, for intermediate and advanced, I strongly recommend using a Full 34 report. And us as coaches, we need to nerd up, Jim, OK, like we need to consume all the amazing content you guys produce for us, to keep that so sharp and make sure that we are staying on top of the tool, on top of the latest and greatest. And in my opinion, I think we have to go deep into that gig and into that workshop so that we have, of course, a post-training survey, I think, is very important to do like a pre-, post-, right? Your pretraining and your post-training, that is a basic in the L&D field -- in learning and development field -- as well as those sustainability conversations. That's how I call them.

Marisa Ortiz 49:04
The follow-up conversations is not just like, How did you like it? Was it fun? No, no, no, no. Let's talk about how you as a leader and your managers are going to be keeping the strengths conversation alive, right, so that you can actually see that return on your investment. So this is about sustainability efforts. And just keep, you know, just keep in touch with them. Send them a card, you know, during Christmas season or the holidays or me at the end of the year, I like to send thank you cards, you know, because I serve people from all kinds of spiritual backgrounds. So I remain kind of religious agnostic and, or, you know, religious, flexible. And I send thank you. Thank you for being one of my clients this year. I appreciate your trust. And, you know, check on your clients every once in a while. How are you doing? How's the team doing? The results of your post-training survey are very important. So engaging in that follow-up sustainability conversation with those results is going to equip your conversation for follow-up work, even if it's in 6 months from now, no problem. It is about these organizations truly getting that return on investment, on their investment.

Bringing Greater Cultural Appreciation to a Team

Jim Collison 50:16
Gonna ask you kind of a controversial question, and you can choose not to answer if you don't want to. But I think sometimes we think in these, and this kind of stems from Patricia's question. She says, Have you ever used CliftonStrengths to reduce biases, provide common ground to all? I think there's some thoughts that in our work of understanding culture, we're trying to make all cultures the same or have some kind of understanding that, that I, I need to change to someone else's culture. And what they're asking me to do is change, but they're not changing themselves.

Jim Collison 50:54
When we think about the work with cultures, and you get that resistance a little bit like, like, Hey, you know, I still have my own culture. And you, you know, how do you address it? You said a second ago, I asked you a question similar to this. And you kind of said, we don't -- we don't ask them to or we don't bring it up in that context. But thinking of, thinking of those situations, or at least your own, your own view on, Are we asking cultures to all become the same? Or can we coexist -- can, can three or four or five cultures coexist together and discover what's best about each of them? Talk a little bit, how do you view that?

Marisa Ortiz 51:36
Yeah, so of course, yes -- no, no, no, I, I don't, I am not asking cultures to become the same at all, at all. I am in the other side of the spectrum. I think it's about appreciating the nuances and the cultural differences and learning about them, so that we interpret the behavior of others more accurately, instead of based on our own cultural lens. So, and thank you for framing this as a controversial question, because then my answer can be a little bit controversial too. But here, I want to very respectfully quote the work of Peggy McIntosh on white supremacy. And one of those myths of white supremacy is precisely the monoculture, right, that we're all, we're all the same, right? That we're all equal. In theory, as humans, yes, there is only one race, and that is the human race. Right?

Marisa Ortiz 52:33
Yes, we're all humans, and we're all equal. But the reality is that our cultures have shaped us and continue to shape us, even within the United States. That's why we have that important conversation on diversity, equity and inclusion today. Because we have different expectations, according to the cultures that we come from. I do a lot of work in the Latino world, Latino-Hispanic world here in the United States and, as well as African American and Black America. I am very blessed to be hired by LGBTQ+ leaders, to you know, bring in CliftonStrengths with that, you know, cultural component. And again, it goes back to my comment before, all of those Americans who are considered minorities know that it is not a monoculture. That's why they live every single day.

Marisa Ortiz 53:27
So I guess in trying to answer your question more pointedly, more punctually, I would say that there might be those out there who don't see the need today to talk about culture and to unpack it, because they're not affected by it. And that may be in certain circles where they naturally fit in the white male heterosexual standard. And if they don't want to join the conversation, that's OK. There are millions of us in the United States and outside of the United States who are happily engaging in that conversation and trying to move the needle forward for true cultural equity and inclusion.

When Your Coaching Is Not a Good Client Fit

Jim Collison 54:09
Yeah, it's a difficult question. Like I asked that on purpose, because it's the elephant in the room, oftentimes, right. And, and sometimes we think it's, you know, the, the coaching or the strengths community, it's all kumbaya, everybody's going to come together, and there'll be magic and rainbows. And, and yet, we have inter, you know, I always I like to say, Where two or more are gathered, there will be conflict and, and -- right? And so even in a, even in similar cultures, we have subcultures that build, that, that build walls, right, that build barriers to things. And we need, I think it's that, it's that understanding coming in. Kara asks this great question, and I think we'll kind of wrap it on this, but At what point do you just kind of say, "We're not a good fit." Do you have -- does that happen, where you, where you get in a situation, and you have to say, "You know, I just I don't think we're a good fit together." Can you address that a little bit for me?

Marisa Ortiz 55:09
Yes. Thank you. Thank you, Kara. Another kiss to Kara. Yes. So at what point, when you feel you are hitting a wall, and you're asking the questions, and the conversation is fluid, and it's fine, but you're hitting a wall. The questions are not being answered; they're answering with something else. Right? Or they're bringing it back. Like, "We just want a strengths class, just a strengths class. You don't need to talk about culture." So yes, it has happened to me a couple of times, in which I have respectfully then referred them to another person that has, offers strengths more in a generic way. Right? Like, this is my strengths class one, my strengths class two. Which one do you want and what time, right?

Marisa Ortiz 55:54
And they, I understand that my approach is very customized and very specific and very deep, because that's what I offer. In order for it to be intercultural, you have to get a little deeper. I don't have, you know, more generic classes per se. So then I have brought it up, like, Oh, maybe I am not the best consultant for this particular situation. Would you be open for me to refer you to one of my peers who's also Gallup-Certified, and she's amazing; he's wonderful. And I think it might be a better fit for your organization, it has only happened twice in 7 years. You know, when you're self-employed, sometimes you just, you know, gotta take the gig and pay bills.

Jim Collison 56:38
That's a good thing to say. I think it's a good -- I mean, it's --

Marisa Ortiz 56:41

Jim Collison 56:42
It's -- no, right on. And I think it's, it's oftentimes a lot harder than a rule. Right? It's the, it's, it would be great if life was cut and dry. It would be great if, if we all understood each other all the time, but we don't. Right. And we can't, and I think that's part of the human experience is -- and I think the word of the day is understanding, right? It's having that ability to take a step back, listen to what's being said, see it through their own, I mean, you and I have had a conversation, but even the things I've said and the things you've said have filtered through a cultural lens, right, in the way we approach those. And you and I don't approach life exactly the same. If we did, it'd be super boring, right? I mean, life would be boring if we did.

Jim Collison 57:28
And so I think it's a great opportunity for individuals to take a step back, take a deep breath. I do this sometimes with emails where I fire them off way too fast. I read them, and I answer. And I need to take a step back. And I think oftentimes in our own coaching, in the way we do it, we need to take a step back and say, OK, what's, what's really happening here? And let me evaluate this just before we go to fire something off. Anything else, Marisa, that you wanted to say today that I didn't, I didn't let you say. Or anything -- How do you want to close this?

Marisa Ortiz 58:01
Nothing else. I want to, I want to say thank you to the amazing people who joined us live today. And I see a lot of great comments. Thank you, Justin. Thank you, Theresa, Page, of course, Kara, Ronald, everyone. I appreciate you guys being here today for the live. Thank you, Jim, for engaging in this conversation. It is, it is, it's stepping outside of our comfort zones to bring the pink elephant and talk about it. So I appreciate you for being bold and amazing at this conversation, and that I am open to absolutely anyone who wants to continue this conversation. I connect from San Antonio, Texas, to the world with absolutely anyone who wants to chime in. It is my honor to be one of the Gallup coaches. And I appreciate you work very much.

Jim Collison 58:53
What's the best way -- if they wanted to connect with you, what's the best way to do that?

Marisa Ortiz 58:56
Of course! My website is And of course, there's the contact info. I'm on LinkedIn, and my Connectedness makes me addicted to it. So reach out, send me a message. I also want to thank my summer intern, Sergio. Thank you so much for bringing your beautiful Analytical and Deliberative and Intellection -- it's refreshing. But yes, please check out my website at

Jim Collison 59:26
Well, Marisa, thank you for saying "Yes," when I reached out to you to say, Hey, you want to come on and talk about this? We've been having more conversations like this, which I really appreciate just getting these cultural conversations. We want to continue to have more in the coaching community and invite others. If you think you have something to say, it's a little bit of a process to get in on this, but I'd love to hear from you. You can send me an email:, probably the easiest way to do that. And I can't take everyone, but I'd love to continue conversations like this. I'm going to put you through a little bit of a test, so you just can't say, "I want to be on." You got it, you're gonna get tested. I'm just gonna trust -- you gotta trust me on that one. But Marisa, thank you for -- it's not painful, right? I didn't make it too painful.

Marisa Ortiz 1:00:11
No, it was amazing. I loved it. Thank you.

Jim Collison 1:00:13
It's a little bit of an American cultural thing. Let me just admit that going in. So with that, we'll remind everyone -- hang tight for me with for one second -- with that, we'll remind everyone to take full advantage of all these resources; Marisa talked about them a little bit earlier. You can nerd out -- thank you for saying that, because usually, I'm the one that says that -- you can nerd out on all the resources: For coaching, master coaching, or if you want to become a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach like Marisa is, you can contact us. Again, that email address: Stay up to date with all the webcasts, and there's just a few out there. I'm taking some vacation over the next couple of weeks. And yeah, that's pretty great, isn't it? Listen, I haven't done that in a long time. And I'm pretty excited. Again, an American cultural, maybe even a Gallup cultural thing. Right? Right. We have a pretty, we have a pretty crazy culture at Gallup. But most of the time, head out to Follow us there, and you'll get notified whenever something is new. Join us -- let's continue the conversation -- join us in our Facebook group: And if you found this helpful, we'd ask that you'd share it. The link is right there. You're on it right now. Just share that link out, and we appreciate that as well. Thanks for joining us today. There's been lots of comments in the chat. Marisa, you and I'll go through those here in a second. But for those who joined us live, thanks for coming out. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

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

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

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