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Called to Coach
Career Success and Strengths: A Road Trip to a Stronger You
Called to Coach

Career Success and Strengths: A Road Trip to a Stronger You

Webcast Details

  • What 5 factors will help you on your road trip to career success and becoming a stronger you?
  • What potential obstacles do you need to be aware of, and how can you overcome them?
  • How do 10-10-10 and CliftonStrengths play a pivotal role in helping you get started on your journey?

Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series -- Season 10, Episode 28.

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

"To me, strengths development is more like a road trip than a leisurely Sunday drive. ... Road trips are fun ... but they're full of discovery and risk-taking. And then they have the reward of arriving at a specific destination." Career success -- and the accompanying growth in applying your strengths -- requires the preparation you would make and diligence you would endeavor to have on a lengthy road trip, says Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach Dallis Fontenot. Dallis' own road trip has taken some unexpected twists and turns, but in the process, she has discovered 5 success factors that have brought clarity and purpose to her journey. Join Dallis, Senior Vice President at ESI, a construction firm in U.S. state Idaho, for insights on what your career and strengths development road trip can look like.

It's our responsibility to be that subject-matter expert in our strengths. And sometimes I think what happens is we expect others to be that for us.

Dallis Fontenot, 20:40

Growing is painful. And if you're not experiencing a little bit of pain, you're probably not growing.

Dallis Fontenot, 52:05

Embrace the possibility that the villain in your story might be a source for your growth, and lean into the discomfort.

Dallis Fontenot, 52:33

Jim Collison 0:00
I am Jim Collison, and this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on July 6, 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 on our live page, and you'd love to join into the chat, there's a link right above me that will take you there, to YouTube. Sign into the chat, and we'd love to have your questions live. If you're listening after the fact, you can send us an email: Don't forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast app to Called to Coach or subscribe right there on YouTube, so you never miss an episode. Dallis Fontenot is my guest today. Dallis puts her coaching skills to work daily as a Senior Vice President at ESI. She works with ESI executive management, providing information essentials in determining the best strategies for organizational growth while developing programs and resources necessary to implement the company's strategic plan. Dallis, that sounds super important. Dallis has worked at ESI for 23 years and has been involved in a variety of cross-functional teams, including marketing, business development, human resources, organizational development and public relations and is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach. Dallis, welcome back to Called to Coach!

Dallis Fontenot 1:31
Hey, thanks, Jim. I appreciate it.

Jim Collison 1:33
So good to have you. It has been a while. I didn't go back, and I should have -- I didn't go back and look to see. We were both a lot younger in those days. We had you on Called to Coach in the early days of this, and a lot has happened. So most people check out -- in fact, let me, let me read your Top 5; I forgot to do that. Dallis' Top 5: Activator, Positivity, Restorative, Ideation and Connectedness. That hasn't changed. But lots has changed since the last time I had you on. And for folks new to the podcast, give us a little bit about you. Tell us you from your version.

Dallis Fontenot 2:09
OK, great. Well, thank you for having me on. This has been fun. It's been 7 years since I've been on Called to Coach. So yeah, there has been a lot that's happened since then. Well, just a quick timeline. I originally took strengths assessment in 2012. And then, of course, in true Activator fashion, got everybody I knew to take the assessment as well. And then I ended up getting certified in 2014. Then was on our, and you invited me to Called to Coach in 2015. And I did go back and just briefly watched our episode in 2015. And gosh, I was really surprised. I think at that time, I was the Corporate Development Manager for ESI. And we had 270 employees. Now, as a Senior VP, we have 8, over 850 employees. So we've grown a lot. And I'll tell you, I'll tell you one thing: Leading, leading in a company of 250 is very different than leading in a company of 850. So I feel like I'm in this growth mode always. So that's been really exciting.

Jim Collison 3:20
Dallis, flush, before, before you go on, flush that out a little bit more, because you breezed past that. But how is it different? How is 850 -- because you'd think, 250 to 850, OK, it's just 500 more people. But what does that physically, how is that physically harder? Or what kind of challenges have you seen in that, especially from a coaching perspective?

Dallis Fontenot 3:40
Oh, well, I think, you know, I remember early on, you know, just for me coaching others, you know, I had the bandwidth to be able to get to most of the people that were interested in that one-on-one coaching. And now I, you know, I have to set up other people and train other people to be those coaches to get to everybody. So it's really scaling, systematizing, making processes repeatable and scalable is really important. For me, personally, I mean, I think, as a Corporate Development Manager, I was leading a team. And, you know, leading leaders is a lot different than leading teams -- just a team. So learning that and figuring out what the cadence of communication needs to be in order to, you know, be executing and getting things done while helping everybody stay engaged and career pathing. The exciting part about it, though, is because we're in a company that is growing, there is a ton of opportunity for people for upward mobility, stretch assignments and that type of thing.

Jim Collison 4:51
In, as we were talking yesterday kind of just in the, in a, in a precall conversation, you kind of, and you alluded to it a second ago about scaling. And as you think about the role of scaling out what you're doing at 250 versus 850, what have you learned about how you, how you build into other people? Because it can't just be you, right? Eventually, you realize, Oh, we gotta get some other folks involved. What have you learned through that process of then versus now, as far as building this into other people?

Dallis Fontenot 5:23
Well, I think one lesson learned was, you know, I think I had that high-potential, that one person that, OK, that's, that's an indicator, that person's a strengths champion. And then you pour a lot of resources, and maybe that person then moves on. And so then you're back at ground zero. So I think currently, you know, I have probably 5 people that I'm pouring into to set them up to be trainers and coaches, and being able to have those kind of employee relations types of conversations as coaching conversations with others. So we, we split that up based on role. So today, my role is very focused on Directors level and above, so more of an Executive Coach, where the people that I'm raising up to be coaches are focused on various roles, depending on which part of the organization that they're in. So --

Jim Collison 6:21
Yeah, that gives, gives, I think that gives folks, you know, we're trying to spend some time in the series with coaches who've been doing this for a while to these kind of lessons learned. And I think that gives folks a good progression, at least from a career progression, of how that's changed for you. How have you changed personally through this, the growth in this experience? I mean, as you've looked inwardly at yourself, and you do professional development for a living, you have to kind of monitor your own. How have you grown?

Dallis Fontenot 6:50
For sure.

Jim Collison 6:51
Yeah, yeah. How have you grown?

Dallis Fontenot 6:52
Oh, gosh, that feels like a long laundry list that I don't know that we'd have enough time for. So many lessons learned along the way. I mean, again, like leading leaders is different than leading a team. I've learned the difference between, you know, I've discovered my limits. You know, there's something that happens when your strengths engage, and especially as someone with Woo in my Top 10, and creating a network of people that I collaborate with, or coach. You know, we all have limits, and there's a capacity and a bandwidth that we have. And so I think over the last 3 years, I finally bumped up against, OK, I think I found my limit. And that forced me to rethink my current roles and responsibilities. What do I need to delegate? What do I need to -- who do I need to train up to take on more of what I was doing yesterday, so I can do something different tomorrow?

Dallis Fontenot 7:52
And so that usually comes with, in a company that's growing like this, that's almost forced upon you. It's not something you -- well, it's not for me anyway -- it's not something I said, OK, in 2 years, you know, I'm going to reach my limit. And so I need to start. It usually comes from, This is not working anymore, and I need to do something different. But that's really exciting, because it gives people opportunities to grow and learn and get their own stretch assignments, take on new roles.

Career Progression: A Road Trip of Learning, 5 Success Factors

Jim Collison 8:27
We kind of titled this as a road trip. And if you, you know, this, a road trip of learning, right? And as you think of that in your own professional journey, you know, 5, 6 years ago, you were in one location. You've made this road trip to a, to a new location. What is that -- you know, if you were to give, you know, a lot of, listen, you've had a career progression that's the envy of a lot of coaches; this is where they want to get to. Not all of them, you can't follow the same, I mean, everybody's road trip is unique. So what have you learned through this process, if you were to give some advice on those, some of the destinations you've been a part of on this road trip? What kind of advice would you give to coaches about how you got where you're at today?

Dallis Fontenot 9:13
Yeah, I think, and some of that will talk through these 5 critical components, which were key. But what I would say, I just remember during, you know, the certification process and the training, we talked about, if you take two vehicles, and you're going from Washington State to Florida, and someone's in an SUV, and someone's in a convertible, they might take two different routes to the same destination. So I think, for me, is being less prescriptive -- you know, Hey, this worked for me; surely it will work for you -- and do exactly what I did to get where I'm at.

Dallis Fontenot 9:50
And there are a lot of variables in play, you know, in why I'm sitting in the seat I'm in today, and we'll talk about some of those. But really avoid trying to prescribe how to get to a certain place. And, but offering tools, offering information offering, Hey, here's what worked for me. And I think we talked about it in the, in the precall of, you know, my Ideation, Restorative is just constantly generating possibilities for people. And so, usually more than they can handle. So I always say, Hey, here's a buffet of ideas to choose from that may or may not work for you; you decide which you want to draw from. And so being tentative about that, as opposed to really prescriptive.

Jim Collison 10:41
I get this question all the time. Before we, and I'm gonna dive into these 5 critical success factors, as you would, as you would call them for you. But how important has it been -- If you just reflect on ESI and their openness to this, how did that play in as a, as maybe a, an early critical factor? Because you can't do any of these things if the organization's not supportive to it. So can you talk a little bit about that?

Dallis Fontenot 11:07
Sure. I think initially, when I took the assessment, all of a sudden, it was, Oh, my gosh, this could be so useful here. And I think I talked about it in the last call that, you know, as we were growing, we were starting to, starting to feel less family, more corporate. And so I had my eyes, you know, I was on the lookout for something that could bring us back together, something that could facilitate dialogue, something that could get us all on the same page that would help us be speaking the same language. And so once I took the assessment, it was really clear to me, Oh, my gosh, this could be something that could really help facilitate that.

Dallis Fontenot 11:46
So, you know, probably my first big stretch was, you know, presenting to my boss. Hey, I -- and before I asked, I went out and had 5 people take the assessment, and that, back then we didn't have codes, right. It was you bought the book, and you ripped the code out of the back of the book. And so, and these people paid for the book themselves. It's not, was not a company-mandated thing. And so they bought the book, and then 5 led to 10 led to 15. And then I knew, once I had our president take it and, and we saw how accurate it was, then, then all of a sudden, the momentum, it was that tipping point, you know, it started creating a little bit of a movement.

Dallis Fontenot 12:28
And one of my first stretches was, Oh, I'm gonna go ask my boss if I can get certified. And, you know, we've been working together for 23 years now. And so he knows me very well. Before he even knew, knew my strengths, he said, "OK, go get certified. But when you come back, I need you to pace yourself on rolling this thing out." And he knows me so well. And so, you know, that became the -- went and got certified and came back with a lot of tools that slowly over time, slowly and consistently over time, you know, he, he bought in and invested in me getting certified; he did not buy off yet on OK, here are all the programs you want to roll out, or -- so we're just really intentional. We didn't want it to be a one-off or a fad or a, you know, flavor of the month. So his support in me getting certified and having the freedom to be able to do what the company, the organization needed at the time, and his supporting me doing workshops outside of ESI have absolutely been monumental.

CliftonStrengths in the Construction Industry

Jim Collison 13:37
There's that saying, right, we always overestimate what can be done in a year and underestimate what can be done in 5, right, in 10, right. And you start, when you start thinking about the, the cumulative effect, you know, somehow I've been doing this for 9 years, and we have about 3 or 4,000 of these Called to Coaches that we've done. If you would have asked me that in the first year, I probably would have said no. What does, just so folks have context, what does ESI do? Can you just give us a quick explanation on that?

Dallis Fontenot 14:04
Yeah. So ESI is Idaho's largest privately held construction company. And so everything from high rises to grocery stores, tenant improvements, we're a construction company, we do design build. So yeah, that's what we do. We get to build things -- and people.

Jim Collison 14:26
Do you find, like, oftentimes, you know, CliftonStrengths gets pigeonholed into maybe some professional development spaces or areas? And you're construction, maybe not the most traditional space. Has that been a challenge any different than you'd see anywhere else, of using CliftonStrengths among a construction organization?

Dallis Fontenot 14:45
Well, originally, I thought we had a lot of hesitation about Gosh, our superintendents make up the majority of our workforce, and they're out in the field and they're getting after it every day. And, you know, these are hardworking kind of A-type personalities that are making things happen. And I think initially, we were a little hesitant think -- and skeptical, thinking, Gosh, are they, will they be willing to take this assessment where they have to, you know, answer 178 questions and then get this report? But I'll tell you, they've embraced it. Every new employee takes the assessment as part of our onboarding process. And I'm still doing workshops with them, and they embrace it. So I think it's a language they understand, and they appreciate what it does for the company.

Success Factor 1: Create a Road Map

Jim Collison 15:38
Yeah, I just, I love it. Because I don't, I think sometimes we think, Oh, that org -- fill in whatever that is -- Nah, it's not going to, it's not going to work there. Because we're different -- I hear that all the time -- we're different. Well, so I love, I love to hear when maybe nontraditional orgs where you think it may or may not be applicable, and you guys are just crushing it there with it. So apparently, your, your pacing concept is resonating well with folks. Lisa says, I appreciate being told to pace myself. Slowly and consistently and not necessarily, is not necessarily my approach. And I think sometimes there's, for you, there's probably moments of speed, where you need to go and go fast, that are interrupted by longer periods of sustainability. So it's not always just slow; it's not always just fast, but knowing when to go slow and knowing when to go fast that are important. Marvita says, Love that she's talking about pacing the org to roll it out. So I think that pacing concept is sitting well. Let's talk about, now coaches, and even if you're not a coach, this is a time when I want you to get a pen out, piece of paper, your keyboard. There's gonna be some real wisdom here. So I want you to make sure you get these, these success factors kind of written down. Dallis, the first one: Create a Road Map. Let's talk a little bit about your first success factor of Creating a Road Map.

Dallis Fontenot 17:04
Yeah, for sure. You know, I think just to back up just one, this idea of a road trip, right -- this Road Trip to a Stronger You -- titling it that on purpose. Because to me, strengths development is more like a road trip, right, than a leisurely Sunday drive. And road trips are fun -- you know, Positivity, adventurous, Activator -- so you can just see my strengths in action as I talk through this, but they're full of discovery and risk-taking. And then they have the reward at arriving at a specific destination. So for me, CliftonStrengths was that key that really unlocked my talent. And so I've been on this 10-year adventure of discovering my strengths, other people's strengths and helping to harness the power of them. I think that we can use some key business practices also in our strengths development. So we'll talk about that.

Dallis Fontenot 17:57
So as I work through these 5 critical roles as an Activator, I'm going to give you some action items -- I can't not give action items. So, and really, I don't know that you're going to hear anything so profound and brand new, but really, it's just some collective wisdom that I've gained through probably reading the last, you know, 50 books over the last 10 years and studying and living through this experience of implementing strengths.

Dallis Fontenot 18:25
So the road map part, the Create a Road Map, I use a 10-10-10 rule. And so what I mean by that is, the first 10, if you take your Top 10 strengths and use that as a focus, and the second 10 -- I'll give you the quick overview, and then I'll dive deeper. So 10-10-10 -- your Top 10 strengths; answering the question that Donald Clifton asked, "What do I do better than 10,000 other people?" (second 10); third 10 is then get to work and practice for 10,000 hours on that thing, that, those skills that on what you do best that will get you to mastery. So 10-10-10 rule. You know, I've coached everybody from teenagers to CEOs and pretty much everything in between. And, you know, some people have a real clear destination in mind -- someone saying, I want to go, be able to go do this thing, and so how do my strengths get there? But more often than not, you know, people don't know where this destination is going.

Dallis Fontenot 19:35
So my, as my coaching advice has been, if, if that's you and you're at the early stages of strengths discovery, don't get so fixated on a position in a company and saying, That's what I want to get to. Because I'll tell you, the position that I have today did not exist a year ago. The position -- the last position that I had didn't exist 5 years ago. And the position before I had that It didn't exist, you know, 7 years ago. So sometimes we can box ourselves into a corner. But I want to challenge everybody to think very possibility minded. And so if we start with our strengths, and we take our Top 10 talents and be that talent scout, get really good at being the expert at your Top 10.

Dallis Fontenot 20:22
So then, you know, we kind of go into that, the next 10,000, Dr. Clifton said, "What do you do better than 10,000 other people?" And just keep refining that. You know, this is, this is the part that might sting a little bit. But you know, it's, it's our responsibility to be that subject-matter expert in our strengths. And sometimes I think what happens is we expect others to be that for us. Hey, I want maybe my boss or my manager should be, my manager should be the expert and tell me where I add value. And I would flip that and say, you know, if your strengths are the -- you know, one, one definition of strengths are the things that energize you, and weaknesses are the things that drain you -- who's a better expert to know what energizes you than you? You know, and so I think we just have to be cautious to, you know, as we try to answer that question, What do I do better than 10,000 other people? That's a journey of discovery in itself. And that doesn't happen overnight. And it doesn't happen just from reading your report.

Jim Collison 21:28
Dallis, how do you, OK, that's, that's great advice for you. Do you, do you coach that? Because I think that applies, by the way, our embedded coaches that are listening to this, this is like, all of a sudden -- and Mark, who's now doing the transcription in the future, this is always great, because I get to talk to Mark in the future. Like, this is the story for embedded coaches in a lot of ways; not, not for our ind -- not necessarily excludes our independent coaches, because they can find ways to make this. But you're embedded in an organization, doing this for the organization every day. Are you teaching, because this same method applies to everybody. Is this kind of the fundamental coaching method you're using for individuals as well?

Dallis Fontenot 22:13
Yeah, for sure. And we'll, you know, we'll get to this ownership and accountability piece next. But, you know, first-time training, how to take ownership, what is, how to, how to be in that driver's seat. And then one, one thing I have people do is, Hey, over the next 2 weeks, what I want you to do is I want you to journal where you were energized. And we call it the ABC buckets, right? What is your A bucket, where you're energized, and it's really getting you out of bed in the morning? What is that B bucket that's like, Aah, it doesn't bother me, but I don't mind doing it. And what are those C bucket tasks that really drained me, and I have to work really hard to get to those things. Now, this isn't a license to say, Hey, I, you know, sorry, I got C bucket stuff in my job, and I don't want to do that.

Dallis Fontenot 23:05
But, you know, as they make those discoveries and start paying attention to when their strengths become generative, and they call what I call power up, what are you doing? Who are you talking to? What time of day is it? And helping them just really put that talent, talent scout hat on to be their own kind of anthropologist, so to speak, of paying attention to how this shows up for them. Because I can't do that for them. I mean, I can make observations, but really, it's intrinsic. And so, you know, if you're, it's OK to ask your boss or peers, "Hey, what do you, what do you see that I'm really good at?" But being a strengths talent scout for yourself is fundamental.

Jim Collison 23:57
Being -- I love that! Being a talent scout for yourself, right, I think super important, before we move on to ownership, any other action items as we think about this 10-10-10 rule that you've, you've found particularly important?

Dallis Fontenot 24:12
Yeah, I would say that third part. So just to recap, the first 10 is your Top 10 talents. The second 10 is, What do you do better than 10,000 others? And then third is that talent times investment equals strength, which is, Get after it and invest 10,000 hours of practice. And so, you know, I think part of that 10,000 hours of practice, what I've seen as an embedded coach is, I would say, alignment. So, the action items with this are adopt this 10-10-10 approach to creating your strategic development plan. Study talents, and just like on a road trip, if anybody's been on a road trip with kids, you're getting up at like, you know, 0-dark-30 because you want to hit the road early. And so they're still sleeping for the first couple of hours while you're on your road trip.

Dallis Fontenot 25:06
So what I would say is, you know, get up early and put in the work and consume as much information as you can. Most of my discovery happened at 5 a.m. You know, some people go to the gym, and I just went to work on absorbing as much information I can about strengths, my strengths, other people's strengths, my boss' strengths. You know, what does, what does he value? What does he need? Where can I be a complementary partner? And then I would say a, the alignment piece -- also going back to the metaphor of this road trip, if you've ever driven a car that's out of alignment, it gets really wonky. And you let go of the steering wheel and, you know, you're, you're turning, and it's, it's harder to, it's, the resistance is there. So as you're working on this 10,000 hours of practice, think about, What does the organization need from you? And then aim your talents at that. Sometimes what I see is people saying, "Well, here's what I do. How does, you know, how could, how does this fit into the organization?" And I would flip that and say, Look around. What does your boss need? What do your peers need? What does the organization need? And how do my strengths align with that? Because that's where you're gonna get added value.

Success Factor 2: Take the Driver's Seat

Jim Collison 26:21
I love that. And I often say, you know, it's not just necessarily about what your skills and your talent, but there also needs to be opportunity. And that's what you're saying there. In the org, there just has to be a need for that, or you have to develop a need for it. You have to show the organization: You need this. That's sometimes a little bit harder than filling a current role that is there. I mean, I got lucky with Called to Coach. There was, there was this new program called, you know, Certified Coach, you know, training that they were going to do, and I, I had, I had something to fill, how are we going to do this around the world, right? So I love that, from an opportunity standpoint. OK, we're gonna run out of time if we don't go faster. So let's look at No. 2 and Taking the Driver's Seat.

Dallis Fontenot 27:05
Yeah, Taking the Driver's Seat. And I want to say, Ownership is the engine that drives you towards success. And I'll explain a little bit more in detail about that. So of all these 5 steps, I feel like this step is the most foundational in career success. There's an author, John Miller, who wrote QBQ; you can find more about him at I promise he's not paying me to say that. But he knows I'm a fan. I'm a super fan. And so his book describes these two pathways. So the first path where you're, the first path leads you towards success, solutions, creativity, results, growth and resiliency. And I don't know about you, but I think, you know, we're at a time where resiliency is becoming really important. So this path becomes really important.

Dallis Fontenot 28:03
The other path leads you toward frustration, being stuck, blame, victim thinking. And so this first path is -- his framework in the book is really easy. It's about asking yourself the, he calls QBQ questions, the right type of questions. And there's a, and there's a construct or a framework around that. So these types of questions always start with "What" and "How" and contain the word "I." OK? So the second path, where you're asking these more unproductive questions and, that are leading you down to a not-so-great path always start with "Who" and "Why."

Dallis Fontenot 28:42
So let me give you a couple examples of what that might sound like from a strengths development. So incorrect questions might sound like, "Why doesn't my manager recognize my strengths?" The correct question or QBQ or productive question would sound something like, "What can I do to make my contribution worthy of recognition?" Incorrect question: "When will I get a raise?" Correct question: "What can I do to increase my impact?" Incorrect question -- this, this was guilty from the beginning was, before I took strengths: "Why don't they value my ideas?" The correct question: "What can I do to build a business case for my ideas?" Another correct question around that would be, "What can I do to improve my communication for this idea?"

Dallis Fontenot 29:30
And so there's so much about us, but Henry Cloud talks about blame and this victim thinking as being the parking brake for development. He is another great leader. Carol Dweck talks, in her book [Mindset], talks about this as being the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. And this shift, going from "Why" and the incorrect questions to a more accountable taking charge, being in the driver's seat, asking productive questions is a really tough term for people. And it requires a lot of courage; it requires a lot of humility; and it requires a lot of discipline. Because most of the time, those, those questions are happening in our head. And there's no one in there with us saying, "Hey, you're asking incorrect questions." And so what I find is, if those, that first path of asking great questions, in keeping with the metaphor, is like the on ramp, right, that acceleration lane. The off ramp, it's like, you just, you just took the exit ramp to development when you ask incorrect questions. And so this, this part is really, really key to, to success and strengths development.

Jim Collison 30:54
What do you, what do you think, what's the barriers there for most people, or even in your own experience, as you think, what keeps us -- so we, we know -- say, we know, we understand this. What blocks us from, from asking these questions, do you think sometimes?

Dallis Fontenot 31:11
Well, I think two things come to mind. John Miller, one of his, one of the quotes he says is about how blaming others is a form of escapism that frees us from the responsibility to do the work. And, you know, blame is easy; complaining is easy. When we ask these, these right questions, it really ask, it's going to require something of us, and it's going to require more work. It might require change. It might require a change of mindset. And I think people struggle with, you know, doing the work. I mean, sometimes, you know, doing the work is hard. And it requires, again, courage, humility, and discipline. And so I think that's part of it is, you know, maybe a resistance to do that hard thing.

Dallis Fontenot 32:04
And I think, having the humility to say, to think, Gosh, you know, I just remember in my strengths journey, I pitched, you know, a few of these ideas, and it's like this, this resistance to face reality. So for me, it was like, Well, what if I need more credibility in order to be heard about that idea? What if I didn't provide enough information? What if I have a fatal flaw that's overshadowing this Ideation that I need to work on before someone can actually see the value of Ideation? And all of those questions require a long list of things for you to go do and get to work that sometimes just, blaming just feels easier. So, you know, kind of a hard pill to swallow.

Jim Collison 32:52
Yeah. Should we think about some action items around this? What kind of, what kind of action would you have people take?

Dallis Fontenot 32:59
Yeah, I would say first of all, go read QBQ. It's, John Miller is going to describe this probably a lot better than I do. If you really want to double down on ownership mindset, Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin is a really great book. What I would say is, you know, take the driver's seat and, and set to the side that it's someone else's responsibility to do this for you. This is something that you do; that's something you can do. And then I would say, discipline yourself -- over the next couple of weeks, just pay attention to where you see this kind of victim mentality, this asking the wrong questions, sneak in, and just take a, kind of a moral accountability of how you see this creeping into your thinking, and intentionally make the turn.

Success Factor 3: Establish Mile Markers

Jim Collison 33:54
Love that. Let's look at No. 3 and, staying with the road trip metaphor, thinking about Establishing Mile Markers.

Dallis Fontenot 34:01
OK. Yeah. So this is, mile markers, as we all know, on the interstate help you to determine the direction you're going or how much progress that you've made.

Jim Collison 34:10
Sometimes. Depends on the state you're in. But yes.

Dallis Fontenot 34:14
You know, just kind of little milestones along the way. You know, they, companies developed KPIs -- key performance indicators -- that help us measure, you know, our performance. Athletes measure speed, distance covered, heart rate, responses, heart rate recovery. So when we pivot to strengths development, that gets a little bit more challenging to answer the question, How do I know if I'm getting better? How do I know I'm getting better at this thing? And so, you know, I, as a runner, you have a stopwatch, right? And you can tell if you're running that mile faster or slower than the last time you did.

Dallis Fontenot 34:58
And so, I'll just take my Positivity as an example. I'll just give you an example of How do we measure strengths development? I think we have to get a little bit more granular to see how this works. So Positivity is my No. 2 strength. Along this last, you know, 10 years, I recognized that my emotional response to what I perceived to be really negative or critical people was unproductive. And as an Activator who hates wasting time, I was just frustrated by my own ability to navigate this space with people. And I felt like I was just wasting time. And I think everybody who's listening can, can relate to this. Have you ever had an encounter with somebody, and then you just spend the next 3 days rehearsing in your head -- I, Oh, I can't believe they said that! Oh, I wish I would have said this. Oh, next time this happens, I'm gonna say that. Well, as long as we keep spending time doing that, and we're just in this replay mode, we're wasting time.

Dallis Fontenot 36:05
And so for me, I needed to, I want to, well on the coaching Theme Cards, if you use those, Positivity is, I hate negative people who drain the life out of others. And so, you know, I had to ask myself some really hard questions. And so in the spirit of personal accountability and ownership, I started asking myself these questions: What skills do I need in order to be more resilient? What's causing this emotional allergy? What can I do to be more of who I am and not violate my own values, like a positive person who lifts others up and doesn't tear them down? Because my response was just, I was tearing them down in my head and creating them as the villain in my story. You know, how could I be, how can I honor my own values? And what is my part in this scenario? Those aren't really, those questions are going to require work. And so, What am I refusing not to see? Or is there some, am I not speaking my mind or developing boundaries?

Dallis Fontenot 37:09
So I decided to make a goal to reduce the recovery time from trigger to recovery. And so I started measuring, like, OK, that one person came into my office and said that insensitive thing again. Oh, that was 3 days of going home, talking to my husband about it, you know, rehearsing in my head. And then it was OK, what skills do I need to be able to do that better? So that 3 days went to 1 day went to 4 hours went to 1 hour. And I remember the day that that person came into my office and said something, a real zinger that I perceived as a zinger, right. And perception is key word here. And it was like my heart rate did not even, like, miss a beat. It was just calm, cool waters. Along the way, I had been learning skills like crucial conversations and how to set boundaries and how to speak your mind and studying emotional intelligence. And a funny thing happened is, I started, I was getting so excited about my progress, I couldn't wait for them to come back in the, in my office so I could, I could see where I'm at. And so that person went from a villain in the story to being someone who was part of my growth journey, whether that was their intention or not.

Jim Collison 38:33
Yeah, I love, I love that concept. I've thought through that in other ways of where we take the negativity or the negative action in our lives and begin to build it in with positive results. So we begin to look forward to it. In other words, Oh, no, I'm anxious about, we'll say, long drives. I'm anxious about long drives. Then you begin to do some things to overcome that. And eventually, you get to the point where you're like, Man, I can't wait to take this long drive, because all these positive things are gonna happen in the process. I love that. That's, that's great.

Dallis Fontenot 39:05
And we need that kind of success that, those wins help us build momentum, right, so we can keep growing through the difficulty.

Jim Collison 39:15
Yeah. How would you, as we think of some action items around that, how would -- this is a, this is where I think it gets, starts to get really difficult. Because you're asking, you're asking, I mean, you're really asking people to make change in this point. What kind of action items can they take to get started on this, do you think?

Dallis Fontenot 39:33
Well, I would say, you know, establish some objective measurements. You know, what is, what is your objective, and what are some key measurements along the way to answer this question: How do I know I'm getting better? How does my Ideation know I'm getting better? How does my Communication, how do I know my Communication is getting better? And so, you know, creating those objective measures -- not, I'm working really hard, and I'm trying really hard. You know, not looking at the activity, but looking at the result. And then benchmark your progress to provide that evidence, that growth beyond just simple activity. Like for me, I was like, I wanted, that was something I could measure, I could measure my recovery time to getting back to being productive. And then I would just say, you know, Restorative, I'm pretty hard on myself. And I think there are some other people out there that can relate to that. Just take some time to celebrate your progress, you know, and how far you've come. Sometimes we get so focused on what we need to improve, we fail to look back and say, Wow, we've come a long way.

Jim Collison 40:38
I think some individuals get so focused on recognizing other people -- which is great, by the way; that's awesome. But I think we oftentimes have to take a step back when those great things happen for us. And what, how, celebrate however -- we, we, like, Collisons like to go out to dinner. So we just had a significant event, my wife's, at my wife's work. And, and I was like, Time to celebrate! Let's go, let's go get some dinner. And so a great way, a great way to do it. Let's think about, so I think -- by the way, we could spend a whole hour just talking about No. 3 in that. I think there's a lot packed in; maybe I'll have to have you come back on at some point, and we can talk through that in detail. Because I think that's the pinnacle of these 5, by the way, and the hardest one to do in a lot of ways, just because it has so much packed into it. And it has to do with our own performance.

Success Factor 4: Bring Others With You

Jim Collison 41:30
I know, just as you talk about measuring my own performance, man, this is an area I struggle with a lot is like, how do I -- with the craft of podcasting, How do I know I'm getting better at it? It's hard. It's hard to nail those things. So, not that I'm asking you to unpack that now, cause that'd be like a whole year's worth of work in there. But let's look -- and this is my favorite one of the 5: Let's talk about Bringing Others With You.

Dallis Fontenot 41:57
OK, so I think everybody knows that, you know, going on a road trip by yourself is not as fun as bringing people along with you. Right? And I don't know if, have you ever noticed that you have the best conversations in, on road trips? Like, oh, there's some great conversations that are happening? Or how fast time flies, how fast time flies when you're in that, you know, having that great conversation next, you know, 5 hours have gone by, and you're like, Oh, that was a fast, that was a fast 5 hours. So the same is true on this Road Trip to the Stronger You -- this strengths development road trip. Road trips are more about making connections with people and places, not just driving through as quickly as you can.

Dallis Fontenot 42:40
You know, so I have three resources that I want to, that come to my mind when I think about this. So in Strengths Based Leadership, you know, it says, The most effective leaders surround themselves with the right people and maximize their team. So how do you decide who are the right people? Right? I mean, that's a question to answer. The second book is called The Proximity Principle by Ken Coleman. And he says, The right people plus the right places plus the right practices create opportunity. Right people, right places, right practices create opportunity. And then he calls that the proximity principle. And then this third resource is Born to Build, actually, the Gallup book Born to Build. And in that book is a resource called a personal board of directors. And I've found that to be such a helpful tool. I use it in coaching.

Dallis Fontenot 43:37
So just real quickly, the roles that are mentioned in that, you know, we all know, especially the coaches on, that everybody needs a coach. And these are people that encourage and motivate and facilitate your personal growth by helping develop talents. I have several coaches in my world. And, side note on the coaches, some leaders are your coach, but they're very, those leaders, their coaching approach might be a little bit unorthodox. For example, if I told my boss today, the president of our company, "Hey, you're my coach," he would probably well, he has Competition No. 1, so he'd probably make fun of me and just laugh it off a little bit and say, "No, you just took initiative, and that's why you're successful." He won't, he refuses to take credit for his part in my success, but his coaching style is providing real stretch assignments and, as testing grounds. And so it's a constant, "Here, go do this thing," and I have never done that thing before. And so if I'm going to take that on, I'm really in uncharted territory.

Dallis Fontenot 44:43
And so that, his way is much more kind of under the radar. But it's been massive in my own growth. So just know that not all coaches are going to sit down with you every 2 weeks or once a month and go through a formal coaching. Sometimes coaches come in all different shapes and sizes. The other roles are mentor -- this is a person that has expertise in your area of interest, a role model, someone you look up to, an expert or someone has specific knowledge. Accountability partner, I think in the last, at the last Called to Coach we did, I talked about my friend Candy, who is now -- I just want to shout out to Candy, because she just went through her certification process. And so she's, she's been killing it. But she is, you know, Analytical, Deliberative, Strategic, Command, mixed with Individualization and Relator. So if anybody's looking for an accountability coach, she is a genius at that. And then those complementary partners, people that have talents that you don't have. And then, of course, the other role they list is a person with shared interests. So as you're creating this personal board of directors, every quarter, I go into a board meeting, and people are sitting around the table, and they're total, their full focus is about making ESI successful. And so what does your personal board of directors look like?

Jim Collison 46:12
Dallis, how important do you think, because I think some people go, Yeah, yeah, yeah, I've got those, but they don't document it. How important is the process of going through, maybe documenting that, so that you know for sure, or that you've told them they are? Does, do either of those matter in this -- ?

Dallis Fontenot 46:32
Yes, I would definitely say on, like, complementary partner, you know, as we're, we call it, you know, powerful partnerships, someone needs to know -- if, if you're using them as a powerful partner, they need to know what their role is in the room. So our board of directors is comprised of people from different industries and different areas of expertise. And they know why they're in the room; they know what their value-add is to that, you know, in the room. And so, you know, I think for sure, people need to know, What does this relationship look like? And most of the time, these are mutually beneficial relationships; there's a give and take. This isn't just, I'm going to put a bunch of people in the room and use them up for what I need them for. But it's mutually beneficial. So yeah, for sure.

Dallis Fontenot 47:22
And then, if I could add two things to this board of directors that's not on here. There are two unlikely roles or characters in this story that you may, would, you may not think belong there. The first is those who lead. So I believe those that you lead can, you can learn a lot from those that you lead. And what does their, their success say about your leadership? You know, are the people you leading succeeding? And what does that say about your leadership? Couple of quick success stories -- our office manager, as she made the shift from victim thinking to ownership thinking, and really just harnessing the power of her strengths, it has been so cool. She went from, Hey, you're taking my person; stop taking my person. Why do I -- and this revolving door around the front desk turned into her aligning her strengths with our mission and, and strategic objectives. And now that sounds like I've created what she, well, she calls it first choice academy. And I create ready now employees to be launched into the organization. And wow, what a cool shift, right. And, but that took some work on her part. And again, it took humility and courage. But it was a very cool shift.

Jim Collison 48:45
But that goes back to what we said a little bit earlier about realigning expectations with what the opportunity is. And so seeing that, seeing the goal was not to have someone come and be in that role forever, but the organization needed -- it's almost like an onboarding technique. In an organization of your size that works, we see that inside of Gallup all the time, where folks will start in one role, but then eventually, we try to move them to another, right. And it's a great way, it's a great way of onboarding. And they're not going to be there forever. But that takes a mind-shift change in the manager to say, This isn't forever. I'm not building into them forever. And I think this is a mistake we make a lot, to say, because people aren't forever.

Dallis Fontenot 49:31
No. Right?

Jim Collison 49:33
They're just not. So what if we knew that? What if we started with the end in mind? And we said, They're not going to be forever. OK, how do I coach them then differently for the best outcome, knowing, at some point, my job is to move them on to the next great opportunity? Right?

Dallis Fontenot 49:49
Absolutely. And you know, she's been doing this for a little while now. So her mode of measurement is how, you know, how ready now are they to go into that next place? And what can she do to teach them there? So she's measuring, like, how long it takes them to get trained up in that next position and trying to reduce that burden, say, to operations.

Jim Collison 50:10
Do you think she's looking ahead for opportunities that might be there and then can fashion the current role in a way that would predevelop them to be ready for that? Do you think that's happening?

Dallis Fontenot 50:22
Oh, yeah. It's been so fun to watch her. So she's, she's learning. She's, she's becoming a strengths expert with who that person is. And they're having strengths conversations, so where she can, say, partner with them in a role that fits their strengths. And so it's not just, What is the next open position available? But, but it's, Where do you best fit into the organization?

Jim Collison 50:47
Right. How great starting that, you know, seeing the end with the beginning in mind, in that case, right. I mean, that's, that's, that's some pretty great foresight. What, what, as we wrap this section, any other action items you'd have for folks?

Dallis Fontenot 51:04
Yeah, I would say that next unlikely role is the villain in your story. And so, you know, everybody, probably, there's likely a person right now that people could name that they're dealing with that are a little difficult. And that person might just be a contributor to your growth. You know, sometimes the critics are actually prodders -- and cattle prods hurt, but they get us moving sometimes. And it's not always fun. It's not always, you know, an enjoyable experience. But asking yourself the question, What can you learn about you, as you're interacting with these folks? What can you learn from them? I believe Andy Stanley said, There's a special trap for leaders that their favor is so desirable to those they lead, they'll pursue it by any means possible. And that leaders can be corrupted by surrounding themselves with people who are just telling them what they want to hear. And so if, you know, if that's the case, you never hear the truth.

Dallis Fontenot 52:02
And so I would say growing is painful. And if you're not experiencing a little bit of pain, you're probably not growing. So the action items for this section is, Go build your personal board of directors -- not just those you like, but have a strategic purpose for everybody on that team. Find someone who shares your passion for strengths, and enjoy the ride. Like, you know, like, for me, that's been Candy, and we've just had conversations about family and faith and community and work. And she's just been instrumental. And then embrace the possibility that the villain in your story might be a source for your growth, and lean into the discomfort.

Jim Collison 52:41
That's easier said than done, right, on that one, but it is, it is so valuable when we begin to make that mind-shift change to this difficulty will actually make me grow. Right. And let's, let's separate that from harmful and hurtful relationships.

Dallis Fontenot 53:00
Yes, for sure.

Success Factor 5: Go Off Road

Jim Collison 53:01
We, we need to separate that in this, and just, and have that caveat. But there are opportunities to grow in these kinds of things. And I just, I just had an experience like this a week ago Friday, as I was trying to leave on vacation, and I bumped up against that situation. And it ended in me apologizing to, to individuals, to say, "You know what? I didn't handle that very well." That's a big growth -- that was a big growth moment for me, of just understanding, like, oh, I need to be more present in these kinds of situations. So it's just yeah, yeah, it was certainly measurable, the pain was measurable. Let's, let's, let's take the last few minutes here and look at No. 5: Take Risks, Go Off Road, and Minimize the Detours -- wait a minute, Minimize the -- ? No, Maximize the Detours.

Dallis Fontenot 53:49
Yeah, Maximize the Detours. So, you know, just keeping with this kind of "leaning into this discomfort" thought, you know, what if that thing, that hard thing, that scary thing that is right in front of you is not really an obstacle, but it's the very thing you need in order to grow to get to that next level. You know, the example that I explained earlier about the person coming into my office, that was -- and trigger, I would get triggered. So my language changed from, "You triggered me," to "I got triggered." So that's on me to own and to, to work through. But that situation was training ground.

Dallis Fontenot 54:41
So when I as, now as an SVP, as Senior Vice President, had to encounter more difficult conversations -- working through a global pandemic and being on that task force and having much harder conversations -- that became possible because I had this training ground. And I would say, I would have never been equipped to have this conversation if I wouldn't have maximized the opportunity to practice crucial conversations at, you know, at this level.

Dallis Fontenot 55:18
There's a book called The Obstacle Is the Way; there's a second book to that, Courage Is Calling. And he has this quote, which I really think, you know, summarizes the section: "In life, it doesn't matter what happens to you or where you came from; it matters what you do with what happens and what you've been given. And the only way you'll do something spectacular is by using it all to your advantage." You know, detours can lead to discovering places we never knew we loved. Difficult, I, there's a couple other quotes that I love that I share: "Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations, and straight roads never make skilled drivers." So, you know, if you're just driving straight, I mean, that doesn't really increase your, your skillfulness in driving, right?

Dallis Fontenot 56:13
So there is, you know, there's an element of risk-taking here, because that's next thing you're gonna go do, whether it's going to having a crucial conversation or raising your hand for that next stretch assignment, or giving away credit so someone else can shine, be invulnerable enough to be who you are, risking failure and looking foolish. Never let your lack of education, your lack of resources or your current circumstances be an excuse not to accomplish something. And so maximizing, you know, taking risks, the struggle you're in today, could likely be developing the strength that you need for tomorrow. And so knowing not to run from it, but to embrace it and to lean into it can be really a contributor to your success.

Jim Collison 57:09
I equate this, using the road trip metaphor, to the kids saying -- or maybe the adults -- "Are we there yet?" Right.

Dallis Fontenot 57:19
Oh, that's so true. I'm writing that one down, Jim; that one's going in here.

Jim Collison 57:24
You know, because we, we're not there. And we want to be at the end. But we're, we're just not far enough along, and all of these things are, it's growth for us along the journey and to realize, we're not there yet, you know, in that. Hey, we've got, you know, as you said, this, this one experience prepared you for the next. And I think sometimes we get a little impatient with the preparation phase, and be like, "No, I just want to get past this." Well, no, you actually need to learn it. Because it's going to be important here in the future. And I've seen that in the last 10 years in my own, in my own career. I'd manage very differently today than I did, than I would 10 years ago, based on what I've learned about people, right, makes me a better manager. Any actions, as we think about closing this up, any action items, any other action items you want to mention? By the way, that section was gold. You should just, if you're listening to this in the podcast or on YouTube, you should just go back, back, back, back, back, back, back and listen to it again. But any other action items?

Dallis Fontenot 58:26
Yeah, I would say, you know, the three things that come to mind are develop that BHAG, right, that big, hairy, audacious goal that scares you a little bit. You know, share it with someone you trust, because it's not real until it's out there. What I would say is take one small step toward a goal you've been procrastinating about, like, where are you losing traction? Where, where are you struggling right now to gain traction? And take one small step toward that. Sometimes I think we have, you know, these big goals or this destination we want to get to, but creating little sprints in there can help us stay resilient, feel accomplished, and, you know, keep the energy to keep going.

Dallis Fontenot 59:13
And then I would just say, write down whatever the struggle you're facing right now -- the hard thing that appears to be in your way. So write it down, the obstacle that feels in your way, and then make a list of reasons why that obstacle is really an opportunity. And so make that switch. Flip that switch, make the turn that, in your mindset to where this could be really opportunistic to you. And it's maybe not an obstacle; maybe it's the very thing you need in order to get to that next place.

Jim Collison 59:48
Dallis, there's been lots of questions about your 6 through 10. Lisa says, Where's Learner and Input for you in your Top 10 and, or What is your 6 through 10?

Dallis Fontenot 59:56
Yeah, my Learner and Input -- Input's No. 10; Learner is No. 11. My 6 through 10 is Communication, Belief, Woo, Developer and Input.

Jim Collison 1:00:11
And then Justin asks a really tactical question about -- says Gallup studies show noticeable reductions in safety incidents in the workplace. As a construction company, has ESI seen any measured reduction in onsite safety incidents? Or do you measure it that way? Or does it play out that way?

Dallis Fontenot 1:00:29
I think the hard thing to tie to, tying strengths rollout to safety. But yes, we have. Matter of fact, we just celebrated at our last State of the Company that we hit our safety goal, and that was zero OSHA violations, a reduction in workers comp. There's a another mechanism of measurement, an RIR, and we hit our goal, and it was a focused effort on a relentless pursuit of safety that we're really proud of.

Jim Collison 1:01:01
That's great. No, congratulations on that. Cher says it's been a fabulous, with so many great nuggets. Thank you for doing that. And then you've inspired Catherine to go back and reread Born to Build. And of course, you can get more information on that: if you want to get more information. I think those exercises are still out there, that board of directors exercise is out there if you want to grab it from that as well. Dallis, thanks for taking -- listen, you put on a clinic today on how to be the best Called to Coach guest ever. Like, you gave me such a great outline and had really thought through the material, and you made this super easy. So thank you for all the work that you do as a coach. Thanks for all the work that you do in the community as well. And just thanks for a great session today. I appreciate it.

Dallis Fontenot 1:01:49
Yeah. Thank you so much, Jim, for having me. Thanks, everyone.

Jim Collison 1:01:52
Great to have you here. Hang on for one second. Let me just remind everyone to take full advantage of all the resources we talked about today. There are, many of them are available on Of course, log in, all your reports are there, all that information is there. If you haven't been out to Gallup Access in a while, maybe today is the day you go back and see what's new. For coaching, master coaching or to become a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach like Dallis is, you can get more information on that. Send us an email: We'll get you set up with someone to talk about that. Find us on Facebook: is the group where we kind of all meet and talk about this stuff. And we want to thank you for listening today. If you've joined us live, an extra special thanks for you guys and appreciate you guys and what you do when we come out here on live. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

Dallis Fontenot's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Activator, Positivity, Restorative, Ideation and Connectedness.

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

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