Bring Out the Talent: A Learning and Development Podcast

Identify Your Natural Talents: Tips From A CliftonStrengths Finders Coach

October 25, 2021 Maria Melfa & Jocelyn Allen Season 1 Episode 11
Identify Your Natural Talents: Tips From A CliftonStrengths Finders Coach
Bring Out the Talent: A Learning and Development Podcast
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Bring Out the Talent: A Learning and Development Podcast
Identify Your Natural Talents: Tips From A CliftonStrengths Finders Coach
Oct 25, 2021 Season 1 Episode 11
Maria Melfa & Jocelyn Allen

In this episode of “Bring Out The Talent,” we speak with Pari Smart, a Certified Gallup StrengthsFinder Coach. 

Pari takes us for a deep dive into the strengths-based philosophy utilizing Gallup’s CliftonStrengths assessments. Over 26 million people have utilized CliftonStrengths assessments to help define their unique talent DNA. In fact, these assessments are so beneficial that thousands of companies have incorporated them into their employee development programs in order to help maximize their team's potential at work. As a certified StrengthsFinder coach, Pari discusses ways that leaders can use and understand their own strengths, as well as, their employees' strengths, to help develop and reinforce the positive attributes of their teams. 

Tune in and discover the significant impact that CliftonStrengths assessments can have in the workplace and how managing to employees’ strengths can lead to improved workforce engagement and increased employee retention.

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of “Bring Out The Talent,” we speak with Pari Smart, a Certified Gallup StrengthsFinder Coach. 

Pari takes us for a deep dive into the strengths-based philosophy utilizing Gallup’s CliftonStrengths assessments. Over 26 million people have utilized CliftonStrengths assessments to help define their unique talent DNA. In fact, these assessments are so beneficial that thousands of companies have incorporated them into their employee development programs in order to help maximize their team's potential at work. As a certified StrengthsFinder coach, Pari discusses ways that leaders can use and understand their own strengths, as well as, their employees' strengths, to help develop and reinforce the positive attributes of their teams. 

Tune in and discover the significant impact that CliftonStrengths assessments can have in the workplace and how managing to employees’ strengths can lead to improved workforce engagement and increased employee retention.

Maria Melfa: Welcome everyone to Bring Out The Talent. My name is Maria Melfa, and I am the CEO and President of The Training Associates, otherwise known as TTA.

Jocelyn Allen: Hi everyone, I’m Jocelyn Allen and I’m a Talent Recruitment Manager here at TTA, and we’re thrilled that you’re back to join us again.

Maria Melfa: Communication, empathy, positivity learner. These powerful and uniquely ordered strengths are attributed to a special guest. Pari Smart. We’re very excited to have Pari with us today.

Pari Smart: I am so excited to be here. Thank you, Maria.

Maria Melfa: Pari is certified through the Gallup organization as a strength finder coach, and the majority of her work is based in positive psychology and strengths psychology. Pari believes so strongly in the strengths-based philosophy that in 2016, she quit her corporate training job and began smart possibilities. A strength-based coaching and facilitation firm. Pari coaches’ leaders on how to develop and strengthen the positive attributes of their teams and employees. She teaches leaders how to manage their employee strengths and not focus on their weaknesses. Ultimately leading to improved workforce engagement and employee retention, Pari earned a B.S. and broadcast management from the University of Kansas and an MBA from Georgia State University. She is a lifelong learner and holds certifications as a coach and facilitator through the Gallup Organization, the Institute of Organizational Development, the Association for Talent Development, Talent Smart, the American Council on Exercise. Additionally, Pari recently got her certification as an applied positive psychology practitioner and will be training corporate mindfulness and resiliency programs. Wow, Pari, that’s quite a background.

Pari Smart: It speaks to who I am. So like I said, I just can’t stop learning. It’s sort of like an addiction.

Maria Melfa: Well, welcome.

Jocelyn Allen: Yes, we’re very excited to have you. I suppose there could be worse addictions out there than wanting and needing to learn all the time. So I think that this is one that we can share with the world, for sure.

Maria Melfa: So, I know on today’s episode we will focus more on your background as a certified Gallup Strength Finder coach, and I find this fascinating. I didn’t know anything about this until my son was a senior in high school, and he was working with his college counselor, and they had him actually take the test. And it was really interesting because my son is at the University of Michigan and he wants to be a sports analyst, and his top skills were strategic and analytic. So yes, which was really interesting. So for the audience, that’s listening. Can you explain what the Gallup strength finder is?

Pari Smart: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you. So the strength finder’s assessment is it comes out of Gallup and basically, it’s a personality assessment. That’s the easy way to describe it, but it’s the easy way. But it’s so much more than that because it’s not an assessment that says, OK, you’re one of four types or you’re one of 16 types of personality. What the Gallup strength finders really does is it takes a look at you as an individual and says that you’re bringing truly unique gifts to the world. So when you take the assessment, what you’ll get is a list of the thirty-four personality traits, but they’re very specific to you. They’re going to be in your order and for your intensity. And so the likelihood of anybody even having the top five talents in the same order is actually only one in thirty-three million seven hundred thousand assessments.

Pari Smart: Yes, it does. Is it saying not only are you this unique, amazing individual with gifts that nobody else can bring, but we’re going to help you figure out how do you leverage those gifts so that you can reach a level of excellence much more quickly than other folks? So rather than saying this is what you’re terrible at, let’s focus on that, which is extremely demoralizing. It’s really going to say, you know what, you’ve made it successfully to adulthood with whatever you have. And so let’s figure out what to take or figure out how to take what you’re already really good at and then focus on that so you can again achieve a higher level of success much more quickly and with a whole lot of energy left over at the end of the day.

Jocelyn Allen: You mentioned according to that, these them. Personality traits, if you will, are organized in order, according to who the person is and their intensity, what does intensity refer to?

Pari Smart: We’re talking about intensity. It might very well be that I have Learner as number five and somebody else has. Learner is number five, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the exact same level for both of us. And a lot of that depends Joslin on the environment that we’re in and what the environment is asking of us. And so when we know what we’ve got to work with, it’s going to be relatively easy for us to pull out and then channel. We’re going to be able to pull more of this at one time or less of this at another time. And so it’s going to be fluid. The streaks themselves aren’t fluid, but what you’re able to access and use can be very fluid and appropriate for the situation in which you’re working.

Jocelyn Allen: Gotcha. Ok, so what made you decide to become a certified Gallup strength finders coach? And what did that process look like?

Pari Smart: You know what? I am so fortunate that I was in a wonderful situation. I was working for a construction company as their director of professional development, and that was back in the Midwest, and they had some very enlightened leadership and sort of like you, Maria, they heard about it through other places. They went and investigated it and they said, you know what, we really want to do is be a strength-based organization because we know that if we’re focusing on what our employees do well rather than what they’re struggling with, we can bring the teams together to be stronger. And so I heard this kind of floating around in the executive committee and I raised my hand and said, please me, me, me, let me do it. And they sent me to Gallup for a week, and it was a week of pretty intense classes. There were folks from all over the world, and then after that week was over, we were all sent back to our home to our company and given about three binders, probably about, I don’t know, three thousand pages worth of material that we had to study and use to prep for an exam. And then we took an exam with Gallup. Once we passed that, we actually then had to present to Gallup 10 different folks who are agreeing to be our clients, if you will, sort of our Getty picks and we went through space coaching with them. And then Gallup actually contacted those 10 folks and we had to receive a score of, I think it was 90 percent on our coaching abilities. And then once that happened, we were able to be certified. So it was a process that took several months, a lot of studying, a lot of reading, a lot of anxiety, but has certainly paid off. And then it’s that they give us the opportunity to recertify every year. So it’s not a one-and-done. It’s something that you have to be passionate about and willing to stick with. And I’ve been certified now since I think 16. So going on five years.

Maria Melfa: What is the certification process look like?

Pari Smart: It’s just classed in a test. But actually, I have to tell you, it’s kind of fun for me. I look forward to it.

Maria Melfa: Now it is something very interesting. All right.

Jocelyn Allen: Going back to that learner trait, I hear you.

Jocelyn Allen: We mentioned in your bio, in the beginning, your business smart possibilities. What were the drivers behind you stepping out on your own and building your own business?

Pari Smart: You know, I was really loving the program that we built at the construction company, and I came to a place where I thought, I want to do this full time. It was part of the responsibilities I had, and I loved where I was working and who I was working with. I was so passionate about strengths and the strengths message that when I wasn’t getting to do that part of my job, I was feeling a little letdown. And so I decided that the way that I needed to feed myself was to actually be able to focus more on the strengths. And then in that way, by going out on my own, I knew I’d be able to reach folks across a lot of different industries. So I have to admit I took a little trip and I sat on a beach and did a lot of thinking, a little bit of praying. And then I came back, and before I could change my mind, I just kind of jumped. So that’s what I did for you.

Jocelyn Allen: Seriously, very good for you. It takes quite a mindset to be able to do that.

Maria Melfa: So why don’t you explain to the audience how this assessment looks like?

Pari Smart: Absolutely. So what happens is that when you’re interested in taking it, you can go online and it is actually it takes about 30 minutes, but it’s an online assessment, so it’s available to anybody. There is a small fee, but once you take the assessment, you automatically get your results. So the results appear on the screen. And like I mentioned, it’s going to be 30 for different stripes or 30 for different talents as they appear in what I refer to as your talent DNA. And then when you take a look at those thirty-four, the report breaks it down and explains how to read the report. Lots of times. Coaches can help you with that as well, but when you get that list of thirty-four, there are three areas I always like to help people focus on. The first area is going to be what’s called your top five and your top five are also known as your signature strengths. And the way I explain this to people is that when you’re really nervous or when you’re really relaxed, but either really stressed out or really relaxed and you just react without thinking about it, you’re going to naturally react in one of those top five ways. You just can’t help it. So if you’re right-handed, that’s how you pick up a pencil. If your number one achiever, that’s how you just automatically react and those are going to be your top five superpowers.

Pari Smart: I tell people when you can live in those top five, you’re going to have lots and lots of energy at the end of the day because you’re just acting naturally. Then we drop down to six through 10 and six through 10 are called your supporting time and supporting talent. Say that it’s not going to be your first reaction, but if you think for just a second, you can react and you can use those six through 10 and they’re going to be just as energizing as if you are using one through five. So you’ve got one through 10. And when I coach folks, I always tell them, this is your pack of superpowers. This is where you want to live. I always like to point that out. Sure. And that’s because I feel like folks tend to go right to the bottom. They want to see what’s at the bottom of the list. Bottom 30 to thirty-four are not weaknesses, and I can tell you that it’s more about that if you want to know about it. But bottom 30 to thirty-four, these are going to be what I consider the energy vampires. So you can do whatever is in thirty to thirty-four, you’re just going to find it really exhausting.

Maria Melfa: Yeah, no. I find that very interesting because my last one was discipline. And it’s funny because my first one is achiever, right? So I feel like I have some inner struggles with myself, too. I want to achieve, but I need to be disciplined. And obviously, you know, here I am a middle-aged woman now, so I’ve learned how to, you know, become more disciplined. But that’s definitely something that I still struggle with. Like, I’m always late and I’ve always been late my entire life. Like, I completely underestimate time. I don’t realize that time moves actually

Maria Melfa: Half-hour pass by. But, but yeah, but it is really interesting.

Pari Smart: And yes, a couple of things going on with that. Yes. So this plan just says you like structure and you like routine. And my guess is if you have to be routines, you can do it. But it’s not natural.

Maria Melfa: I’d rather have. Yes. Agile. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, no. I mean, just the nature of, I think this business and I think even my life, it’s just been more of agile and kind of responsive, responsive, and going with the flow. And so, yeah, so that’s interesting.

Pari Smart: And, you know, achievers, by the way, I’ll share this with you. Achievers’ achiever is the number one talent of Americans. So when you look across all Americans who take the assessment achievers, the most likely talent to be in the top five and achievers like to get a lot done. So they’re very energized by the list. And I’m just going to speculate that because you really get energized by a long list of things to do. That discipline of following the structure, it doesn’t work for you because you got to keep moving, you got stuff to do and things to check off your list.

Maria Melfa: True. Absolutely. Well, we did the cleft in strength finder assessment many years ago for the whole group with a coach, but now we also have a part of our onboarding process where everybody takes it. But, you know, we’re definitely not using it to its full capabilities. And I know we did. We did have a lot of people that had achiever for their first strength. So that’s interesting on what you said that that being the most common first one. So we did have employees that did have some of their five top strengths and areas where they did not think sounded too cool. So for example, somebody had discipline as their first one and they were feeling like, oh, this is no fun. I have discipline. But as we know, there’s no right or wrong, good, or bad, and the couple of people that did have the discipline for their top strength, I value them very much for that. They’re very organized, they’re very structured, they’re in a role that they need to be very organized and very structured. It’s interesting. Yes, it does.

Pari Smart: Yeah, yeah. I always say that as an individual, we cannot be well. Grounded, but I love where you went with this with your team, because as partners or as a team, we absolutely can, and we’ve got to have a good mix of all of that. Otherwise, we may. I mean, we don’t need too much woo on a team. That’s the one people normally think is fun, but too much. And we’re not getting anything done. We need some of that discipline, right?

Maria Melfa: Yes. No, absolutely. We have some sales reps that have,

Pari Smart: Which is exactly where everything comes in handy, right? Absolutely.

Jocelyn Allen: I think it’s interesting what you said to Pari about how sometimes people go right to the bottom. What is it about our innate quality or characteristics that makes us want to do that? Because innately that is exactly what I do, too. I’m like, what, what? What’s not going to be the top five? Here are those things that I want like, why do we do that to ourselves?

Pari Smart: I think there are two reasons why I’m going to say Jocelyn is evolutionary, so you can’t help it. Ok, we have something called a negativity bias, which is we want to know the bad because it might hurt us. So we want to be aware of what it’s out there, so it doesn’t hurt us. I think the reason is corporate America tends to say when they help people do professional development plans or goal setting. This is what you’re fantastic at it. This is what you’re terrible at. Let’s spend the next year focusing on what you’re terrible at. And so people, I think we’ve kind of been trained to do that. But what we know happens is that when we focus on what we’re terrible at, we might go from terrible to mediocre. But then because we’re putting all of our time and energy into that, we’re not going to focus on our strengths. And so our strengths, which we are naturally good at, may also fall down to mediocre. And then you’ve got a whole boardroom or a whole office full of mediocre employees, where instead if we could focus on what you’re good at. Focus on that discipline, folks. Let them be the discipline, Maria, and bring us all together. We can have this really amazing, well-rounded team. Plus, your folks are engaged. They don’t want to leave the job and they’ve got energy left over at the end of the day to do other things that are important.

Jocelyn Allen: It’s a good argument, too, for why this kind of assessment works so well organizationally, because I think that there are some arguments out there that may be assessments don’t necessarily create a well-rounded environment, right? But this one is saying, no, we want to find out everything that’s great about you so that we can as a full circle functioning unit, get everything done with all of the strengths, all of the people. Each department is functioning the way that it should, and then we come together and flourish. Is that one of the reasons why you decided that this was a great route to take assessment-wise, there are so many out there. Why do you prefer this one?

Pari Smart: You know, I have taken many of them and I do prefer this one, and I think I figured out the reason why. I think it’s because my number four is positivity. And so my spirit is one that I’m always looking for the positive. I’m naturally looking for what’s going well or what’s going right or the lesson we can learn when things go wrong. And so this really spoke to me instead of telling me all the things that were wrong with me because I already know those. I’ve looked at the bottom of the list for Jocelyn. You know, instead of telling me what’s wrong with me, it says, hey, Pari, these are the gifts you bring. And to me, that’s just such a much better use of all of our time. Is that how do I take these gifts I have and really focus on those and hone them so they can be something special? My strengths tend to be very, I would say, in the emotional realm. So I have been told before you are too emotional or you’re just kind of a hot mess.

Pari Smart: And so we hear you. So start no weapons allowed me to do is figure out how to be very deliberate in when to pull the emotion out, when to reel it back, when to use it for my advantage, when how to be deliberate about it. And I just felt like with some of the other assessments, it was like, OK, this is who you are. These are the things you aren’t going to work on that. And it just didn’t give me a real sense of self, like the way the streets clipped a string spider does.

Maria Melfa: So Pari, when you’re working with organizations and you’re doing the Gallup String Finder assessments, how do you go about working with them once they get the results? What does the process look like?

Pari Smart: Yeah, that’s a great question. It always starts with what the objective is, right? So it’s a matter of sitting down with the manager and saying, what’s the objective of doing this? Because I’ve used this with teams who aren’t functioning very well, and the objective is to figure out how do we work as a team? I’ve also used it with managers who just want to individualize their supervisory style so they can get the most out of each person, in which case we sit down, and we figure out what are their strengths and what is what motivates them based on that. And then what are your strengths and how are they going to clash or how are they going to complement each other? So again, there’s a couple of different ways to go about it, but I think you’re on to something that is a lot of companies will take. Estimate or have their folks take the assessment and then just almost treat it like a party trick, like, oh, that’s who you are. Good for you. But what I always tell folks is when you take the assessment, you get a sense of self-awareness that you wouldn’t have otherwise. And that’s really where it starts. I hear a lot of people say that what the assessment did for me is helped me put into words things I always knew about myself but wasn’t able to express. And I think that’s really, really powerful because once you start understanding who you are, you can also understand how others perceive you.

Pari Smart: And then when you take a look at maybe challenges you’ve had in the workplace with projects or with individuals, you can start to look at the full picture is that OK? For instance, I have Woohoo! And that can come off very strong. And if I’m working with someone that has very low, just a little bit of woo is going to come off way too strong. So it allows me to be deliberate in how I present it based on the audience. But then it also allows me to understand why it’s Joslyn acting that way. Oh, she’s not just mean. You’re working with somebody and you’re thinking, oh gosh, they’re just they’re being mean to me. It’s just that they’re achievers in overdrive and I don’t have achievers. So that’s it’s a place where our strengths are conflicting. So again, it’s just a matter of figuring out what’s the goal of using it. If it’s to try to figure out how do we have a stronger team, then we want to continually act as no new folks into the matrix that you’re creating, Maria. And when you’re doing that and saying, do we have a good mix of the different, the right people in the right roles? Do we have the task divided appropriately? Are we creating partnerships that make sense to get the most synergy out of the folks?

Maria Melfa: If your number one strength is wooed and you’re working very closely with somebody who that could be their last strength. How do you go about training somebody or coaching somebody on how to work with that person that has the complete opposite strength?

Pari Smart: Yeah, that’s great. One thing I love to explain to people is that strengths have both basements and balconies, and a balcony of the strength is going to be when you’re using your strength in the most mature form to get your goal met. So if I’m using my woo in a way that serves me well in the workplace, what sort of adjectives do you think somebody might think of when they thought of somebody with high woo

Maria Melfa: Energy excitement? Super friendly. Friendly? Yes.

Pari Smart: And what? I am cheerleader. If I’m using my woo in the balcony and you think that I’m energetic and friendly and a cheerleader that’s going to serve me well in the business place, right? I’m sure this isn’t me, but have you ever known anybody who may be turning them woo up way too loud?

Pari Smart: Yes. Yes.

Pari Smart: And what sort of adjectives might you use to describe

Pari Smart: That too much? Obnoxious, yeah. Over-the-top, yes.

Pari Smart: Yeah. I mean, that way it’s not going to serve me if I come into work and you think I’m too much or obnoxious, that’s not going to be good. So what I help people do not exactly role play is, but we all learn the basements and balconies of our coworkers’ drinks. That way. I could say something like, or maybe Jocelyn, you could say to me, Pari, you know, I love you, but you got to turn that woo down. You’re driving me crazy. And I know in that way you’re coming from a good place and you’re doing it because you want me to succeed. And when I understand that people tend to, they just smile and say, thank you because I always tell folks my intention is never, ever to go to work and be obnoxious or overbearing or too much. But because it’s so much a part of who I am until I really have had the training to understand how I can be perceived. I’m not even aware you just think I’m awesome and friendly and a cheerleader.

Maria Melfa: Yes, I actually have the printout on my desk that I keep there all the time of the top five strengths of every employee, and I will refer to it from time to time. But as I mentioned, I would love to get more information on how to apply this more on a day-to-day basis.

Pari Smart: Hmm. You’ve come to the right person.

Pari Smart: Yes, absolutely. Enterprise, we know. So, so

Maria Melfa:  It’s interesting because we have, I think about seven employees that have futuristic and their top five. No kidding. Yes. And I always find that really interesting. So I don’t know whether I should grab them and put them in like a think tank and like, what are we going to do and what do you think about the futuristic strengths?

Pari Smart:  Let me tell you so. All of the strengths of all thirty-four states fall into one of four categories. And so for our friends that are futuristic, they tend to be high in strategic thinking, futuristic business, strategic thinking themes, and people that are futuristic. They have this amazing superpower that they can see the future or the possibilities in the future, so clearly, it’s almost like they could paint a picture for you. And so they have this ability, you could think like a visionary. They can see things and the picture shows come to their mind, even where they have a vision of what could be, and they can come up with it much clearer and much quicker than maybe somebody that doesn’t have futuristic.

Maria Melfa: Oh, this is so interesting.

Pari Smart: So much so what

Maria Melfa: About like so. Another question that I think about a lot is saying I was going to hire somebody for a position where they really needed to be strategic and strategic was in their bottom five. Ok. What do you do? How much weight do you put on this?

Pari Smart: Yeah. Number one don’t panic. Ok, don’t panic. And here’s why. As I said, all of the talents fall into different buckets and the four buckets are executing, influencing relationship building, and strategic thinking. So strategic thinking has seven, eight, nine different talents that fall within that bucket. So if you need somebody to be in a role and you need them to be strategic, but yet they have the talent strategy in the bottom. It doesn’t mean they’re not a strategic thinker. It just means they’re going to think differently about strategy than, for instance, Jocelyn will. And I have a cheat sheet here, so I know Jocelyn’s number one is strategic.

Jocelyn Allen: It is. I’m not quite futuristic, but strategic.

Maria Melfa: I am strategic.

Pari Smart: Yes. And let me tell you something amazing about Jocelyn. Would you like to hear something amazing?

Jocelyn Allen: I mean, if you’re going to,

Pari Smart: [Does anybody say no to that if you want to tell them amazing things about them?

Pari Smart: Amazing thing about Jocelyn because strategic is your number one. People that are strategic are very, very fast at being able to see options. The problem and figure out if the risk is something they can mitigate or not. And so my guess is Johnson’s like, here’s the problem we got Route A, Route B, Route C, OK, we’ll never work. B, we would do this, this, and this, and it would work. Do you know what is going to be our best choice? Yeah.

Pari Smart: Is that yeah, I can totally see that.

Maria Melfa: Yeah, she’s definitely a very quick thinker.

Pari Smart: She’s very, very fast. Normally, she’s going to have very good ideas. Or at least she thinks she will give

Pari Smart: You have a really good idea. Also, very true. Ninety-five percent of the time everybody has their moments.

Pari Smart: I will tell you; you are going to be faster than the average thinker. You just are. And so because of that, if you don’t explain what you’re thinking and why and the reasoning behind it, people may actually think that you didn’t think about it at all because they would say, well, there’s no way she could have possibly come up with the solution that fast. Either that or if they know you and they know that you’re a good, deep thinker, they may just think that you’re so far ahead of them that, you know, Jocelyn just always leaves us in the dust. Hmm.

Pari Smart: So that’s I wonder if I wonder, yeah, you’re giving me so many things to think about.

Pari Smart: Well, that’s the basement of strategic. So your weakness, Jocelyn, is not what’s at the bottom of your list. It’s actually if people perceive you’re strategic in a way that doesn’t serve you. Uh-huh. Well, that’s your greatest weakness. Now, Maria, going back to your person who doesn’t have strategic, it doesn’t mean they’re not a strategic thinker because they might have things like input, futuristic learner. And so because of that, they think strategically, they just might not be as fast as Jocelyn if they have analytical. That’s a strategic thinking theme that’s going to be somebody who says, you know what? Give me the numbers. You’re going to have an excellent decision because I’m going to scrutinize those numbers, and everything will be perfect for those futuristic people. They’re going to say, hey, I’m a strategic thinker because you’ve got this amazing vision of how the future could be. Now let’s get our analytical in here, and we’ll get Jocelyn to do a check in the ideas we’ve come up with. So this just goes back to that idea of a team. We all have what we need to do our job. We’re just going to approach it in a way that makes sense for us.

Maria Melfa: Pari untrusting, my assistant has strategic for her number one, and I know that that absolutely is. It’s so helpful to me because a lot of times, you know, I’m juggling a bunch of different things and she will come in and try to figure out what you know when I should have a meeting and what makes sense. And she will look at it and say, well, you know, because you have this and this and this, I suggest you do this tomorrow. I’m like,

Pari Smart: Perfect, you know? So done.

Maria Melfa: Yes, I know it’s really interesting.

Pari Smart: Yeah. So don’t tell that candidate, necessarily that they wouldn’t be a good thinker. I mean, that’s where you say, you know, what have you done in the past? Show me, but just know that they may approach. Strategic thinking differently than Johnson, Jocelyn would, but it doesn’t mean they’re not good at it. Ok, so Pari,

Maria Melfa: I’ve heard that your top five strengths can change over time. Is that true? Do they change a lot?

Pari Smart: [00:30:13] Yeah, that’s a great question. I get it in almost every single training session I do. And so what Gallup will say is that the research and the studies will say that because these strengths are inherent to who you are, you will not normally see major changes over time. So maybe your number three would drop to number five, or your number two would drop to number four or number nine goes up to seven. But if you haven’t had very specific traumas in your life, your personality doesn’t normally change a whole lot after age 19. And because of that, Gallup will stand behind the results. If you’re 19 or older, you’ve taken the assessment. What they’re going to argue is that while you might see little shifts based on the environment you’re working in, you won’t see major shifts unless there’s been a traumatic event that actually has changed your personality. The other thing I like to tell people is sometimes they’ll say, Yeah, but my six went to eight anything in your top 10, that’s your pack of superpowers. So if you see little shifts in the top 10, it just means that the environment was asking something different of you that day and you pulled something different out.

Jocelyn Allen: That makes sense, though, too, because as you learn, you’re maybe your thoughts and opinions about some of the things that you’re referencing on the assessment may be slightly changed based on something learned. So I could see that, you know, maybe futuristic take a bump up because you’ve learned a different way of thinking about your strategies. You know, things like that. I can get down with that area. I can get down with that.

Maria Melfa: Yes, my son did his three years after his first one because he actually had to do it for school this fall at the University of Michigan. They actually had a class on it, and he had to write a paper on his top five strengths.

Pari Smart: Did you see a lot of change?

Pari Smart: I believe

Maria Melfa: That it was pretty much the same. Or maybe one thing changed, but it was very close. You still have this strategic and analytical and the top.

Pari Smart: And you know, I always give the analogy that I say, you know, when you were five years old, were you right-handed or left-handed? You’re 15 when you’re 40 when you’re 80. Because these are inherent talents or things that are part of your DNA, just like changing dominant hands, it should not change, at least not very much over time.

Jocelyn Allen: It’s also just a cool thing about this assessment is that it does stay kind of constant based on its development and how it evaluates the individual. I think it’s well thought out and obviously very successful that you can still in three years’ time see similar results. It speaks true to the fact that this is based on these innate qualities that we have, not something that we focus on developing.

Maria Melfa: Yes, it’s yeah. My son has been obsessed with sports statistics ever since he was young. And, you know, here he is many years later going into that industry. So it’s yeah, it’s really interesting.

Jocelyn Allen: It just makes you think about the other people in your life, too. Like my, my sister and I are very, very similar. We have conversations sometimes in front of our family. And as she’s responding to something, I’ll think of something else and ask her the question and then she’ll finish, but then respond, and we’ll move on to something else. And people can’t follow our conversation and down to my father who was known us our whole lives, looks and looks at us and goes, I don’t understand. I don’t understand this at all. So I’m just I’m curious as to what her results are and if they’re similar and then if they are different, what that means just because in so we’re different in a lot of ways. But when it comes to communication and personality, we’re very, very similar.

Maria Melfa: That would be interesting, right?

Pari Smart: That would be. And you know, I have to tell you, I started doing straight finders strictly for organizations, for businesses, for companies. But I almost always had somebody come up to me and say, oh my gosh, I wish my spouse could take this, so I wish my girlfriend could take or my sister and I’m like, they can actually offer me a few opportunities to go in and work with different family members and try to figure out what some of the dynamics of the family. And that’s been fascinating as well. So it doesn’t just apply to your work life, it’s just your life and work as part of that.

Jocelyn Allen: I think that’s what makes it so intriguing and relatable for people is that this isn’t it’s something that you maybe get exposed to in a professional environment because you don’t always get it, you’re not looking for those things as an individual. But that’s what gets me is that I see it in me as a human, not as a talent recruitment manager at PTA. It makes me better at my job, definitely. But I can think about it now, especially with your explanation of strategy. And what the strategic strength looks like now, every time I do something, I’ll

Pari Smart: Be like, oh, there goes, must try, and find her again. I do is I do say that when I am late all the time, it’s no wonder why disciplines my sorry just might just my number. Thirty-four acting up again, guys. Exactly. That’s why we should

Pari Smart: Start Jocelyn, because you even said to me, how do we, you know, how do we apply this? And Jocelyn, that’s the first step. You just demonstrated it. Is that now you start to see your strengths in action, and you know that what you do, it’s just like a crazy thing you do. It’s actually motivated by some part of you. That’s just natural. That’s who you are. So your first step, you got it.

Pari Smart: Yes. Excellent. I’m ahead of the game. So what are

Maria Melfa: The programs look like when you work with organizations? As far as introducing the Clifton strength finder, is it usually just a one and done is an ongoing program?

Pari Smart: You know, I am also very adaptable in that way. It truly depends on what the organization is looking for. I do a lot of teams building where we go in and we introduce strengths frequently with that will come back in a second time a couple of months later and say, how are things going? What are the pitfalls you hit? What are successes you’ve had? And the idea behind that is really to build stronger teams. Sometimes I do an introductory and then I’ll come back and do one specifically for leaders, and that’s always exciting because that says, OK, now the whole team has been introduced as the leader of the team. How do you take all of this information and again manage it from an individual basis to get the most out of your folks? And then a third option that I’ve used a lot is I’ll introduce it to the team and then the company will bring me back in to do individual coaching. And sometimes that’s with every member. Sometimes it’s just with key members of a team, but that’s always fun. I would say when you do the one and done, sometimes I worry about the manager sustaining. We’ve got tools that I can always help and try to trade and teach them to do that. But several touchpoints, I think, are always going to get us the best results. That’s because you can be sure that it’s continuing. It’s a continuing process.

Pari Smart: I agree with you.

Maria Melfa: If any time you are reinforcement, it will definitely help make it stick. So since we’ve switched to the virtual world, has that changed? How do you find working with companies virtually versus in person? Has it changed the dynamic at all?

Pari Smart: No, I will tell you I thought, you know, this whole pandemic thing would last about two weeks. All right. So I was like, oh, I’ll take a little vacation. No worries. And then was it dragged on? I said, oh yeah, I’m going to have to figure out how to make this work. And so probably like a lot of trainers, a lot of coaches, it was a little scary jumping in. But what I have found is the technology is amazing and the use of breakout rooms is my best friend. So when we do virtual groups, I use a lot of breakout rooms. We try to do very interactive workshops as far as chats and polls and small group conversations. And so it actually getting much easier. And I’m finding that the results have been overwhelmingly positive. People have been surprised at how you’re able to keep the attention and keep it moving. And I guess we’re probably not going back to where we were a hundred percent and I’m OK, I’m embracing it, and it seems like people are there with me.

Maria Melfa: Oh, absolutely. We met with one of our top diversity and inclusion facilitators, and she was talking about some of the advantages of having these classes virtual, especially when you’re talking about some, you know, subjects and that that could be very sensitive. People might be afraid to share some concerns that they have. I’m not sure if you’re finding any similar situations, not that it’s necessarily touching on sensitive subjects. But when you are talking about sometimes people’s strengths, it could hit them emotionally.

Jocelyn Allen: It’s personal. Yes.

Pari Smart: Yeah, it is personal. And I would say probably it’s a little bit different topic than maybe the diversity and inclusion topic. One benefit I have really seen, though, is we’ve been able to bring teams together that might not otherwise be together. Yeah. And so what I have had people say, in fact, the last workshop I just did last week, somebody said, I love the fact that you made everybody turn their cameras on because I have seen teammates for the first time ever. Wow. Oh wow. Like, we are remote, like we all work separately, and I’ve never actually seen their face. And so I almost feel like in some of those scenarios, we’re able to build stronger team bonds in a group where I had folks in India, folks in Australia, and folks here in the US, and they had said that they had never seen each other’s faces. And so being able to share that actually over video. Is with something that yeah, I wouldn’t have expected to see that as an advantage, but it was actually a pretty strong moment.

Jocelyn Allen: So, we’re looking at our top five here. Pari, both Maria and I, and we both have achiever and input in our top five. I know that there’s something a little like a cool explanation for why our achievers might look different, but I don’t know what the heck input means. I know what the word means. I have no idea how it applies to my strengths. Could you before kind of getting into the achiever piece, can you tell us what input is?

Pari Smart: Yeah, absolutely. And sometimes these labels are a little bit confusing, which is why having a coach is always a good idea. People that are high input, this is again a strategic thinking theme, and it says that they like to gather lots of information. So I don’t know if either one of you has ever done that or done this, but maybe you get on the internet and you’re going to go search something and you look up. And an hour later, you’ve got five things researched, but not the thing you were going for. No. Familiar?

Pari Smart: No. Yes.

Pari Smart: People with high input, love to gather information lots of times. Other folks will think that information is maybe trivial or useless, but it would be pretty typical for someone high input to say, well, you just never know what I might need this, or you just never know when somebody is going to need this. And so I always say that if you have a high input, I want you on my trivia team on Thursday night because you do your tab.

Jocelyn Allen: Yes, you do. Yeah, yes, I will own up to that. That absolutely is true. Do you want me on your trivia?

Pari Smart: Yeah, the people, my input, they are good. They got a lot of stuff going on around there. Ok, I’m going out on a limb here, but I have a question for both of you, which is what do you collect like?

Maria Melfa See, this is also hard for me because I also love riddles, so I am looking all around this question for what the real or not. Well, I collect.

Maria Melfa: I collect plants, so I’m like, Plant Crazy Woman. And I love magazines. I do. I buy like every magazine.

Pari Smart: So that’s fantastic. Ok, Jocelyn, your turn. What do you collect?

Jocelyn Allen: [I would say that everything that I collect has to do with color. So I love pens. I love lipsticks. I love candles. I have a lot of those in my house. You can

Pari Smart: Ask my husband, you know, you guys may just think, Well, that’s just kind of a weird random thing about me. It’s not. That is me directly to your talent of input because people with high input tend to be our collectors. They’re the ones you just never know when you might need red lipstick. Yeah. Or a purple candle or this particular magazine, right?

Pari Smart: You just never know. This is Amazing. That is. Read failed sales. I have probably asked three hundred input people, what do you collect? And every single time I get an answer? Sometimes they don’t recognize it. I had one woman. This was fantastic, she said. Well, I don’t collect anything. So I started going through things that women frequently collect, and I said, Well, what about shoes? And she’s like, No, no. And she goes, Wait, two hats count. And I said, well, it depends. How many hats do you help? And she thought for a second, and she goes, oh, you know, last count about two hundred and fifteen

Pari Smart: Pounds and collect half in this situation and count.

Pari Smart: That’s a beautiful talent you guys are bringing to the world is that you collect lots of. You probably have lots of information, lots of trivia, lots of things somebody may need. But we also know if I need a plant or a magazine or a lipstick or a candle. Yes, you are my lady.

Jocelyn Allen: Yes, absolutely we are. And what about the achiever piece? So mine is number three, Maria’s is number one, and we are understanding that, even though they’re the same word and same strength, they will read differently. What is that all about?

Pari Smart: So one of those reports that you get on the Gallup portal after you take the assessment, it’s called the Insight Report, and it’s my favorite report because it’s individualized to you. What the Gallup algorithms will say is that this report has never been printed before because it speaks to each of the top five, but it gives you a description of them based on the talents that surround it. The other thirty-three so that order and intensity we talked about. So Maria’s achiever is surrounded by Learner and developers, so it’s going to probably read more along the lines of how she likes to learn and help others learn where your achiever Jocelyn is surrounded by Strategic and positivity, so it’s probably going to talk more about how you like to your very positive, you have a contagious spirit, but you’re going to achieve by very strategically thinking and getting the plan laid out. So I love that insight report. If you guys both pool that and put your achiever definition side by side, you’ll see that they do not read the same. This is again, why I love this, because it’s so individualized to the beautiful talents and gifts you guys are bringing to the world.

Maria Melfa: Excellent. That’s very interesting. Yeah, we definitely have to dig deeper into that.

Jocelyn Allen: Yes, right?

Maria Melfa: Pari, I’ve heard a lot of organizations finding Clifton’s strength finder very successful when using it on their sales teams. Can you explain a little bit more on that?

Pari Smart: Yeah, absolutely. You know, just like all employees, when sales folks or when the sales team understands their strengths and they can be deliberate in how they leverage it, we know that their sales go up. Some companies have actually seen sales go up as much as thirty-nine percent when teams consistently use the three finders and are able to apply it. And I’ll give you just a very quick story to kind of demonstrate that I was working with a woman. She was on a successful sales team, and she had been successful in the past, but she kind of hit a dry spot and she was just struggling. She couldn’t figure out how to get over it. She was talking about some of the prospects and their reaction to her, and she just couldn’t figure out what the challenge was when we really dug into it. What we found out was her number one talent was positivity, which you think would be a fantastic talent for somebody who has to go in and do. You did a lot of cold calling on her sales. But what we found is that her positivity was so, so positive, so over the top that people enjoy talking to her, but they didn’t take her seriously as far as somebody they could buy from. And so it was a matter of helping her recognize that that, well, positivity was one of her greatest strengths. It was actually keeping her from closing the deal. And so we talked about specific strategies for clients with what sort of strengths can you channel or pull up? How can you pull the positivity down in order to help you meet your goal? That’s really interesting. It was fantastic because she succeeded and the client that had been giving her the hardest time. She called me about two weeks later, and she said, I can’t believe I’m in. I got the sale, and it was just that matter of really fine-tuning her approach. And so we know that even for sales teams, this has been pretty phenomenal.

Maria Melfa: How did you realize that the positivity was actually making her get less sales are kind of putting off clients or clients not taking her seriously?

Pari Smart: Yeah. Well, you know, I was working with her one on one, and that was just part of the coaching magic. Ok. It was that it was a matter of just really talking to her and getting her to talk to me about what’s worked, what challenges are you having, what’s going on when you’re not being able to close, and then just helping her put those things together and create the story in her mind and trust.

Maria Melfa: So, as I asked that question, I started thinking about when you are working with corporations, do you tend to separate individuals by their departments? And is that beneficial?

Pari Smart: You know, it’s 50 50 lots of times. Again, it depends on the project. I do a lot of department work, but I’ve also gone in where we’ve got a couple of departments who have to work cross-functionally on a project, and that’s really valuable to bring those departments together. They may not know each other as well. I’ve gone into companies who are trying strengths, and in that case, we are able just to do sort of mixed groups.

Jocelyn Allen: This has been such a fun conversation. We’ve talked about so many different layers of the strength finders and the benefits of bringing in a coach to one’s organization to weed out maybe some of the fun that we’ve displayed or not necessarily weed out the fun. But what is some of the things that concretely you can say is a reason why bringing in a Clifton strength finders coach to your organization and bringing these assessments into their world can benefit the growth of their organization in their business?

Pari Smart: Yeah, that’s a great question. And when I think about it, I mean, there are so many different benefits. So no one, I’d say, is self-awareness, because anybody in your organization can be a great leader, but the best leaders know who they are. And so once they understand who they are, they’re able to lead in a way that’s going to be very genuine to who they are. I’d also say that from a corporate level when we use straight finders with teams, we know that engagement goes up. We know that accountability goes up and we know when we go back and pull those teams about satisfaction. Those teams are actually sixty-six percent more satisfied with the quality of their entire life. And teams who don’t take it, so not only are there going to be happier and more productive at work, but you’re also going to have employees who are healthier and happier at home.

Pari Smart: That’s such an incredible thing.

Jocelyn Allen: Pari. We cannot thank you enough for bringing such amazing insight into an assessment and a program that we were already obsessed with because there’s obviously you’ve proven to us how many layers there are, how many benefits there are. I think we’re excited t tackle this again and try something new, and I hope that what we’ve done is provide that to organizations who are listening, that this is something that could change your life individually. But all of your people too, and who doesn’t want to have that impact on their people?

Pari Smart: Well, that’s great. Thank you so much.

Maria Melfa: Thank you so much, Pari. It was a true pleasure.

Jocelyn Allen: Bring Out The Talent is a Muddhouse Media production.