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Friday, March 22, 2019

No Longer an ‘Impostor’: Contributing to and Learning From Your Coaching Community -- Gallup Called to Coach: Chris Townsend (S7E8)


On a recent Called to Coach, we spoke with Chris Townsend, Assistant Director for Business and Resource Development for Project Interchange, the educational institute of the American Jewish Committee, whose mission is to connect leaders worldwide to Israel. Chris has a unique story in terms of what he’s doing and how he interfaces with the Strengths community.


Below is a summary of the conversation. Full audio and video are posted above.


Jim Collison: Chris, one of the things I’ve been most impressed about with you is that, although you aren’t yet Gallup-certified, you have plugged in to the community and have added so much value to what we do, form a community perspective, certified or not. So I’ve always been super-impressed. Tell me, what’s your motivation to plug in to the community? You give a lot to what we do. Can you talk about why you do that?

Chris Townsend: Sure, so it’s kind of a funny story. As a department, we took the Gallup assessment (CliftonStrengths) about three years ago. And in fact, my “Strengthsiversary” is coming up next week. So it was for a retreat, and we got together, and we got our five words (Top 5 strengths) and we had a good discussion.

And then later, we realized that there were videos, and we started watching them. And I was the tech department -- I set up the projector and the laptop to make sure everything worked for the “watch party.” Along the way, this started to be a “thing.” The Empathy people got together and laughed and laughed, and the Strategic people went “hmmm.” And we started doing it month to month, with the pre-recorded versions. …

View YouTube 6:59 And like so many things, with Input, there’ll be a reason I acquire something, and I’ll stick with it, (thinking) maybe this will be helpful. And I’ll be honest, I kind of fell in love with the group [Called to Coach on Facebook] a little bit. I’m in a lot of Facebook groups -- for cooking, for school alumni, for geography, for gas. This (Gallup) group is the best group on Facebook. Talk about Gallup changing the world -- Gallup is changing Facebook!

I have never seen a community that was (so) full of positive interactions, where people are kind and helpful to others -- there’s zero “snark” in the Gallup group. People ask a ton of questions, and then they all get answered, without a smidge of irony or trolling or sarcasm. There are people giving and receiving help, and that is so unique, I think, in the Facebook world and in the online world in general. And I think it comes from that Gallup point of view of approaching things from positive intent.

View YouTube 11:42 JC: What’s interesting is that you and I have a very different set of strengths, but helping may be one of those things that crosses all 34. When you think about how you help the community in light of your Top 5, how do you do it?

CT: The way I think -- I love the community, but sometimes I feel that some themes are more represented in the community than others. You see so many Maximizers, you see so many Developers, you see so many Woos and Communications. And it’s wonderful, particularly for someone who has those themes in the bottom of their sequence. And that’s why I got hooked on watching the live videos. You get to have all those people who show up for their own themes in their Top 5, and they get to talk about how it works for them.

Where I don’t see a lot of people come through is for those Restoratives or the Analyticals, and so I think there’s an opportunity to speak up for us, to be those people who say, “Hey, what do you think about this?” And I share my perspective. And that perspective, even though I’m not certified, is always welcome in the group. And there’ll be more questions that come after that, and there’s more encouragement and more feedback. And it’s really kind of a beacon for whatever your themes are, when somebody tells you their Top 5, the answer is always, “Those are great themes! Those are amazing! How do they work for you?” And that will get that person who’s new to the community moving. And that’s what’s really exciting.

JC: As kind of a Strengths Champion in your community, how do you feel you’ve brought the Gallup Strengths pieces into work for others and what has worked really well for you?

View YouTube 17:30 CT: We used (strengths) for development purposes. My director was set to meet a person, and she said, “Do some research on this new donor.” And (the donor) said on his own website, “I view the past as a roadmap to the future.” And I said, “I’ve heard that before. In fact, it’s probably in the short description for Context. And so I pulled up the notes on Context, and I said, “I don’t know anything about this guy other than what I’ve seen on the website, but boss, here’s what you should look for. Wait for this. Go into it knowing that he really values the past. And so, then you can help other people make the connection.”

The way Strengths works for teams and for understanding people, (in terms of) their patterns of behavior or actions, (helps you) go into a meeting with a little more information and a little more grace. (For example,) “They’re not skeptical of it because they don’t like what you’re doing. They approach everything with a degree of skepticism, and they need some more data and some more time. And we never have enough time in this world. And to ask for time and to understand time is so important.”

JC: Those are some great examples about some clues -- being able to see some clues, in this case, some Context, and then to start thinking about, “How can we deal with that and how can we work?” And for you, that comes from maybe hundreds of hours of learning that you’ve done, as I say, in a car, on a train or in a plane.

Nathan in the chat room says, “I’m not certified either, and I feel like I’m not ‘qualified’ to answer some of the questions, or even at work, to provide some of that input. How do you -- we call it an ‘impostor syndrome’ -- have you struggled with that at all, and I think you’ve overcome it. Talk a little bit about that and your struggle with that. Because I really want to encourage people, if you’re going to do something, be wrong so we can make it right. Talk about that from your perspective.

View YouTube 20:11 CT: Nathan, I’ve been there, and I am there. I deal with it all the time. I read a lot, I listen to these videos a lot, I look on websites, not only these podcasts but other podcasts as well. But I’m not certified. And there are so many amazing people who come through on these Gallup videos. And I told Jim this earlier, especially after last week’s video -- of the Coaches' Coach for 26 years -- and her tactics, tips and techniques.

Here’s what I would say. 1) I always cite my sources. To all of my colleagues, I’ll say, “Well, you know, Gallup says …” For me, I’m making sure I give credit where it’s due -- this is not coming from me; it’s something that I’ve learned and something that I’ve passed on. And then I think the other half of that question is 2) total transparency when you answer questions in the community. To say, “This is my perspective.” Or you could even say, “(I’m) not a coach, but this is how I feel about things.” And sometimes I think some people look for it, with all these coaches out there building their programs and their ideas of things, you can have an opportunity as a participant, as someone who has sat through those meetings and engagements on the other side of it -- to give them your feedback and to be helpful on that, because they need to know how something’s going to land.

There was a great discussion in the community about webinars and I do webinars and web broadcasts at my work at AJC. We hold virtual board meetings. And I said, “This is not really a coaching conversation, but I have some background on how you balance 30 people in a room and making sure everyone can talk and interact, and it’s different than 30 people physically in a room vs. 30 people in the chat room. And I would just say, Nathan, never ever stop trying to help people and sharing the really great information that we get every day.


You can start using your CliftonStrengths today:


Chris Townsend has worked as a salesman, interpreter and office manager, but the common title interwoven throughout his professional tapestry is “problem-solver.” Wherever Chris goes, he’s constantly referred to as the “random question department,” the librarian and the jack-of-all-trades.


He currently serves as the Assistant Director for Business and Resource Development for Project Interchange, the educational institute of the American Jewish Committee, effectively supervising the job he first had when he joined the organization 8 years and 2 promotions ago.



Three years ago, his department hosted a team retreat and took the CliftonStrengths assessment. A few months after the initial discussions, a team member noticed Theme Thursday -- “Guys, there are VIDEOS out there!” -- and held a team viewing of Empathy, a top strength in his department. It was so successful that the team decided to repeat the activity with another common theme, Strategic. Along the way, Chris’ Learner and Input kicked in, and he was watching live shows while simultaneously organizing his department’s monthly screenings and lively discussion. He even went as far as tracking the entirety of the third season’s lessons on a spreadsheet to share with both his peers and the Gallup community -- and subsequently was recently recognized as an active Gallup enthusiast at a recent Washington, D.C., Gallup Meetup.


Soon after that initial retreat, CliftonStrengths was integrated into meetings, one-on-ones and even employee onboarding programs. Chris and his department have watched team members come and go, but each team member has taken the assessment, which provides an incredible framework for team-building discussions, both in the immediate aftermath and years to come.


Chris Townsend’s Top 5 strengths are Input, Restorative, Analytical, Intellection and Ideation.

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