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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Alcantar

How a strengths-based city has thrived during difficult times

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

Written by Clifton Strengths (copied from original article linked below)

Mayor Elizabeth Alcantar, Vice Mayor Jose Gonzalez and Acting City Manager Santor Nishizaki of the city of Cudahy, California -- not too far from downtown Los Angeles -- along with other city officials were our guests on a recent Called to Coach. Elizabeth, Jose and Santor discussed how Cudahy is seeking to become a CliftonStrengths-based city and how city officials are using their strengths in their roles to move the city forward. Their insights included:

  • How their differing CliftonStrengths have combined powerfully to help them serve their city

  • How strengths has enabled them to retain staff and keep city services operating during economic hard times

  • How their strengths have worked together to keep them emotionally connected even though many are working remotely

Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including time stamps. Full audio and video are posted above.

Jim Collison 0:00

I am Jim Collison, and live from our virtual studios literally around the world, this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on May 21, 2020.

Jim Collison 0:20

Called to Coach is a resource for those 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. And we have a lot of that today. If you're listening live, love to have you join us in our chat room. There's just a link right above me there you can click on. It'll take you to YouTube. You can sign in and put your questions in chat. If you're listening after the fact and you've got questions, you can send us an email: Don't forget, if you're listening there on YouTube, you can subscribe -- Subscribe button right down below there. Like the video, too. If you do that for us, it'd be great. And don't forget, you can also listen to this as a podcast, any podcast player; just search "Gallup Webcasts" and find it there. We have a special edition for you today, and we are excited to have a group meeting with us, interviewing with us today. I should say, though, we'll get started because we have -- we're really dealing with government, I've got to say this disclosure up front, right, the views and opinions expressed in this podcast and webcast today, those are solely of the individual; do not represent the views or opinions of any additional entity. And we appreciate that as well. But why don't you take a second, Santor. You approached me about really interviewing the city and really talking about what you guys have done over the last year as a strengths-based city, or at least trying to be. Let's find out a little bit about you. Introduce yourself, give me a Top 5 and then a little bit of your background as well.

Santor Nishizaki 1:43

All right. Thanks, Jim. So Hello, everybody, my name is Santor Nishizaki. My Top 5 are -- and I'm the Acting City Manager for Cudahy -- my Top 5, No. 1 is Competition, 2 is Futuristic, 3 is Achiever, 4 is Positivity and 5 is Activator. And I think No. 6 is Maximizer. And my whole, you know, Top 34. So I have Communication and Woo too. So this is exciting for me and energizing. So I came back in November of 2019 to -- and took over as the Acting City Manager to fill in temporarily. And one of the biggest things we were trying to do was -- we did the StrengthsFinder for the entire city. So our city is at -- I'll let the, defer to the Mayor to talk more about the city in a little bit.

Santor Nishizaki 2:31

But we actually, every single employee took the StrengthsFinder assessment and did the Q12. So the good news is we're an engaged workforce. And Jen will, from HR, will be able to will be able -- Hi, Tracy! -- Jen from HR will be able to talk more about the employee engagement. But since I've been here, using my strengths, I definitely use my Futuristic. So the moment I got in, I had a 90- to 180-day plan I presented to Council. I before I came in, I did the Strategic Plan through my consulting company. So it kind of made sense. And it was a, it's essentially the policy. The City Council creates a policy and then the city manager executes the day-to-day.

Santor Nishizaki 3:15

So when I came in, I said, "This is my 90- to 180-day plan. Of course, COVID changed everything. We still were able to get some things done, but before COVID happened, back in February, we did the StrengthsFinder for our entire city. And I just wanted to give my staff an opportunity to talk about how the strengths has helped them and all of us throughout this pandemic. And that's my Positivity speaking. So I'm hoping to have them really just get a chance to talk about it.

Jim Collison 3:44

Santor, this has been a, I mean, you couldn't have come at a more trying time, right? I mean, we are just in the midst of this. And so while we necessarily won't, you know, we won't focus on that, it's a big part of the story of what we're talking on. And so Santor, why don't you think a second, introduce the Mayor and let's, let's kind of hear about this from her perspective.

Santor Nishizaki 4:06

Sure. So I'd like to introduce the Mayor, Elizabeth Alcantar. Her Top 5 -- if you want, Mayor, I could, I could announce yours are Ideation, Achiever, Includer, Futuristic and Connectedness. Now I want to add something, Jim. All three of us -- the Mayor, the Vice Mayor and myself, and a lot of my staff, have Achiever in our Top 5. So you're gonna hear a lot of things that we're able to check off our list to get done.

Jim Collison 4:29

Good. Good.

Santor Nishizaki 4:30

With that, Mayor, go ahead.

Elizabeth Alcantar 4:33

Hi, everyone. So my name is Elizabeth Alcantar. I was elected in December of, no, November of 2019 and then became Mayor January of this year. And so, we've had some time since we first had the Strategic Planning Session, which was mentioned before, where we took the StrengthsFinder and then some time since we've had our staff all engaged in the StrengthsFinder with the help of Santor. And so, as was mentioned, I'm Ideation, Achiever, Includer, Futuristic and Connectedness. So those are my Top 5.

Elizabeth Alcantar 5:06

I think our city has -- greatly benefits when the combination that we, that we bring. The, the Vice Mayor also has Achiever in his -- I'm already talking about him -- but also has Achiever in his Top 5. And I think that considering the background our city has -- our city is a 1.23-square-mile city. So it is very small. However, we have, according to the census, about 25,000 people, which is already dense, but then when you look at studies, we actually look at around 30,000 to 35,000 people. So again, very, very dense, lots of need, but also lots of opportunity. And I think that that's where our strengths really come in, and understanding -- this is my Connectedness, right? -- but understanding, like, what we need, what are our needs. Growing up here, I lived here in Cudahy my whole life.

Elizabeth Alcantar 5:55

And so recognizing, like, what are the needs at different stages of our lives here as, as Cudahyans, and then trying to figure out how that becomes policy, and how that even becomes things like events, which is usually in the back of the mind of policymakers, but how that really benefits our community. And so I think that utilizing the StrengthsFinder really helped us figure out how not only I work best, but also how does everyone else work best? How do we coordinate with each other in acknowledging that Jose, our Vice Mayor has really strong strengths in one direction; I have them in maybe a slightly different direction. But we can still utilize them together for specifically policy, and just bringing great events to our residents that will benefit their, their day-to-day lives.

Jim Collison 6:41

It's, it's pretty difficult to get my friends to take CliftonStrengths sometimes. You got a good chunk of the city to do this. How does -- yeah, the whole -- how do you, how do you do that? I mean, so Elizabeth, tell us a little bit, from a Mayor's perspective, being the Mayor, how do you get that done?

Elizabeth Alcantar 7:00

I think part of that is the, the organizer, right? Or what is it I mean? But basically, it's bringing folks together. The Vice Mayor really fought for this when he was Mayor, and really bringing this, the strategic planning portion of this to the forefront and trying to figure out not only what our 2-year plan is, but like, how are we actually going to get there? And so then we took the StrengthsFinder and then after that realized, like, this is really helpful for us.

Elizabeth Alcantar 7:27

When we've been on council meetings, at events, it's helped us figure out how we best bring that to the city, or how we best bring plans back to the city and how we implement. And so, talking about that we decided, well, our, our staff also needs obviously professional development. They're here to support the city and the residents, but how do we support them back? And part of that was figuring out their own strengths, and then figuring out how we put them in a position to be stronger, for themselves and for our residents.

Jim Collison 8:02

Santor, we've alluded to him several times. So let's, let's introduce the Vice Mayor. Would you do that for me really quick?

Santor Nishizaki 8:08

Sure. I'd like to introduce the Vice Mayor, Jose Gonzalez. His Top 5 are Achiever, Communication, Woo, Belief and Arranger.

Jose Gonzalez 8:18

Thank you, Santor, I appreciate that.

Jim Collison 8:20

Jose, great, great to have you here. Give us some idea from your perspective, as you're, as you're, you know, you were -- and I think, right, you were the Mayor before, right?

Jose Gonzalez 8:29

Yes. Last year.

Jim Collison 8:30

So you've been here for the whole time on this? How did this work for you? And how have you seen this be effective there in the city?

Jose Gonzalez 8:38

So first of all, I want to commend the Vice Mayor. Her inclusiveness and Connectedness shines through all the time, I -- not just with staff, but with our residents. A lot of times I find out something and I text her, or some, "Oh, yeah, it happened 20 minutes ago." And she's got all the details; she's so connected, and she really has all that 411 on what's going on. And you know, we're all very connected, but you really start to see that. And I would have never realized that if it wasn't for us doing the assessment and, and really leveraging Gallup.

Jose Gonzalez 9:08

So just want to take us back. So the challenge at that time was, hey, we, we have a bunch of council members, 5 of us, that have various different approaches to getting to the end goal, and there tends to not be an alignment to get there. And so we understood as a council that we needed to have a retreat to really create a strategic long-term plan so we stopped looking kind of at the short term. One major part of that, based on just previous experiences of the Council and the team was that, you know, you do kind of a team building. And so we kind of brought, we brought Santor in, Dr. Nishizaki. And he really helped us take off on, on figuring out what everybody's strengths were. And, and there was so many Aha! moments, I mean, it was just awesome. The whole Council was just kind of talking to each other.

Jose Gonzalez 10:00

We started to realize, well, you know what, we all kind of want the same thing. But because of our strengths, we have a different pathway to get there. And, and the team collaboration, the unanimous decisions, the agreement amongst the council, I mean, it multiplied. We almost -- rarely disagreed on anything. And so, and a lot of that is a testament to the StrengthsFinder assessment from Gallup. And, and I think, had we not done that, we would still be kind of thinking that we want to go different directions, but not realizing that we're, you know, on a unified pathway to make our city better.

Jim Collison 10:35

Yeah. Elizabeth, would you add anything to that, working it with him?

Elizabeth Alcantar 10:40

Yeah, I mean, I think I think he hit it right on the nail. We all have different approaches. And we weren't really seeing that. It wasn't that the end goal wasn't the same -- for a better city for our residents -- it was just that we were all trying to fight for a different pathway. And just recognizing everyone's perspective, and everyone's strengths really helped us hone in on, like, how do we, instead of maybe disagreeing as Council members, recognize that there are different pathways for this, and that everyone can utilize that strength to get there.

Jim Collison 11:14

Santor, you're the outsider on this, with these two being responsible for the policy of it, and you having to implement it. What would you add to it?

Santor Nishizaki 11:23

I would add that -- I'm just looking at their strengths again -- I see the Includer in the Mayor, right. And I see the Woo in the Vice Mayor. And I'd seen it really shine through in Council meetings, and I think it definitely helps, right? And the Ideation in the Mayor, too, I just see ideas spark, you know, when she has when she has good ideas, as everyone knows with Ideation. And some of my staff, Andres, has Ideation. And it's been really cool to see.

Santor Nishizaki 11:53

And I think that's a benefit of strengths, right? It gives you a language, right? 34 different strengths. And I think that's what we're looking for, right, which is that language. Hey, it's not personal; this is how we're wired. And you really need -- any type of team needs to understand that. So which is why I did it for the city staff, which is, which is so important, because this person may be -- we have Richard that's going to be on in a bit, he has Restorative. And he'll get into that, of why that's so good for what he does. So it's, it's, it's a great thing. My wife has Restorative too. So I notice she's very good at catching typos, you know, and other types of things. And, and that goes into relationships, too. That's a whole other conversation.

Jim Collison 12:33

We're gonna, we're gonna bring some additional folks on to talk about it. But before we do, I'm going to ask each one of you this questions. So Elizabeth, we'll start with you. How do you, how do you keep this rolling at a city level that -- where it tends to be bureaucracy and rules and all those other kinds of things? How do you keep CliftonStrengths fresh and rolling throughout the team there, if you could just kind of talk a little bit -- how do you see that?

Elizabeth Alcantar 12:57

I think I think coronavirus has definitely helped in keeping it fresh. Right. And so it was obviously not something we expected. But it couldn't have, you know, happened in a better way in terms of taking the StrengthsFinder test, because now we really, we really get to utilize it. And Santor did a really amazing job in terms of figuring out, OK, we have this many stuff, and of course, coronavirus hit. So that means no more perks, programming, that means no more open parks maintenance. All of that kind of goes to the off site. And a lot of cities ended up just simply laying everyone off. But instead, we figured out, How do we best utilize folks' strengths to, you know, try to keep people employed as much as possible and still, of course, keep the city running? And that's the day to day.

Elizabeth Alcantar 13:45

But I think that, in general, like, the StrengthsFinder really just helps people I guess reinvigorate themselves, especially the Ideation folks, the Achievers that want to get down to business, and OK, we now know everyone's strengths. How do I make sure this gets done?

Santor Nishizaki 14:01

If I could add to that, Mayor? You know, for all the Achievers out there, the first thing when all this hit was I wrote a to-do list. OK, who are all the groups that we need to help immediately? 1, 2, 3. And then I had a whiteboard in my office and just started checking off once we address each one of them. So the Achiever in me definitely took off; the Futuristic, How does this play out? The Positivity, trying to bring positive things to the, to the city. One of the things we did is it was someone's birthday. We ended up getting a sheriff to do a drive-by and say Happy Birthday. We we had a virtual City Hall. Then I'll let Andres talk about that in a little bit. We did for -- they had an Easter event we typically do, which is very big in the community. To encourage folks to stay at home, we did an Easter kit delivery because our town's very small. So we're able -- we hired a taxi company and delivered these Easter kits to over -- I think we hit over 350 houses we were able to get that. And then like, over, I think 900 kids was the final metric. And I have Competition as No. 1. So I'm always keeping score of what the metrics are, so --

Jim Collison 15:01

Nice! No, good, some good, some good, some good results there. Jose, last question to you, same as I asked the Mayor: How do you keep it rolling?

Jose Gonzalez 15:09

I think it, as we expanded it to staff, I think it also invigorated and energized the team as well. So it wasn't, it's almost like, as long as you support these great ideas and everybody's strengths, then the team kind of energizes themselves, right? It's part of what you learn during the StrengthsFinder assessment, right? You're, you're looking at, Hey, if I assign this person this type of work, or if I give this person these types of responsibilities, they're going to like it so much, they're going to do it so well, they're going to go above and beyond because it gets that energy flowing. And you could tell.

Jose Gonzalez 15:41

Because we actually, we spoke about our Strategic Plan. And we were not just kind of, you know, talking the talk, but we're walking the walk. We're at 80% of our Strategic Plan initiatives were accomplished. And we're 80% through the Strategic Plan. And that's a rough estimate. But I'll tell you, you look at that. You look -- you think back a year and a half, I don't think any of us thought we'd get this far along, considering, you know, where we were, and just organizing everything and really targeting those goals and unifying not only the Council, but with the Council, unifying the city and our staff as well. And that was huge.

Jim Collison 16:17

Go ahead. Go ahead, Santor.

Santor Nishizaki 16:19

Yeah, Rachel had a question. Every staff, city staff employee took the assessment, and how do we educate folks internally? I think we did a training, but I think one of the biggest things is making sure that it's not just a training and then walking away. So constantly doing strengths spotting, right. So that, that's how we're able to make it stick.

Jim Collison 16:40

Elizabeth, Jose, we want to thank you. You guys gonna hang tight. I'm gonna put you in the back, in the back here for a second. We want to bring Jennifer on. And this is all, all good, all said and good until HR gets involved. So Santor, why don't you introduce Jennifer.

Santor Nishizaki 16:56

All right, so I'd like to introduce Jennifer Hernandez. She's our HR manager here. Her Top 5 strengths are Developer, Learner, Responsibility, Relator and Individualization, which is perfect, right, for an HR manager?

Jim Collison 17:09

Jennifer -- Nishizaki -- I just I don't, I don't want any HR violations because I couldn't pronounce his last name. Appreciate that. Jennifer, give us your perspective on this. You heard the Mayor and the Vice Mayor talk a little bit about it. I think lots -- sometimes in this HR is where it gets a little stuck in the process. Talk about your involvement, your story a little bit, and -- and how you were able to use it as well.

Jennifer Hernandez 17:33

So, you know, one of the things that -- one of the first conversations that Santor had when he first started here at the city was about, you know, personnel. Where are we? How are we doing? And one of the things that I mentioned to Santor was that although we have the same amount of workload as any other city, you know, we have a smaller team. However, you know -- and this is something I say all the time -- Our team is tiny but mighty. We get a lot done with limited resources.

Jennifer Hernandez 18:01

And one of the things that, you know, we decided to, we started talking about was, Well, how do we keep staff engaged? How do we keep staff, you know, you know, happy and committed? And one component is, is in something that hasn't been mentioned yet, is that a lot of our staff is homegrown. A lot of our staff grew up here in the city of Cudahy, and so there's a lot of commitment. However, you know, you still have the day-to-day issues that come up with collaboration. Everybody's, you know, sometimes silos can be created in the midst of, you know, working in different departments. And so we're like, well, what, let's develop a strategy to keep things moving along.

Jennifer Hernandez 18:34

So, you know, we came up with ideas to, you know, improve workplace environment, you know, employee engagement, which we were able to kind of quantify where we're after, the Q12 employee engagement survey, team-building initiatives, which was started through the, the StrengthsFinder, the Gallup, the Gallup study. And then, you know, promote personal development initiatives. So my top strengths, which are, you know, Learner, Responsibility, Individualization and Developer, really came into, into play as we were having this conversation about finding our strengths.

Jennifer Hernandez 19:09

Because, you know, and having worked for the city for over 19 years, I've gotten to know our staff really well. And one of the things that I pride myself in is knowing that our staff, they're not just numbers; they're individuals. They all have their own unique attributes, their own talents, and all of those play a very, very important role, as we, you know, carry through any task -- whether it be a small task, a large task, because everything ties on to itself.

Jennifer Hernandez 19:32

So as we were going through the engagement survey and through the, in trying to figure out everyone's strengths, when we did the workshop, it was really invigorating to staff because it wasn't just a moment of, "Oh, I'm learning a lot about my fellow staff members"; they had a moment to self-reflect and learn about themselves. And for me, that was awesome because I'm a Learner. And so in being able to learn more about everybody's strengths, while taking into consideration the whole Individualization component, I find everyone's individual attributes so important.

Jennifer Hernandez 20:03

I really do my best to learn about everyone, how they communicate, you know, what are their strengths? And how can we best utilize those strengths to help them develop as professionals -- not just from an experience standpoint, but from an educational standpoint? And because we're such a small city, there's a lot of opportunities for people to grow here. And so that's one of the things that I, you know, we may not be as competitive as large cities as Beverly Hills and the city of Los Angeles. But what we do offer is a lot of opportunities for learning and for growth. And so, you know, me and again, in the Developer side, the Individualization side, for me, like, that's important, that's super important. So I always make sure to promote that, because we've been fortunate enough to have a lot of individuals who take a lot of -- who find a lot of value in the same things.

Jennifer Hernandez 20:48

And the other component of it is just in us learning about one another, it really does help us to collaborate better. And one of the things that I also wanted to notice, most of our staff has Responsibility. And yeah, I do too. And that's really important because we have a responsibility to our community to provide them the services that they deserve. Because we have a very engaged community. They really care about Cudahy. We're small, but, you know, it's a small-town vibe. Everybody is very engaged; everyone wants to be in the know. You know, I'm sure the Mayor and the Vice Mayor can echo that, having grown up here as well. I grew up here.

Jennifer Hernandez 21:26

You know, Cudahy is important to us. And so, with that Responsibility component, you know, Santor and I, as well as the City Council and other management staff, we wanted to make sure that we did whatever we could to make sure that, you know, staff feels engaged, that they're, that they're, they're happy, that they're productive. And that, again, that, that shows to, to the public, right, that we're providing -- we're doing the best that we can to provide them with the best service possible.

Jim Collison 21:48

No, that sounds great. I don't know about those other two cities. I've never heard of them before. So I don't know, like, why you would compare yourself to that. But we, we're going to bring in Richard as well, since you, since you mentioned him. Jennifer, just I want to ask you kind of one quick question, though. When you think about, I mean, it's it's rolling something like this out to to a city org can sometimes, I mean, it can be difficult. Did you get much pushback on it? Did, did, were most people willing to just kind of work with it and, and, and take the system? Or did you have to kind of overcome some of that?

Jennifer Hernandez 22:22

No, you know what? It was, for the most part, it was -- I mean, it's never 100% effective at the outset. Right. But it was 99% effective. Everybody is very open. We all like to, you know, kind of dive into things. We have a lot of Learners in our group too. So, you know, everyone's, we pique their curiosity. Like, well, what is this all about? They hear that the Council had done it. And they wanted to kind of do it too.

Jennifer Hernandez 22:45

And so as we started to roll this out, they were, they were curious, like, and I think as they started to go through the process and the exercises, and they all figured out what their strengths were, it was very eye-opening to them. Because again, it's like you're learning something new about yourself. And then, you know, you start to hear rumblings amongst the staff, like, "Well, what are you? And what are you?" And so people are getting excited as they're starting to figure out, "Oh, we have this in common. Or we don't have this in common." And, "Oh, that makes sense about you." So it was actually a really, it was a really fun exercise. Staff really, really enjoyed it.

Jim Collison 23:15

Yeah, it sounds like you have some longevity among some of the staff there. And so they knew each other well enough to say, "Oh, yeah. OK, that kind of makes sense." So --

Jennifer Hernandez 23:24

It's nice to have that refreshing moment, right, where you think you know everyone really, really well. And you're like, "Well, maybe I don't know you as well as I thought!"

Jim Collison 23:30

Right on, Jennifer, thank -- Jennifer, thank you for that. Well, we'll keep you on for just a second. Santor, why don't you introduce Richard for us?

Santor Nishizaki 23:36

Sure. I'd like to introduce Richard Iglesias, our Assistant City Clerk. His Top 5 are Restorative, Input, Consistency, Responsibility and Intellection.

Jim Collison 23:47

Richard, tell us a little bit about your role there and a little bit about yourself and how you use this.

Richard Iglesias 23:53

Yes, I'm the Assistant City Clerk serving in the capacity of the City Clerk for the city. And I think my most used are Restorative and Input. And, you know, as a kid, I recall, like wanting to fix things. I used to take equipment apart, put it back together. That was me. So now here I am in the city of Cudahy, serving the community for 12 years. And I find myself with Restorative, for example, our Council meetings, you know, there was an issue. So the problem was that we had to figure out -- due to the, in light of COVID, how we were going to go from physical Council meetings to virtual Council meetings.

Richard Iglesias 24:37

So I started doing my research, I ended up finding a virtual platform, and I dug right in. I started figuring out, I started, you know, watching their videos to learn more about the service. And I signed us up and, you know, days later, we were having a virtual Council meeting. And Input, I think as my role for Input, it serves well for the city because I like to collect information. I like to save information. And at least for City Clerk's office, you know, there's a lot of records, and you have to save those records. Those -- some of those records are permanently stored and to the, for the life of the city. So I think those two top strengths -- I also have Learner, so I enjoy the process of learning anything new. And that's part of my Top 10.

Jim Collison 25:31

Santor, how important in this role that Richard has, how important and how does he bring -- as you think about what he said -- how did he bring a lot of that, as you saw it, to the work that you needed and the city needed to have done?

Santor Nishizaki 25:44

Well, he's very good when an agenda goes out to always find any type of errors or anything. I even send things over to him and say, "Hey, what do you think?" One -- it was so cool to see him do the move to Zoom, because you hear, you know, as most of you have heard, people "Zoom bombing" everybody, right, when that whole thing happened. So I think Richard really was meticulous on making sure that he was doing it right, right. But he continually figured it out. Because we had it live, people, you know, it was, it was very difficult. And I'd just like to say, for his Input, he does have a storage for everything. And he knows the best restaurants. He's like, "Oh, what do you -- what are you feeling in the mood for? This is the best place to go." So he's just a wealth of information. And, and me being new, right, coming, coming to the city, he was so helpful on getting me onboarded, on saying, Hey, this is a great document that you should read or hear in there. So he was tremendously helpful. And I'm very grateful.

Jim Collison 26:47

Richard, what are you hopeful for as you look out to the future here? I mean, certainly, we are going through really difficult times. But as you look forward, what, what kind of, what kind of hope can you give? As we think about the future, what kind of hope can we give?

Richard Iglesias 27:02

Well as hope, I mean, one is I hope we get out of this current pandemic soon. You know, but moving forward, I mean, you know, at least for us at City Hall on our staff, you know, hopefully, you know, we all, you know, come back and -- because not everyone's working here; some, many are remotely, so we all come back and work together as we used to, you know, and, you know, build on our strengths.

Jim Collison 27:33

Yeah. Did you, Richard, did you learn anything during this time that you're going to kind of keep as part of like, you know, you had to do some things differently. Santor, you mentioned Zoom for call -- for, for Council meetings, have there been any improvements where this maybe has forced you to change that you might, that may stay around afterwards?

Richard Iglesias 27:54

I think the virtual meetings, I like them, but I miss the, I miss the physical meetings. But I think, you know, a lot of it will stay around, as far as recording goes, livestreaming. You know, that that's gonna stay in that sense. And we'll keep learning more as we go along. And if anything comes at us again, then we'll be ready for it.

Jim Collison 28:23

All right, sounds good. Actually, I'm gonna take that question and ask it to everybody here as we go towards the end, like what are you gonna keep? Santor, we brought Andres on with it? Why don't you introduce him as well?

Santor Nishizaki 28:33

Yeah, if we could keep Richard in here too, because they're in the same department. So Andres, he is the Administrative Analyst in the City Clerk's office, and his Top 5 strengths are Achiever, Learner, Individualization, Ideation and Deliberative.

Jim Collison 28:50

Andres, thanks, and thanks for coming out. Tell us a little bit about you. But it -- kind of weave it into the city story as well. What about strengths, and how have you been using them?

Andres Rangel 28:58

Yeah, as Jenny mentioned, I'm homegrown. I have lived here all my life. I started working for the city of Cudahy in 2016 as an intern, under the City Clerk's office. Richard was my supervisor; he liked the way I work. He ended up recruiting me for, you know, to be his assistant in the City Clerk's office. And really the focus, our priority is to incorporate technologies to streamline processes and make sure that we give residents the level of quality services that they deserve. As Jenny's mentioned, and others that members have mentioned, we aren't a big staff. But residents still -- rightfully so -- they require that, you know, they expect us to have a high level of services.

Andres Rangel 29:45

So really, especially with Santor coming in, he's really pushed us into incorporating technologies, into being innovative and to bringing City Hall to the 21st century. And I think my traits have really helped me, with the guidance of Santor and some of my other management staff members, how to get to that objective.

Jim Collison 30:06

Santor, talk a little bit about Andres' role in this and how that's been helpful to you.

Santor Nishizaki 30:11

So he is, he really helped get our virtual City Hall live in like 2 months. He's amazing. His Achiever, his Ideation, he's like, "Oh, what if we tried this?" I'm like, "That's a brilliant idea!" And he's not afraid to say, and his Deliberative is incredible. So, you know, making sure it's always -- whenever a task is given to him, it's great. So I think the virtual City Hall has been tremendous, because right now, we want to make sure that, you know, people are social distancing, and that the residents have the opportunity to have convenience, right, at their fingertips. So now, with Andres' help, we've been able to get -- residents can buy overnight parking passes online now, where before they had to come in to City Hall. So now they could do it from their couch. And he was able to help build this website within 2 months.

Jim Collison 31:06

Andres, is that something that'll stay around after -- ?

Andres Rangel 31:09

Definitely. Yeah, that's gonna stay around, so we can expand it on, you know, and incorporate a fully fleshed-out virtual City Hall, to make sure that the residents, you know, have it as easy as possible. And but yeah, going on to be on Deliberative. I like the nice balance that you know, I have Ideation, I think that's No. 2. But Deliberative is No. 5. So you know, these ideas pop out, but at the same time, I try to ground myself, I think, OK, well, how realistic are they? How pragmatic is it? And Santor knows, when we have our sessions, you know, for every idea we throw out, I pull like 3, 4 questions. And it's, it's good, because I think Jenny mentioned that it's really a language. And the StrengthsFinder assessment really shows us how to speak each other's languages. So whenever I do act, show my Deliberativeness, Santor knows it's, you know, it's just in me. And he knows how to use it for the best.

Jim Collison 31:59

We're gonna bring Brenda in as well. And, Santor, why don't you take a second to introduce her as we, as we spend a little time talking about her?

Santor Nishizaki 32:07

Sure, sure. Brenda is an Administrative Analyst under my office, the City Manager's office. And she has Achiever -- so you just saw, Andres and Brenda, both have Achiever, are both getting their master's degrees from the No. 2-ranked public policy school in the country. And she has Achiever, Responsibility, Maximizer, Learner and Self-Assurance. So Brenda, I know you have no problem kicking it off from here, right?

Brenda Rodriguez 32:36

I don't, actually! This is kind of the basis; Santor and I, from the very first week we met, were like, Oh, we need to have touch-base meetings. And, you know, we need to have a list of stuff that we're doing. And now that I think the StrengthsFinder, I know that it's because we both have Achiever too. So list and crossing things off. That's, that's good for us.

Brenda Rodriguez 32:55

So we kind of met and he was like, "Yeah, you know, what are you working on?" And I'd bring out this list: "I have this and this and this." And he was like, "Well, how does this relate to the Strategic Plan?" Because we need to start crossing things off of it; that's our master list. And it was kind of like everybody helped all, so, you know, Andres was doing one part of it and Richard was doing another part. Jen and myself and we all just kind of combined it, and we finished an objective.

Brenda Rodriguez 33:17

But it was kind of like, well, who's responsible for it? And it's like, well, we all kind of are. And he was like, "No, no, no. Which one of you is responsible for it?" Right. And for me, having Responsibility, that was great. He's like, "You know what?" Extrovert, I love to talk to people, anything community involvement, he was like, "That's you. So all these community outreach, that's going to be you." That was just super morale booster, because I was just ready to take on that project, right, ownership of each project. Instead of just kind of giving pieces to something, I was able to just see the project through, which was great for me. I love that.

Brenda Rodriguez 33:52

Now my Maximizer kicked in, and I was able to see, well, what's working? What's not working? How can I make it better? Can it be faster? Can the community get more out of this event? Right? So it was just Maximizer was all working. And just because it was, now, you know, I had certain projects didn't mean that I stopped helping everybody else. I'm a Learner. So any chance that I get to help people, you know, "Hey, I need to do this"; it's kind of, "Well, teach me, you know, what's the whole process? Why do I need to help you with this part? What happens to the rest of this?"

Brenda Rodriguez 34:22

So that Learner kind of kicked in, and being able to be responsible for certain projects also allowed me to help other staff and teach them. So that was really nice for me, because as much as I love to learn, there are other people. And I got to see their strengths. I'm like, "Hey, he's a Learner, too. You know what? I'm going to teach him." "They're helping me file stuff. I'm going to teach them why, what, what the process is to this filing," right? So it was a lot of that, which was super helpful.

Brenda Rodriguez 34:44

I think being strengths-based city is very different when we're small, because sometimes we're just walking around and we'll do something, right. I'll make my list and somebody will walk by and the Achiever in you, you know, crossing things off, right. And we make jokes. So if Andres and I say something similar, and it's like, "Oh, it's the Achiever in us," right? Because we both have it. So it's just that daily assurance of knowing our strengths and just feeding off of it for each other, not just ourselves. Right.

Jim Collison 35:11

I'm gonna bring -- I want to bring Jennifer back in too. You guys are the staff. Right? And you're not elected, none of you, right? All 4 of you not elected? The other, the other two are elected, right? From, from, OK, I just want to make sure I want to make sure I got the relationships, right. How do you see -- and Jennifer, let me throw this to you. How do you see this -- and I'll ask it, you guys can chime in as you want to -- continuing on after the next cycle, or as we think about next year? I'm assuming this is something that you guys would favor to just kind of embed in the process. Jennifer, how -- will, will it stay around? Will you continue to drive it forward as an initiative there in the city?

Jennifer Hernandez 35:48

It will absolutely stay around. I think it's something that we've kind of just started to integrate into our culture. We've been doing it for quite some time now. So it kind of has just become kind of part of, you know, day-to-day life here at City Hall. We also have like these little placards that, when we had our training meet, we had like these little placards that we had during training so everyone could kind of see each other's strengths. And so everybody keeps those on their desks, on their door or right behind them. So as one walks through the door, that's the first thing you're greeted with: our name and what our Top 5 strengths are. So I do think it's gonna stick around. And it's worked really well, and so, you know, we have nothing but good reasons to think we're going to use it. It's been embraced. So I mean, I don't see why it wouldn't continue forward.

Jim Collison 36:31

Brenda, as you think about the things you've done during this time, what, what will stay around for you? And what are you hoping, what are you hoping you continue to reuse even after this time?

Brenda Rodriguez 36:42

I think especially during COVID, you know, it's easy to walk into somebody's office and see their strengths and kind of tell them about it. But it's different when everybody's working remotely, right. And I think it's just that perseverance of everybody to not want to stop projects, right? "Oh, let's just survive COVID." No, we thrived. I mean, we brought so many resources, and everybody's just going above and beyond. So it's just I think that perseverance, I'm just really excited because everybody has, you know, you, you heard it, Achiever and Responsibility, it's in almost all of us, right. But we also have 3 other ones that are very different. And I think that's what makes everybody unique. And it helps us kind of fill in those holes. And together, we work well as a team. And I think the situation showed that we don't have to be physically together to be, I guess, in a sense, you know, emotionally connected to be able to move the city forward.

Santor Nishizaki 37:33

Well put.

Jim Collison 37:35

Santor, you want to add?

Santor Nishizaki 37:36

Yeah, if I could add to that. The, the staff is very open-minded to some of the technological changes that we introduced. So from the beginning, we would launch Microsoft Teams, Slack, and other -- and Zoom and other types of tools. So before COVID even came, you know, we had to shut down and everything, we were already on Teams. So it was nice that everyone here is open-minded and, and utilize the tools right that, that we have available. That's the Maximizer, right. We've streamlined so many different processes as we, as we got here, and, and I'm just really very proud of my -- our team, and it's good to hear them talk about their strengths.

Jim Collison 38:17

As you guys work with the public, probably, a lot. Do you wish you knew their Top 5 as folks -- ? It would be nice. Like I say, Sometimes I wish everybody had just a name tag on that had their, their Top 5.

Santor Nishizaki 38:36

What about families, right?

Jim Collison 38:38

Yeah. Hey, let me, let me ask that for you guys. And then we're gonna bring the Mayor and the Vice Mayor back on here. Have you guys -- has this translated home? So are you using it with family and friends? How is that working? And Jennifer, you're laughing, so we'll start with you.

Jennifer Hernandez 38:54

So my husband works with us in our recreation department. So it has definitely translated to home. It was really funny because, as we're going through the exercise, and we're talking about our balconies, right, and our basements, as soon as they mentioned the basement, my husband, I would turn over and look at one another and like, "Oh, it's you!" Yeah, it's translated to home.

Jim Collison 39:17

Have you seen it? Has it, has it leaked out into other relationships? Anybody? OK? We won't, we won't. We won't. Santor, go ahead.

Santor Nishizaki 39:29

No, no, no. Yeah. Yeah, it's all good.

Jim Collison 39:31

Well, OK, you guys hang tight one second. I'm gonna, I'm gonna drop you guys through the magic of this, and then we'll bring the Mayor and the Vice Mayor back in. Friends, anything you guys want to respond to? You heard all that conversation. As you think about, certainly, you got to see a representation of your work and your leadership Elizabeth, let me throw it to you first. Any, any thoughts on that? It's just as you kind of see them talk about that and, and, and it'd be different proud moment for me; hopefully for you as well.

Elizabeth Alcantar 40:02

Yeah, no, I think it's, it's really amazing to see. I think the, the pride they take in their work, especially after the StrengthsFinder, obviously, working for the same place for 20-some-odd years is very difficult to keep up in terms of keep the energy up and the new ideas. And so seeing our staff really take hold of the StrengthsFinder and utilize it to bring new ideas, new programs is really -- has really been amazing. I'm so glad they get to show off today and see all the good work they've been doing.

Jim Collison 40:32

If you had a magic wand, right, and you could do anything, change anything, dictate anything into existence, what, what would be your wish? What would you hope for?

Elizabeth Alcantar 40:43

There's a lot of things. Santor knows, I have -- my strengths show that on the Ideation. Let's see, I'm not quite sure. I think that in terms of internally, like, probably doing some of this training to our community at large, and just like figuring out how family dynamics works. Our community tends to not have access to programs like this, and really being able to understand what, how it works, personally and professionally. So I think it would be really amazing just to see how that works communitywide or even like within community organizations.

Jim Collison 41:22

Jose, let me throw that same question to you. Well, first of all, anything you want to respond to on, on the group before? But -- and then the magic wand, anything you'd add?

Jose Gonzalez 41:30

I'll just -- I'll, you know me and the Mayor make a great tag-team partnership. So yeah, definitely, I would, I would love to do, you know, career training and career education, where we integrate the StrengthsFinder assessment and we start, you know, doing those for our community. And we start to kind of help everybody, you know, really discover themselves and make a lifetime impact, because that -- I think that's the biggest thing. And, you know, you, you saw, you heard folks talking about relationships outside of work. This is not just about, you know, the, the workplace, but it's, it also, it impacts your overall life and the way you think.

Jose Gonzalez 42:03

And I know I talked a little bit about, you know, how you perceive others, but yourself, right, you start to also energize yourself. So I would want to give that gift to our community and maybe start, you know, with a session for 30, 60, 90 people. And you know what? Maybe that's something we do. I mean, honestly, right now, I'm inspired to work on something like that. And I think it'll be something that we'll tackle, you know, as we do community workshops, once things open up or via Zoom. I mean, this is definitely a great, great thing. And also, as far as staff and the team, I'm just excited for them, that they get to kind of share all this and, and expand on it. And if -- and because I heard it coming from them that we can maybe do this with the community, I think it's a great idea. I mean, I love it,

Jim Collison 42:45

Some of the Zoom skills you're doing now that you're forced into may actually help scale out some of the, the community involvement that you do going forward. Justin had asked this question a little bit earlier. Do -- how public are you guys with calling yourself a strengths-based city? What have you told the, you know, the residents? How do they know? Is it on your website? Those kinds of things. Elizabeth, let me ask you that question.

Elizabeth Alcantar 43:09

That's something we probably ought to do a better job of. And I think that's part of, like, just building it into the community culture. We've done a really great job of doing it internally. But bringing it out -- we have a new website, as everyone mentioned, that we're all really excited about. And so utilizing that to put forth, like, this is how we do work in the city and how we work together a little bit better, and I know all the staff has all their 5, Top 5 strengths on their desk it's just like yesterday. And so even, like, I'm sure community gets to see some of that, and really understanding, like, "Why does this person have just Positivity and Achiever on their front desk?" would really be great for them to figure out "How do I also communicate with even the apartment -- parking enforcement officer?" Right.

Jim Collison 43:55

Jose, Kevin asked, "I didn't hear the staff specifically mention Positivity in their Top 5, but they don't need to because it's amazing to see the enthusiasm coming through loud and clear." I think I, as well, as I hear, like, just as we interviewed them, just huge amounts of Positivity coming out. Can you respond to that a little bit? Even though there's no Positivity in the Top 5, is that -- ?

Santor Nishizaki 44:17

I got it as No. 4.

Jim Collison 44:18

Oh, OK.

Santor Nishizaki 44:19

And the Vice Mayor has it in his Top 10.

Jim Collison 44:21

There we go. All right. So go ahead, Jose, answer that question for me.

Jose Gonzalez 44:24

Yeah, I think if you were to do a before and after, I just think there's a lot more energy. I mean, there is a lot more positivity. And I feel like that's because the folks that are Positive, people recognize that. And when they're coming in positive, I think it starts to kind of transfer, right. It -- well, you're a positive person. And so it really transfers the energy. And that's something that, as someone that has Positivity, it's something that really you bring to the table amongst your colleagues and peers in your family and in the workplace. Right. Because when you bring that, I think people recognize an authenticity to it, once they realize it's part of your traits, right? So --

Santor Nishizaki 45:02

Well, and if I could, if I could add to that, it also translates to the residents, right? If you increase that, that creates better customer service when people come into City Hall, right? And then, by the way, this is a reason why we're having this webcast is my Positivity, right? I wanted to show everybody our, of how great our staff is, right? It's always -- every leadership position I've had, it's always been some type of thing, event that we do to try to elevate our folks and cheer them on. Then that's how, as a leader, that's how my Positivity flows.

Jim Collison 45:34

Yeah, you guys, you guys, are modeling it well. Jennifer, I brought you back in because Kevin, or Heather was asking -- I think you alluded to this, but -- are you guys using our Q12 survey? And how are you measuring those, that culture?

Santor Nishizaki 45:46

Jen, go ahead. No, go ahead ... For you. Yeah.

Jennifer Hernandez 45:53

So, you know, we kind of just, we had just gone through a recent change. And so we wanted to see where we were, right. How are we doing? How is our staff doing? Is everyone engaged? And obviously, you know, it's, it's never 100% perfect. But it came out, you know, we came up with some really, really great results. And so one of the things that we did do is, we noticed, like, Hey, we did get feedback that, you know, where we could improve the culture.

Jennifer Hernandez 46:18

And one of those things was some of our employees, they wanted more exposure to different, different departments, more development. And we're like, OK, well, how do we do that? And then, of course, COVID came about, and we really wanted to take a humane approach to our staff and not just start to furlough people. We knew, you know, we're a small team, we have a lot of need. So we started mean, in my Individualization and my Developer side, like, "Well, you know, what is everyone's strengths?" And I'm a Relator, you know, I really get to know every staff on an individual level; they're not numbers to me. And they all know that. They all know that I know them well.

Jennifer Hernandez 46:52

So I worked with Santor. And we had a long, robust conversation about each, each rec staff member who was impacted and where we could put them, and it really worked well. And I think that it's, it's helped us, you know, in our culture, to use that Q12 survey, just to kind of figure out what the needs were, and, and how to quickly address, you know, what, what staff was looking for. And I think that if we were to do that, you know, take that Q12 engagement survey again today, it would look even better.

Santor Nishizaki 47:16

And, and Jen, we were able to put them in a need that we needed help with, the COVID response, right?

Jennifer Hernandez 47:22

Yes, absolutely. And then thereby helping us provide better services to the community. We kept things. ... Yeah, you would never know. You would never know that half of our staff is working from home.

Jim Collison 47:35

Santor, here's the important question: How about paying for this? Like how, you know, that's a, that's always a challenge, right? We hear that all the time. Right? It -- how do you, how'd you do it?

Santor Nishizaki 47:44

Well, all it came out of the HR budget. So I'll let Jen answer that one.

Jennifer Hernandez 47:51

We're a small team. And sometimes our resources can be limited. But one thing that we, as staff members from small cities, we know how to be resourceful, we know how to stretch that dollar. And we see value -- in especially me, right, being the Learner -- in opportunities to learn more about staff and how they're doing and, you know, how to provide the same opportunity for them. So I was able to find some, you know, extra funding to be able to promote this.

Jennifer Hernandez 48:13

And, of course, we have very, very supportive Council members who found value in this particular process. And so, you know, everybody's always pretty much been on board when it comes to, you know, helping staff and helping with, you know, organizational development, you know, and providing that service back to the city. It all ties into itself. Right. So, it wasn't that hard of a process, which is really great, because we have, you know, management and Council members that are super, super supportive. We couldn't ask for a better team.

Jim Collison 48:40

No, that's, that's super great to hear. When Santor first approached me, I said, "Hey, why don't you write something up about this?" You guys still need to, by the way. We still need to spend some time. Cause it's a great story, I think, that needs to be told -- not just from a CliftonStrengths perspective, not just from everybody knowing their strengths and improving performance and all those pieces that go in there. But it's a great story of how to manage a city through crisis. And you guys are a perfect example of that. I'm sure there's others across the United States that are doing it just as well, but, but appreciate that.

Jim Collison 49:09

One thing I want to end on: What's really, really important at Gallup is recognition. And Santor, I know, has been at the center of this because he approached me and he does a lot of the work. I want you guys, I'm gonna bring everybody back on here. I want you to think of one or two or maybe three words as you're going to describe. And we're not going to give him; I'm not going to even give him any options. Hold on. Let me just do this. Where is he? There he is. OK, we're gonna take him out of the -- he can't talk. He can't say anything. So let's start with the Mayor. Mayor, if you were to recognize Santor for the work that he's done, and just kind of the city overall, just a few words of recognition.

Elizabeth Alcantar 49:44

I think, I think just the vast improvement we've seen, it's a huge change and huge impact.

Jim Collison 49:51

Awesome. Vice Mayor?

Jose Gonzalez 49:53

I would say long-term. I mean, you could tell that the team's inspired and it's going to, it's going to continue to impact our city in a positive way for for a long time.

Jim Collison 50:01

Super great. Jennifer?

Jennifer Hernandez 50:04

I would say that he is very invested when he takes ownership over something and that he really cares about others.

Jim Collison 50:11

All right, Richard?

Richard Iglesias 50:14

Yeah, I would say that he's really great at following up. And I really like that about him. You know, follow-up is very important. And, you know, during this time of COVID, I mean, it took us a long way.

Jim Collison 50:28

That's great. Andres?

Andres Rangel 50:31

Extremely resourceful, and doesn't take "No" very easily.

Jim Collison 50:35

Yeah, I know that for a fact. I know that for a fact. He does not take "No" very easily. ... And then Brenda?

Brenda Rodriguez 50:44

You guys stole my words. So I'll just go, you know, Good to Great says, you know, everybody on the bus in the right seats on and off, but they don't talk about having the right driver on the bus and getting that bus in the right direction. And that's what Santor is: just that spearhead leadership of taking this good staff to great and putting them into action.

Jim Collison 51:04

Yeah, no, I agree. Santor, feel pretty good?

Santor Nishizaki 51:08

Wow. You know, when you have such a great staff, it makes it easy. It does. And, and it's just been amazing to see the growth in just a short amount of time with, with this pandemic and everything else. I'm just very, very grateful for the people I have here and, and also to all my other staff that's not on this webcast. You know, I think we maxed out the webcast. If you would have let me, Jim, I would have brought in my finance person, all these different people who also have a lot of other things to say. And I just want to say "Thank you" to them, and the Council and the residents, because I care deeply about the community. And, and yeah, it's -- when when you're very intrinsically motivated, it makes it easy. And all of our staff are intrinsically motivated.

Jim Collison 51:56

Yeah. Well, I appreciate you guys, and you guys doing this. Thanks. I've never done this many people at once. I hope, I hope we -- it felt like it was pretty smooth. So I appreciate that. Elizabeth, Jose, thanks for, for jumping in here with us and taking the time today to do that. For the staff -- so Jennifer, Richard, Andres, Brenda, thank you for taking that. I'd try to get you all on there. But I can't; I've got a limit of 6. But we appreciate you guys as well. Thanks for sharing your story with us. And if you guys can hang tight for me one second, we'll stay around for a little bit of a postshow.

Jim Collison 52:28

With that, I'll remind everyone to take full advantages of all the resources we have available. So everything they talked about today, many of the resources available out at If you have any questions, maybe you're wanting to implement this. Santor, if folks had questions after this, and they wanted to just get with you and say, "Hey, can you give me a little advice?" What would be the best way for them to get ahold of you?

Santor Nishizaki 52:50

They could connect with me on LinkedIn. They could connect with the city website. Whatever is convenient.

Jim Collison 52:57

Is there a contact form there on the city website If folks had questions, they just wanted to quiz you guys? Could they, could they do that as well? And what's the -- Elizabeth, what's the -- maybe I did -- maybe I just put you on the spot. But what's the, what's the city website address?

Elizabeth Alcantar 53:11 It is .com.

Jim Collison 53:13

OK, super. That was easier than I was -- I was glad, I was like, "Oh, I hope it's not a long one!" A couple reminders. If you have any questions, you can always send us an email: We have a Summit coming up. If you're listening live and you want to join us, we have a virtual summit. This is a big change for us as well. We had to adapt to COVID-19 as well. And so if folks want to join us, just a couple of weeks, and mostly for the live folks listening, head out to And a lot of the things we're going to talk about, a lot of the education available there, if you want to take advantage of that as well. Join us on our Facebook group: And on LinkedIn, "CliftonStrengths Trained Coaches." Again, if you're listening live, stay around for a little bit of a postshow. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

Dr. Santor Nishizaki's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Competition, Futuristic, Achiever, Positivity and Activator.

Elizabeth Alcantar's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Ideation, Achiever, Includer, Futuristic and Connectedness.

Jose Gonzalez's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Achiever, Communication, Woo, Belief and Arranger.

Jennifer Hernandez's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Developer, Learner, Responsibility, Relator and Individualization.

Richard Iglesias' Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Restorative, Input, Consistency, Responsibility and Intellection.

Andres Rangel's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Achiever, Learner, Individualization, Ideation and Deliberative.

Brenda Rodriguez's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Achiever, Responsibility, Maximizer, Learner and Self-Assurance.

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