What is strengths-based coaching?
Updated: Feb 28
A sensible question that you might be asking if you’ve seen our content or my bio.
The first thought might be...”so, James, does this mean you are going to help me to transform my body with weights and high intensity interval training?”
One or two friends have asked this tongue-in-cheek.
It isn’t this, no.
But it got me thinking that it would be worth a bit more explaining.
The strengths-based movement is just as it sounds. If you focus more on using what you are naturally good at, every day, then you will be more productive, engaged, energised and more likely to report a higher quality of life.
Something so simple a statement almost brings a “well thanks Captain Obvious!” type of answer.
But simple and easy doesn’t mean that this is actually happening, does it?
Think back to your school days. Exams and report card time.
There would certainly be praise for the top marks I’d get. But inevitably the attention would then be drawn to the worst grades. “So, what’s happening with maths? We need to get that up a bit, don’t we James?!”
I do believe that the school set-up does its very best to get each child up to a certain level of education. But let’s face it, we are all wired differently. Some will rock at maths, others are talented at art and languages, some may excel in the more hands-on subjects.
But it isn’t practical for teachers to focus on everyone’s talents and strengths and only invest more time in those. There are national standards to strive for.
When we get into the world of work, how many times have you had annual reviews (or more frequently if you’re lucky) with a manager, where you tick the boxes on the criteria for performing at the right level for the role.
But there are a few things to address where you’re slipping up. Those pesky weaknesses or often called “development areas.”
Now granted, some of these might be things that are required for the role you have – maybe inputting data into a CRM system is a bare minimum.
But it isn’t as common for a manager to say, let’s see how we can take some of these areas off your hands, or get you working more on your clear areas of strength.
The approach of fixing what is wrong, rather than doing more of what is working and where you excel.
Again, it sounds so simple, but unless you are in a strengths-based culture in your organisation then this is less likely in my experience and dependent on individual managers.
So, what are talents or strengths?
Talents are your thoughts, feelings and behaviours that come naturally. When these are given time, and developed with knowledge and skills, they become strengths.
Gallup® defines a strength as “the ability to consistently produce a positive outcome through near-perfect performance in a specific task. To finish with strength, start with talent.”
Our talents and strengths help us to understand who we are, influence our choices and our actions.
They help to explain why we are better at some things than others, and vice versa.
Imagine you are in an interview for a new role and the question comes up about what your strengths are. Something off the cuff never quite feels natural. And describing being good with spreadsheets or planning, doesn’t quite give the hiring manager or interviewer much to work with.
I believe as humans we are often quicker to come up with a list of what we are not good at. Our “development areas.” Let’s call them weaknesses. No doubt a result of our schooling and upbringing.
The classic interview BS answers of “I’m a perfectionist, or I work too many hours.”
Before I became a Gallup® certified strengths coach, I was never quite sure how to best present strengths in an interview or any other scenario. Or how I can better myself to use these strengths and improve performance.
But when I think about it, how could I ever know? This was never something I’d grown up with or learned about and developed.
By starting with strengths through the Gallup Clifton Strengths assessment tool, this started to open my eyes to something more concrete.
When my clients read their reports that come back it’s like a lightbulb moment. Comments are often along the lines of “wow, I totally resonate with that,” or “it’s scary how accurate that is” or “I never knew these are my strengths and how to describe them.”
A glimpse into who we are naturally.
Where I come in, is with the coaching element that adds to this Gallup® assessment.
As a strengths coach, I help you to fully appreciate how your strengths profile influences your behaviours, activities and relationships. Both the positives and the vulnerabilities of each strength.
Your behaviours will drive how you get things done and have an effect on your relationships with others.
This new-found knowledge can then be used proactively in aiming them towards a goal.
When I look back on my own career, when I was most energised, productive and engaged in my work and achieving most, I had bosses that were actively drawing out my strengths and giving me more tasks that fed that energy.
On the flip side, where managers were trying to make me a carbon copy of them, rather than a higher performing version of me, this led to frustration, lack of enthusiasm and poorer productivity.
So, whether you are wanting to improve performance of you or a team, looking for a change in career direction, are starting up a business or are just interested in becoming more self-aware, start with looking at, understanding and developing your strengths.
If we don’t have such awareness and understand who we are, and the strengths we possess, then how can we ever pursue our best work, relationships and life?