I bet a number of you have been coached. If so, it is likely you are into your own development. It's also likely you are aware of coaching to strengths is very beneficial.
Coaching is about improvement, going to the next level, achieving aspirations, identifying ways to live to your fullest capacity and potential. Yet, a dominant, and perhaps traditional model of coaching, has been to start from a place of lack, or deficient that focuses on eliminating weaknesses. There is this strongly held view that we need to fix the problem before we can move into the areas of development.
The Energizing Force of Strengths Based Coaching
Strengths based coaching comes from the worldview that in every system (human and otherwise) there are also many things that already work right. Starting from what one does well already – one's strengths – is a far more energizing way to improve quickly. You actually go from strength to strength which helps to mitigate weaknesses. It's not to say you don't address or deal with weaknesses. I am saying that starting from what you do well, what gives you best outcomes personally, or amplifies your organizational capabilities offers greater leverage and takes less time than investing heavily in and struggling with weaknesses. You also have greater willingness to deal with the weaknesses once you have elevated your best assets.
Strengthen Existing Talents
Strengths based coaching starts with what’s working well already and seeks to discover your natural strengths, talents, and preferences. You recognize there are choice points and you tend to focus on what consumes you. Said another way: “Where the attention goes, the energy flows.”
If you’re a leader, a parent, an educator, isn’t it your responsibility to encourage the development of others in life-nurturing ways to help them find the fullest and most satisfying ways possible and strengthen their existing talents?
I'd like to illustrate with a business story that illustrates how strengths based coaching is an extremely effective way of developing people.
Develop your Strengths to Mitigate your Weaknesses
A few years ago, I was brought in to a large professional services firm to coach seven young women who were deemed “high potential”. They were in their early 30s. This firm wanted to groom more young women to be promoted to director level and possibility partner. The business reason for this investment in coaching was to stop the high attrition rate of these young, talented women leaving the firm because they saw no real career path there. Most of the senior jobs continued to be given to men.
Each of the seven young women came to her first coaching session with her “report card” (360 performance review) from her manager, ready to point out what her weaknesses were and what her manager recommended she work on.
Respectfully, I listened and looked at the document. After what I thought was an appropriate amount of time, I put the document down, looked at her, and asked one very simple, straightforward question:
“Tell me what you’re best at?”
The response I got every time was: silence.
It didn't take too long for the young woman’s demeanor to change with a physiological shift, a softening in the face, a change in eye focus and gaze, and then a smile, followed by a gentle, embarrassed laugh. Together, we began to explore what gave her greatest joy and satisfaction. She was able to identify when she experienced a sense of flow – when time was lost – when she experienced a sense of intrinsic reward even though the situation was challenging. What she found most rewarding was to discover that when she experienced this sense of time just passing so fluidly, she experienced her work to be far more energizing and engaging.
Increase Productivity and Joy
In the six months' coaching that followed, each young woman went through a transformation. They all completed the VIA Character Strengths survey and put their strengths work.
They reported relationships that had been challenging become easier. They felt less stressed because they invested their efforts in their strengths and found ways to manage weaknesses, meaning they become more productive and experienced more joy in their work.
They were so happy that with this new knowledge they found they were also able begin to notice the strengths of their colleagues, bosses and staff who reported to them, so they could optimize their productivity as well by assigning tasks and responsibilities that best fit their strength profiles.
Believe me, when you really know your own strengths and integrate the words and behaviors, you become far more effective in all your relationships, your own productivity and life takes on a whole new meaning.