My Approach to Strengths-Based Coaching
Don Clifton introduced CliftonStrengths in the 1990s, and is considered the father of strengths-based psychology. He wanted to identify the skills that were found in the best of the best leaders. To do this, he developed the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment and, as of this writing, over 19 million people around the world have taken the survey.
StrengthsFinder is based on positive psychology which, in short, is “the scientific study of optimal human functioning; focusing on happiness, strength, personal potential and greatest satisfaction.”
Before Clifton came up with this idea, assessments and reviews were mostly focused on identifying and fixing what’s wrong with people. In some ways, this approach has its roots in how manufacturing has evolved over the years, culminating with Six Sigma.
Six Sigma is based upon getting all the defects out of a product and/or process. Many organizations tried doing the same thing with people – defining the “ideal” leader. If a manager is weak (e.g. defective) in any of these areas, then they must work on those weaknesses before they can become a leader!
I’ll let you in on a secret – people aren’t widgets, and everyone is unique. And people aren’t defective, they just bring different talents to bear in their life and work.
The StrengthsFinder assessment identifies your top talents and where you (or your team) have the greatest potential for building strength.
In other words, it measures the things you are naturally good at.
Think about it in terms of sports – you may have a natural talent for playing tennis, but if you don’t work at it, you won’t become great at it. In fact, someone with lesser talent but more grit and determination could easily become better than you are.
Anyone can take the StrengthsFinder assessment. In my coaching practice, I work with people who have taken it on their own and asked themselves “What do I do with this information?” If my clients haven’t completed this integral talent survey before, I encourage them to do so as the first step in their transformation.
It’s a powerful place to start! It allows us to focus on what is right and strong about you.
Yet talent without development is just potential. And, in Star Wars terms, talents have a good side as well as a dark side.
When I first took the assessment, it was a revelation. It helped explain a lot of things – like why I like to do the work that I do, the assignments I put my hand up for, and, yes, even the things that drive me crazy. In hindsight, I wished that I had taken it sooner because even though I was very successful, I was not always happy in my work. Knowing what I know about myself now because of Strengths, I could have placed myself in situations where I would have been happier, more successful and a more effective leader.
Today, I use my business experience and coaching background to help my clients be the best version of themselves. Together, my clients and I develop their talents into strengths and determine how to leverage them to achieve personal and professional goals. If the dark side of a talent comes out in stressful situations, we work on that too! My clients show up as their best selves — even when things get tough and their teams need them the most.