Strengths-based coaching

Coaching is everywhere, right? At work, you hear about performance coaching, coaching cultures, coaching conversations, executive coaching and so on and so on. Of course, coaching is also integral in sport and in other professions where performance is key.

Generally, coaching should be a beneficial process for both coach and coachee, where both can learn and most typically, the coachee will feel enabled to develop and stretch into new areas, and up their levels of performance in a project, role or task.

So what is strengths-based coaching and how does it differ from more traditional approaches?
In this blog, I’m going to give you some tips and some killer questions that will help you supercharge any coaching-type conversation that you may have – whether it’s with a colleague, a direct report or an actual coachee.

So what is coaching anyway?

One of the global recognised coaching bodies, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines it as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential.” Sounds pretty spot on to me – a process that both people have a stake in but that in the end, the coachee ‘owns’ and takes forward to action.

There are a number of traditional coaching models that help structure this process a little – the most well-known probably being the ‘GROW’ model of coaching, standing for:

  • Goal
  • Reality
  • Options/obstacles
  • Way forward/will

The model was originally developed in the 1980s but has been extended and expanded a bit since then.

In essence, to help any coaching conversation, the idea is that together you establish a goal (the ‘G’ of the model) – something tangible and real and meaningful that the coachee buys into.
Then, you check on the coachee’s starting point in relation to this goal…this is the ‘R’: reality – is the coachee already some way towards achieving the goal or are they really at zero? How far along are they – so, together, you gather evidence on this to gauge the current position.

Once you know where you’re going and how far you have to go until you get there you start to explore the O – options – how the coachee can achieve the goal, and also, what obstacles might get in their way?

Finally, you need to agree actions and commitments – a ‘Way Forward’, and test the ‘will’ or commitment of the coachee – and that’s the ‘W’ of GROW, the final letter.
So how is strengths coaching different? Well at Strengthscope, we’ve been testing and tweaking our model for years, building on existing traditional coaching models, but bringing in the powerful ideas of the coachee’s strengths and their risk areas in a more explicit way.

Many professional coaches will use a strengths-based approach naturally, looking for what works well already for a coachee and building from that. The difference in our approach is clarity on what those strengths (and risks) actually are.

We use Strengthscope to provide that clarity. There are, of course, other tools out there.

Then we use our STRONG model of coaching – I’m going to take you through that now, step by step, and suggest some killer questions to use at each stage.

So first, what does STRONG stand for?

  • Set goals
  • Translate into strategies
  • Release strengths
  • Overcome risks
  • Nurture progress
  • Get commitment

‘Set Goals’

Let’s go through each stage in turn. Like the ‘G’ of Grow, the purpose of the first stage, Set goals, is to find out what the person you’re coaching wants to achieve. Questions to ask at this stage include:

  • What do you want to achieve? Why do you want that?
  • What will success look like? How will you know when you’ve got there?

‘Translate into Strategies’

Stage 2 is ‘Translate into Strategies’, so the coach helps the coachee identify approaches and strategies to achieve their goal. Killer questions here include:

  • What could you do to make this happen? What other options do you have?
  • What have you done in the past that’s worked?
  • What do you need from others to make this happen?

‘Release Strengths’

Stage 3 is ‘Release Strengths’ – helping the person being coached to focus in on their greatest personal sources of energy to move towards their goal. Questions to consider here are:

  • How could you use your strengths to achieve your goal?
  • Which strengths have you used successfully in the past in similar situations?
    What about strengths you could use together in combination?

‘Overcome Risks’

Stage 4 helps the person being coached to ‘Overcome Risks’ that might get in the way of their success. Questions could be:

  • What strengths in overdrive might hold you back from achieving your goal?
  • What drainers might get in the way?
  • What strength can you bring in to moderate a strength in overdrive?

BTW, my podcast at Season 5, episode 2 – Taming the energy monster – has quite a bit of detail on strengths in overdrive – what they are and what to do about them.

‘Nurture progress’

Stage 5 is ‘Nurture progress’, where you spot and celebrate progress towards the goal, also noticing which approaches have been most successful up to this point. Great questions here are:

  • What changes have you noticed in yourself?
  • What has gone well or given you the most energy so far? Which strengths have you used?
  • Is there anything you will continue to do that has brought you this far?

‘Get commitment’

The final stage, is to ‘Get commitment’ – like the ‘W’ of GROW, this stage seeks to establish the level of commitment the coachee has to achieving the goal and whether their action plan will get them there. Questions here can be:

  • What specifically are you going to do now? On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to do this?
  • What would help you be certain that you will do this?

If the coachee is unconvinced or unconvincing, it is always worth circling back round the model to look at alternative strategies that might be more realistic so that you can get to a firm commitment for action.

So that’s our approach to strengths-based coaching. Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that really, but just using those basic stages can bring a solid structure to any coaching conversation. This approach can be used for all forms of coaching – manager-direct report day to day conversations to improve performance, actual contracted coaching arrangements, peer-to-peer coaching, even self-coaching (is that a thing? There’s books on it, must be).

If coaching is, as ICF say, “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential,” then we’ve found our STRONG model can really unlock new and empowering ways of getting to the goal, due to that strengths focus, which may well be more energising and feel more possible than using a more traditional coaching approach.

That’s it for this week, good luck in using the STRONG model – if you’re interested in finding out more, please do get in touch with us as we’re always keen to share is a good start point. Till next time then…

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