9 Powerful Ways to Grow & Leverage Strengths with Clients | By Dr. Mickey Parsons, MCC, BCC

Coach at Desk Identify Strengths with Client

Our coaching clients are looking to build on their strengths, develop new ones and leverage their strengths in order to find greater satisfaction in their work and personal lives.

Often the coach takes an anecdotal approach – listening to clients describe their successes and challenges and asking powerful questions that spur clients to identify and reflect on their strengths.

At The Workplace Coach, we have found that using tools such as Gallup's CliftonStrengths assessments and the VIA Character Strengths Survey gives clients a fuller and more scientific picture of their strengths. While excellent individually, used in combination these two assessments provide insights that help individuals tap the power of their greatest personal and professional strengths.

And in this article I outline a 9-step process that The Workplace Coach has used successfully with clients to accomplish these goals.

Strengths-Based Coaching is about more than identifying strengths

Guiding clients to recognize, develop and build on their positive qualities and unique strengths is a foundation of most coaching.

But however you support your clients in identifying their strengths, it's important to understand that this is only the first step in successful strengths-based coaching.

Coaches also need to support their clients in discovering how to:

  • Use their strengths intentionally and strategically
  • Avoid overuse of strengths and
  • Develop their underused strengths.

Here are 9 Strengths-Based Coaching Steps for You and Your Clients

1) Identify your strengths

Paying attention over time to how and where your strengths show up will reinforce your understanding of who you are and the role your strengths have played in your success.

Try these exercises with your clients to develop awareness around their use of strengths:

  1. Reflect on your happiest or most successful moments. What strengths did you use at these times?
  2. Track how you use your strengths by pausing every hour and asking yourself, "What strength was I just using?" Record your observations in a journal.
  3. What do you believe about your strengths? Do you agree with these beliefs? What value do these strengths provide? How often do you tap into your strengths?

2. Affirm the value of your strengths

Once you identify and label your strengths, you'll better appreciate their positive role in your life. In addition, affirming your strengths also provides insulation against stress.

Try these exercises to help your clients connect to and appreciate their strengths:

  1. Say your strengths aloud. This will reinforce your strengths and help you embrace and use them.
  2. Write down how and why you value your top strengths.
  3. Craft a powerful affirmation that inspires you and pulls you forward. For example, "As a leader, I increase our organization's success by modeling honest and open communication."

3. Align your work and personal activities with your strengths

Building your personal and professional activities around your strengths allows you to leverage your creativity and energy while increasing your satisfaction.

A great exercise to do with your clients is to brainstorm ways they can use their strengths more consciously both at home and at work. Here are 2 examples:

  • At work: leverage the strength of "maximizer" by encouraging your team to strive for excellence.
  • At home: activate your "love of learning" strength by creating a family book club where you read and discuss new ideas.

4. Use strengths in meetings and when mentoring or coaching others

When we speak and act from our strengths, honest collaboration, empowering conversations and more satisfying connections follow. This applies both in the workplace and at home.

Ask your clients these 2 questions:

  1. How might you use your strengths in meetings, or in mentoring or coaching sessions to provide insight, enthusiasm and energy for change?
  2. As a leader, how might you use your strengths to bring out the best in others?

5. Practice new strengths.

Just because you don't lead with a particular strength doesn't mean you don't possess it or can't develop it.

Help your client identify activities that will allow them to cultivate and develop the strengths they need over time, so that those strengths are more accessible when they need them most.

A great exercise is to brainstorm actions with your client to practice and grow a desired strength. Here's an example:

  • Perhaps your client decides that being brave is key to their long-term success and happiness, but bravery is near the bottom of their strengths list (according to the VIA Strengths assessment). You work with your client to come up with ways to practice bravery during their day - and they decide to speak up in a meeting and give difficult feedback to a peer.

6. Manage your hot button responses

Overuse or underuse of strengths you value by the people around you, can trigger an emotional response and even conflict. For example:

  • A client with a strong sense of teamwork might express their frustration inappropriately when another team member refuses to contribute.
  • A client with strong organizational skills might snap at a colleague who submits sloppy, disorganized reports. 

While there are many strategies for dealing with such situations, a good place to start is:

  1. Help your clients recognize their hot button issues - and how they relate to their own strengths.
  2. Work with your clients to develop compassionate awareness. This will allow people to choose their reactions and increase their ability to work with others toward mutual understanding.

7. Notice the alignment between your strengths and your values

When we recognize how using our strengths enhances meaning and engagement in life, we boost our ability to use our strengths more intentionally.

One thing we can do is write down what matters most to us (our values) and then look for the strengths expressed in our statements.

Here's another exercise to align our strengths and values:

  1. Write a story about your life that represents how you want to be remembered by your grandchildren.
  2. Re-read your story a few days later and search for embedded strengths in the narrative.
  3. Consider what's missing to make this story a reality.
  4. What strengths do you need to deploy to obtain the missing ingredients?
  5. Finally, work with your client to create a strengths-based plan to go after them.

8. Adopt a mindful attitude

Mindfulness is the self-regulation of your attention with an attitude of openness, acceptance and curiosity.

According to Dr. Ryan Niemiec, education director of the VIA Institute on Character, mindfulness provides a pathway for the balanced expression of character strengths.

Mindfulness also helps individuals manage both the overuse and underuse of strengths.

Help your clients apply an attitude of mindful attention to their strengths. This will spur curiosity - and new observations - both of which are powerful allies as we go about fine-tuning our strengths.

9. Avoid strength abuse

When it comes to using your strengths, too much of a good thing can sometimes be counterproductive. For example:

  • A client's drive to get results may cause them to steamroll over people.
  • A client's cooperativeness, when overplayed, can become conflict avoidance.

Here's how to avoid strength abuse and strike a healthy balance instead:

  • Ask a trusted peer, coworker or boss for feedback:
    1. What do I do that contributes to the organization (or group or family unit)?
    2. What do I do that gets in the way of my effectiveness?
  • Take your own inventory of how you use your strengths. Are you leveraging them to good effect or are they hindering your success?
  • Then use this knowledge, together with mindful awareness, to moderate or temper when and how you use your strengths. For example:
    • If you're results-driven, experiment with holding back in situations where you would focus keenly on making things happen, giving space - and allowing others to contribute.
    • If you are big on cooperativeness, practice speaking up when you disagree with someone.


If you liked this article on developing strengths with your client, you may also like:

Dr. Mickey Parsons Headshot

Contributing Author:

Dr. Mickey Parsons, MCC, founded The Workplace Coach, LLC, in 1999. Since then, Mickey and The Workplace Coach's award-winning team have coached thousands of executives and leaders. Based in Atlanta, Mickey is also an assistant professor of coaching psychology and has a passion for coaching that extends to mentoring new and existing coaches and supporting leader coaches in obtaining their certifications through his Certified Leader Coach® program.

Learn more about Mickey & see all their articles here >>

Image of Excited Client Learning How To Use Their Strengths by Sam Wordley via Shutterstock

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  1. Quotes Muse

    COaching is inspiring. Many people have changed their lives on the basis of coaching. Life is a continuous journey of learning. Keep learning new things and uphold your motivation


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