Strength-Focused Coaching Conversations

Confidence: Your Strengths Profile

Gain a deeper understanding of your Strengths Profile quadrants and the strengths language to set some initial actions.

Realized strengths

Which realized strengths could you not be without? Why is this?

How are you using your strengths currently in your role?

Which strengths make you proud? Why?

Which of your strengths do you combine to achieve something?

Do you overplay any? If so, what is the impact?

Learned behaviors

How do you feel about your learned behaviors?

How reliant are you on your top four to perform your role well?

Which ones have become de-energizing? Why is this?

How could your strengths support these learned behaviors?

How might you enlist support from others?


How do you feel about your weaknesses?

What is the current impact of them?

Are any weaknesses essential in delivering your current objectives?

Who do you know who has this strength and could help you?

How might you use your strengths to compensate?

Unrealized strengths

Which unrealized strengths would you love to dial up?

What might you need to change for you to do that?

What target could you set that would enable you to use them more?

Reorder them with the ones you value the most at the top – what does this look like?

How might you share them with others? How can they support you to use them more?

Wellbeing: Improve Resilience

What current or future situation requires you to be resilient?

Strengths use naturally builds resilience as we perform better and get to do what we love.

Your resilience toolkit

Which of your realized strengths supports you to be resilient?

What action could you take to draw on these further?

Which strengths give you a more optimistic outlook?

Which strengths challenge your resilience when overplayed?

Learning from the past

When have you been at your most resilient?

What strengths were you using?

How could you apply this learning to your current situation?

Challenges to overcome

Which of your learned behaviors or weaknesses impact your ability to be resilient? How so?

How could you use these less in the situation?

Which strengths could help you overcome these learned behaviors or weaknesses?

What strengths do you need that you don’t have? Who has these that you could learn from or ask to help you?

Taking action

How might your unrealized strengths support your resilience?

What would it take for you to use these more?

What action will you take to become more resilient?

Careers: Strengthening your Interview

Got an interview? Great! Review your Strengths Profile and use the language to demonstrate you’re the best person for this job.

When are you at your best?

What makes a really good day for you?

Name two achievements you are proud of.

How did you achieve them?

What do you enjoy about your current role (realized strengths)?

What are you passionate about achieving in the next 2-3 years?

What are your career aspirations in the next 5-10 years?

What do your friends and family know you for?

What do others come to you for?

How do you prefer to work?

What activities don’t you enjoy? Why is this?

What has been a challenge you have overcome?

Leadership: Strengthening Performance


Reflection: How do your realized strengths help you do great work?

Which strengths give you the most energy when using them?

Action: How can you use even more of your realized strengths in what you do?

What action will you take?


Reflection: Which unrealized strengths would support you the most in your role?

Which unrealized strengths would you love to use more of?

Action: Which unrealized strengths could you use more of to meet your goals?

What can you do to make this happen?


Reflection: Which learned behaviors drain you?

What is the impact of any overplayed realized strengths?

Action: How can your strengths support your learned behaviors?

Who else can take on any areas of overplayed strengths?


Reflection: What is the impact of your weaknesses on your role?

How could this affect your next 12 months?

Action: How will you address any critical weaknesses to your role?

Who else can help you?

The 34 themes of the Clifton StrengthsFinder instrument

Achiever, Activator, Adaptability, Analytical, Arranger, Belief, Command, Communication, Competition, Connectedness, Consistency, Context, Deliberative, Developer, Discipline, Empathy, Focus, Futuristic, Harmony, Ideation, Includer, Individualization, Input, Intellection, Learner, Maximizer, Positivity, Relator, Responsibility, Restorative, Self-Assurance, Significance, Strategic, Woo.

{For the Mustafa, the top 5 themes are Intellection, Input, Learner, Responsibility, and Connectedness. Survey completion date: 10-25-2010.}

“Learners” thrive when they are challenged and have opportunities for original approaches to assignments.

In teamwork, ask to share strengths within the group and reflect on how the mix of strengths may serve them well in the projects as well as possible struggles. Members might also designate roles within the group based on the most suited qualities (communicator, time worrier, etc.).

Share your strengths with learners and explain how your strengths are reflected in your teaching and coaching style, approaches to the workshop or sessions, and your research or professional activities.

As part of an ice-breaker or first-week activity, ask learners to write briefly about their strengths and how these strengths “jive” with the agenda and assignments. Ask them to identify how their strengths might help them with particular elements of the course or workshop, as well as challenges they may face in your class or sessions.

Gather the learner’s strengths in your class. Share with the class the dominant strengths and brainstorm ways that these strengths can be used to best help learners in the class.

Strengths Talk

Beginning the Session. 

Clarify the purpose of today’s session.

Explain the Strengths Talk format and what you hope to accomplish.

A Basic Strengths Talk

What are your top 5 themes? What is the “strength” of each one?

What does each theme enable and empower you to do? How have you seen these themes at work in your life? When and where have you recently used each theme?

What phrases in the theme paragraph are true for you? Mark with a highlighter.

Use the handout “Taking Your Most Dominant Theme Seriously.”

Ending the Session. 

Give an open invitation to return for further discussion.

Taking Your Most Dominant Theme Seriously. 

My most dominant strengths theme is ___________.

Where am I most frequently using my dominant theme? In what areas, roles, or responsibilities?

How often am I using this dominant theme? Minutes or hours per day or week?

In what specific activities am I tending to use this dominant theme?

What am I doing to develop and nurture this dominant theme?

What am I doing to make it stronger, faster, more efficient, more flexible, or versatile?

Where and how am I applying this theme to become more effective or successful?

How does this theme fit with my ideas of calling, leadership, and service?

Ice breaker – Identify one positive thing about yourself or something you enjoy doing.

Which of your strengths will have the biggest impact on your service experiences?

What role do your strengths play in the activities you have chosen to be involved in?

Identify how one or two of your themes affect how you manage time.

What are two ways you can incorporate your strengths into developing strong academic skills?

What are two ways your strengths will play into your civic involvement?

During presentations, affirm the themes you see in the presenters.

How has knowing someone’s themes allowed you to understand them better and better communicate with them? What’s the impact of seeing others through strengths-colored glasses?

How does your profession connect to your strengths?

Celebrate the strengths of your peer leaders. Give examples of their effective use of their signature themes this month.

Self-Assessment: The Focus on You. 

What motivates you, gets you excited, or gives you great satisfaction?

What experiences have been your most fulfilling?

Tell me about a time in your life when you accomplished something you were proud of.

What themes fit you best? Which themes describe you best?

What do you excel at? What are you good at?

Which themes do you use most frequently?

Which themes make you most efficient with your time and energy?

In studying these top 5 themes, what have you learned about yourself?

Goals and Actions. 

I want to do more of … What theme would that use?

I want to do less of … Why?

I want to know more about the ________ theme.

What’s one thing you’ve learned today?

What are one or two things you can do as a next step?

Your Themes and Relationships. 

How do you develop relationships?

What do your friends say they like best about you?

How can you explain your thinking and behaviors to your friends and family using a strengths vocabulary?

Your Themes and Academics. 

Which themes will help you most in college?

What do you seem to learn with the greatest of ease? Any connection to a theme?

What is your favorite type of assignment? Any connection to a theme?

What subjects do you most enjoy studying? Any connection to a theme?

What themes do you use in your academic work?

What kind of instructor do you learn best from? Any connection to a theme?

What themes could you put to better use? Which themes need to be developed? How can you make that happen?

Are there service opportunities or extracurricular activities that would allow you to develop your themes?

For application assignment: What are two academic tasks you do with ease? What are two academic tasks that you struggle with? How do your themes relate to the “ease” category? How could your themes help you with your struggles? Be specific with at least one strategy.

Your Themes and Career Choices. 

Which careers seem most interesting and appealing to you? Why?

What is the best job or role you’ve ever had?

How do you get work done? What is your work style?

In what career would you be able to best use your strength themes?

Which theme is most important for you to be able to use every day in your career?

In what type of career do you think these themes will grow and develop?

Have you ever had a job where you asked yourself, “Do I want to do this for the rest of my life?”

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

What would you love to do if you could set aside your fears and the expectations of others?

Thought-Provoking Question:

How many strengths can you name? You will only ever be able to identify strengths that you can label. How many client strengths might you be missing if you only know one or two dozen names? How many common strengths do you believe exist?

Strength-oriented interventions 

Building relationships and establishing rapport

Tools to develop a psychological contract between the stakeholders within the coaching process and to ensure a psychologically safe environment conducive to development.

Appreciative interviewing.

Positive introduction exercise.

Providing self-administered intentional activities

Brief evidence-based positive psychological intervention strategies aid in developing positive states, traits, and behaviors through encouraging deliberate practice outside the coaching session (e.g., Gratitude visit). These activities ensure the continuous transfer of insights into the clients’ everyday life. Coaches choose from a wide range of exercises depending on the goals pursued.

Using one’s strengths in a new way.

Having a strengths date: choosing a companion and identifying and utilizing strengths together.

Creating a strengths family tree.

Visualizing ideal future selves; “Best possible self” exercise.

Strengths-based journaling.

Resource activation

Guide the client to rediscover and utilize existing but neglected personal, social, or environmental resources (e.g., social support networks and mentors) or energizing activities (e.g., reflecting upon past engaging activities).

Exploring engaging activities.

Identifying areas of flow and practicing flow activities.

Identifying an expert friend who is doing well at handling the same challenges.

Strengths-focused psychometric assessments

Employ various psychometric assessments or simulation exercises to identify the client’s manifested strengths.

VIA Signature Strengths Inventory.

Gallup-Clifton StrengthsFinder.

Strengths Profile.

Projective techniques and simulation exercises.

Assessing and tracking positive states, traits, and strengths.

Positive diagnosis: Identifying strengths, positive emotions, and meaning, examining what the solution looks like.

Positive 360-degree evaluation.

Conducting competency-based assessments

Assess specific competencies aligned with the client’s role (e.g., Developing and assessing the client against a positive capability matrix).

A positive capability matrix is comprised of strengths-based competencies (e.g., strategic visioning), experiences (e.g., career accolades), abilities (e.g., learning potential), and values (e.g., authenticity). Competencies and experiences are individual performance indicators, whereas individual potential is estimated via ability and values.

Strengths spotting

Tools centered around active, deliberate, and constructive attempts to identify the manifested strengths of oneself and others (e.g., Strengths camera). This technique and the related tools provide the client with the strengths vocabulary, diagnostic framework, and criteria needed to identify the strengths of oneself and others. For example, the positive introduction exercise asks the clients to describe themselves at their best based on events from the prior week and focus specifically on their strengths.

Strengths-based interview.

The Strengths Camera (Strengths ID): Put a metaphorical personal strength or value “lens” on the camera. Then, indicate how effectively you have been utilizing that strength or implementing that value in the last 30 days.

Strengths map: map how one can use strengths to achieve goals.

Guided self-reflection

Employ validated tools to aid the client in systematically discovering her potentials, strengths, or solutions to manifested problems. Insights are developed with the active involvement and guidance of the coach.

Reflect upon previous achievements and accomplishments.

“Developing a history of the future” to help clients describe their picture of success by identifying their legacy.

BEARS (barriers to change, evidence of behavior and overcome barriers, resources needed for success, and strengths a client can draw upon).

Reflecting on how one solved problems in the past.


A technique used to aid clients in crafting meaningful work experiences.


Strengths utilization and development:

Explore ways to activate clients’ strengths at home and work intentionally. The focus is on deliberate strengths-use to attain goals or address developmental areas.

Explore new ways to use strengths.

Asking clients to use their top strengths in new ways for one week.

Developing a plan for intentionally using strengths to serve something or someone valued.

Identifying strengths and deficits

A balanced method of identifying both strengths and deficits is the four-front approach to client assessment: (a) Areas of client weakness, (b) areas of client strength, (c) deficits or destructive forces in the client’s environment, and (d) assets or resources in the client’s environment.

The Essence in 201 Words or so

Employ methods to identify strengths with your client.

Balance the use of strengths with a problem focus or goal focus.

Consider the metaphor of strengths as fortifying the client against problems.

Expand client perspectives and foster client awareness to include more positive views of self.

Expand client meanings about strengths through reframing, exception finding, and using metaphors.

Explicitly ask the client about strengths.

Also, reveal strengths more strategically as the context may permit or through a collaborative interpersonal process.

Assume the role of a change agent advocating for the client and let strengths emerge through the process.

Hold hope for the client, so the client feels empowered to be more hopeful.

Uncover strengths buried underneath client problems when the client is unable or unwilling to see their strengths.

In encouraging and pursuing positives, be authentic, see if you can genuinely believe in the client, and trust that the process will uncover positives the client can value.

Form meanings about strengths by listening and reframing.

See resilience, hope, self-efficacy, and empowerment emerge as strength-oriented concepts in the coaching.

Let the client’s investment in the coaching engagement and the coaching alliance become strengths upon which the client can build and generalize beyond the coaching context.

The Strength-Oriented Structures and Tools

Exception finding, encouragement, and persistently watching for strengths amid client problems amplify and heighten strengths awareness.

Metaphors, framing coping and survival as resiliency, and positive reframing are additional awareness tools.

Timing and balancing strengths with a problem focus maximize the utility of strength work. The coach decides how much to focus on the problem and when to introduce the client strengths they have discovered. It is a balancing act influenced on the one hand by client demoralization and feeling hopeless and, on the other, reframing struggles as proof of client strengths, thus opening new vistas for the client to perceive.

The identification process can entail explicitly asking clients to talk about their strengths.

The coach is the agent in identifying, using and generalizing strengths, especially those the client cannot perceive. The coaching relationship provides first-hand experience of the client’s strengths and is the core of the strength work.

Hope, empowerment, heightened awareness, focus on future goals, and increased motivation are outcomes of using client strengths in coaching. The use of client strengths increases hope for the client.

Strengths Identification

Strengths conversations:

Dear client, please recall a scenario where you and your team performed particularly well; you were enthusiastic and highly engaged.

What was it that you and your team performed well? Please identify, and label it.

Which situations bring out this strength in you?

Which situations block you from using this strength?

When might you want to tone down this strength?

What could you change that would allow you to use this strength more?

How might you use two or more of these strengths in conjunction with one another?

Name instances in which two strengths together produced a superior result than either alone might have.

How is this strength instrumental in achieving your vision?

Keeping strengths visible:

 Dear client, how could you symbolize your strengths?

Create your transformational “Everest” vision or goal:

What is your highest aspiration?

What colorful and inspirational language can exemplify what you believe in?

What do you care most deeply about that should be pursued?

What symbols capture the objectives you wish to attain?

What strengths will you use to achieve your Everest vision?

Team coaching session to map a team’s strengths

In a team coaching session, with a focus on the alignment of strengths with the values of the organization:

Introduce virtuous strengths theory and concepts. Ask each member one by one to introduce themselves from a strengths perspective, identifying their top three strengths. Each team member then receives an additional two strengths nominations from others for a total of five strengths each.

Assemble individual strengths at the group level to identify the dominant strengths of the team.

Map the team’s strengths to the organizational values.

Consider how to approach over or under-represented values.

What actions enable you to engage in your strength in “This” scenario?

In “This” scenario, what strength from which team member would be the best fit?

What strengths are required to fulfill “That” task, and who in the team will take charge?