Research Paper By Marika Gillis
(Executive Coach, BELGIUM)
How to go about it?
- Weaknesses, Negativity and Neuroscience
- Coaching with Strengths
- What are the benefits of coaching with strengths?
- How do you share and talk about your strengths?
- Strengths and Leadership
- What about Weaknesses
- Strengths Metaphor – The Boat
- What are Strengths and how can we find them?
- Clifton StrengthsFinder TM
- VIA (Values In Action) Character Strengths
- Powerful Questions
- Core Quadrant Model by Daniel Ofman
- Other ways to find your Strengths
- “I know my Strengths. What now?”
- Debriefing exercises with your coach
- Enhance your well-being /grow at work /at home by taking a few actions
- Your strengths can be used for Leadership growth
- Your strengths can be put to use in enhancing your Interpersonal Skills
- The Whole Picture
When to dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.– Andre de Lorde (1871-1933)
When I started as a coach I was interested in exploring my client’s strengths, and I looked for ways to introduce them to the coaching relationship. This in itself was contrary to what a coach is supposed to do. The client sets the agenda after all. Using strengths to propel clients in achieving self-confidence, motivation and self-awareness was a tool I wanted to have in my toolbox. I even used it as a way to profile myself: “Strengths-Based Coach” was on my business cards, my E-mail signature, my website…
Discovering and defining one’s strengths brings along an increase in energy, motivation, self-confidence and self-worth. This is what I have witnessed when coaching clients who eagerly want to dig into this material. So I believed this was a good approach.
As coaches, a big chunk of the work we do is shining a light on our clients and tapping into who they truly are and most of all believing in their potential – their capabilities and their strengths. To this end, one of the most important steps for a client to take is to create and enhance self-awareness. This is an essential part in my coaching process and can be found in my coaching model – “Making It Stick” where the P in the acronym POST-IT stands for Personal awareness.(1)
This discovery of self can both prove to be confrontational and challenging as well as be liberating and emotional. Weaknesses are revealed, strengths are discovered, character traits are brought up, and abilities and skills are summed up. A wealth of information brought forward by the client or by superiors, peers and subordinates in an executive coaching setting.
This part of the coaching process is an interesting, exciting and rewarding journey where trust, confidentiality and non-judgment are essential for success.
As a coach, you walk the talk bringing along a heightened sense of self-awareness. Part of my self-awareness was to keep track of my limiting behaviors, limiting beliefs and being confronted with my weaknesses. Eliminating limiting behaviors and getting rid of bad habits is hard work to transform. I realized that this was necessary and helped me to move forward. It was however not energizing and did not make me whole as a person. Working on my mistakes did not enhance my self-confidence. It created a distance to being myself.
What helped me most was to focus on the positive and on zooming in on the good things that make me into who I am. A first small step to get into this positivity mode was to reflect on what good things happened to me during the day (see What Went Well exercise by Martin Seligman father of the positive psychology movement (2) . Secondly, as described in the exercise, I looked at the connection with those good moments and what I did to make them happen. This created a more optimistic way of thinking. Positive emotions – 1 of the 5 pillars for happiness described in the book “Flourish” were nurtured. It made me steer away more easily from Automatic Negative Thoughts – annoying ANT’s I call them – and be more optimistic. I used journaling as a way to reflect about these good moments at the end of the day. A red thread that came back time and again was that it made my day when I connected with people – through coaching, volunteering, community activities. My share in creating these warm situations was that I gave my time full heartedly. I love to put myself at the service of others and feel a need for reaching out and creating a better place. From the encounters that I have, I learn so much, humbleness, friendship, giving, seeing beauty and excellence in others. Knowing these traits were part of me created this tremendous shift in energy and motivation. I started to see my situation more clearly and had “light bulb” or “aha” moments. This is one of my strengths! On top of that, the volunteering made me feel in “the flow”. It nurtured my sense of meaning in life and was challenging enough to stay focused. Worrying, being negative was not an option. Time flew by when I helped out. This is accomplished when you are engaged. Working on your strengths or what you love most is fun for most people. I did not realize at first that I was working on my strengths. These feelings of giving, being connected came very natural to me. As if it was something that was an attribute others had as well. I turned out to be wrong.
Our strengths are very individual. They do feel as very natural. That is why knowing strengths is a side of ourselves we do not know. And discovering this was very stimulating.
Another benefit I discovered from working on my strengths was that I tackled my weaknesses with them and increased my self-confidence!
My own coaching journey has been a magnificent one! I learned so much about myself and how I am responsible for my own happiness and success.
A strengths-based approach made all the difference! It is all about developing your own potential rather than fixing ‘issues’.
Weaknesses, Negativity and Neuroscience
So, what about adversities, annoyances, weaknesses, negative news…? Our brain is wired and designed to be on the lookout for failure, disaster, negativity and weaknesses. Looking at the positive side is harder for most of us.
Some are better at this than others. The good news is, that you can train your brain to look at the bright side of things.
Remember your schooldays? We were told to be better, improve our weaknesses, be overall good students.
Do we notice when the traffic lights are green? Are we naturally grateful when all goes well? Or are we more prone to grunt when we have another red light and sigh at the “bad luck” we have?
Even reading the papers. Would it not be strange to be reading a newspaper with articles about situations where all goes well? Would tabloids be selling that good if they would focus on how great the lives of famous people are?
Negative events affect us more than positive ones. We remember them more vividly and they play a larger role in shaping our lives. Farewells, accidents, bad parenting, financial losses, sickness and even a random negative comment take up most of our psychic space, leaving little room for compliments or pleasant experiences to help us along life’s challenging path. We feel pain, but not the absence of it.
Hundreds of scientific studies from around the world confirm our negativity bias: while a good day has no lasting effect on the following day, a bad day carries over. We process negative data faster and more thoroughly than positive data, and they affect us longer. Socially, we invest more in avoiding a bad reputation than in building a good one. Emotionally, we go to greater lengths to avoid a bad mood than to experience a good one.