Albert Einstein said, "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing." As a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, I've taken this advice and learned that asking yourself the hard questions -- the ones that can truly unleash your talents in seemingly magical ways -- is sometimes more difficult than coaching others.
That's why everyone needs a coach. I've also found that through careful examination of your choices, and asking yourself the hard questions, you can begin to unlock the power of your talents and turn them into strengths. And once you've done that, you'll be well on your way to recognizing the powerful questions you can ask others to help them along their strengths journey.
As I've coached people who have recently gone through the Accelerated Strengths Coaching Training, I've heard comments like, "I think coaching others will be easier than looking at my own talents and seeing how I can use them effectively," and "I can help others come up with strategies to use their talents, but when I look at my own, I draw a blank." While that can be challenging, I've found that the best answers come from asking simple, direct questions.
The beauty of coaching with CliftonStrengths is your clients have already answered 176 questions about themselves. Don't neglect this starting point of self-discovery.
One of my favorite ways to build on what they've already learned is by taking their assessment through the interactive web app that comes with Gallup's e-book Expanding Your Strengths. This powerful tool lets you dynamically select theme pairings and gives you a short description of what that pair may sound like in a person. A full list of pairings, or theme dynamics, can also be found in the Gallup-Certified Coaches booklet Paired Up.
When coaching people who feel a bit stuck, I deploy my cycle of curiosity. I start by asking broader questions and then, if we need help going deeper, I use the insights within CliftonStrengths to lead to more granular and personalized questions. For example, if a client coach tells me they feel stuck on a problem at work, I ask broad questions such as:
- Why do you think that is?
- What talents do you find yourself using over and over again in this situation?
- What does an ideal solution look like to you?
- What talents can you use instead of the ones you are using now?
At this point, I might pivot our conversation and ask if I can demonstrate how the talents they chose to use differently might sound in an ideal situation. I've honestly never had anyone say, "No," so I jump onto the web app or grab the booklet and read to them the powerful theme dynamics.
For instance, if they want to use their Focus and Discipline more to motivate themselves to get started on a new project, rather than relying on their Achiever and Belief like they typically do, I say to them, "I want to read to you what using Focus plus Discipline could look like as you get started on this new project. It might sound like this: 'I always have a goal that I plan to reach and a plan to reach my goal. My organization enhances my concentration.'" Then I continue with more solution-focused questions, like:
- Does this sound like a possibility that might help you move forward?
- What can you learn from this?
- What are some strategies you can use?
- What is possible?
- What choices do you have?
- What's best for you to do now?
Sometimes, coaches will ask what CliftonStrengths says about a pairing they want to use less. I don't shy away from this and read them the description, knowing it may sound more positive than they expect. In the above scenario, I would share that the Achiever plus Belief combination might sound like: "When my diligence is directed toward an important cause or mission, my efforts have greater intensity and meaning." And once again, great questions lead to discovery.
I typically ask what contrasts or differences they hear between the different pairings. I'll ask the client to identify times they've observed this as helpful in their lives, and times when the reality of their talent has gotten in their way.
We all get stuck sometimes. It's natural to go on a hunt for solutions without asking the right questions. Instead, we might sink into our issues and ask judging questions like, "Why can't I make this work?" and "Whose fault is it?" But doing this blocks the openings that can lead us to the power and edge we each possess. Albert Einstein also had this insight:
"Most teachers waste their time by asking questions that are intended to discover what a pupil does not know, whereas the true art of questioning is to discover what the pupil does know or is capable of knowing."
Which talents have you been underutilizing? What new talent pairing can help you create movement in your life? I challenge you to think differently and ask yourself questions that can open up new possibilities.