Strengths Coaching Blog

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Comparison of CliftonStrengths and the StandOut Assessment Theory

By Adam Hickman and Mary Claire Evans

There are a variety of assessment-based development theories and tools in the market today that coaches can use. In this blog, we will compare two theories — the StandOut Assessment Theory and CliftonStrengths — weighing out the differences and providing a little history, too.

StandOut Assessment Theory

The StandOut Assessment was developed and tested by the Marcus Buckingham Company between 2001 and 2010. Marcus Buckingham worked with Dr. Donald Clifton at Gallup and co-authored the 2001 Gallup book Now, Discover Your Strengths with Dr. Clifton. The book presented a positive, strengths-based psychology lens, and Buckingham duplicated the efforts of the strengths-based philosophy when establishing the StandOut Assessment. In essence, the assessment aims to determine what is right with individuals and build upon their strengths. In the introduction to his book, StandOut, Buckingham acknowledges that he replicates the perspective of the CliftonStrengths Assessment. However, instead of the 34 talent themes, the book focuses on Nine Strengths Roles; and instead of one’s top five strengths, StandOut reveals a person's top two strength roles. One can see the similarity in just the results of the assessment. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

What About Weaknesses? Part 2 With Dean Jones - Called to Coach S6E4

On a recent Called to Coach, we spoke with the Principal Architect of Gallup's Global Learning Strategy, Dean Jones.

Weaknesses – we all have a lot of them!

Don Clifton quote – “Focus on what’s right” – get interpreted as never think about weaknesses

  • Historical context – nascent age of psychology
  • Any development journey includes an assessment (an accounting) of what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s working and not working
Important component of growth is self-awareness.  Self-awareness is incomplete without an awareness or appreciation of weaknesses.  

Six assertions about weaknesses to inform the discussion:

  1. Strengths and weaknesses are not opposites.  You don’t create a strength out of a weakness.  
    • Strengths are based on a repository of talent.  When you dig into a weakness, you seldom find a talent – you typically find an absence of talent.  
  2. People often take their talent for granted – the fallacy of ease.  So they are inclined to invest in areas where things seem hard, assuming that mastering them will provide the great growth.  
    • They think what comes easily must not be valuable, and what is hard and takes work is better.  Work at what comes easily. 
    • Mastery is about capitalizing on talent, rather than overcoming the odds.
    • “Rudy” is about a moment of victory, not a lifetime of success and accomplishment.  Where could you best apply yourself?  In the end, it’s a sad story. 
  3. You can’t “fix” a weakness.  There is really nothing to fix – nothing to work with.  You need to aware of it, account for it.  
    • Like driving around a barrier, rather than driving through it.  
  4. Weaknesses don’t really develop in the same way as strengths.  Strengths develop infinitely.  
    • They develop incrementally – they don’t have the same return.
    • They don’t develop in the same fluid, intuitive fashion 
      • Rhythm to a dancer
      • Mikaela Shifferin – “just getting started”
  5. Weaknesses get uncovered over time.  
    • CliftonStrengths is like a treasure map – it tells you where to start digging.  But experience and application over time give you real understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.  
    • You might go back to the map to orient yourself, but you want to focus on the application and experience of talents to develop them.
  6. Weaknesses are relative. As you develop, yesterday’s strengths are today’s weaknesses. 
    • You get narrow. You focus. That is the path to being world class. 
    • The best get ruthless - honest, truthful - about their weaknesses, so they can keep focusing. 

Much work of strengths coaches can be helping people become aware of their weaknesses and use their strengths to overcome them.  

Usually that means a strengths coaches need to help the person they are coaching with:

  • Being aware of their weaknesses
  • Being responsible for them
  • Using strengths-based strategies to manage them and produce results

  • Weaknesses can often be in areas that are blind spots
  • People may have a passing awareness of their weaknesses – but don’t really see the impact
  • Awareness-building often happens through a combination of receiving feedback and understanding impact
    • Direct feedback is most valuable 
    • Understanding the impact on two levels – impact on others, and impact on self
Awareness issues:

  • Claiming strengths you don’t have
  • Not seeing weaknesses
  • Being unaware of your strengths
  • Being unaware of your non talents 


  • People who legitimately know their strengths tend to be more forthcoming with their weaknesses. 
    • Fatal flaw is believing their strengths apply to everything (Icarus)
  • You can’t make someone be responsible – they have to give it to themselves.  It is a process of taking ownership.  
    • Not about finding fault – it’s about understanding that “I have a say in the way this goes.” 

Strengths-based Strategies

  • It only makes sense that the best way to apply yourself to addressing your weaknesses would be to use your areas of greatest talent.  
    • That’s why we look to our strengths as the best way to address weaknesses.

Strategies for addressing weaknesses:

  1. Create Open Dialogue and Transparency
  2. Intentionally Leverage your Strengths
  3. Find Support Systems
  4. Build Complementary Partnerships
  5. Get the Right Education
  6. Set Reasonable Standards and Just Do It
  7. Adjust or Change Roles

This is not about inspiration.  This is not about “believe in yourself.”  This is about identifying and getting clear about your talent - and then putting it to work. 

Join us at the 2018 CliftonStrengths Summit to learn more about improving your workplace through strengths. Register today before early bird pricing ends! 

Visit Gallup Strengths Center to browse our myriad of products and learning opportunities for strengths-based development.

Continue the coaching conversation on Facebook and Twitter. It’s a great way to network with others who share a passion for strengths!

Dean Jones is the principal architect of Gallup's global client learning strategy. Dean consults with clients on strategic solutions to address key business issues, including organizational development, performance management, learning and development, productivity and workforce effectiveness. He oversees the direction of Gallup's client learning offerings, the development of the organization's learning consultants, and the growth of Gallup's learning business worldwide, including its public course offerings and learning products.

Dean Jones's top five strengths are Activator, Focus, Woo, Strategic and Relator.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Mastery Monday: Productive Aiming: Arranger

By Albert L. Winseman, D.Min

A juggler. A conductor. A multi-tasker. 

If you have Arranger in your top five Signature Themes, you’ve likely heard someone use one of these phrases to describe you — or perhaps you’ve used them yourself! Arrangers like complexity, intricacy, motion and configuring people and systems for optimum results. Their talents may focus primarily on systems or processes — i.e., creating the perfect flow-chart (with enough flexibility built in for when circumstances change). Or their primary focus may be spatial and tactile — i.e., arranging and rearranging the furniture to maximize the available space, esthetic considerations and traffic patterns. It might be focused toward people and teams — i.e., getting the right people in the right role to create an efficient, high-functioning team. Or it may be all three. The point is, Arranger has a way of getting things done using a flexible, organizational mindset that maximizes productivity.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Managers Are Agents; Employees Are the Stars

By Tim Simon

Many of us are familiar with cult-classic Office Space — a movie about a group of software employees fed up with their jobs and their boss, Bill Lumbergh. In the film, their fictional company, Initech, hires a consulting firm to help the company downsize. We can all recall the scene when Peter Gibbons, the film’s “hero” who is sick and tired of the situation, saunters into his interview with the two consultants, Bob and Bob, and decides to just lay it all out there. When asked to describe his typical day at work, Peter admits he usually comes in at least 15 minutes late and, “After that, I just sorta space out for an hour. I do that for probably another hour after lunch, too … I’d say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual work. The thing is, Bob, it's not that I'm lazy. It's just that I don't care.” When “the Bob’s” press for more information, Peter goes on to complain that “… when I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That's my real motivation — not to be hassled. That and the fear of losing my job. But y'know, Bob, it will only make someone work hard enough not to get fired.”

How many times have we as coaches encountered similar situations? The movie gives us a funny — and accurate — depiction of an actively disengaged employee and a really bad manager. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Mastery Monday: Productive Aiming: Analytical

By Albert L. Winseman, D.Min

Where did you get that information? What does the data say? Have you done your homework? What are your sources? What is the evidence to back it up? How do you know this will work? 

If you have Analytical among your Signature Themes, these are most likely very familiar questions — perhaps ones you ask on a regular basis. Analytical focuses on facts to find patterns and reach conclusions. Those with strong Analytical talents tend to be logical and rigorous in their thinking; before acting, they will weigh the evidence and study the data to make an informed decision — and only when convinced by the evidence the data provides will they take action. Sound thinking is the hallmark of the Analytical theme and objectivity is the goal.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Strengths-Based Resolutions: Applying Strengths to My Own Personal Challenge

By Linda Moorman

As a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, I have the privilege of helping people use their strengths to positively influence their work and life every day. I have also successfully maximized my own strengths in just about every part of my life. 

There was one challenge, though, that I just could not conquer: my annual New Year’s Resolution to shed the 40 pounds I’d needed to lose my entire adult life. Instead, those 40 pounds turned into 50 pounds, then 60, and then finally, close to 100 pounds. I still gulp when I think about just how much weight I had gained in all those years of trying so hard to lose weight. I blamed it on my lack of discipline — I just needed to make better food choices and be more structured about exercise, right? Wrong. As it turns out, this coach needed to heal herself. I was failing because I was trying to tackle my problem in ways that were tailor-made for talents I just didn’t have.

A crucial conversation with my doctor last March helped me apply my strengths toward this one big failure in a way I hadn’t done before. Every time Dr. Mohring had seen me in the two years since becoming my doctor, he had urged me to lose weight. And at every checkup, I promised him that by next time, for sure, I would. But last March, my doctor asked some different questions. As a coach, I know the power of asking short, open ended questions to get clients to open their thinking, and those were the kinds of questions he asked that day. The coach in me knew exactly what he was doing as I employ similar techniques in my coaching practice. I specifically remember him asking, “What do you really want for your health and life this next year?” and, “What do you need to do differently to make that happen?” This time, something finally clicked. As a strengths coach, it’s always gratifying when a client really “gets it” and figures out how to aim their strengths at a goal or challenge. That is what happened to me — I finally applied my strengths to tackle the biggest challenge in my life.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Builder Profile 10 (BP10) New Book, "Born to Build" and Website Launch - Called to Coach S6E3

On a recent BP10 Quarterly Update, we spoke with Gallup Global Channel Leader, Entrepreneurship and Job Creation, Todd Johnson.

Coming on May 1st – look for the new “Born to Build” book. This book is one of Gallup’s very best. It gives practical and action-oriented advice to help you build a thriving startup, a winning team, new customers and your best life imaginable.

We plan to change the national conversation to “what are you building on your life’s journey?” Check out the new Born to Build website released this month. 

Watch the full video or audio above to get all 10 update announcements on the Born to Build release.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Mastery Monday: Productive Aiming: Adaptability

By Albert L. Winseman, D.Min

Adaptability is a “now” theme that finds deep satisfaction in living in-the-moment. For those with strong Adaptability talents, the future is not a fixed destination; rather, it is created one day at a time and paying attention to the here and now is the best way to be prepared for whatever may come. Individuals with Adaptability in their top five tend to live by the motto, “If you’re handed it, you can handle it” because that is exactly what they do. They are not often fazed or upset with change, but have a sense of calm assurance that they are equipped to handle whatever may come and are extremely adept at “going with the flow.” In fact, individuals high in Adaptability view interruptions as the most exciting part of the day because you never know what is going to happen. Adaptability is primarily a Relationship Building theme because for those with Adaptability, whoever is with them at the moment gets their complete and undivided attention and that is a powerful attribute for building strong relationships.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Mastery Monday: Productive Aiming: Activator

By Albert L. Winseman, D.Min

Let’s get going. Can we just get it started? We don’t have to get it all figured out — let’s just start and we’ll make adjustments along the way.  

Those with Activator in their top five have a restless energy that drives them to get something started and to influence others to do the same. Activators tend to live by the motto “the worst action to take is no action.” They learn by doing and bring energy to most any situation. Getting things moving, getting the ball rolling, setting things in motion — these are all common characteristics of the Activator theme. However, while Activators are energized by starting, they usually are not so much by finishing. In fact, those high in Activator may get bored halfway through a project and begin looking around for a new challenge to tackle. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Finding Your Purpose as a Coach - Called to Coach S6E2

On a recent Called to Coach, we spoke with Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, Kelly Merbler.

Kelly Merbler is the Principal of the Kelly Merbler Company specializing in strengths-based coaching, workshops, and leadership development coaching. Twenty-one years as a regional executive with a global staffing organization -- hiring, developing, and building successful sales and operations teams throughout the South East.  

“The secret of success is hiring good talent which begins with identifying what people do best, aligning them in the right role for maximum impact internally and externally.”

Kelly works in the Southeast and Caribbean with companies using strengths-based workshops to actively build strengths-based cultures. She also works with a non-profit Florida Endowment Foundation for Florida graduates which provides support for students through life transitions and careers.

Tell us how you came across the strengths certification.
Serving Leader Institute participant that utilized Clifton Strengths assessment.  Fascinated by the results and its reflection on who she is as a person.  Met the Gallup Team in a Strengths Briefing session and wanted to become certified immediately.

How did you integrate that into your work, family, and community?
#1 - Futuristic, #2 Maximizer, #3 Belief, #4 Arranger, #5 Activator
With Activator and Futuristic, I left the certification workshop in Nov 2016 and immediately requested a conversation with her supervisor.  She sent him a code conducted a coaching session with her supervisor which led him to wanting to do this for the entire team.

Kelly requested to pilot CliftonStrengths within the organization and the teams in Florida and Puerto Rico.  Starting January 2017, she went on a “road show” for all teams in Florida and in March visited teams in Puerto Rico. This resulted in Kelly presenting to the corporate office in LA requesting to implement this within more levels in the organization.

7 strategies to build a strengths-based environment starts with leadership alignment. When you introduced this to your team, did you push back?  What was the process for you?
80-90% of the teams reached out after Kelly introduced the concept at an annual meeting and requested she come to their office first. It’s okay to have some teams and individuals not buy into this immediately because they probably need more time analyze and determine if this is the right step for their team. “You have to be able to see through their lens.”

Self-Awareness and self-regulation is important for coaches especially when trying to encourage buy-in.

How did you expand your efforts to draw in other people outside of work to partner on strengths-based development?   
Futuristic allows her to see the possibilities and Activator gives her the confidence to test the market. She found it easy to connect the dots and identify other people who would benefit from CliftonStrengths. By calling her contacts and utilizing social media…
Belief influences her ability to communicate her commitment her strengths-based development which comes across in her writing.  Nights, weekends, mornings - she would offer free profiles to friends, families, and contacts to spread the word and practice.

When you decided to build the Kelly Werbler Company, what strategies did you use?
That’s a tough one - when you spend 21 years in one organization, it is not an easy nor an overnight decision.  It organically developed as she kept coaching people informally and formally, it resulted in more invitations to coach others and teams. Natural progression.  “I had a point in my life when I couldn’t make excuses anymore.  Stop saying it’s not the right time.  If there is ever a right time, I’ve got the network to be my net for a little bit and I’m willing to risk it all.”

What obstacles are your facing and how do you navigate around them in your own company?
It’s sometimes about timing - when you speak with clients and their budgets, planning, and timelines that don’t fit your schedule (i.e., she wants to get started right now with them and they need time), it’s important to keep your pipeline full at all times.  This helps when your pipeline of possible coaching opportunities is full.  It’s like popcorn - at some point, it’s going to start popping.  

How have you introduced strengths into a community or a partnership you have?  How did you build that?
Often she has done a lot of work for free which is the way to learn and make contacts.  Key relationships from those experiences - one relationship resulted in a speaking engagement which led to a learning development team requesting her help to implement CliftonStrengths into their organization.  Another example is a program called The Florida Endowment Foundation and Dream Jobbing.  It centers around the student space - she used strengths coaching with high school seniors who are in schools that are in the bottom 20% of high schools.  The program focuses on helping students graduate.  Aligning and using Strengths more as part of the organization and other schools.

Can you give some examples of the activities and tools that you use in regards to communication?
She is a “LinkedIn Junkie”.  What it’s like to be in the moment using strengths - capturing the moments when she is using her own or others are using their strengths.  This shows authenticity. She signed up to be a LinkedIn host to share strengths knowledge.  It’s the human connection and opportunity to tell people about it.  

“I think there is nothing better than having conversations and telling people what you love doing because then they say ‘I want to love doing something like that’ or ‘How do I get to love something as much as you do’.  That is so powerful.”

Using your strengths, how do you lean into your strengths to create a strategic vision?
Leading with Futuristic - that vision is so clear and so close.  In certification class, she immediately pulled the picture of a girl on stage speaking to thousands of people thinking “that’s going to be me”.  She visualizes what her future self will be doing.  “If you think about what you’ll be doing, it will lead there to the right places.”
The Activator ignites me. The arranger allows her to juggle so many priorities - without which she is bored.  Belief drives her to do meaningful work - to help people become the best version of themselves. “I lean into those and just go do it.”

In regards to Basements & Balconies with strengths, do you ever feel as if your strengths get in the way?
“I trip over myself all the time.” Her least is Adaptability and her coaching colleague from the certification course has Adaptability as #1.  “I don’t know how you handle this here and now stuff. Bring me back to the here and now because I’m thinking 10 years from now.  I trip over that all the time.”
Maximizer is “controlling - it’s like a leech on me. Everything has to be perfect. There is no average.”  Examining her past position, Activator caught her a lot - ready to bring energy and get started when other team members wanted more time and for her to “tone it down”.  “When I realized how they needed to be led, [my approach] shifted.”

As you are building and growing, what are some strategic partnerships that will help you grow your business?
She knows what she’s not good at, so she has leaned into a core group of fellow certification coaches from her course. In developing her menu of courses and services, she relies upon other coaches who help her have more patience to dissect her offerings and re-word her services.

Tell me about the most powerful or transforming coaching partnership you have had and why.
Worked with a manager in Puerto Rico with a strengths-based course in the company.  The manager wasn’t connecting
10 participants were completing the picture card activity and this manager picked the picture card that has the mother hugging the newborn baby.  She immediately started to cry - and her team had not seen that side of her.  I didn’t know how to handle the emotion at first.  Her team listened to her at that moment and the manager shared that she realized she had seeing them through her own eyes rather than seeing them as they see themselves. The defenses from the team went down immediately and the communication tone completely changed.  The team hadn’t seen her emotion outside of the drive to get the work done.  Those success stories of shifting the way they add value to the team due to the changes that manager made.

The best part of this job is when someone says they have found their purpose and its partially due to strengths coaching.  “You can change people’s lives when you help them.”

One of your quotes is “In order to find your purpose, you have to lose it first”.  Tell me about why that sticks with you, how it drives you, and what it means to you.
18 years into her career, looking at her desk planning her next year goals, she looks at her awards in her office and thought they didn’t look as shiny as they once did.  Shedidn’t feel that spark inside when she thought about her goals because it was focused on what she wanted.  Loss of her mother made her realize that “life is not about chasing trophies because you can’t take them with you...No one sees a U-Haul behind a hearse. What am I living here for?  There is something bigger here for me that I’m supposed to do.  How do I find it? I went out a quest to figure that out.”  She had to lose her purpose and what she was known for doing to (getting the trophy) find that she was meant to do. “Let go of the familiar to transform into who you are supposed to be.”

What does your vision look like when you’re building upon your mission?  In 5-10 years, what does success look like to you?
“That word, success, I almost don’t like it anymore. It used to be about chasing success. My future and vision is not chasing success - I’m chasing significance.  I want to create significant impact.” She sees herself on a stage or working with companies to help people find their strengths.  It might be the millennial population or the student population.  “I want to do it all being the Arranger.”

By 2020, millennials will be 70% of the workforce.  With experience in education and staffing, do you have an idea of how coaching might be different for Millenials than other generations? Is there any difference in your approach?
They are not afraid to try new things, want to be cared for, and to make a difference.  But Jim reminds us that generations do want similar things and not to lose focus on the other generations (and that the differences between the generations’ desires/goals/wants are not as different as we sometimes think).  Kelly hears similar things from her Baby Boomer clients as her Millennial clients - They all want to feel heard.  

Jim: As we look at our Q12 data on engagement.  Those disengaging measures may not change that drastically across the different generations. There are people in all generations that desire flexibility, autonomy, open-culture, etc. There are some opportunities for managers to learn from this current generation (especially due to sheer numbers) and we have to manage expectations no matter their generation.  

Kelly: “People don’t want to be managed - they want to be led. People don’t want travel agent - they want a tour guide.”  Lead them through the experiences - coach them.  “If it has a thought - lead it.  If it doesn’t think - manage it.” You manage processes but lead people.

What are some questions that your asking or managing expectations early on in the coaching relationship process?
Listening - ask questions.  Coaching is about asking questions.  What do you want to gain out of this experience?  What is your biggest problem at this moment? What are your current strengths/weaknesses of your current department?  When you ask, people will start telling you what you need to learn about their perspective - then share based on your relevant experiences of how you have worked through that with other people.  It gives them examples to connect with others’ situations and not feel alone.

When thinking of the ROI and using strengths, it’s more than just self-awareness but it is tied to metrics.  In your previous organization, how did you measure ROI on strengths?
ROI is in the return on the individual.  What am I getting from that individual that shifts how they do their job?  Were they making progress on their goals or their development plans?  Retention was a great metric - did they stay? But sometimes people realized they were in the wrong place/position which allowed her to help them find opportunities for better fits (internal and externally).  Nurturing those relationships and opportunities were essential.

How invested are you as the leader in making this successful?  In the 11 teams she worked with in her former organization, the ones with the most amount of momentum were those teams in which the leaders bought into it and practiced what they learned.  

Jim: We see coaches use the Q12 as a pre- and post- evaluation.  We also look at financial indicators and productivity rate improvements.  Ask the company/leaders what financial metrics and goals matter the most to you and your organization - let’s measure that over time.

When you work with organizations, what do you do to keep the ongoing “aiming” process active in the teams?  How do you keep teams incorporating strengths throughout the months?
Have your staff keep their strengths visually in front of them, place in the email signature, create daily language/strengths exchanges, watch a video once a week.
“As a coach, maybe I’m off their payroll, but I’m still invested in their success.  That is what you do as a coach.  You stay connected.”  Compare it to the 401K contributions you make as an individual - depositing into your strengths account by investing into it on a regular basis.  

Jim: As people become more engaged within their organization, they begin to trust the organization more. Easy metric - what is the average 401K contribution?  They may become more productive, stay longer, and contribute to 401K.

Join us at the 2018 CliftonStrengths Summit to learn more about improving your workplace through strengths. Register today to reserve your spot! 

Visit Gallup Strengths Center to browse our myriad of products and learning opportunities for strengths-based development.

Continue the coaching conversation on Facebook and Twitter. It’s a great way to network with others who share a passion for strengths!

Kelly Merbler is the Principal of The Kelly Merbler Company which specializes in Strengths based coaching workshops and Leadership Development coaching. Prior to starting her own coaching enterprise, Kelly spent twenty-one years as a regional executive with a global staffing organization where she was responsible for hiring, developing and building successful sales and operations teams throughout the southeast. She knows that the secret of success is hiring good talent which begins with identifying what people do best and aligning them in the right role for maximum impact internally and externally.

Kelly recently worked with clients throughout southeast and Caribbean delivering strengths based workshops to companies and corporate teams looking to actively build a strengths based culture. Her most impactful workshops have come from working with the nonprofit The Florida Endowment Foundation for Florida Grads which is dedicated to providing support to students through critical transitions in their lives and careers.  “Being able to help our younger generation identify what they do naturally best helps them determine what career paths would align with their strengths and allow them to be the best version of themselves in life”

Clients include: City Furniture, The Florida Staffing Association, The Act 1 Group of Companies, The Florida Endowment Foundation for Florida Grads, DreamJobbing and Services Corporation International.

Kelly’s services are diverse in their offering and include: Corporate Training Programs, Coaching Programs, Speaking Engagements, Conferences, Retreats, Team Building and Workshops and Personalized Coaching.

How to best connect with Kelly Merbler:
Facebook Business Page: Kelly Merbler Motivation
Instagram Page: Kelly Merbler Motivation

Kelly's top five strengths are: Futuristic, Maximizer, Belief, Arranger and Activator

Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, Rachel S. Carpenter, contributed to this post. 
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