The CliftonStrengths Coaching Blog is a resource for those who want to help others truly understand their strengths and learn how to use them. Gallup experts and outside contributors share tactics, insights, and strategies to help strengths coaches maximize the talent of individuals, teams, and organizations everywhere.
Being and Doing: The Busy Intersection of Strengths Coaching
By Curt Liesveld, Gallup Learning and Development Advanced Consultant
For the past 14 years I have had the privilege of working as a coach and consultant with Gallup. I call it a privilege because in this role I am given the opportunity to think about human talent and its relationship to human strengths. I can literally say that I have thought or talked about some human talent and strength, either my own or that of another person, every day of the past 14 years. This intense practice of a strengths-based approach to development and life has had a profound and positive impact on my view of and appreciation for people and my theory of human development.
I have come to the conclusion that a strengths-based approach to coaching requires one to care equally about the nature (being) of the person being coached, as well as the quality and quantity of their performance (doing). In my experience as a Gallup strengths coach, I have noticed that this balance is not always easy to maintain.
I have worked with nonprofits that placed a high value on the human beings in their organizations, but they neglected to establish clear expectations what these valuable humans needed to accomplish. On the other hand, I have also worked with for-profit organizations that have very high expectations about what is to be accomplished, but are oblivious to the unique identity of each individual employee and how they might best accomplish these expectations.
As a coach, we each will have our own biases that cause us to be more people-oriented or more performance-oriented in our approach. The source of these biases could be our own talent profile, our experience, our values, or the organizations or industries we serve. By nature and experience, my tendency is to focus more on “being,” that is the nature of the people I am coaching. What I have learned is that when I help a person get a clear understanding of their own unique identity, it is often quite interesting and enjoyable, but by itself this understanding doesn’t generate transformation or growth. If I want a person I am coaching to truly be well, I need to help them do well. Utilization completes actualization.
While I am biased more toward the “being” side of the coaching, your talent, experience, and values might bias you toward the “doing” side. When a coach pushes a person to perform at a higher level without any appreciation for or understanding of who that person is, they miss the important factors that contribute to the sustainability of and engagement in performance.
I have found the words “soul” and “role” to be helpful in my discussions with coaches. The soul of a person is about a person’s being. The unique thing about the soul of a person is that it is invisible and internal. This probably explains why people often need some help understanding their souls. I have found that the Clifton StrengthsFinder is a powerful tool that can quantify and clarify that internal, invisible soul. The role of a person is what they do. It is the place they serve or the part they play. The role of a person is often much easier to identify, because they are external and tangible, and therefore observable.
A great strengths coaching relationship will constantly be toggling back and forth between the soul and the role. Between the personal identities of the people being coached and the functional results they need to deliver. Between being and doing. As coaches, we need to be aware of biases that prompt us to choose one and not the other. Our approach to being and doing can never be an either/or. It must always be both/and. If we are truly strengths performance coaches we will equally commit ourselves to the souls of those we coach and to the important roles they are expected to play. When we help a person discover how they can fulfill their role within the context of their own soul, we have added value to both the person and their organization.
Curt Liesveld is an experienced strengths coaching practitioner and educator based out of Gallup's Omaha office. A coauthor of the book Living Your Strengths, Liesveld has played a significant role in bringing a strengths-based focus to churches and faith-based organizations around the world. Liesveld earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He received his master’s degrees in divinity from Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Mich., and in counseling psychology from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.