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Monday, July 23, 2018

Great Coaches Know When to Get Out of the Way

By Linda Moorman



As a longtime Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, one of my favorite joys of working with the CliftonStrengths tool is discovering the nuances of how the strengths play out differently with each person. I could probably spend hours discussing what I’ve learned about each of the 34 themes, not to mention all the possible theme combinations. It can, however, be challenging to truly coach through CliftonStrengths. Covering the 34 themes extensively with my clients comes naturally to me and it is a temptation I regularly indulge in. And while that may be interesting to some, my role as a coach is help them experience it and use it, not to convince them about how good this tool is.. Sometimes, the best way to do that is to simply get out of their way. 

For me, that means making sure that my focus is on what’s important and relevant to them. I find that the questions I ask at the start of the conversation really set the tone for our time together and I remind them that while I am sitting in the passenger seat helping to navigate, they are in the driver’s seat.


I recently asked a client “What do you wish could be different in the next three months?” She paused for a moment and said “I just want to have dinner with my husband and son one night a week. It’s so simple, I just need to make it happen.” 

 But, as we talked further, it clearly wasn’t simple. Like many people I speak with, this client has a demanding job, a busy family life and many other personal commitments. She often worked late, as did her husband. Her teenage children were also heavily involved in activities. As I asked a few more questions, what I discovered was that this simple wish had some urgency—her oldest child was in his last semester of high school and would be going to college soon. The chances for regular family dinners were slipping away quickly.

I could have stopped my client dozens of times during our call to point out that the demands of her job coupled with her Achiever/Responsibility combination was making it quite difficult for her to be home in time for dinner with her family. Telling her something she already likely knows and lives every day is less impactful than helping her use her themes to accomplish a goal. I find true joy in coaching when we are able to land on something meaningful for the client and when we can pursue it. 

The most important thing we can do is to really listen to our clients and help them move forward on goals that will help them make their lives better. Using CliftonStrengths helps me quickly figure out the motivations and the patterns behind the issues my clients are experiencing, but the power of the tool isn’t me pointing that out so much as it is using the tool to meet the commitments the client wants to make.

After my client said to me “It’s so simple!” I asked her, “So, what’s not simple about this?” Continuing to ask open ended questions based on where we were in the moment helped her figure out on her own just exactly how her talent themes were hindering her in this one area, and helped guide her on how she could use them differently to achieve this very important goal in her life. And because she was doing the driving, the action she needed to take became that much more clear as it was a commitment she made to herself. 

Getting out of your client’s way doesn’t mean they don’t need you. Coaches provide value by holding up a mirror for our clients, helping them see more clearly what they really want, then pushing them farther than they’ve pushed themselves toward commitment and action. The client is always the star of their own story and owning that story is key to creating commitment to the things that matter. As coaches, our supporting role is important in those key moments of discovery. But it is just that—supporting. It’s hard to get real with people and have positive impact on their lives if they are only playing a brief role in the coach’s narrative. 

In the end, it is “so simple.” The client knows best. If you want people to change their behavior and reach their most treasured goals by truly experiencing the power of strengths, they have to own the journey from the start.



Linda Moorman, Practice Consultant, joined Gallup in 1994. Linda’s consulting work supports executives and managers to change organizational culture by aligning their company’s mission with its execution. She contributes her expertise in strengths-based development, workplace engagement and talent-based hiring to client interventions that enable leaders to develop an engaged and productive workforce.

Linda is an expert in many Gallup selection instruments, including sales, management and leadership, and she has conducted qualitative research to determine the appropriate selection approach for clients. She consults with executives and managers on talent-based hiring and employee retention and development, and strategies to develop engaged and productive employees. Linda also provides in-depth consulting with a select list of clients on their sourcing, recruiting and hiring while ensuring the performance quality of analysts assigned to their account.

Linda's top 5 strengths are: Maximizer | Relator | Individualization | Input | Positvity

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