Strengths-Based Coaching: Creating Real Impact for Clients

Why did you get into coaching? One of the most likely reasons is that you wanted to have a real, positive and lasting impact on the lives of your clients.Unfortunately, many of the approaches that coaches currently use in their work don’t have this kind of lasting effect, for the simple reason that they focus on what clients currently don’t do well, as opposed to what they do.It sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? After all, the client has come to you, the coach, because they have an issue in their life (or a host of issues) they want to change. Change, by definition, calls for something new. Surely there can’t be any harm in helping clients figure out new skills that can help them change their circumstances.

Well, yes and no.

A coaching approach based on the usual method of trying to strengthen these acquired skills – i.e., things that don’t come naturally to them – may have an impact on a client’s life, but it is likely to be short lived and superficial. (It’s also, quite honestly, the kind of stuff you find in self-help books and magazines that want to help you, essentially “become someone else.”)

Clients come to us as coaches most often because they don’t know what to do to change and often cannot articulate why what they are trying to do isn’t working. Over the past 30 years of coaching, my business partner and I have found that real results come when we help our clients discover what it is they already do well, and put it to greater use in their lives. We call this strengths-based coaching.

Using their natural gifts consciously in their lives not only tends to help a client blow through whatever blocks they might be facing, it’s more fun for the client. After all, who doesn’t enjoy doing what they do well? It’s a winning combination that inevitably leads to a real, lasting impact.

Of course, a total focus on a client’s strengths isn’t always an option – sometimes, in order to overcome a block, a client really does need to acquire new skills. But even so, we do our best to focus on those new skills in a way that honors who the client is by taking advantage of their natural capacities. When letting go of roles that require acquired capacities is not an option – such as job, for example, that doesn’t really satisfy the client, but which they can’t quit for the time being – then coaching should explore how the client can keep the end objectives (to keep the job) but modify the means used to achieve it so that they use their natural skills and abilities as much as possible.

In the end, it’s all about making room for your client’s brilliance, and how that person can put it to work in overcoming their challenges. Ultimately, the client needs to accomplish his or her personal objectives and goals by using their own natural strengths.

Gary Jordan, Ph.D., has over 27 years of experience in clinical psychology, behavioral assessment, individual development, and coaching. He earned his doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology – Berkeley.  He is co-creator of Perceptual Style Theory, a revolutionary psychological assessment system that teaches people how to unleash their deepest potentials for success. He’s a partner at Vega Behavioral Consulting, Ltd., a consulting firm that specializes in helping people discover their true skills and talents.  For free information on how to succeed as an entrepreneur or coach, create a thriving business and build your bottom line doing more of what you love, visit

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