Strength-Based Coaching or Supervision

For several years, the term “strength-based” has been used often.  What, exactly, does it mean?  It means literally, to focus and discuss what’s going well and what is working well for the situation and to bring about change from that perspective.  Here’s an example from athletics:

A runner has a coach.  After the race, the coach notes that the time is a full second better than the last time.  Then the coach points out that the runner made some sort of arm movement going around turns that could have slowed the time a little.  The runner wasn’t aware of it, and the coach schedules some sessions to videotape the runner and work on arm movements.

What was the main take-away from the runner/coach meeting?  The arm movement and what could be done to “fix” it.  The fact that the time actually improved over the last race was not the focus, although it was mentioned first.  This the old coaching model.  The focus is on the problem that needs improvement and how the problem gets fixed.  The runner comes away feeling that there is something wrong that needs fixing, not even remembering that there was an improvement in time.

After spending years working in the old coaching model, I’ve begun my journey on the strength-based road.  Know that the strength-based road takes longer.  No superhighway here.  Let’s go back to our runner.  Supposing the coach pointed out the better time and asked the runner something like, “How do you think your time improved?” or “What do you think contributed to the better time?”  “What can you practice to get this time again?”  The runner leaves this session proud of the improvement in time.

While watching (and taping) the practice for the next race, the coach may praise the time improvement – perhaps it’s the same time as the last time, so the coach would point out that the improvement that made it happen before is still working.  Then the coach may say, “Look at your arms here.”  The runner may say “I never thought about that. Maybe if I kept them a little straighter, the time would improve.” The coach says, “Great idea.  I have some tips that may help you with this.”

Yes, this takes a little longer, but the runner is now a participant in the solution, feels good about the proposed solution, and is much more likely to keep at it.

A strength-based focus can yield all sorts of great results, at work, and elsewhere.

Do try this at home, and please share how it goes.