Ever since I fell in love with the art of Coaching in 2007 when I read Coaching for Performance by Sir John Whitmore and subsequently trained with the Coaching Academy in the UK, I have held true to the simple definition that a great coach fosters performance by:
1) Asks simple and powerful questions of their client
2) Listens deeply to the answers, in anticipation of a valuable insight or a catalyst for change
Four years into my coaching career, I was introduced to Clifton Strengths as an employee of Gallup, devouring various great publications including Strengthsfinder 2.0, Strengths Based Leadership and Strengths Based Parenting, all of which are important ‘bibles’ of the Strengths Movement.
During my Executive Coach training, I had the privilege of attending Gallup’s Accelerated Strengths Coaching Course, a five-day fire hose of information on how to fully understand and coach others on all 34 of the Clifton Strengths Themes. Anyone seeking to understand the motivations of others, or how to get the best outcome from a key relationship would benefit from understanding Gallup’s Strengths language, and how it applies to human behaviour.
In my first year of being an accredited Gallup Strengths Coach, I prepared for all of my corporate client coaching sessions by developing and documenting a list of ‘curiosity questions’ for each of my client’s top 10 themes. In most cases, I had little useful context about the client’s circumstance (mostly I had a client name and an employer identity, but often not even a role title). I found that my list of curiosity questions were enough to build a fluid and impactful Strengths Coaching Session, resulting in either valuable new insights or important new actions for each client. After about 12 to 18 months, I had internalised these key questions to the point where I was no longer in need of preparing and documenting a list for each client prior to the Coaching Session.
Five or six years later, I was inspired by my Maximiser (#1), Input (#4) and Learner (#2) to re-visit and document my Curiosity Questions, in the hope of assisting other Strengths Coaches on their journey toward Strengths Mastery (a never-ending journey!). Over the course of several weeks, I compiled my Top 5 List of Favourite Curiosity Questions for each of the 34 Clifton Strengths Themes in a spreadsheet.
Not satisfied with this initial database of single-theme oriented questions, I then asked if I could develop a similar list of Theme Combination Questions, which are crucial to the richness of the Clifton Strengths language. Building a matrix connecting all of the 34 Strengths Themes to each other, I created a Theme Combination Questions database, useful only as a starting point and a bit of inspiration for other Strengths Coaches, Leaders and Advocates to come up with their own unique questions.
In the spirit of Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web who ensured we all now have free access to this essential resource), I have captured all of the questions above in a complimentary spreadsheet (Clifton Strengthsfinder Coaching Questions) that you can download from my own website here. A tool to not only explore client performance but within your day-to-day as well.
If you find this database useful in any way as you engage with your own strengths clients and community, please send me feedback, stories and suggestions on how best to improve this resource!