Our strengths are what give us the capacity for top performance, so usually we can find strengths behind successes. Below is a helpful exercise to use with clients when you are helping them discover the strengths behind their successes. In this exercise, we’ll list some successes and try to uncover the strengths that made them possible.
Step 1: List Successes
List at least five significant accomplishments. What have you done that you’re proud of? What have others hailed or appreciated your successes? Where have you won competitions or awards, reached an important goal or made a real difference? Focus on a specific task, project, or event (not a role that stretched over months or years). If you can, pick things in different areas (work, family, sports, service, leadership) and different times of life, from childhood up.
This exercise is useful for those who are doing life purpose discovery process for the first time, or who struggled to determine their strengths.
Clients who are younger or more insecure may draw a blank on accomplishments, or be shy about stating them. You can usually break through this barrier by starting with informational questions about their life (“Tell me more about what you do at work.”), and gradually drilling down toward what they’ve done well.
Step 2: Identify Strengths Behind Successes
Now take each of your successes or accomplishments in turn. Which of your talents and abilities does this story highlight? What did you bring to the table that made this a success? Which parts came naturally to you or had a big impact with what felt like little effort?
Here are some additional debriefing questions for drawing out strengths behind successes:
“What did you do that made this thing succeed?”
“What skills were needed to do this?”
“Which part energized you or came naturally to you?”
“What did you see or do in the situation that others couldn’t or wouldn’t?”
“What did others affirm in you when you accomplished this?”
“What did you do that made the most difference with the least effort?”
Tony Stoltzfus is a best-selling author, leadership coach, master coach trainer and director of the Leadership Metaformation Institute. Additional information on this topic can be found in Tony’s book, The Christian Life Coaching Handbook.