5 things I learnt speaking to a StrengthsFinder coach

You’ve taken your StrengthsFinder 2.0 and learnt more about yourself from it. What’s next , you ask? Besides labeling your strengths, and that is a great first step, it seems like the only way forward would be get a coach to help you with applying your strengths. That is why a week ago I spoke to Alex Wong, a StrengthsFinder coach from strengthsalchemy.com. I wanted to find out if a StrengthsFinder coach was for me.

This blogpost details the  5 things I learnt from the hour long conversation.

Lesson #1: Difference between coaches and mentors

This was one of the questions that Alex asked me during the session and I answered along the lines of mentors being found in the workplace while coaches were more engaged to help fulfill your hopes and dreams outside of work.

He was nice about it but it was the wrong answer. At least according to his website.

According to his website, a mentor is defined as “an expert who provides wisdom and guidance based on his or her own experience.” In the process of mentoring, the process of advising, counselling and coaching is often used. Indeed, the article goes on and states that the ” coaching process does not include advising or counseling, and focuses instead on individuals or groups setting and reaching their own objectives.”

I’ve since learnt that a StrengthsFinder coach for a me is one who focuses on reaching my objectives using the framework of StrengthsFinder.

Lesson #2: The coachee as a partner

What I realized during the session that I as the coachee was intimately involved in the coaching process. What this means is that I had to be fully engaged in moving the coaching session along. In other words, I wasn’t the client with the questions and the coach the one with the answers. I had to find my own answers with the coach as a guide.

As the coachee, you are the person that had to do most of the heavy lifting during the process. This includes setting your own objectives. Whether it is to a have more balanced work-life balance or to start a business, these objectives come from you. If you are considering getting a coach, I would suggest that you think about what are the specific outcomes you actually want from the coaching experience.

This will lead you to…

Lesson #3: Being Specific and understanding your why

As mentioned in lesson #2, being specific in your objectives help your coach understand how he can support you in your goals. Having a goal such as “allocate more time to do more volunteer work” is a lot more specific than “achieving a more fulfilling life.”

Being specific also helps immensely in thinking through your objectives. For example in “allocating more time to do volunteer work”, how much more time is more? For which general cause would you want to volunteer for? Maybe you would like to explore what you are already doing that you love to find the perfect match. These specifics help to make the vision clearer and help the coach and coachee in materializing it. For me just talking about my objectives helps in clarifying my thinking process.

In refining your objectives, your goal of “achieving a more fulfilling life” may ultimately translate to something that is a lot more actionable like “allocate 2 hours of volunteer work at a pet shelter every week.”

The next part of the puzzle would be connecting your why to your actions. Why would you want to allocate 2 hours of volunteer work at a pet shelter every week? It may be that you love animals and spending time with them helps you feel that you have a direct impact in caring for these animals while having fun at the same time.  Clarifying this helps you keep you on track.

Lesson #4: The coach as facilitator

Apart from setting your objectives, you’ll have to follow through by doing the scheduled “homework”. By talking through each week of any difficulties, successes or failures, the coach is essentially helping you tease out and clarify any patterns in your thinking. e.g. things that frustrate you and in this process make you more self-aware.

An example may be status quo bias where you feel that doing something different form what you are currently doing is a lesser way of doing things. I for one would be guilty of that bias.

He will also be your accountability partner, checking in with you every session on the status of your action items. For me, this is an extremely motivating factor for me to follow up and get things moving.

Lesson #5: Using StrengthsFinder

Ultimately, Alex is a StrengthFinder coach and I would be remiss if I did not mention that he would be using results from StrengthsFinder to help you along to fulfilling your objectives.

One way he does this is identifying how overuse of your strengths may distract you from your objectives. For example, since I had learner as one of my top 5 strengths, I had a risk of learning of everything I knew about an issue but never taking an action on it. To put it in practical terms, I may want to volunteer about a pet shelter but spend too much time researching on which pet shelter I can make the most difference in and has a time frame I can commit versus just selecting one near where I live and going for it.

In the end, I think that taking this action is the most important thing. Whether or not you succeed, at the least you have tried. You can then pick up from where you left off and move forward.

Other resources:

Apart from the StrengthFinder coaching, I also asked Alex about other avenues for which we can improve using our strengths. One other avenue that he suggested was attending the StrengthsFinder Singapore Network meet up groups for which he is one of the organisers of. I attended one of the meetup groups prior to meeting him and I must commend him and his team for having a well-run event with a host of activities happening throughout the year.

I also squeezed in some time to ask him about StandOut 2.0 by Marcus Buckingham.

The book states that each strength interact with one another and combine to create a certain “personality”, a way of engaging the world – a “strength role”. Taking the StandOut Assessment helps people identify their “strengths roles”.By identifying the top 2, the report also includes a application section where how exactly you can apply that theme is spelt out.

You can find a video of the test I took below.

Alex opined where StrengthsFinder had a great deal of flexibility in how you can apply your strengths, the the StandOut assessment on the other hand was a lot more prescriptive. My opinion after having tried it is that while it is useful to know that it out there, this approach may not be for everyone as everyone is hardwired differently.

One other thing that Alex mentioned was that StrengthsFinder 2.0 has 34 strengths and the chances of another person having the same top 5 talents is remote indeed. In the end, this comes down to almost thinking of your top 5 Strengths as unique to you. The StandOut 2.0 on the other hand has 9 strengths roles of which you focus on 2. There is a higher chance another person may have the same top 2 strengths roles.


In the end, would I want to hire a StrengthsFinder coach ? Perhaps not yet.

I came to conclusion that while the session was really helping in understanding the ins and out of a coaching session , I’m still wasn’t sure if a StrengthsFinder coach was the way to go. There are other avenues for which you may achieve your objectives and I think only by trying them out for size will you find one that fits you perfectly .


5 thoughts on “5 things I learnt speaking to a StrengthsFinder coach

  1. Hi James, thanks for the well-written article, and for the compliments on running the StrengthsFinder Singapore Network.

    Whether or not one engages a coach, I highly recommend that people identify mentors in their lives and make it a point to get mentored. As the popular saying goes, we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. That is one of the ways that we can improve, and those who are looking for mentors can look forward to an up-and-coming platform called “Unibly” which connects Mentors to Mentees.

    With regards to coaching, it is important for one to find a coach whose approach, values and personality are a good match with yours. As Strengths Coach, I love the StrengthsFinder tool, and effective management of our talents, such as avoiding overuse, is just one of the ways we identify and address weaknesses in our lives. The objective is to ultimately to help people grow into their full potential so that they can perform their best at work, and build fulfilling relationships in their lives. To do so effectively, one also has to be aware of many other things such as:

    – What are the toxic triggers in your life? What is causing them and how can you manage them?
    – What are your belief systems and do they serve you? How do you change them?
    – What are some automatic behaviors (patterns) that you may be engaged in unconsciously that sabotages your goals?
    – Are your goals ecological or do they actually cause damage to some other part of your life? How do you align them?
    – How can you get to, and stay, in your A+ zone most of the time?

    “When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” StrengthsFinder is extremely versatile but isn’t suitable for everyone or purpose. For those who are interested in career profiling and selection, the Strong Interest Inventory is used to help people create clarity for their careers. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is also integrated into the coaching conversations.

    For those who decided not to engage a coach, here’s another way to accelerate your growth and achieve your objectives – Create a Mastermind group. It takes some work to put the correct people together, and commitment to keep it going, but it is a great way to support each other’s goals as well.

    I understand the inertia and concerns when it comes to engaging a coach. It took me a long time to engage a coach myself. I’ve dived into books, workshops, and seminars. But when I had a coach that provided me with laser-focused attention on my goals, my progress was greatly accelerated. There was definite some pressure, discomfort, and cost but it was all well worth it.

    Thanks for reading my comments. Keep up the good work with your blog!

    1. Hi Alex, thanks for the detailed comment! Will be definitely looking into a Mastermind group…Are there some resources that you can recommend with regards to setting one up ?

      1. Napolean Hill writes quite extensively about starting Mastermind groups. A trip to the library should be all you need to get more information on Mastermind Groups. 🙂

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