A Coaching Metaphor—Character Strengths: Nurture and Grow Them | College of Executive Coaching
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A Coaching Metaphor—Character Strengths: Nurture and Grow Them

August 14, 2019
By Jeffrey E. Auerbach, Ph.D., MCC

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What do others admire and respect about you? Most likely, it's your "character strengths." Your character strengths are qualities that make you unique, that are "core" to who you are and usually are characteristics that others notice about you and appreciate in you.

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If you want to develop more of your potential, learn about your character strengths. If you want to be a better coach, master the art of recognizing strengths and helping others know and leverage their strengths to achieve their goals.

Why do we call them "character" strengths? There are two main strengths assessments I use in my coaching practice, the Gallup CliftonStrengths, and the Values in Action Institute's VIA Assessment. The Gallup assessment helps people identify 34 talents that can be developed into strengths. The VIA Assessment helps one identify their 24 character strengths. The character strengths that the VIA highlights have been the subject of extensive research by the VIA Institute on Character and positive psychologists. These 24 character strengths are components of the six universal virtues: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence. Our character strengths are qualities such as kindness, forgiveness, fairness and bravery. These characteristics are a vital part of who we are and are generally considered valuable by others.

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Our character strengths are the core of our identity. Research tells us that when we express our character strengths through our thoughts or our behavior we feel more connected, are genuinely happier and are more productive. As VIA Institute Education Director, Dr. Ryan Niemiec says, "Your curiosity helps you explore new ideas, people and places; your teamwork allows you to collaborate on projects and see the value of every person's contribution; and your bravery helps you move out of your comfort zone, challenging yourself and others."

Nurture Your Character Strengths

Here is a coaching metaphor you can share with your clients from Dr. Niemiec about the 24 character strengths we all possess, albeit they are in varying levels of intensity within us and importance to us.

"Imagine you discover you have 24 seeds, each a different color and size. You plant them side by side, not knowing what will bloom. You make sure each seed gets sunlight, rich soil, and lots of water. You watch each seed carefully, noticing a few sprout quickly while others bud slowly. Over time some grow into beautiful flowers, others into tall, leafy trees or hardy bushes. Others remain modest, just producing an unremarkable but hardy plant. Each is important to tend to, because what it becomes is a product not only of its internal makeup and the environment, but also of the attention you give it. And each contributes its part to the landscape.

Some of your character strengths grow in an obvious way—flourishing and easily noticed by friends and family. Other strengths can be overshadowed by your more dominant strengths, like a small flower attempting to grow underneath a leafy tree. You'll find that some of your character strengths have been dormant, unnoticed and unappreciated for months or years. Other strengths are rough around the edges like a prickly rose bush. And some will appear weak like a plant drooping without water. In any case, for each of your character strengths, remember this adage: what you attend to, grows."

What character strengths are you attending to? Do you know your top five signature strengths? Do you consciously focus on using them on a daily basis? Which of your strengths are most important for you to utilize now to achieve your highest potential?

There is much to learn about our character strengths and the strengths of those around us. If you want to understand more about your own character strengths and how to use them for greater success, and help your clients do the same, consider a specialty Strengths-Based Coaching training program.

Source: The Power of Character Strengths by Ryan M. Niemiec and Robert E. McGrath
The College of Executive Coaching offers the only dual assessment, post-graduate strengths-based coaching certification leading participants to master both the Gallup CliftonStrengths and the VIA Inventory of Strengths Assessment, taught by strengths experts, Dr. Ryan Niemiec, Dr. Jeffrey Auerbach and Erin Passons.

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