8 years on

8 years, where has the time gone? They say time flies when you are having fun, how so very true. This year will mark my 8th year of becoming both an ICF and a Gallup Accredited coach.  My journey really started in March 2009 when I first took the Strengths Finder 2.0 as it was known then, at Verizon as part of a sales team.  Like most people, I recall reading my report and thinking ‘yes that sounds me’ but not doing much more with it, our team went on to have a one-hour group ‘session’.  It wasn’t until 3 years later after I had moved to Australia with Verizon that I really looked at it again. I had just come off the back of an amazing and what I now know to be a life changing course Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective people facilitated by Brian Bailey, the same man who introduced me to strengths 3 years before.  It got me thinking about my mission and purpose in life and that was not to be a great IT Salesperson.  What were the things I loved doing, that gave me joy, had me in flow and got me thinking when can I do that again?  It all stemmed around helping others, bringing people together and getting them inspired to do something.  I asked Brian if he would be my mentor as I believed I wanted to do what he did.  He kindly agreed and suggested I got some training in both coaching and facilitation.  He also suggested I look back at my Strengths and in conjunction with my newfound knowledge of what ICF coaching ‘really’ was the path for the journey became so much clearer.

At the time I worked for the worst boss imaginable.  Gallup in their research find most people don’t leave a job, they leave a boss.  This was true for me, but I am also thankful as it lead me to a new path and put a turbo charge on the journey. In 2012 whilst in the first Australian ran Accelerated Coaches training I met Claire De Carteret.  I expressed that I was looking for a new role in the Learning and Development space.  At the time Claire’s husband worked for a small company who ran experiential L&D programs.  I secured a role that was meant to be part sales which is where my experience lay and part facilitation.  A year later after learning lots I decided to leave as I was not doing so much of the facilitation and the Strengths bug had struck me hard and I really wanted to pursue working in this space.

It was from here that The Strengths Partners was born.  Three coaches who had met each other during the Gallup training that set up a partnership together.  My Activator, WOO, Positivity and Self Assurance were driving forces in making it happen and spreading the word.  Due to the other two partners having other work and family commitments I ended up 6 months into the partnership working on my own now 7 years on and wow what a lot I have learnt.

Some of those key learnings and tips I will share with you here and on the Gallup Called to Coach podcast. Note these lesson and tips are coming from my filter of the world, from my own talent themes.  Doesn’t mean all of these will work for you and your style.

The 4 key learnings

  1. Coaching is more about asking questions than giving advice.  A good coach stays curious, asks questions, and is led by the coachees map.  Coaching is different to mentoring or consulting where you might be being paid to offer your advice.  That is OK too but being clear about the difference helps.
  2. The ICF accredited process is rigorous and is the gold standard for a reason.  It helps you be a better coach.  You can find out more about the process by visiting The international Coaching Federation website.  Gallup also have some very helpful information on how you can use your learning credits to start the process.  In 2021 I held an information and experiences session with 3 other Gallup accredited and ICF coaches with ACC, PCC and MCC credentials that you can watch and hear about their journeys and advice.
  3. Slow down to be able speed up.  Being high Maximizer I used to want to give my client everything, put every great activity into a workshop, cram it in, rush through it as there was more great stuff to come.  I learnt that less is more.  We need to slow down, allow them to connect, to share and learn first what their talents mean for them and others before rushing on.  We also need to give things more time to do it justice.  Something like The Best of Us as an activity is one of the most powerful activities you can use.  Don’t rush it, dig deeper, slow down, ask questions don’t just have them write the response, read it out and move on.  More to come on that in a later blog.
  4. Partner – Again I may be biased by my talents and the fact that the whole business philosophy of The Strengths Partners is about partnership but it’s also aligned to one of the key  guiding principles of strengths development, we need one another.  Look at who your best partners are and seek out their help.  Look to partner with your client to create awesome outcomes.  Look to partner with other coaches, on design and or delivery.  As a guide we work on the 80/20 rule.  Who ever has sold the ‘gig’ gets 20% of the revenue and who ever is doing the delivery gets 80%.

“If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together”

Old African Proverb

My top tips

Sales Tips

  1. You don’t need a niche.  This might be controversial and again my own opinion and yes possible against the advice of a lot of ‘business gurus’ I often say my niche is humans.  My background is IT, IT sales to be precise.  As I sit here and type this, I actually can’t think of an IT sales team I have worked with since leaving Verizon.  Yes, I have worked with lots of technical teams, did I need the knowledge to be able to help them?  No, did it help that I spoke their language?  A little probably more from a trust and credibility standpoint.  Have I ever been a Finance Manager?  No.  Can I still help a finance team discover and use their strengths without finance knowledge?  Yes.  I believe having a niche maybe helps you market yourself but I also believe you are your differentiator. Your unique coaching and facilitation style. Think about what you want to be known for and speak about that.  For me with The Strengths Partners its helping Managers and Teams discover and use their strengths  and navigate change.  For me as Charlotte Blair its about helping mentor, coach and support other strengths coaches.
  2. Be visible, once your clear what you want to be known for, let people know where to find you and what you believe.  Know where your target market is and ‘speak’ to them through which ever platform you choose be it Insta, Facebook, LinkedIn or your website/blog/podcast.  If they can’t find you, they don’t know you exist. A website doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg.  Nor does it need to be perfect, just somewhere they can learn more about you.  Do not ask me about search engine optimisation as I haven’t worked that one out for myself yet, if you like my website, I am happy to put you on to Cristian who developed it.
  3. Focus on the outcomes not the activity. If you follow the Gallup Webcast Facebook page, then you might see posts like ‘what activity can I do for 2 hours’ my reply is always ‘what is the outcome you are looking for?’ If you want to learn more about this then download my Top 10 Tips For Great Outcomes you have to start with the end in mind – a key Covey habit!
  4. Once you know what outcomes your client wants, tailor your proposal to show you were listening.  Use their language, even have a ‘what we heard’ page.  Show that you are the consultant the one that can help them.
  5. Don’t be afraid to push back.  When they ask you to come and do a 1 hour session for the team but in your heart you know this is too short and you need a least a day, tell them.  This is where understanding their goals and desired outcomes comes in and then the evidence and impact.   ‘So, Ms Team Manager, I am hearing you want to have the team have a great understanding of their talents and strengths and work better together, to break down silos and reduce friction. That’s a lot and is achievable, but not in an hour.  Rome was not built in a day.  Let’s start on this journey and I can support you but to achieve this we need a minimum of a day’.  Typically, I don’t do anything less than half a day for a discovery as we just scratch the surface.  Yes, with Covid and virtual we break it down to 2 x 2 hours or 4 x 2 hours.
  6. Add Value – Share resources that you think will be valuable to your client (see next section for my favourite resources) this might be podcasts, books articles, the team’s activity guide, suggest they buy their own version of cascade. A lot of coaches say to me but if I give them the resources and my good stuff, they won’t need me.  Not true, they will still need you and are more likely to use you as you add so much value.  I have clients who have their own internally accredited coaches, they still value partnering with me for the knowledge skill and experience I bring, the external viewpoint and credibility.  Hey if they did go on to do this all internally themselves, isn’t that a good thing for them and the strengths movement?  You lit the spark!
  7. Ask for referrals, 99% of people (that’s not hard-core evidence by the way just my experience) are very happy to help, as humans we like helping others.  A new meta-analysis in the journal Psychological Bulletin shows that helping others also improves your own health and happiness.  My mother always taught me if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
  8. If you are trying to get in front of a decision maker then let them experience CliftonStrengths for themselves.  Offer them a free assessment either Full 34 and or the Manager report and a report debrief.  I find it takes little convincing after that, showing them some of the amazing resources available in Cascade will help them see what could be possible from a team perspective.

Process Tips and my favourite resource

  1. Gallup Access I have been a subscriber to Gallup Access from pretty much the beginning since the move from the Strengths Center. I find the flexibility with code management, the reporting and learning modules invaluable. Downloading reports was once clunky can now be done with batch reporting and allows me to download a whole team reports at the click on the mouse.  Access doesn’t cost me anything as I buy $1500 worth of codes at the time of renewal. To find out more about the difference between consumer and subscription, contact Gallup support to discuss your options
  2. Cascade, if you are not using it, you are so missing a trick.  I could not live without this tool, and I recommend all my customers who would like to be strengths based to buy their own version.  There are many customers for whom I manage their updates and guide them on possible uses.  If you have never heard of it check it out at https://releasingstrengths.com/cascade/
  3. The Manager report – I love this report and so do the customers I have shared it with.  Its my new go to standard package, the full 34 report plus the Manager report (I never sell just top 5 anymore) the language is so helpful and specific to managing others be it as a leader or a project manager as an example.  It has specific blindspots that are different to the standard report, different actions items, reflection guides and goal setting.  9/10 people I coached recently who had their Manager reports told me they got a new job or a promotion to a leader after reading and using the language from the Manager report. You can find it here on the Gallup Store
  4. CliftonStrengths Resource Guide for Managers, this is a must for any Manager or team lead who’s team has also completed CliftonStrengths. It has tips for leading, the blindspots for all 34 themes and tips for managing others high in a particular theme.  My favourite section is 7 expectations for excellence part.  Really handy when you have someone surprised that Communication as a theme is not higher for them or feels they struggle to Communicate, as an exmaple.  There is information for each of the 34 themes on how to communicate clearly.  I bundle this resource in when working with Managers.  Many tell me its their go to resource. You can buy it on the Gallup store.
  5. My next go to resource and favourite is the Teams Activity Guide its packed full of great ideas to use with groups.  I think I have tested pretty much all of them, I recommend all my clients to get a copy.  I am currently working with one of Australia’s largest mobile carriers and they make this resource available for all those who have been through an individual or teams experience.  The instructions are clear and well laid out and the outcomes positive.
  6. Picture cards – I am a big fan of imagery, metaphors and analogies. It’s probably my Communication theme. I use picture cards of some form in pretty much every workshop I do. If virtual I use Deckhive and if physical then I have about 10 packs I will use depending on the size of the group, either 1 per table or I lay a big pack across the floor.  I have a list of 30+ questions I use with Picture Cards that you can find on my website.  I have made these free for the next 24 hours from the live podcast.
  7. Other tools, I do some work for Learning Republic, we deliver leadership programs for corporate clients. Ben Larkey and the team have developed an amazing platform which in a very simple way leverages some well-known models and frameworks like SBI, GROW, Johari Window and the Trust equation to name just a few.
  8. Last but the most import and valuable is my own Coach and Mentor.  When I started the ICF accreditation process, and I found I need to have some of my recording reviewed by a mentor I thought at first I would see it as a tick box exercise.  How wrong I was.  I have grown so much as a coach having sessions with Clare Norman every 3 weeks.  We shift between mentoring and reviewing a recording to supervision or coaching me on my own goal.  Clare in not a CliftonStrengths coach but is an exceptional coach.  The concept of everybody needs a coach is so true. 

I hope this has been useful, any questions just drop me an email or connect with me on Facebook where are share other tips and resources.

Charlotte Blair
22 February 2022