Coaching using strengths or weaknesses?

There has been a recent push in the executive coaching literature to focus on strengths in coaching as opposed to weaknesses. The literature claims that one cannot change one’s default position effectively and, therefore, strengths ought to be used to compensate for one’s weaknesses.  A number of organizations, including Gallup are strong proponents of this approach.

While there is a rationale for this approach, much of the literature shows that one’s weaknesses are a result of the overuse of one’s strengths.  Having one compensate by simply using one’s strengths doesn’t really make much sense.  And, the psychological literature abounds with research showing that there are a variety of systematic approaches to helping individuals effectively change behavior.  One good example of that is the NFL football coach, Tom Coughlin, who, while not exactly turning into a warm fuzzy, learned to have a better connection with his players which helped to improve his team’s performance. The players were much more likely to willingly follow his lead rather than being commanded to do it, ofttimes grudgingly.