Coaching – How far would you go?

Why do we need a coach?
Hear how one pivotal coaching session transformed my perspective forever.

How far would you go to get a coach?

Taking the CliftonStrengths® assessment is one thing, doing something with the results is where the benefit lies. Back in 2014 I wanted to discover these benefits for myself. The five words from the assessment looked very nice, but how could I use them. There is lots of information about the talent themes online and I researched my top 5 themes of Individualization®, Learner®, Relator®, Maximizer® and Harmony®. The missing piece was how I could really use these themes in my life? How could they make a difference for me?

Many of the podcasts spoke of getting a coach and the importance of coaching. Living in the UK, searching to find a coach specialising in the CliftonStrengths (or StrengthsFinder® as it was then), revealed only two coaches in the whole of the South of England.

Setting out on a 200-mile round trip, I drove to Swindon for my first coaching session. Spending time with someone knowledgeable in each of the CliftonStrengths themes and helping me to unpack my top 5 was incredible. It gave me a completely fresh perspective of what the themes meant and how they can help me. Further coaching continues to help me get the most out of my themes and apply them practically to different situations.

The Power of a Coach

In August 2018, Becky Hammond kindly interviewed me to share my story. You can hear how coaching has transformed my life. Understanding more about my themes I can proactively use them to make a real difference.

Hear Richard’s Strengths Story on a podcast with Becky Hammond

Richard Sterry coaching strengths story power need coach
Click on the image to play the podcast

Passing it on

Following Gallup training, I studied to become a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach in 2015. It is a real privilege to help others understand more about themselves so they too can make a difference. I work with individuals, teams and leaders in a variety of business sectors and church environments.

Looking for a coach?

Talking to a coach is not a weakness, in fact, it helps you go further than you could on your own. See the Benefits of Coaching for more information.

Many of the phrases I hear after a coaching session include; ‘Having permission to be myself’ ‘Being liberated to be who I really am’ ‘Empowered to do more of the right things’. How could a coach help you right now?

To find a strengths coach in the UK or Worldwide search on the Soar coaching platform.

Strengths Twins Reach 50

Celebrating 50 sets of Strengths TwinsStrengths Twins finder triplet quad same top 5 themes

Searching for a Strengths Twin is a tall order when the probability is 1 in 278,000. Looking for someone who shares your same top 5 Clifton Strengths® themes can be a worldwide hunt. A free and easy matching service has recently connected 50 sets of Strengths Twins.

We each have our uniqueness and discovering your Strengths Twin enhances the experience. The complexities of humanity are far greater than 5 words. Talking to someone who shares your same top 5 themes brings a deeper understanding of how your theme combinations can work together. It can draw out fresh aspects of each theme to expand more opportunities. It can also reveal some of the struggles you may face to use your themes productively. Sharing these with someone who really understands who you are, is a unique opportunity.

Following the launch of the Strengths Twin finder in August 2017, Releasing Strengths are regularly connecting people who share the same top 5 Clifton Strengths themes. As more people register, the chances of finding a match increase. Several pairs of twins have grown into triplets, quads and we even have one set of quintuplets.

Currently, 41 pairs of Twins, 6 sets of Triplets and 2 groups of Quads and 1 set of Quints are sharing the experience. Registrations span 49 different countries with the majority in the US, followed by Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. Surprisingly, one pair of Strengths Twins work for the same company and in the same office. The most common themes from those registering are Learner®, Strategic®, Relator®, Achiever®, Individualization®, Maximizer® and Input®.

Do your themes shape your career choice?

Possibly, the themes help us understand our talents and how we best do things, they do not identify which industry sector to choose. One group of Strength Quads have all applied their themes to the same career path, with roles in Learning and Development. Conversely, one pair of Strength Twins consists of an Exec PA and a golf course groundsman. They both take care and responsibility in looking after their very different subjects.

Have you discovered your Strengths Twin?

Some people want to retain their uniqueness and don’t want to find their strengths twin, which is fine. We just provide a matching service and leave you to take up the conversation as much or as little as you want. Most people like to share their similarities and differences, then leave it at that. Others have met up to get to know each other better. What is your experience? If you have a story you would like to share, please contact us.

Discover your Strengths Twin

Register at to join the search for your Strengths Twin. When we identify a match, we connect you with your Strengths Twin and you both receive a Twin Certificate. Strengths Twins is a completely free service from Releasing Strengths

Strengths Twins are two people with the same Clifton Strengths top 5 themes, in any order. The search is still on to connect identical Strengths Twins, two people with the same top 5 themes in the same order. Out of 34 possible themes and assuming a normal distribution pattern, the chances are 1 in 33 million.

The CliftonStrengths assessment formerly StrengthsFinder® reveals our innate talents and how we can best apply ourselves. More than 18 million people have taken the CliftonStrengths assessment with over 6000 people taking it every day. Why Strengths? Discover more here.


4 Leadership Domains – Part 1

4 leadership domains strength strategic influencing relationship executing cascade

Understanding all the 34 CliftonStrengths® themes of talent can be a lot to initially comprehend. Dividing them down into 4 Domains of Leadership provides a clearer perspective of how the themes operate.

A balanced team has a distribution of themes across each of the Domains which can be more productive and deliver better results.

Here we look at the four Domains in turn.

Strategic Thinking Domain

Themes: Analytical®, Context®, Futuristic®, Ideation®, Input®, Intellection®, Learner® and Strategic®.

The Strategic Thinking Domain is all about the What. They know what to do.

These are the thinking themes that deeply know what is going on. They assess the situation and understand the past. Using their fountain of knowledge, they look to the horizon for inspiration to define what can be possible. Supported by factual evidence they know which way we should proceed. They become the foundation for establishing the best course of action.

Influencing Domain

Themes: Activator®, Command®, Communication®, Competition®, Maximizer®, Self-Assurance®, Significance® and Woo®.

The Influencing Domain is all about the Why. They bring why we need to do something.

This is the powerhouse of motivation and drive, crafted with the art of persuasion. Delivering a compelling message they can get everyone on board. They know how and when to take charge, speak up and provide a voice for moving things forward. They bring the energy and inertia to get the party started causing others to think, act and want to join in.

Relationship Building Domain

Themes: Adaptability®, Connectedness®, Developer®, Empathy®, Harmony®, Includer®, Individualization®, Positivity® and Relator®.

The Relationship Building Domain is about the Who. They know who to involve and who is best for each task.

These people build strong relationships deeply understanding the unique needs and feelings of others. They draw in those on the outside and bind the team together. They know how each person can play their part and smooth out interactions encouraging investment for personal growth. Realising a wider concept and through collaboration, they recognise that together great things can happen.

Executing Domain

Themes: Achiever®, Arranger®, Belief®, Consistency®, Deliberative®, Discipline®, Focus®, Responsibility® and Restorative®.

The Executing Domain is about the How. They know how to do something and can do it well.

These are the people who can get things done and done well. Clarifying the purpose and setting out a structure, they make the most of the resources available. They provide the stamina to reach the goal and take ownership of what needs to happen. They anticipate the risks, picking up the pieces when things fall down, so they can deliver consistent results every time.

Creating Flow – What, Why, Who, How

Knowing where each Domain is coming from, helps to understand how they can interact with each other.

Does it matter the which order we consider the four Leadership Domains? Maybe not. However, working out what to do and getting everyone on board might need to come before embarking on the task. Setting out the Domains in this order demonstrates the flow within a team.

  • The Strategic Thinkers establish the What of what needs to happen. Gathering the evidence to deliver the Why of why we should do it.
  • The Influencers take the Why to get everyone on board by embracing the What.
  • The Relationship Builders keep everyone together establishing the Who of who can do each part.
  • The Executors delight in the How, considering how to do it properly and ‘When’.

Going a step further, the Enhanced Team Grid in Cascade places the 4 Domains deliberately in this order to help facilitate team discussions. Seeing the link between the domains provides more meaning when creating fully functioning teams. Gallup places the Domains in alphabetical order.

 Team Balance

A balanced team needs people to work in all four Domains. If the presence of a Domain is absent or underutilised the team may excel in some aspects but fail in others.

Missing Leadership Domains

  • Without the Strategic Thinking Domain the team may work effectively together and make progress, but are they doing the right things?
  • Lacking in the Influencing themes a team may understand each other but they could feel disconnected, undervalued or misunderstood by those in the wider environment.
  • Missing the Relationship Building themes may result in people working in isolation and focusing more on the task, than the people completing the task. It may feel like a functional group of people rather than a collective team.
  • A team with the absence of the Executing themes may have some great plans, buy into the vision and appreciate each other’s company. How efficiently will they achieve results?

Dominant Leadership Domains

Contrastingly, the over dominance of themes in a Domain may skew a team in a different way.

  • Strong Strategic Thinking themes would increase the seriousness and intensity of a team. This could result in lots of planning with not so much action.
  • Big Influencing themes provide bundles of energy and enthusiasm that some may find a little overwhelming, perhaps undervaluing their need to think. Occasionally the team may dart off in any number of directions, which could cause frustrations with colleagues who are not ready to proceed.
  • Lots of Relationship Building themes creates a very social environment which works well if everyone is in agreement. However, there may be the avoidance of initiating a change or challenging an issue, to save rocking the boat or causing an upset.
  • An abundance of the Executing themes will create a lot of detail with highly efficient processes, however, the human needs may take second place to achieve the end result.

Effective working and collaboration come from understanding what each of the Leadership Domains can contribute and how they depend on each other. In Part 2 we will discuss what the people in each Domain need in order to thrive.

CliftonStrengths® was formerly called StrengthsFinder®, click here to find out more.

4 Domains of Leadership – Part 2

strengths leadership domains needs strategic thinking influencing relationship building executingA team may have a good mix of talent, shared values and a high degree of trust. However there is one aspect we often overlook which may be holding the team back?

Previously we discussed in Part 1 the 4 Leadership Domains and their special contributions. We also looked at how the Domains interact and the importance of creating a balanced team.

A team with great potential and an awareness of strengths can still struggle if their fundamental needs are missing. Accommodating the preferences across the team can make a vast difference to the level of contribution from individuals. Each of the 34 StrengthsFinder® themes has their own specific needs, here we look more at the needs of the 4 Domains. What do they need in order to thrive?

Strategic Thinking Domain

Themes: Analytical®, Context®, Futuristic®, Ideation®, Input®, Intellection®, Learner® and Strategic®.

The Strategic Thinking Domain sets the direction and the best way forward. They provide the ‘What’ of what we need to do.

Give them a challenge or a problem to solve and they will take the commitment seriously. They need the facts, the raw data and lots of it. They want to gather in all the information to make the right decisions so need answers to their searching questions. Often they need time to think, sometimes alone, to deeply concentrate on getting to the heart of the matter. Ask for their opinion and be prepared to listen, they will appreciate your interest.

When they arrive at what to do and the reasons why, they want to be taken seriously. All the effort in coming up with the plan needs appreciation and action. The best people to broadcast the message and get things moving are the Influencers.

Influencing Domain

Themes: Activator®, Command®, Communication®, Competition®, Maximizer®, Self-Assurance®, Significance® and Woo®.

Described as the powerhouse of motivation the Influencing Domain needs two distinct things. A solid message to convey and an audience to energise.

Taking the ‘What’ and the reasons ‘Why’ from the Strategic Thinkers, the Influencers deliver the compelling message. They want to bring everyone on board and get things moving. Without a clear vision or pathway, their message may sound hollow or they could set out in the wrong direction.

With such a powerful message they want to be heard and understood so they can engage their audience and share the way forward. They cannot operate in a vacuum and need an audience. Give them the space to get excited, the freedom to move, opportunities to expand their network and let them know that they are creating an impact.

Relationship Building Domain

Themes: Adaptability®, Connectedness®, Developer®, Empathy®, Harmony®, Includer®, Individualization®, Positivity® and Relator®.

Those in the Relationship Building Domain put people first. They value the people perspective and want to understand each person for who they are, then help them find their role in the team. They need time for social interactions and opportunities to help people grow. Emotions are important to them and they need the space for expression. They value each other and seek to do the common good.

Give them the overall perspective so they can see how their work fits into the big picture. They want to involve the right people for the right roles and have the flexibility to customise a solution. They want to fully understand each person so they can smooth out the areas of friction and create a cohesive team.

Executing Domain

Themes: Achiever®, Arranger®, Belief®, Consistency®, Deliberative®, Discipline®, Focus®, Responsibility® and Restorative®.

The Executing Domain delivers the goods, they are the workhorse in getting things done, and they do it well.

They need a goal, a target or a clear set of objectives. Understanding the expectations of the task is essential to know when their work is complete so they can celebrate and move on. They work tirelessly and need to keep busy with time and opportunities to plan ahead. They don’t need detailed instructions as they can work out the best way to do the job. However, they do need the flexibility to provide structure and create an efficient process. Give them the autonomy to make decisions and get on with the task. Trust them to deliver on time without close monitoring and they will see the task through to completion.

Synergy Between Domains

There is a close correlation between the Strategic Thinking and the Influencing Domains where they need each other. One sets out the direction and the other provides the inertia to get moving. These are ‘Point and Go’ Domains.

The Relationship Building and the Executing Domains determine who is the best person for the job and how to do it. Working closely together they provide the engine room of the team. However, if they ignore those in the Strategic Thinking and the Influencing Domains, they may function well and do things efficiently, but are they doing the right things?

Many people have dominant themes in more than one Domain so they can adapt according to the requirement. Be aware that their needs may fluctuate in line with the themes they are choosing to use most intently.

To boost the effectiveness of a Domain which may be lacking, focus on providing the specific needs for that Domain. This encourages the best contributions for that part of the team.

Recognising the specific needs for each Domain is an essential part of drawing out the best of the team. In Gallup’s Q12 Index the second question is “Do you have the tools and equipment to do your work right?” This is equally true for the Domains. Let them know what is expected (Question 1, “I know what is expected of me”) and provide the right environment and resources for them to thrive.



One word I do not associate with the Learner® theme is ‘academic’. I love learning but hated school. So what is the Learner theme and what does it mean?learner theme strengthsfinder google

Acronyms are in abundance in today’s world. When I hear a new one or don’t know what it means, I’m on the Internet or I annoyingly ask the person who said it. In fact Google is my friend, I am always searching for anything that interests me, to find out more.

To me, the CliftonStrengths® ‘Learner’ theme is all about an enquiring mind. The curiosity to find out more and the satisfaction of achieving the next level of knowledge. In addition, its the ability to use or share the additional knowledge, enabling others to benefit.

Stepping outside of my comfort zone invigorates my Learner theme. Occasionally my Maximizer® theme takes a giant leap into the unknown, creating a lot of work for the Learner theme to catch up. Whether it is embarking on a new cycling challenge that is much further than I had ridden before, turning a few thoughts into a book and getting it published or taking on a huge project in a new environment. Each of these challenges required extensive research and a much higher level of understanding to make them succeed.

Years ago, I admired the great questions others asked and pondered why I was not able to think with their brilliance. Oh yes, I’m not an academic! Over time, since recognising my Learner Theme, I allow my inquisitiveness to speak up, supporting it with my genuine desire to know more. Exploring probing question types and learning to deeply listen are additional ways to increase effective learning. Now I just ask what is on my mind.

The Learner theme is often associated with having lots of books. I’m not an avid reader, but if there is a subject that interests me, I might buy the book. Having said that, my collection of books is steadily growing.

The Learner theme also has a desire for something new, be it a new way of doing something or creating a new experience. At times it can get frustrated with routine and may want to shake things up a little as part of continuous improvement. It embraces change and can be an advocate when implementing change.

Visiting a place for the first time or taking on a new activity, feeds my Learner theme. Drawing on its courage with the unknown helps me to overcome my Adaptability theme resting at #34. In fact the Learner theme is quite versatile, enhancing many other themes. My Strategic® theme is at #33 where I previously dreaded or avoided strategic planning meetings. I felt I had little to offer. Embracing my Learner theme, I ask those searching and provoking questions. This raises new possibilities and draws out the thoughts of others.

How can the Learner® Theme work across the Domains?

The Learner theme is in the Strategic Thinking Domain to pioneer new ways of thinking or bring a new perspective.
In the Influencing Domain, it can help to speak knowledgeably about a subject, providing a persuasive and powerful message.
For the Relationships Domain, it can learn about the interests of others or take the time to understand who people are, building up and fostering trust.
In the Executing Domain, it learns how to operate a piece of equipment or seeks out best practice, removing the fear of the unknown to get things done.

How can I develop my Learner® theme further?

Developing the Learner theme to be more effective can involve finding your preferred learning style or knowing at what times of the day your mind is most receptive. Use your other themes to concentrate your learning on the most useful or relevant topics.
Focus® – to direct your learning towards your goal.
Maximizer – to learn subjects that will provide the best return.

How to get the most out of Learner®.

The Learner theme can offer so much, however it needs to be fed. Food for the Learner theme comes in the form of room to grow and develop, exposure to new information, ongoing learning opportunities, times to share or apply the information learned and most of all variety.

Discover more about CliftonStrengths, previously called StrengthsFinder®, and how strengths-based approach can make a lasting difference.

Something Extra

Seach for someone who shares your top 5 themes at Strengths Twins. The Learner theme is the most frequent theme in the Strengths Twins database.

Richard Sterry