This article was originally posted on, here.

The first U.S. Presidential debate of the 2016 election season is tonight. It may very well be the most watched television event in US history. In fact, only the Super Bowl may get a bigger audience than this debate (we will see how many watch Monday Night Football). Each candidate must bring their best to the table.

Evidence shows that all great leaders must play to their strengths, manage their weaker areas, and prevent themselves from going into overdrive. While we live in a world of one-liners or gaffes that can make the difference in debates, I believe this debate will be different, primarily because everything else has been different about this race versus previous elections. So we can do something different, too—let’s take a strengths coaching perspective.

As much as the candidates have prepared and been coached based on their individual preferences and energizers, I thought I would take a shot at how I would coach them, based on their strengths, just before they go on stage.

Recall the Strengthscope® definition of strengths: underlying qualities that energize you and that you are great at (or have potential to become great at. And here are the projected Significant 7 strengths of both candidates (in alphabetical order) from Part 1 in case you missed them:


Strengths projections:

  • Common Sense
  • Compassion
  • Critical thinking
  • Leading
  • Resilience
  • Self-confidence
  • Strategic mindedness

Weaker areas / drainers:

  • Relationship building
  • Persuasiveness


Strengths projections:

  • Courage
  • Critical thinking
  • Decisiveness
  • Leading
  • Resilience
  • Results focus
  • Self-confidence

Weaker areas / drainers:

  • Emotional control
  • Compassion

First, I would take them through STRONG Coaching and find out:

  • How they are defining success tonight. What would they each hope to be hearing? What would others be seeing?
  • How would their strengths play into getting them there?
  • What could go into overdrive or be draining for them? What strength would they use to balance or reframe in that situation?
  • What would they do if they could do anything?

If either of them asked, here are some suggestions I would provide in no particular order:


  • Stretch your Compassion strength. Use examples that are emotional and show you care about people. It’s how you can build relationships even with people you don’t know. It will show you as powerfully compassionate.
  • Give practical and simple (but not boring) examples without going into overdrive on Critical thinking. People know you’re smart. No need to prove that. And no need to use it to prove Trump is wrong, stupid, etc.
  • Give everyone a vision for America using your Leading strength. Give a high road for hope. A hope in jobs, education, equality. Share how you have done that over the years and that while situations can change, your commitment will never change.
  • Show everyone your Resilience. Test the edge of this by carefully showing how you can bounce back from any quick comments or quips.


  • Show Confidence in your ideas and Courage in your commitment to change. But don’t go into overdrive and come across as brash, abrasive, name caller, etc. People know your Self-confident. No need to prove it.
  • Focus on what Results you hope to achieve as President. Stretch this strengths a bit by being a bit more specific on what the finish lines look like across your primary agenda items. They don’t need all of the details, just a picture of what you see for jobs, education, equality, etc. Give people a vision for the future using your Leading strength.
  • Find common ground in Resilience. Acknowledge that you both have been up and down the road and back just different roads (politics vs. business) and that is what gives you an advantage.
  • Use your Strategic mindedness to reframe your Emotional control. Think about the big-picture impact of losing control or being provoked with detailed fact checking.

So far, I haven’t received any calls from the campaign (though a pre-debate pollster just called) and maybe you haven’t either.

What about you? How do you see their strengths? Do you agree with my assessment? If you think I’m close (or not) how do you think each play to their strengths? What do you think they need to watch out for when it comes to overdrive or drainers? How would you coach them before going on stage?

Tonight will be a historic night regardless of what happens. Now you can enjoy it from a different lens; the lens of strengths.

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