This article was originally posted on, here.

History has been made: the first woman presidential candidate has taken the debate stage along with a businessman who has never been elected to political office.

I found it interesting to watch the debate from a position of seeing strengths in action. I will let you decide who the winner was, and I will continue my comments on what strengths I spotted during the debate based on:

  1. What I projected as the STRENGTHS of each candidate in Part 1, and
  2. The Coaching Tips that I recommended in in Part 2.

It’s helpful for us all to begin spotting strengths in others—underlying qualities that energize you and that you are great at (or have potential to become great at)—because they are more than just what we’re “good at;” they are when we are at our BEST.

Believe it or not, we all have these!

After the debate, I saw all sorts of interpretations of what happened on stage. Commentary was made by political science professors, journalists, psychologists, body language interpreters, and a host of others. Like me, few (if any) had even met either candidate—they were simply interpreting what they observed through the perspective of their expertise and lens. And NOT ONCE did I hear or see any commentary from the view of the lens of strengths.

Let’s change that.

To start, let’s review my strengths projections for the candidates.


Strengths projections:

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

Weaker areas / drainers (we also call these “performance risks”):

  • Relationship building
  • Persuasiveness


Strengths projections:

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

Weaker areas / drainers (we also call these “performance risks”) :

  • Emotional control
  • Compassion

The most practical way I could think of to observe their strengths is to see how they did against the last-minute, “mock” STRONG Coaching Tips presented in Part 2 of this series. I listed the coaching tips below, along with my observation of the strengths of each candidate in action.

See if you saw what I did…


  • LAST MINUTE COACHING TIP: 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.

STRENGTHS OBSERVED: She responded to my “mock” coaching. The best example here is when she talked about the contract workers who didn’t get paid by Trump’s company. Then there was the Miss Universe Pageant winner comment near the end. She delivered emotional examples (likely emotional for both sides of the aisle). Her Compassion strength was at it’s best.

  • LAST MINUTE COACHING TIP: 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. 

STRENGTHS OBSERVED: She probably could have used a balancing strength here like Common sense. But for the most part she stayed on track with this. There were a few times when she got into the weeds with policy that started to get a little dry. Remarks like racist and others make her look less intelligent than she is. Probably a bit overly critical but played to her base. Critical thinking may have been in a bit of overdrive if she was trying to make any converts.

  • LAST MINUTE COACHING TIP: 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.

STRENGTHS OBSERVED: Her Leading strength, using it to show vision and create hope, was evident in her remarks around building an America that works together. It is part of the messaging of the campaign. I also saw the remark she made near the end around “Preparing to be President” showed a bit of gravitas. Agree or disagree with her views, she also appeared to be well-rehearsed and prepared for the debate and has a ton of experience (yes a few failures along the way like every successful person).

  • LAST MINUTE COACHING TIP: Show everyone your Resilience. Test the edge of this by carefully showing how you can bounce back from any quick comments or quips.

STRENGTHS OBSERVED: The best example of Resilience in my view were the times when she was quiet and simply allowed Trump to speak and give long answers to short questions. Another example was how she handled the redirect about emails. She quickly apologized, acknowledged the mistake and moved-on. She bounced back.



  • LAST MINUTE COACHING TIP: 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.

STRENGTHS OBSERVED: He responded to the “mock” coaching for the first part of the debate. His answers around trade and global view of the impact on jobs, etc. came across as Self-confidence and having the ability to change it through better deals. I do believe his Courage did show up in the form of a few interruptions (not being afraid to speak when it wasn’t his time to set the record straight) but not to the extent of loose cannon overdrive. Interestingly, I think part of his appeal to many is when these are in overdrive. Not seeing them there may make him appear different than usual.

  • LAST MINUTE COACHING TIP: Focus on what Results you hope to achieve as President. Stretch this strength 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.

STRENGTHS OBSERVED: Again, the discussion on trade, business, and other areas of his expertise seemed to show his Results focus. He also made comments about promises that are made but results never achieved (like in inner cities). It would have been useful to hear what his specific ideas of what “the finish line” or “great” would have looked like in his mind (i.e., great schools, lots of jobs, etc). I also observed his focus on results in answers around controversial topics such as the birth certificate issue. He said he was the one who got it, end of story. Agree or disagree with his views, he does focus on results and has a ton of experience delivering them (and yes, a few failures along the way like every successful person).

  • LAST MINUTE COACHING TIP: 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.

STRENGTHS OBSERVED: I didn’t observe this strength used as well as it could have been during the debate. This probably was a function of better preparation and rehearsal for different issues, comments, etc. It’s especially important to be resilient to comments that are more personal in nature vs. issue related. This seemed like a case of overdrive in Resilience, thinking that his past experience of thinking “on the fly” had served him well in the previous debates and other live events, so why not now? The general election is a new level where new skills (stretching strengths) will be important. Balancing this strength with another such as Results focus can help manage overdrive. 

  • LAST MINUTE COACHING TIP: 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.

STRENGTHS OBSERVED: Overall I saw him trying hard to control his emotions. He seemed ready to pounce (which was likely expected by his base) but restrained thinking of the bigger impact on people in the audience he was trying to move to his side (reframed his Emotional control weaker area with Strategic mindedness). From an Emotional control reframe perspective it was successful as there was no name calling (at least to anyone in the room), bringing up embarrassing issues, etc. I am not sure this worked as well in policy debates, as he seemed to go down problem-solving pathways in detail when issues were brought to him. He may want to balance his Critical thinking strength with Strategic mindedness in future debates (examples include questions around his tax returns and his explanation of his tax plans vs. the economy and the impact of the Federal Reserve).


I am sure that there will be those of you who see things differently as you think of your observations of the strengths of each candidate, and even how you would coach them. That’s OK! I would love to hear your ideas. Please feel free to add productively to the discussion (I have seen enough of the hate speech in media and social media to last a lifetime).

We all have people we don’t gravitate toward or would never want to have dinner with. That happens at work, at church, in clubs, everywhere. But in the end, if we can see them in a different light—the light of their strengths—we may just be able to find ways to better understand them and see them as another member of the human race.

Hopefully these insights on the Presidential candidates have helped you start thinking differently about how you view the candidates in this election. I know it has impacted me.

More importantly, I hope that this has given you a new perspective on how you can also view the people around you every day at work (or at home). Quick tip: If you want to find out a little more about the strengths of the people around you, just try asking them: “When were you last at your best (at work)?” Sit back and listen to what they say, and better yet, see how positively they respond!


  • What a refreshing analysis! It’s great to see someone take a hard look at these people without all the rancor.

    I ran across your strengths model in a webinar by Josh Allan Dykstra title “Lead or Get Out of the Way,” so I stopped by your website to see what you are all about. I believe everyone should have an opportunity to receive an assessment like yours several times in their working lives. We would be a much happier world. I am citing your model in a blog for a client (Pixentia) with a linkback. I hope you don’t mind. It should be published in the next week or so.

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