3 Questions to Ask Before Bringing Strengths-Based Coaching to Your Agency


Your nonprofit agency's case managers, workforce professionals, and frontline staff are the key to the success and impact of the service you provide. Creating an environment where your clients feel heard and empowered leads to an increased chance of them reaching their goals with your organization. Also, if you or your frontline staff is experiencing issues effectively connecting with the community you serve, strengths-based coaching helps foster stronger relationships!

What is Strengths-Based Coaching?

Strengths-based coaching focuses on who your client is today, including their strengths and inherent capabilities. This approach encourages collaboration between you and your client to achieve their stated goals.  

How do you know if your organization needs to introduce a strength-based coaching approach? 

Melissa Lovitt, a nonprofit professional with over 20 years of experience and an active advocate of strengths-based coaching, came up with three questions to ask yourself to figure out if this approach is a fit for your organization:


  1. Does the organization serve/support individuals facing barriers to A, B, C?
  2. Is this the first time the individuals/prospective clients have received supportive services or programming?
  3. When an individual/prospective client has experienced any level of trauma - Strengths-Based Coaching and Motivational Interviewing allows the client to share information/articulate their needs at their own pace using their own words. This, in turn, helps coaches better understand the type of support the client is seeking. 


RiseKit hosted the second session in our Pathways to Success Educational Series on strengths-based coaching with Melissa Lovitt of the North Lawndale Employment Network on April 21st at 12:30 pm CT. Here are a few nuggets from the session below:

From Melissa Lovitt:

When working with clients it really boils down to one simple thing - as human beings we all want to be heard - we want validation and a witness to our lives. As we work with vulnerable populations - it becomes even more important - because often they have never felt heard before. 

Leveraging strengths-based coaching techniques, Melissa brings up the elephant in the room, provides a reason for the questions, and genuinely empathizes with them to build a connection to open them up to sharing more about their lives. 

“If we are working with an individual who was recently released, it can be very difficult to actually gather information from them - because they are so used to not having a voice and interacting with people who really care about their needs. There’s often an initial trepidation.”


Getting to the WHY can help us act as a change agent vs. a director. If someone has been incarcerated for many years - it can be really difficult for them to truly understand someone is committed to helping them and genuinely interested in their “why”. 


It’s especially true for returning citizens, but applicable to anyone who has been out of the workforce for an extended period of time - every job they don’t get - has triple the impact on their confidence. It can easily cause some clients to spiral out of control. 


Knowing your network and the resources available for your clients, your agency’s program, and approaches which establish and build trusting relationships with clients are essential to getting clients to where they need to go and make up a perfect recipe for success. 

From session attendees from the Greater West Town Community Development Project:

The aha is when they know that you really care - many of them have come from a really tough situation. We all work in the fast paced world, but when you prioritize them - they really start to open up. Being personable - and building professional friendships. When we leverage techniques like affirmation - they start to feel comfortable and confident they can share with you - so you can really start to help them successfully navigate their path. 


To combat the risk of people falling off, we learned to gather as much information up front as possible - not just the basic information we need to collect - better understand their challenges and motivations. If you can uncover the why behind their motivation - that can in turn - eliminate the possibility of bringing them down the wrong employment pathway and ultimately, improving your programs outcomes.



About Melissa Lovitt:

Melissa Lovitt is an experienced, enthusiastic professional with 20+ years of experience. She is passionate about human rights and social justice. As a mental health and criminal justice reform advocate -  Melissa deeply appreciates the importance of human relationships and the powerful effect they can have on a person. She believes oppressed, disadvantaged, displaced, and vulnerable populations deserve a voice, support, and the necessary resources to have a fair shot at success in life. Melissa is an active and donating member of the National Organization for Women, the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, The Sentencing Project, and Prevent Child Abuse America. She knows we can make the world a better place. Let's do this!