The Art of Strengths Coaching

B is for Buying Time Before Making A Decision


Good decision makers sometimes buy time before making a decision. They do this when working as a leader, paramedic, crisis manager or in another role. When faced by a critical situation, they stay calm and then take the following steps.

They gather information and do something to manage the immediate situation – such as stopping the haemorrhaging or creating stability.

They buy time to think and decide on the strategy for going forwards.

They pursue their chosen strategy and do everything possible to achieve the picture of success  

Good decision makers sometimes carry these skills over to their personal lives. They recognise, for example, when they may be slipping into an argument with a loved one. They then think before they speak and choose the route that will be best for their long-term relationship.

Looking back on your life, can you think of a situation when you bought time before making a decision? This could have been in your personal or professional life.

What did you do to buy time? What did you do to clarify the real results to achieve? What did you do to consider the options for going forwards? What did you do to make your decision and aim to implement it successfully?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the past when you bought time when making a decision. 

Describe the specific things you did then to buy time.

Describe the specific benefits of taking these steps to buy time in the situation.




Imagine that you are in a situation in which you will need to make a decision. You can go through some of the following steps.

You can gather information and
manage the immediate situation 

You will begin by gathering information. This calls for focusing on the facts regarding the situation and doing a reality check.

This is especially important if you are dealing with matters that involve people. You can clarify what people have actually done – or are doing – in behavioural terms. It is vital to focus on the facts rather than the interpretations of people’s motives.

Here is one example. Several years ago two leaders of a company asked me for help them to deal with a particular manager. This is how they described the problem.

“The person is talented but difficult. He is very aggressive and this causes problems in the office.”

“What does he actually do?” I asked.

“He is aggressive,” they replied. “We think it is because he is insecure and feels threatened.”

“What does he actually do – in behaviour terms – that is aggressive?” I asked. “Can you give me an example?”

“You mean what does he do? He goes to the desk of a team member, stands over the person and shouts at them. Sometimes swearing at the person, he says they are useless and then stomps away back to his office.”

This describes what the manager actually did rather than just labelling them as aggressive or threatened. We could then focus on the professional behaviour that he would need to demonstrate in the future.

Depending on whether you are a paramedic, leader, crisis manager or whatever, you will look for different things in the situation. It may be, however, that you ask some of the following questions.

What are the facts? What has happened and what is actually happening? What will be the consequences if these things continue to happen?

If people are involved, what are the facts? What have the individual people done or what they are now doing? What has been their behaviour? What have been the consequences? What will be the consequences if people continue to behave in these ways?

You can do something to deal with the immediate situation to create stability. After gathering information, you may already be thinking about the long-term goals. Before then, however, it may be important to take some short-term action. 

A doctor moves quickly to stop any haemorrhaging. A fire crew aims to rescue people quickly from a burning building. A mediator works to get a ceasefire between warring factions and aims to create some kind of stability.

Babette Rothschild is somebody who takes this approach when helping people to deal with traumas. Her work combines kindness, wisdom and practical tools. You can discover more about her work via the following link.

Writing in her book Trauma Essentials, Babette describes the key principles she believes are essential for safe trauma therapy. The aim is to provide stabilisation and safety before working with difficult memories.

Below are some of these principles. The direct quotes from Babette are written in italics. The other text is my own.


First and foremost: Establish safety for the client within and outside the therapy.

Develop good contact between therapist and client as a prerequisite to addressing traumatic memories or applying any techniques – even if that takes months or years.

Client and therapist must be confident in applying the brakes before they use the accelerator.

The client is helped to learn how to apply the brakes to take control of flashbacks or other symptoms or the actual process of therapy. They will then feel more confident in being able to proceed with the therapy.

Babette goes on to describe how it is possible to help the client to build on their inner resources and develop healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with the trauma. You can discover more about these principles via the following link. 

You can buy time to think and decide
on the strategy for going forwards

Imagine that you have clarified what is happening and have also managed to steady the ship. The next step is to buy time to think, see things in perspective and explore the possible ways forward.

Sometimes you may take a few seconds to pause before proceeding; sometimes you may take longer. You may choose to be alone, go for a walk, sleep on the decision or whatever.

Kevin Cashman highlights the value of buying time in his book The Pause Principle. Below is an excerpt from his website and a video of him talking about this approach. You can discover more via the following link.

We live and lead in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world. But paradoxically, Kevin Cashman contends that leaders today must not merely act more quickly but pause more deeply.

Rather than merely doing more, we must learn to pause and to do things differently in order to grow, achieve and innovate. All of these practices lead to purposeful change, and contribution, an essential part of a leader’s everyday life. 

Imagine you have bought time to think. The next step will be to clarify your strategy for moving forwards.

There are many models for making decisions. One model is to use the 3C approach. This means going through the stages of focusing on clarity, creativity and concrete results.



Good decision makers start by clarifying the ‘What’ before moving on to the ‘How’. When clarifying the challenge you want to tackle, it can be useful to formulate this in positive terms. For example:

“How can I stay calm?” rather than “How can I stop getting angry?”

“How can I build a successful team?” rather than “How can I motivate unmotivated people?”

Bearing this in mind, you may want to work through some of the following questions.


What is the challenge I want to tackle? For example: How to …? Looking at this challenge, what are the real results I want to achieve? What is the picture of success? What are the things I can control in the situation?


What are the possible choices for tackling the challenge? Option A is … Option B is … Option C is … What are the consequences – the pluses and minuses – of each option? How attractive are each of these options on a scale 0-10? Are there any other potential creative solutions?

Concrete Results

What is the option – or combination of options – I want to follow? How can I translate this into a clear action plan? Are there any contracts I need to make with other people to make this happen? How can I get some early successes? What else can I do to increase the chances of success?

Imagine that you have explored the possible roads for going forwards. It is then time to take the next step.

You can pursue your chosen option and
work to implement the strategy successfully

Different people use different methods for translating their strategy into a clear action plan. Some individuals ask, for example:

What are the key things I can do to give myself the greatest chance of success? How can I translate these into a clear action plan? How can I encourage myself on the journey? How can I do everything possible to achieve the picture of success? 

You will translate the strategy into action in your own way. The next step may be to follow this by following daily disciplines. You may aim to keep doing the right things in the right way every day. This will increase the likelihood of getting the right results.

Great decision makers often gather information when going into a situation. If appropriate, they act to stop the haemorrhaging and create stability. They then buy time to make good decisions before implementing them successfully.

Looking ahead, can you think of a situation in which you may way to buy time when making a decision? This could be in your personal or professional life.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may want to buy time when making a decision.

Describe the specific things you can do to buy time in this situation. 

Describe the specific benefits of buying time to make the decision.





    P is for People Who Live In A Positive Universe rather than A Negative Universe  


    People sometimes seem to live in different universes. Some people seem to be always positive, some to be always negative. Some veer between these extremes.

    There are several names for these different approaches to life. They may be called philosophies, attitudes, belief systems, mind-sets, mental models, paradigms or other names.

    During the past 50 years I have met many people who have chosen to live in a positive universe rather than a negative universe. They take the following steps towards encouraging other people during their time on the planet.

    They have a
    positive attitude

    Such people are positive realists rather than starry-eyed optimists. They choose to have a positive attitude towards life but are also good at reading reality. They then focus on what they can control and manage what they can’t.

    People make choices every moment. They can choose to be positive or negative, to take responsibility or avoid responsibility, to be creative or keep complaining. The choices they make have consequences, both for themselves and other people.


    People who stay positive do what they believe in. They may choose to do work that gives them positive energy, for example, rather than that which has the highest money or status. They then build on their strengths and follow the daily disciplines required to achieve success.

    Such people often gain strength by choosing to serve something that is greater than themselves. A person will aim to serve their loved ones and they may also choose:

    To serve a spiritual faith, a set of values or a philosophy

    To serve a purpose, a mission or a cause

    To serve a vocation, a creative drive or a project

    A person who serves something greater than themselves is more able to withstand outside pressures. They keep focusing on what they really value in life. When in doubt, they go back to their inner compass and ask:

    What are the principles I want to follow in life? How can I follow these principles, even during difficult times? How can I do my best to follow these principles during my time on the planet?

    Such people often do more than follow their chosen life principles. They also take the next step.

    They follow
    positive principles

    They study humanity at its best. They study what works, simplify what works – in a profound way – and share what works. They ask some of the following questions.

    When do people achieve success? When do they find positive solutions to challenges? When do they perform brilliantly? 

    What do people do right then? What are the principles they follow to perform brilliantly? 

    How can people follow similar principles – plus maybe add other skills – to perform brilliantly in the future? How can I help them to achieve success?  


    Such people often have positive eyes. When looking at individuals, for example, they ask some of the following questions.

    What are the person’s strengths? What are the activities in which they deliver As, rather than Bs or Cs? What are the things that give them positive energy? When are they in their element – at ease and yet able to excel? When do make complicated things appear simple? 

    When do they see the destination quickly? When do they go ‘A, B … and then leap to … Z’? What are the activities in which they quickly see patterns? Where do they have the equivalent of a photographic memory? When are they are calm, clear and deliver concrete results?  

    What is the person’s successful style of working? Looking back, what for them have been their most satisfying projects? What made each of these projects satisfying? Are there any recurring patterns that give clues to their successful style? How can they follow their successful style in the future?

    Such people also focus on when a team or organisation does fine work. They ask some of the following questions.

    When have people in the team or organisation performed brilliantly? What were people doing right then? What were the principles they were following? How can they follow these principles – plus maybe add other elements – to perform brilliantly in the future?

    Who are the positive people in the team or organisation? Where is the positive energy? How can we build on these assets? How can we build a positive culture that enables motivated people to achieve ongoing success? How can we enable people to do the basics and then add the brilliance?

    Many people now focus on the positive principles that individuals, teams and organisations can follow to reach their goals. Martin Seligman, for example, helped to give birth to the modern approach to positive psychology. His work led to creating the Positive Psychology Center at The University of Pennsylvania. The Center says:

    Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive … It has three central concerns: positive emotions, positive individual traits, and positive institutions.

    Other researchers in the field include people such as Ed Diener, Robert Diswas-Diener, Christopher Peterson, Tal Ben-Shahar and Sonja Lyubomirsky. Senia Maymin, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Positive Psychology News Daily, writes:

    Positive Psychology studies what is right with people and how people live the good life.

    David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney took a similar approach when creating Appreciative Inquiry. This is a positive model for helping teams and organisations to develop.

    Different people apply AI in different ways. Whichever approach they use, however, they invite individuals, teams or organisations to build on their positive core.

    People clarify the particular area they want to explore. They are then invited:

    To clarify when they have performed brilliantly in this area in the past.

    To clarify the principles they followed then to perform brilliantly.

    To clarify how they can follow these principles – plus maybe add other elements – to perform brilliantly in the future.

    AI has been used by people in all walks of life to tackle challenges. People like the approach. It shows that they have already done what works. They simply have to do it more – plus maybe adding other elements – in the future.

    In the video below David Cooperrider gives real life examples of how AI can nurture entrepreneurship and create encouraging environments. He shows how it can help to create a sustainable and successful future for the human family.

    You can discover more about David’s work on his website. Here is the link.

    They help to build
    a positive planet

    Different people choose different ways to plant seeds of hope during their time on the planet. Some do this by simply being kind, encouraging and helping other people.

    Human beings are often at their best when they choose to be generous. As the Buddha said:

    A generous heart, kind speech and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.

    Some people help others by demonstrating the qualities that are admired across many civilisations. Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson wrote about these qualities in their book Character Strengths and Virtues.  

    They led a research team that studied the qualities of moral excellence that are admired across different philosophies, religions and cultures. After extensive research, the team settled on six key virtues, though these are obviously interlinked.

    Martin Seligman provides the following introduction. You can discover more via the following link.

    When we look we see that there are six virtues, which we find endorsed across cultures, and these break down into 24 strengths. 

    The six virtues that we find are non-arbitrary – first, a wisdom and knowledge cluster; second, a courage cluster; third, virtues like love and humanity; fourth, a justice cluster; fifth a temperance, moderation cluster; and sixth a spirituality, transcendence cluster. 

    We sent people up to northern Greenland, and down to the Masai, and are involved in a 70-nation study in which we look at the ubiquity of these. 

    Indeed, we’re beginning to have the view that those six virtues are just as much a part of human nature as walking on two feet are.



    Erik Erickson, the psychologist, said that people often reach what he called The Generative Age. He described this as:

    A concern for establishing and guiding the next generation.

    The most common form of taking this step is being a parent. But it can also be expressed through encouraging people, passing on knowledge or leaving a positive legacy. Here are some examples.

    A counsellor may help people to manage problems successfully … A nurse may help people to regain their health … An educator may provide tools that help students to shape their futures … A scientist may work to find a breakthrough cure. 

    A chef may make nurturing food that feeds the body and soul … A singer may uplift people with their songs … An architect may make beautiful buildings … An environmentalist may make TV films that encourage people to appreciate the beauty of the Earth.  

    A social entrepreneur may work to improve the quality of people’s lives … A lawyer may work for social justice … A trusted advisor may pass on knowledge that helps other people to succeed … A leader may build a positive culture that enables people to thrive.

    Let’s return to your own life and work. Imagine that you want to live in a positive universe rather than a negative universe.

    How can you continue to have a positive attitude yet also be good at reading reality? How can you follow positive principles that work? How can you encourage other people?

    If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

    Describe the specific things you can do to have a positive attitude – though also read reality – and encourage people during your time on the planet.  

    Describe the specific benefits – both for you and for other people – of taking these steps and encouraging people.





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