The Art of Strengths Coaching

S is for The Super Teams Approach

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There are many models for building great teams. The super teams approach is one that has a track record of helping teams and organisations to achieve their goals. Here is a brief overview of the approach.

Super teams start by building on their strengths and clarifying their picture of success. They then translate this into a compelling story, strategy and road to success.

Everybody knows what mountain they are climbing, why they are climbing it and how they will reach the summit. They also know who will be delivering what and by when.

Such teams are made up of people who want to be positive, professional and peak performers. They choose to opt in and make clear contracts about their best contribution towards delivering the goals.

Super teams co-ordinate people’s strengths to perform superb work. They overcome setbacks and find solutions to challenges. People do whatever is required to achieve the picture of success.

Imagine that you are leading a team that is about take the next step in its development. You will have your own framework for making plans. If you wish, however, you can use the following approach for clarifying the goals.

Clarifying the team’s story,
strategy and road to success

Begin by clarifying the team’s story, strategy and road to success. Start by defining what you see as the team’s purpose – the specific thing the team wants to do. You can then clarify:

The What – The specific goals to achieve and the picture of success.

The Why – The benefits of reaching the goals.

The How – The key strategies to follow to achieve the goals.

The Who – The responsibilities of various people in working towards achieving the goals.

The When – The specific things that will be happening and when along the road towards achieving the picture of success.

Several points are worth bearing in mind when writing the story.

You can choose your own time frame.

Different teams choose different time frames for their story. You may want to pick a date one year, two years or three years in the future.

Start by settling on your chosen date. Describe the specific things you want the team to have achieved by that date. This becomes your picture of success.

You can be clear on the mandatory things the team must deliver to achieve success.

The team will be expected to deliver its Scorecard – the specific targets it must deliver – over the Financial Year. You can add other things on top of this – such as stimulating projects and successes – that will enrich the team’s story.

You can clarify for whom you are writing the story.

You may initially write the story for your internal team. This will ensure everybody knows the team’s goal. Later you can adapt the story – whilst staying true to its spirit – so that it resonates with other key stakeholders.

You can write the story by yourself or, if you wish, involve other key people at various stages.

This will give people a sense of ownership in terms of shaping the future.

Choosing A Template

Different teams use different templates for framing their goals. Many leaders in companies focus on the 3 Ps when clarifying their aims. They focus on the Profits, Products – including Customer Satisfaction – and People. For example:

Profits – The profitability they want to deliver.

Products – The product quality, customer satisfaction and processes they want to deliver.

People – The culture they want to deliver.

Here is one approach you can use to craft the team’s story. You may, of course, have your own framework.

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Clarifying The Road Map

The road map is the ‘When’ part of the story. This will become the team’s ongoing working document. Several things are worth remembering when making the road map.

Start from the destination and work backwards.

Start by picking a date in the future. Describe the specific goal you want the team to achieve by that date. Also describe the specific things that will be happening then that will show you have achieved the goal.

Dating the road map.

Start at the top of the Dates column and put the end date. Then work backwards towards the present day. You may want to break up the road map into quarters or other suitable periods.

This ‘starting from the destination’ approach is used on many successful projects. It encourages people to keep focusing on the end goal.

Choose a suitable template for ‘chunking’ the goals.

Here we have used the 3Ps framework – Profits, Products – including customer satisfaction – and People. You may prefer to use another template.

Describe Cumulative Targets.

The totals under each heading for each quarter should be cumulative. This is illustrated below with Profits, but do it with each heading. For example:

Q4. Profits £1 million
Q3. Profits £750k
Q2. Profits £500k
Q1. Profits £250k

This describes the headline under Profits, but this could be broken down into more detail. You might want to consider having three bullet points of deliverables under each of Profits, Products and People. This helps to flesh out the road map

Bring the road map to life with quotations.

Describe the actual words you would like to hear people saying at various stages of the journey. These can be quotes from leaders, customers, colleagues or whoever.

Here is the framework for the road map. This describes the specific things the team needs to have delivered by the end of each quarter over one year. You can use a longer or shorter time frame for the road map.

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Communicating the team’s story,
strategy and road to success

Imagine you have completed the provisional story and road map. You can then share this with the whole team. When doing this, it can be useful to explain the rationale behind the chosen strategy.

You may want to gather people together and say something along the following lines.

Welcome to the session. Today we would like to look at how the team can continue to achieve ongoing success.

Bearing in mind the various challenges we face, there are many different routes the team can take towards achieving its goals. Here is an overview of some of the possible routes we could take in the future.

Option A would be to: _____. The pluses and minuses of this route would be: _____.

Option B would be to: _____. The pluses and minuses of this route would be: _____.

Option C would be to: _____. The pluses and minuses of this route would be: _____.

Option D would be to: _____. The pluses and minuses of this route would be: _____.

Option E would be to: _____. The pluses and minuses of this route would be: _____.

Bearing these options in mind, we have chosen to take the following route _____. The reasons we have chosen this route are because: _____.

There are, of course, pluses and minuses involved in pursuing this route. The specific things we can do to build on the pluses and minimise the minuses are: _____.

We have therefore put together the following story, strategy and road to success. For the moment we are going to describe the story and strategy.

Later we will describe the potential road map. We will then want your input regarding the action plan. So here is our story and overall strategy.

You can then share the story and strategy. When doing so, try to bring it to life with examples. Mainly focus on the ‘What, Why, How and Who’, because this provides the overall direction for the team.

You can also give people a brief overview of the team’s road map – the ‘When’. This can be explored in greater depth, however, after people know the team’s direction and picture of success.

Getting Responses To The Story

Imagine you have communicated the story and strategy. Instead of simply asking for questions, you can take the following steps to get responses from the team.

Invite people to form groups. There is to be a scribe in each group. Ask people to give their responses under the following headings.

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Give people at least 20 minutes to do the exercise. People’s ideas are to be written on a flip chart as they go along.

If you are the leader – or if there is a leadership team that has introduced the strategy – you can give people ten minutes to get started.

You can then go around and look at the themes that are emerging. This helps you to prepare to address the themes and answer any questions. (You will have told people beforehand that you will be going around to see the themes that emerging.)

The next step is to invite people to report back. It can be useful to cluster the themes and questions that emerge. You can then respond and answer more effectively.

When answering questions, it can be useful to explain the following guidelines to people.

You will aim be honest and answer as fully as possible. You will do this because you want people to understand the strategy, the rationale behind it and the steps going forwards.

You will focus on the overall strategic issues when answering the questions. You will not be able to say exactly what each person in each job will be doing in a few months time.

You will set aside time over the next week to meet individuals and answer, as far as possible, their questions. They can book a time to see you.

You may not be able to answer all the questions in the session. You will be able to get back with some answers. There may also be questions that, because of certain issues, you will choose not to answer.

You will also take away the ideas and see which of these can be added to the strategy.

Bearing these things in mind, you can embark on addressing the themes and questions that have emerged.

Good leaders often see these sessions as an opportunity to educate people about the strategy. People go away with a wider grasp of the issues. They are then more able to explain the strategy to new people who join the team.

Here are the exercises you can give to the team members to get their responses to the strategy.

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Clarifying Everybody’s Contribution
Towards Achieving The Picture of Success

Good leaders aim to build a culture in which people can thrive. They also recognise, however, that great teams are made up of people who have similarity of spirit and diversity of strengths. Diversity of spirit is a recipe for disaster.

Such leaders create teams that are made up of people who aim to be positive, professional and peak performers. They then invite these people to make their best contributions towards achieving the picture of success.

They communicate the story, strategy and road to success.

They give people a chance to reflect and decide if they want to opt into achieving the goals.

They invite people – the smaller teams within the larger team and the individuals within those teams – to make clear contracts about their best contributions towards achieving the goals.

Good leaders manage by outcomes, rather than by tasks. So you may wish to take the following steps.

To, if appropriate, ask each smaller team within the team to produce its road map towards delivering its contribution towards achieving the overall picture of success.

To pick a date – perhaps three weeks in the future – when the whole team will gather and each smaller team will present its road map.

To then set a date by which each individual will have made clear contracts about the contribution to achieving the picture of success.

To make sure that these contracts are written in outcome terms – the specific things people are going to deliver under the headings of profits, products and people.

To tell people that, after the contracts are agreed, everybody will gather each month to report their progress on the road towards achieving the picture of success.

Imagine that you have clarified each small team’s contributions. People can then clarify the outcomes they will personally deliver towards achieving these goals. There are many frameworks you can use to help people to clarify their individual contributions. Here is one approach that can be used.

This framework is sent to people before they have a meeting with their manager. It invites them to clarify their strengths and best contribution. This forms the basis for then making clear contracts about their agreed goals. Here is the material that is sent to people.

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Good organisations ensure that everybody knows the overall goals. Each team and each person then makes clear contracts about their contributions towards achieving the aims. So the overall picture may look something like the following.

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Continuing To Focus On The Story,
Strategy and Road To Success

Good leaders encourage people to keep doing the right things in the right way every day. The road map may evolve, of course, but it is vital to keep people focusing on the goals.

Imagine that you have gone through the stages mentioned earlier. You can then encourage people:

To perform superb work.

To proactively report on their progress towards achieving the goals – this also involves producing and publicising success stories.

To find positive solutions to challenges and achieve the picture of success.

Good leaders enable people to take these steps. They also ensure that people keep reporting their progress towards achieving the goals.

One approach to doing this is to meet with each person on a regular basis. Here is one framework that they can follow for reporting the progress they have made and their plans for the future. They can then share this with you, for example, every month or another time frame.

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Super teams are special. They pursue their chosen strategies, perform superb work and work towards achieving their picture of success. They also communicate the progress the whole team is making towards achieving its goals.

Here is one approach to sharing the team’s achievements along the way. This is similar to the framework used with individuals, but you can adapt it to describe the team’s successes and plans. People can then continue to build a super team and deliver the picture of success.

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    P is for People Who Follow Their Principles rather than Worry About The Prizes  


    Different people have different philosophies of life. Each approach has both pluses and minuses. So they often aim to build on the pluses and manage the consequences of the minuses.

    Some people aim to keep following their principles and do not worry about the prizes.They aim to be true to their values, pursue a spiritual path or follow certain guidelines.

    This does not mean that they do not work towards achieving specific goals. They may aim to perform well in sports, pitch for business or work to build a more peaceful world.

    Such people focus on what they can control, however, rather worry about what they can’t control. They continue to do their best and perform fine work. They recognise that achieving the ultimate goal, however, may be influenced by forces beyond their control. 

    They often follow The Dalai Lama’s approach to worrying about things they can’t control. He said:

    If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry.

    If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever. 

    Some people spend a lot of their time worrying about getting the prize. They worry about whether or not they will get promotion, gain status or be seen as successful. This can lead to them straining, tightening up and failing to do their best.

    Some people follow their principles, keep doing fine work and, as a by-product, also get prizes. The real prize for them, however, is following their principles each day.

    Some sports coaches take this path. They encourage their players to keep following the agreed principles rather than worry about the scoreboard. As Bill Walsh, the American Football coach, said:

    Keep following the standards of performance and the score takes care of itself.

    Looking at your own life, can you think of a situation when you took this path? You may have been helping a person, leading a team or doing another activity.

    What were the principles you aimed to follow? How did you manage your emotions if you started worrying about the prize? How did you return to following your principles? What happened as a result of taking these steps?

    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 followed your principles rather than worried about the prize. 

    Describe the specific principles you aimed to follow in the situation. 

    Describe the specific things that happened as a result.

    Some people can become captivated by prizes. A person may feel that everything will change if, for example, they win a golf tournament, get promotion or win a lottery. They may find, however, that the prize captures them.

    Certainly some things may change, but some things will remain the same. They may get more opportunities, but they will still be the same person. They may need to learn how to use the prize, rather than let the prize use them.

    Some people who gain prizes become addicted to getting more plaudits. They focus totally on getting the next win, sometimes at the cost of neglecting their values, family or health.

    They may get their photo on the cover of a national magazine, for example, but worry when they don’t get the same publicity the following week. They then do anything to achieve acclaim, notoriety or get them noticed.

    Roger Fisher – A person
    who followed his principles

    Some people believe in following their principles, even though there may be setbacks along the way. They continue to hold their nerve, even when there are great things at stake. For some people, these outcomes can also include war or peace.

    Roger Fisher was somebody who took this route. He believed that human beings could flourish by focusing on healing rather than hate. He believed it was important to say to people: 

    We have a shared concern here. Let’s work together. How do you see it?

    Roger helped people to build on what they had in common and taught law students to focus on alignment. This was uncommon in law, where people often took adversarial positions. Here is a video in which he explains this approach.


    Roger served in the Second World War as a weather reconnaissance officer. But he was strongly affected by the loss of many friends.

    During his service he also flew morning flights over Japan. This was before the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. According to people who knew him, the memory of these flights – and the unnecessary deaths of many people in war – weighed on him.

    Although building a great reputation in the academic world, he threw himself into applying the ideas in practice. This involved him working in Europe on the Marshall Plan.

    Later he contributed to seeking peace in the Middle East. This involved working on President Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem and the subsequent summit at Camp David. He played a significant part in helping to release the United States citizens taken hostage in Iran in 1981.

    Roger helped to resolve the war between Ecuador and Peru. He also spent considerable time in South Africa, helping to bring together people to end Apartheid. He believed the keys were for people:

    To sit down together side-by-side.

    To focus on the job to do, which was to find a solution.

    To work together to solve the problem.

    Roger found himself in many challenging situations. Frequently this involved meeting with people who had deep antagonisms and fears.

    The aim was to follow the principles that worked. It was important, however, to separate himself and his ego from the situation.

    The aim was to help the parties to find a possible solution. Sometimes the negotiations were successful, sometimes they fell apart.

    Roger also believed it was vital for the parties involved to show respect to each other as human beings. Wherever possible, it was important to separate the ‘problem’ from the people.

    The key was to look for what each of the parties wanted. It was then often possible to solve the problem. The difficulty was that the solvable problem had often become complicated by the personal feelings – such as anger and disappointment – becoming wrapped in the problem.

    Roger emphasised the need to understand people as human beings. Sometimes this could be difficult, but it was important to understand what people really wanted. Here is a video in which he describes this approach.

    The Economist published the following piece about Roger after his death. You can discover more via the following link.

    Roger Fisher was really a fixer. He would relax by mending the plumbing, or laying brick terraces at the summer house he loved in Martha’s Vineyard. But that was tiddler stuff.

    At breakfast he would scan the New York Times, looking for bigger problems he could fix: arms control, hostage-taking, the Middle East.

    Over dinner the conversation would be sorting out Vietnam, or ending the war in El Salvador.

    At his 80th birthday party, most other guests gone, he was found deep in a discussion of peace between Arabs and Israelis.

    As long as there were disputes in the world and energy in his body, he was going to help resolve them.

    Let’s return to your own life and work. Can you think of a situation in which you may want to focus on your principles rather than become worried about the prize?

    You may want to be true to your values in a testing situation, help a person or run an educational project. You may want to take this path when playing a sport, building a business, tackling a crisis or whatever.

    What are the principles you want to follow in the situation? How can you translate these into action? How can you manage your emotions if you become worried about the result? How can you do your personal best in the situation?

    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 follow your principles rather than worry about the prize. 

    Describe the specific principles you will aim to follow in the situation.

    Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of taking these steps.


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