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 Pursuing A Relatively Predictable Path Towards Achieving Positive Results

    During the past 50 years I have been given the chance to study many great workers. These have included people working in psychotherapy, education, sports, business and other fields.

    When watching these people in action at first it appeared they had only one thing common. This was their ability to make complicated things simple. But then other patterns began to emerge.

    These came to the fore when I had the opportunity to interview such people before they did a piece of work. One characteristic that stood out was their confidence about the path they aimed to follow.

    Great workers kept reiterating this theme, whatever their chosen field. They might be running a therapy session, coaching a sports team, taking over a business or whatever. Here is a summary of what such a person might say about their approach to doing a piece of work.

    I do everything possible to create predictability and increase the chances of success. This involves doing my due diligence.

    I clarify the results to achieve and the strategies most likely to succeed. Rating the chances of success on a scale 0 to 10, I clarify what I can do to increase the rating. 

    I do lots of preparation. This involves rehearsing the strategies I want to follow and the potential challenges along the way. I then relax and rest.

    I follow certain rituals on the day of the work. Clicking into action, I then follow the strategies. I stay alert and keep checking that things are going okay. I then do my best to achieve success.

    Since then I have watched many such people in action. Here are some of the patterns that have emerged.

    Great workers build on their strengths and manage the consequences of any weaknesses. They also demonstrate the following characteristics.

    They are passionate about their work and explore many possibilities that can achieve positive results.

    They prepare massively before doing a specific piece of work and plan how to do their best to achieve positive results.  

    They then pursue what they see as a relatively predictable path – including dealing with the unexpected – that will increase the chances of achieving positive results.

    Looking at your own life, can you think of a situation when have you taken similar steps in your own way? You may have been aiming to apply for a job, take over a team, compete in a sports event, make a difficult transition or whatever.

    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 aimed to pursue a relatively predictable path towards achieving positive results. 

    Describe the specific things you did to take these steps.  

    Describe the specific things that happened as a result.

    Great workers aim to set things up to succeed and create as much predictability as possible. They are then more able to deal with unpredictability when it happens. This predictability, however, must be based on what works. How to take this step?

    Bearing in mind the piece of work they are going to do, they start by studying success. They aim to study what works and do what works. As the saying goes, they stand on the shoulders of giants. Passionate about they chosen field, they continually explore how to deliver positive results.

    Great workers build on their own strengths and prepare properly before doing a piece of work. They clarify the real results to achieve. They then clarify the strategies they will follow – including planning for the unexpected – on the way towards delivering the desired positive results.

    Such workers do their due diligence before committing to doing a piece of work. Imagine, for example, that you have been invited to run a workshop for a company. Before the session, you will aim to meet with the key stakeholders and some of the participants:

    To clarify the real results what they want to achieve from the workshop.

    To clarify the key topics they want to explore and the challenges they face.

    To clarify the actual words they want to be saying after the workshop – such as:  

    “That was valuable … We got many practical tools we can use in our daily work … We now feel more equipped to do superb work and achieve our picture of success.”

    Clear contracting is crucial. In addition to agreeing on the results to achieve, you will make clear contracts about your role and the role of the participants in the workshop.

    Your role will be to encourage people and provide practical tools that will enable them to achieve success. The role of the participants will be to encourage each other, take the ideas they like and use these in their own ways to achieve success.

    Looking ahead to the workshop, you can clarify the key strategies you can follow to achieve the desired results. Exploring these in depth, you can rate the probability of success. You can also consider how to improve the chances of delivering the goods.

    You can use variations of this approach whether you are planning to run a workshop, take a role in a company, build your own business or whatever. It can be useful to try completing the following exercise.

    The Picture Of Success 

    The real results to achieve are:




    The Strategies 

    The key strategies I can follow to give
    myself the greatest chance of success are: 




    The Success Rating

    Bearing in mind the things I can control, I
    believe the chances of achieving success are:

    ____ / 10 

    The specific things I can do to
    maintain or improve this rating are:




    Great workers rehearse the work they are going to do. This is the path taken by athletes, actors, dancers and others who must translate ideas into physical actions. They keep working until they feel prepared for the performance.

    Some people do mental rehearsal. There are many approaches to taking this step. Below is one framework. This involves relaxing and working through the following stages.

    Great workers often have a ritual they follow before launching into the actual work. They then click into action, are fully present and pursue their chosen strategies.

    They stay fully alert, however, and use their antennae to be aware of what is happening. They keep doing reality checks about: a) What is working; b) What can be done better and how. They then implement these ideas.

    Great workers buy time if things start going astray. They then go into classic problem solving mode by focusing on clarity, creativity. They work through the following stages and then commit to pursuing their chosen way forwards.

    Great workers try to create as much predictability as possible. They are then more able to deal with unexpected events. They perform superb work, stay alert and do their best to achieve the desired positive results.

    Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation when you may want to take some of these steps in your own way? This could be in your personal or professional life.

    How can you clarify the picture of success? How can you clarify what is most likely to work? How can you pursue your chosen strategies? How can you deal with unexpected events? How can you do your best to achieve the desired positive results?

    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 aim to pursue a relatively predictable path towards achieving positive results.

    Describe the specific things you can do then to take these steps.  

    Describe the specific things that may happen as a result.


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