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.

Good organisations ensure that everybody knows the overall goals. Each team and each person makes clear contracts about their contribution 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.

Super teams are special. They pursue their chosen strategies, perform superb work and achieve their picture of success.

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

You will do this in your own way, but here is one approach to inviting people to present their achievements along the way. People can then continue to build a super team and deliver the picture of success.

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    B is for Building A Body Of Work That Benefits People

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    There are different definitions for a body of work. One definition is: “The total output of a writer or artist or a substantial part of it.” There are also other views.

    Pamela Slim, for example, helps people to focus on the contribution they want to make in their lives and work. She describes this approach in her book Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together.

    Below is a short excerpt from the introduction the book. This is followed by her TED talk on the topic. Pam writes:

    Much of today’s business literature is focused on short-term gains, hacks, tweaks, and quick wins. 

    Everyone wants a secret formula. Or the four-hour work week. Or the easy life on the beach. Viewing your life as a body of work is not a short-term game.

    Your body of work is everything you create, contribute, affect and impact. For individuals, it is a personal legacy you leave at the end of your life, including all the tangible and intangible things you have created.

    You can discover more via the following link.

    Who do you believe has produced a body of work that has benefited people? This could be a carer, educator, artist, musician, scientist, architect, thinker or someone who aimed to live a good life. What do you admire about the work they produced?

    Looking at the people whose work I admire, many gave a positive view of humanity’s possibilities. These include psychologists such as Abraham Maslow, Viktor Frankl and Virginia Satir. They also include educators such as Henry Pluckrose, Ron Berger and Kiran Bir Sethi.

    If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to write the name of a person who you believe produced a body of work that benefited people. It then invites you to do the following things.

    Describe the specific body of work they built that benefited people. 

    Describe the specific things they did to build this body of work.

    Describe the specific ways that this body of work benefited people.

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    There are different approaches to building a body of work. Pamela Sim, for example, invites individuals to clarify their values and the things they believe in doing. She says it can then be useful to consider the following questions.

    What do you want to create? Who do you want to help? What are the characteristics of these people? What will they do with what you give them? What drives you? What will happen as a result of investing your time and energy in giving these things to people?

    Pamela goes on to outline the specific steps people can take to create their body of work. Here is a link to her books on this and other topics.

    Let’s explore another approach to building a body of work. If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme called My Positive Contribution To The Planet. This invites you to focus on the positive things you want to give to people during your time on the planet.

    How to clarify this contribution? One approach is to start by describing the things that give you positive energy. This includes the things that you enjoy giving to people. Here is the exercise together with some of the answers that people have given.

    Positive Energy

    The things that give me positive energy in
    my personal and professional life are:

    Encouraging people … Spending time with our children … Cooking for friends … Caring for animals … Showing kindness … Nurturing gardens … Building boats … Teaching wellbeing.

    Helping people to find satisfying work … Fixing certain kinds of problems … Making things better … Showing people new ways to treat cancer … Mediating disputes … Leading pioneering companies.

    Bearing in mind what gives you positive energy, you may then wish to move on to the next stage. What are the positive things you want to give to people during your time on the planet? Here some of the answers that other people have given.

    My Positive Contribution To The Planet

    The positive things I want to give to
    people during my time on the planet are:

    To encourage people in my daily life and work … To build an inspiring school … To help people learn lifeskills they can use to shape their future lives … To help people find satisfying work … To help people to take care of their health and happiness.

    To provide tools that help people to solve conflicts … To plant a million trees … To make films that encourage people to care for nature … To make music that inspires people … To lead a successful social enterprise … To show a better way of running a company. 

    Different people choose different ways to help others. Giving these things can help to build a body of work that benefits people.

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

    Describe the positive things you want to give to people during your time on the planet. 

    Describe the specific steps you can take to give these positive things to people.  

    Describe the specific benefits of giving these positive things to people.

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