The Art of Strengths Coaching

S is for The Strengths Approach To Encouraging People

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There are many ways to encourage people. This approach helps people to build on their strengths and achieve their picture of success.

It starts by clarifying people’s picture of success. This is the case whether working with individuals, teams or organisations. It then provides practical tools that people can use to build on their positive spirit, set specific goals and achieve their picture of success.

Here are some of the questions that it is possible to ask at each stage of the journey.

The Picture of Success

What are the person’s goals? Many people want to be loved, happy, successful and find peace. What do they want to do in their life and work?

What are the team’s or organisation’s goals? Many have a particular view of success. They may, for example, want to improve their profits, products or people. They may also want to leave a positive legacy. What does the team or organisation want to deliver?

Looking at a person, team or organisation, what are the real results they want to achieve? What is their picture of success? What will be happening that will show they have achieved their picture of success?

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Strengths

Spirit

When does the person show positive spirit? When do they come alive? What are the things that give them positive energy? When do they encourage other people? When do they follow their passion, translate it into a clear purpose and achieve peak performance?

Looking at teams and organisations, who are the positive people? Where is the positive energy? How can people build on this positive energy? How can they build positive cultures that enable people to achieve ongoing success?

Strengths

What are the person’s strengths? What are the activities in which they deliver As, rather than Bs or Cs? What are the activities they find deeply satisfying? When are they in their element – at ease and yet able to excel? When do they go ‘A, B ___ then leap to ___ Z’?

Where do they quickly see patterns? Where do they have good personal radar? Where do they have the equivalent of a photographic memory? Where do they score highly on drive, detail and delivery? When do they flow, focus and finish? Where do they have a track record of finishing?

Looking at teams and organisations, what are their strengths? What are the activities in which they deliver As, rather than Bs or Cs? How can they build their As and manage the consequences of their Bs and Cs?

Successful Style

What is the person’s successful style? What for them have been the most satisfying projects? What were people doing right then? What were the principles they were following? Looking at these projects, are there any patterns that give clues to their successful style? How can they follow their successful style in the future?

Looking at teams and organisations, when have they performed brilliantly? What were people doing right then to perform brilliantly? What were the principles they were following? How can they follow these principles – plus maybe add other elements – to perform brilliantly in the future?

If people want to make a living doing what they love, who are their perfect customers? What are the characteristics of these customers? What are the challenges these potential customers face? What is the potential customer’s picture of success? How can people use their strengths to help these potential customers to achieve success?

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Strategies

Specific Goals

Let’s return to people’s picture of success. What are their goals? What is the first specific goal that people, teams or organisations want to focus on towards achieving their longer-term aims?

Looking at this goal, what are the real results they want to achieve? What is their picture of success? What are the specific things that will be happening that will show they have achieved the picture of success?

Strategies

Looking ahead, what are people’s options? What are the possible routes that people, teams or organisations can take towards achieving their goals? Looking at each of these choices, what are the consequences – the pluses and minuses – of each route? Which is the route that people want to take towards achieving their goals?

Let’s move on to their chosen strategies. What are the key strategies that people, teams or organisations can follow to give themselves the greatest chance of success? How can they translate these strategies into actions? How can they deliver some early successes?

Support

What support do people need to reach their goals? How can they get this support? How can they encourage themselves on the journey?

Looking at teams and organisations, how can they get the right support? How can they make sure they get the right people implementing the right strategies in the right way?

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Superb Work

How can people perform superb work? How can they keep following good habits? How can they keep doing the right things in the right way every day? How can they keep doing the basics and then add the brilliance?

Looking at teams and organisations, how can they keep their eyes on the goal? How can they co-ordinate their efforts to achieve their goals? How can they provide great service that satisfies their customers and other stakeholders? How can they help those people to achieve success?

Solutions

How can people anticipate potential difficulties? How can they prevent these difficulties happening? How can they manage these difficulties if they do happen?

How can people, teams and organisations find creative solutions to challenges? How can they do this by focusing on clarity – the real results to achieve – creativity and concrete results?

Success

How can people, teams and organisations achieve their goals? How can they finish successfully? How can they do whatever is required to achieve their picture of success? How can they add that touch of class?

How can people keep developing? How can they focus on: a) The specific things they do well and how they can do these more in the future; b) The specific things they can do better in the future and how?

How can they take the next step in their development? How can they pass on their knowledge to other people? How can they continue to build a positive planet?

There are many ways to follow these steps. In my own life, for example, this has often involved encouraging people to build on their strengths and, when appropriate, build super teams and superb organisations. But each person will find their own way.

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    D is for Doing Your Best After A Disappointment

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    Don Clifton, the author of Now, Discover Strengths, was once asked about a certain person’s potential. An extremely positive person, Don was also realistic. He answered along the following lines.

    “The person has strengths and shows promise, but I do now know how good they can become. I will be able to answer better after I see how they deal with setbacks.”

    Different people react in different ways to disappointments. Some choose to give up. Some choose to blame the world. Some choose to develop and do their best in the future.

    Looking at your own life, can you recall a time when you went on to do good work after a disappointment? This could have been in your personal or professional life.

    You may have taken this step after being turned down for a job, losing a customer, ending a relationship, being rejected by a sports team or whatever.

    How did you go through the healing process? What did you learn from the setback? How did you then aim to do your best in the future?

    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 did your best after a disappointment.

    Describe the specific things you did to do your best after the disappointment.  

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

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    Different people respond to setbacks in different ways. Some react by going through the stages of shock, denial, paralysis, anger and hurt. They may then spend some time healing.

    At a certain point they may feel ready to move forwards. They may gain strength, set new goals, work hard and get success. This can lead to regaining a sense of confidence.

    Some individuals respond quickly to setbacks. They may experience a sense of surprise or shock, but they then move on to finding solutions to the challenge. They ask:

    “What is actually happening? What do I want to happen? What are the real results I want to achieve? What is the picture of success?

    “How can I do my best to achieve these results? What are the various options I can follow? What are the pluses and minuses of each option?

    “What is the route I want to follow? How can I translate this into a clear action plan? What do I want to do and when? How can I get some quick successes?”

    Swinging into action, they pursue their short, medium and long-term plans. At a certain point, however, they may reflect on the experience and see how they can apply the learning in the future.

    Liz Murray is somebody who has recovered from setbacks. Her story reached many people in the film Homeless To Harvard.

    She grew up in the Bronx with parents who were addicts, but she always had dreams. The video below provides a short extract from a speech she gave at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.

    Here are some excerpts from an article about her speech. You can find the article at:

    http://www.depauw.edu/news-media/latest-news/details/15641/

    “It’s not about Harvard, it’s not about a prestigious school,” says Liz Murray of her incredible and uplifting life story, which she shared with an audience at DePauw University tonight.

    “It’s not about that. It’s about learning, about educating yourself and gathering enough knowledge to find your way through any little crack or crevice you possibly can so you can move up and escape from that trap you were born into.”

    Murray detailed how she was born to drug-addicted parents, and how as a child, living in squalor, her parents and everyone she knew was living month-to-month on government checks. 

    Despite the tumultous environment in which she was raised, Murray says she has always loved her parents. Her life, already in disarray, unraveled quickly when her mother was diagnosed with HIV.  

    Her mother moved out, her father went to a homeless shelter, and Murray, then a young teen, was sent to a group home.

    Her unpleasant experiences there led her to run away and she lived on the streets of New York City, eating out of dumpsters and sleeping at friends’ houses or on subway trains, but in her own words, “going nowhere.” The year Murray turned 16, her mother died, and her view of life changed.

    “I got the sense that my life was in my own hands,” she told her DePauw audience.  

    Murray’s ultimate goal is to create a coaching and seminar company that will work with groups, perhaps specializing in inner-city schools. 

    “Instead of just speaking about my life, I want that to be a footnote, and I want to offer strategies to people.”

    Liz has moved on to focusing on how to provide opportunities for young people. Here is a longer video in which she talks about the power of possibilities.

    Different people have different approaches to clarifying what they learned from a disappointment.

    Some people spend a long time focusing on failure. They ask questions like:

    “What went wrong? Why did it fail? Why did I behave that way?”

    Some people take a different approach. They ask questions like:

    “What did I do well? How can I do more of these things in the future? What could I do better next time and how? How can I apply these lessons to future challenges?”

    Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a potential disappointment that you may experience in the future? This could be in your personal or professional life

    You may have a book rejected, lose a piece of business or fail to do your best in a sporting event. You may fail to follow your values, take time to get over a setback or experience some other kind of disappointment.

    How can you recover from the setback? How can you build on what you did well? How can you improve in the other areas? How can you then aim to do your best in the future?

    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 do your best after a potential disappointment.

    Describe the specific things you can do to do your best after the disappointment.  

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

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