The Art of Strengths Coaching

S is for Supporting The Human Spirit

 

There are many approaches to helping people to develop. One approach is to focus on supporting the human spirit. One of my mentors explained this in the following way.

“We meet many people each day, so sometimes it can be hard to understand each individual.

“It is important, however, to try to understand the human spirit.

“Most people want similar things in life. So it is important to create an environment in which people can achieve these aims.”

This is a lesson I tried to remember when working with individuals, teams and organisations. Sometimes it can be challenging to understand the exact needs of each individual.

People do, however, have many things in common. When it comes to the human spirit, it can be useful to remember the following principles.

People want to be in an encouraging environment that enables them to grow. They can then focus on their picture of success.

People also want personal encouragement. They can be helped to build on their strengths and pursue practical strategies that enable them to achieve their picture of success.

Great educators take this approach. They create an inspiring environment and clarify the student’s aim. They then aim to make the learning personal, practical and profitable.

Personal. It must relate to the person and their goals

Practical. It must be practical and provide tools that help the person to reach their goals.

Profitable. It must be, in the widest sense, profitable and help the person to achieve their goals.

Great leaders also nurture the human spirit. They often aim to create a positive culture in which motivated people can achieve peak performance.

Different people have different views on the human spirit and how to nurture it in their daily lives and work. You will, of course, have your own view.

Looking at my own life, for example, I have tended to follow certain principles regarding human beings. These were formed during my teenage years and early twenties.

These mainly came from asking individuals: “What has helped you to grow most in your life?” These conversations – plus studying what worked – resulted in trying to follow certain beliefs when working with people. These are:

Everybody is an artist. Everybody is creative. Most people want similar things in life, but the ways they try to get these things can differ. Everybody can be helped to become the best they can be. 

Everybody can be encouraged to build on their positive spirit. They can, if they wish, be helped to build on their strengths, pursue practical strategies and achieve their picture of success.

Everybody makes choices. They can choose to be positive or negative, to take responsibility or avoid responsibility, to help other people or hurt other people. Each choice does, of course, have consequences.

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

Describe the specific things that you believe about the human spirit. 

Describe the specific things that you believe we can do to support the human spirit and enable people to grow.

There are many views on how to nurture the human spirit. Let’s explore some of the themes mentioned earlier in the article.

People want to be in an encouraging
environment that enables them to grow 

Everybody wants encouragement. So how can we support people in their daily lives and work?

There have been many humanistic approaches to helping people develop in the work place. Many stem from the writings of Abraham Maslow and his description of the hierarchy of human needs. Douglas McGregor described how this approach could be applied to organisations in his book The Human Side of Enterprise.

Since the 1970s there has also been a boom in psychometric tests. Such tools can provide insights and help managers to understand different personality types. Managers can sometimes get confused, however, if they try to treat 10 or more team members in different ways.

Good leaders are often like good parents. They are positive and predictable rather than negative and unpredictable. People then feel more at ease and able to excel.

Such leaders manage by outcomes rather than by tasks. They communicate a clear purpose and picture of success. They also outline the principles that people can follow to achieve the goals.

People are given chance to decide if they want to opt in. If so, they make clear contracts about their contributions. They are also given the required support. People are then more likely to do superb work and achieve the agreed goals.

Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer underline some of these points in their book The Progress Principle. They say that people who feel they are making progress in their work are more likely to improve their sense of wellbeing.

The Progress Principle provides a detailed description of what people need to flourish in their work. Below are excerpts from the website that describes the book and also from an article written for the Harvard Business Review. You can discover more via the following links.

http://progressprinciple.com/

https://hbr.org/2011/05/the-power-of-small-wins

The power of progress is fundamental to human nature, but few managers understand it or know how to leverage progress to boost motivation.  

What really sets the best managers above the rest? It’s their power to build a cadre of employees who have great inner work lives -consistently positive emotions; strong motivation; and favorable perceptions of the organization, their work, and their colleagues.

The worst managers undermine inner work life, often unwittingly.

The book shows how to remove obstacles to progress, including meaningless tasks and toxic relationships. It also explains how to activate two forces that enable progress – catalysts and nourishers.

 

Let’s move on to another aspect of encouraging the human spirit.

People can be helped to build on their
strengths and achieve their picture of success

Different organisations use different methods for making this happen. One approach is to invite people to clarify their strengths and then deliver their best contribution.

Good leaders start by communicating the overall picture of success. Bearing in mind these goals, they then invite each person to do the following things. 

To clarify their strengths.

To clarify how they can use their strengths to make their best contribution towards achieving the goals. 

To make clear contracts about their agreed contribution, perform superb work and deliver the agreed goals.

During the past 50 years I have worked with many teams that have taken this approach. Below are some of the materials that they have used to encourage people to clarify their best contributions.

These materials are sent to each team member. They complete these and send them to their manager before a meeting in which they agree on their goals.

The materials also provides a framework that each person can use to report their progress. Here are the materials.

There are many ways to encourage people. Trusted advisors, for example, make a person feel the centre of their world. They listen to the person and clarify their goals. They then pass on knowledge that the person can use in their own way to achieve their goals.

Good encouragers recognise that every person is different. They also recognise, however, that there are certain eternal principles they we can follow to nurture the human spirit. We can, for example, enable people to build on their strengths, pursue practical strategies and achieve their picture of success.

You will, of course, have your own view of how to support people. If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things that you can do to support the human spirit and enable people to grow.

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

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