The Art of Strengths Coaching

T is for The Together View Of Life rather than The Tribal View Of Life  

There are many ways to look at life. Some people take the together view of life whilst others take the tribal view of life. Let’s explore these two approaches.

The Together View

People who take this approach believe that most people have a lot in common. They aim to build a world in which everybody has the opportunity to be healthy, hopeful and happy. Such people have the following view of life.

They believe in building on what people have in common – rather than continually seeking conflict – to achieve concrete results.

They believe that people can combine their strengths to tackle the challenges we face across the world.  

They believe that people can work together to create sustainable systems that deliver ongoing success for people and the planet. 

They want to encourage others to live fulfilling lives, providing they don’t hurt other people. Faced by challenges that may cause difficulties, they build on what people have in common. They then try to, as far as possible, find win-win solutions.

The Tribal View

People who take this approach focus only on what people similar to them have in common. They have little respect for those who are different. Such people have a particular view of life.

They identify only with people who are similar to them and have little empathy with those who are different.

They see people who are different as a threat to their own identity.

They try to make themselves look bigger by belittling other people or searching for scapegoats.

They sometimes want to impose their own beliefs on the way people live their lives. Faced challenges that could cause difficulties, they see these as a call to arms. They then try to make sure that they win and other people lose.

The Together Approach

We face many challenges across the world. One of the biggest is for people to work together to build a sustainable system that delivers ongoing success for people and the planet.

Such people often see the world as one system. The actions we take in one part of the world can affect the living system in another part of the world. They therefore aim to plant seeds of hope during their time on the planet.

Frank White focuses on this theme in his book The Overview Effect. This described the experiences of astronauts who had seen the world from space.

Here is an introduction to a video on this theme. You can discover more via the following link.

Compiled by the Planetary Collective, the film documents astronauts’ life-changing stories of seeing the Earth from the outside – a perspective-altering experience often described as the Overview Effect. 

The Overview Effect, first described by author Frank White in 1987, is an experience that transforms astronauts’ perspective of the planet and mankind’s place upon it. Common features of the experience are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment. 

‘Overview’ is a short film that explores this phenomenon through interviews with five astronauts who have experienced the Overview Effect.

The film also features insights from commentators and thinkers on the wider implications and importance of this understanding for society, and our relationship to the environment.

Many people are doing work that embodies the together approach to life. Some are working as individuals. They are using their strengths to do satisfying work and help others to achieve success.

Some are working with others in social enterprises. Here are videos from three such organisations. These are the Ashoka Organization, Singularity University and Street Football World.

Jeremy Rifkin wrote The Empathic Civilisation. He believes that humanity’s future depends on us extending our empathy to the whole human family and the biosphere.

Below is an animated video from the Royal Society of Arts which explains this approach. The video starts slowly, focusing on experiments with monkeys, but then builds to take in all life.

Taking us through the human journey, he explains how we are soft-wired for empathy. This enables us to cooperate, build on our strengths and flourish.

Jeremy says that human beings will thrive if we broaden our sense of identity. This involves recognising that our actions have consequences on the entire system.

Expanding our compassion will enable us to save the human family and the biosphere. You can read more about his ideas via the following link.

People who take the together view of life enjoy helping people. The positive majority of people take this route. They love to encourage other people when acting as parents, educators, coaches, leaders, trusted advisors or playing other roles.

Today many people recognise that we need to combine our strengths to create a positive future. Different people choose different ways to take this route.

Amanda Mackenzie is such a person. She is somebody I have had the opportunity to work with for the past 20 years. Several years ago Amanda was seconded from her role at Aviva to help set up and run Project Everyone.

This culminated in launching The Global Goals for sustainable development. Her employers Aviva issued the following press release when she took up the post.

Amanda Mackenzie to lead global education programme
for UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

Aviva announces that it will be a founding partner of a new initiative by Richard Curtis, film director and founder of Red Nose Day and Make Poverty History, which will aim to bring the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to every person around the world in 2015.

The UN’s Goals will aim to end extreme poverty and arrest the problems caused by climate change. 

To help meet this challenge, Aviva’s Chief Marketing Officer, Amanda Mackenzie, has been invited to work with Richard on this project for the next two years and has been specially seconded for this purpose. 

Amanda will lead a global education programme around the Goals and a legacy programme to see the eventual fulfilment of the goals.

Amanda has now moved to being the Chief Executive for Business In The Community. This organisation works with businesses of all sizes that are committed to having a positive impact on people and the planet. She continues to encourage both present and future generations.

Here is the video that was produced about the Global Goals. It is one expression of the many ways that people are following the together approach – rather than the tribal approach – towards building a better world.


    P is for The Positive Modelling Approach To Delivering Positive Results    

    Imagine that you lead an organisation. How can you encourage people to do great work?

    One method is to use the positive modelling approach towards delivering positive results. This article explores several steps you can take towards making this happen.

    Being a
    positive model

    Good leaders believe in the power of leading by example. They recognise that they are always on stage. People will focus on what they do as a leader, not just what they say.

    Such leaders aim to model the principles they would like other people in the organisation to follow. If they want people to be professional, they act in a professional way. If they want people to be kind, they demonstrate kindness in their daily lives.

    Several years ago I saw the power of modelling when working with an organisation. Leader A wanted to create a positive culture in which motivated people could achieve peak performance. Moving on after two years, he was replaced by Leader B who aimed to rule by fear.

    Leader A made people feel important. Arriving at the office, he spent time with the reception people, talked with the cleaners and was open to people stopping him to have a chat. He made people feel the centre of his world.

    Leader A knew how to manage knowledge workers. Gathering people together, he explained the organisation’s purpose, principles and picture of success. He then gave people the chance to reflect and decide if they wanted to work towards these goals.

    If so, he made clear contracts with people about how they could make their best contributions. He then enabled people to do superb work on the way towards achieving the picture of success.

    Leader A managed by outcomes rather than tasks. If people came with a problem to solve, he would say: “Let’s focus on the outcomes we want to achieve. How can we do our best to achieve those results?” He built an organisation in which people became more self-managing and delivered success.

    Leader B tried to make himself feel important. His first instruction to the PA he inherited was: “I want a glass of water waiting for me on my desk at 8.30 each morning.” This sounds unbelievable in today’s world, but those were his actual instructions.

    Gathering people together, Leader B started by describing the prizes he had won in his career and then announced: “Things are going to change around here.” He immediately replaced two well respected senior managers with two acolytes who bullied people.

    Leader B tried to make himself look big by making other people feel small. Looking for scapegoats, he publicly criticised several employees who had previously done good work. He created a climate of fear that led to many fine people leaving the organisation.

    Leader B had been hired by the Board and at first they refused to believe the reports about his behaviour. They said that: “People are just afraid of change.” The reports of his bullying became so persistent, however, that eventually he was asked to leave the organisation.

    Looking to the future, can you think of situation in which you want to act as a positive model? You may aim to do this as parent, teacher, friend, colleague, leader, trusted advisor or in some other role.

    Bearing in mind the situation, what are the kinds of behaviours you would like to model for other people? You may aim to be positive, encouraging, kind, calm, professional or whatever. What can you do to be a good model and demonstrate these behaviours in your daily life or work?

    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 act as a positive model. 

    Describe the specific kinds of behaviour you want to model in the situation.

    Describe the specific things you can do to demonstrate these behaviours and act as a positive model in the situation.

    positive models

    People buy success rather than the theory of success. They are more likely to adopt an idea if they see how it will help them to succeed. Bearing this in mind, it can be useful to show what works by building positive models.

    Imagine you are a leader and want to shift the culture in an organisation. You have several options for making this happen. These include the following.

    You can urge everybody to change and put them through a conventional change programme.

    You can fire everybody and start again with a blank piece of paper.

    You can create the desired future culture by building successful prototypes. You can then invite people to choose whether or not they want to join this culture.

    Savvy leaders often go for the latter option. Why? They understand systems theory.

    Systems follow the law of homeostasis – they keep returning back to their present state. It can be exhausting to try to change the system. You can create a new system with new rules.

    Good leaders also recognise the importance of language. It is good to stress that you are aiming to Build the New rather than trying to Change the Old. The language is pioneering. This provides more positive energy than urging people to change.

    How to make this happen? One model that works is the Three Waves approach. This calls for going through the following stages.

    Stage 1: You can build
    successful prototypes

    Start by clarifying the principles that you want people in the organisation to follow in the future. You may, for example, want them launch a new approach to providing customer service or to embody a new way of working that delivers success.

    You can begin by building successful prototypes that demonstrate this approach. Here are some steps towards making this happen.

    You can set up the
    prototypes to succeed

    Looking around the different departments, rate the chances of success of running such a pilot. Go with the positive energy. Clarify where the chances are at least 8/10 and then choose where you will build the prototypes.

    Another option is to go for a Green Field site. This may be a new site with new people who will adopt a new approach.

    You can appoint the right people, make clear contracts
    and give them the support they need to succeed 

    Get the right people in place – especially the right leaders – otherwise you are sunk. Agree with the leaders on the following things.

    The What:  The specific results to be delivered. 

    The Why: The benefits – for all the stakeholders – of delivering these results.

    The How: The key strategies – the principles – people can follow to deliver the results. It will be important, however, to give the leaders freedom, within parameters, regarding how they implement these principles.

    The Who: The responsibilities of the various people on the road towards delivering the results. 

    The When: The specific things that must be delivered – and by When – on the road to achieving the results.

    Make clear working contracts with people who are going to build the prototypes. Give them the support they need to achieve success.

    You can ring-fence the prototypes
    in order to help them to succeed

    Why? Sometimes old systems try to stop new ones from succeeding, so it is vital to provide protection. Organisations sometimes give double messages, such as:

    We want you to be creative and deliver results in the new world. We also want you to follow the old rules to achieve these results.

    You can encourage people
    to get some quick successes

    Encourage people to get some early wins, build positive momentum and publicise these wins. Set a date for an event in 6 months time where they will present their success stories. Sounds challenging, but people respond to deadlines.

    You can do everything possible to
    ensure the prototypes deliver success

    You can provide an inspiring vision, but it is up to the prototype builders to do the work. Keep in touch with them, but in a supportive way. Ask: “What do you want from me to help you to be successful?” Then, wherever possible, provide that support.

    Encourage them to communicate their achievements along the road and also celebrate success. If things go wrong, however, make the tough decisions early rather than late.

    You can get people to present the
    lessons from the successful prototypes

    Success provides its own arguments, so publicise the success stories. People can do this through articles, internal television or whatever. Later we will be looking at the importance of continuing to produce success stories.

    Stage 2: You can invite volunteers to
    implement the successful principles
    in their parts of the organisation

    Imagine you have backed several prototypes that have delivered the goods. Arrange an event – or use other communication vehicles – where the prototype builders present their success stories.

    You can then announce the next phase by asking for volunteers who want to follow similar principles in their part of the organisation. One approach is to position this by saying something along the following lines.

    The prototypes have shown how we can deliver success.

    We are looking for volunteers who want to follow these principles in their parts of the organisation. Get back to me within one week if you want to make this happen.

    Let me know ‘What’ you want to deliver and ‘How’, within broad terms, you aim to deliver it. Also let me know the support you would like to do the job.

    This obviously means a shift in culture – changing the way we do things around here. We can succeed with this new approach. So let me know if you want to be part of making it happen.

    You can provide the volunteers with the support they need to deliver success. The people who set up the original prototypes can, if appropriate, act as coaches to the volunteers.

    Set a date, such as the next conference, when the volunteers will present their success stories. Do whatever is required to ensure their parts of the organisation implement the principles and deliver success.

    Stage 3: You can make the
    principles mandatory and
    guide the organisation to success

    You have backed successful prototypes that embody the future culture. Now it is the time for people to make a decision. So you may give them the following message.

    The prototypes have shown the principles we must follow to be successful.  

    The pluses are that we will improve our services and stay in business. The minuses are that it will be challenging, especially at first. But it is the way to build a successful future.  

    What I am saying to you is also challenging. I am asking you to decide whether or not you want to follow those principles.  If so, get back to your manager within the next week and we will agree on how you want to contribute.

    If we do not hear from you, we will assume you do not want to follow these principles. We will then try to work out, as far as possible, a win-win.

    This sounds tough, but we must follow these principles to achieve success. Let your manager know if you want to contribute to the journey.

    Sounds challenging, but frequently there are few other options. People must decide whether or not they want to be part of the future culture.

    Expect some rocky times, but eventually things will work out. You will then have laid the foundations by building a positive model.

    Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation in which you may want to show what works by building a positive model? This could be in your personal or professional life.

    You may want to educate students, help people find satisfying work or create software. You may want to solve conflicts, build an organisation that scores highly on employee wellbeing or deliver a specific stimulating project.

    How can you build such a model? What are the specific things you can do to increase the chances of delivering success?

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

    Describe a specific situation in which you may want to show what works by building a positive model.

    Describe the specific things you can do to show what works by building the positive model.

    Describe the specific things you can do to increase the chances of success when building the positive model.

    Being an educator by
    sharing success stories
    about positive models

    Good educators study success. They study what works, simplify what works – in a profound way – and share what works. They then offer people practical tools they can use to follow these principles in their own ways.

    Good leaders take a similar approach. They set the scene by sharing the organisation’s purpose, principles and picture of success. They then bring these themes to life by sharing success stories.

    Imagine you want to take this approach. Building on real life examples, you can keep showing what good looks like. You can focus on the following themes.

    “But the old adage says that you learn more from your mistakes than from your successes,” somebody may say.

    Certainly there are many lessons to gather from people doing the wrong thing, working in the wrong place or adopting the wrong strategy. But that approach is based on the assumption that people already know the key principles for doing great work. This is not always the case.

    Imagine you want to produce success stories that provide positive models for people in your organisation. Here are some steps you can take to make this happen.

    Clarify who will be the mission holder

    Appoint a mission holder who is accountable for ensuring the stories are collected, written and published. Do not leave it to a committee. The mission holder does not have to do the writing. They can hire an internal or external writer to collect and produce the stories.

    Clarify how many stories you want
    and the timetable for publication

    One company I worked with translated this approach into action by quickly producing six success stories. The material was already there. It was just a question of collecting it and producing the stories.

     Clarify the framework
    for producing the stories

    Different people use different frameworks for sharing success stories and showing what good looks like. Here is one framework.

    Choose a title for the story and describe the specific situation that people encountered. They could be helping a client, solving a problem, improving internal processes or whatever. You can then describe the following things.

    The specific situation that people faced – including the specific challenges and the desired picture of success.

    The specific things people did – the principles they followed and how they translated these into action – to tackle the challenges and achieve the picture of success. 

    The specific results that were delivered in terms of tackling the challenges and achieving the picture of success.

    Conclude by summarising what was learned from the experience. For example:

    The specific things that worked and how people can follow these principles more in the future. 

    The specific things that maybe could be done better – and how – in similar situations in the future. 

    The specific other things of interest that emerged.

    There are many models for producing success stories. This is one approach.

    Communicate the success stories

    There are many methods you can use to share the success stories. You may choose:

    To publish the stories on the internal and external websites.

    To publish the stories in the Induction Pack for new joiners and use these to show what good looks like.

    To continually produce and publish new stories that show how people can follow the organisation’s principles to deliver success.

    Good leaders continually communicate the organisation’s purpose, principles and picture of success. Some then use the positive modelling approach to encourage people to deliver positive results.

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

    Describe a specific situation in which you may want to educate people by sharing success stories.

    Describe the specific things you can do to find and share the success stories.

    Describe the specific benefits of sharing the success stories.


      B is for Building A Team Based On The Beliefs, Basics And Brilliance  

      There are many ways to build fine teams. This article looks at how you can help people to build on their beliefs, keep doing the basics and then add the brilliance.

      The Beliefs Read more


        A is for The Advantage Of Seeing Things From Another Angle  

        Some people gain an advantage by being able to see things from a different angle. Different people develop this ability in different ways.

        People who are labelled as different relatively early in life Read more


          P is for The Positive Team Approach

          Imagine that you lead a team. You will obviously do this in your own way. Here are some ideas, however, that you can use to build a positive team in which people work well Read more


            S is for Sages Who Are Both Skipping And Serious  

            Some sages seem to be skipping with joy and yet can also be serious. As they get older, they seem more able to have a sense of perspective about life.

            They can be a Read more


              G is for People Being More Likely To Make Changes When They Have Something To Gain  

              There are many views about what motivates people to make changes in their lives and work. One view is that people take such steps when they have something to gain.

              Some people make Read more


                H is for People Getting High By Helping People Or Hurting People  

                Some people get their highs by helping people. The positive majority of people take this route. They love to encourage other people when acting as parents, educators, coaches, leaders, trusted advisors or playing other Read more


                  E is for Eager Beavers

                  There are many models for building fine teams. Many emphasise the importance of leaders communicating a compelling mission. But then it is vital to have people who get the work done.

                  Great teams Read more


                    S is for Satisfying Work That Is Stimulating And Stretching rather than Straining Or Requires Surgery  

                    There are many ways to do satisfying work. One approach is to do things that are stimulating and stretching.

                    Looking at your own life, what do you to do experience these feelings? You may Read more