The Art of Strengths Coaching

D is for Delivering At The Denouement

There are many ways to do fine work. One approach is to do what you do best, have a strong drive and be disciplined. It is then to focus on decision making, doing your best and delivering at the denouement. Here are some definitions of this word.

Denouement

The resolution of a situation when something is made clear or decided. 

The outcome of a complex series of events that reach a conclusion.

The final part of a narrative, a play or a film when the strands of a plot are drawn together and explained or resolved.

Great workers deliver the goods when it matters. Different people do this in different ways.

Some people seem to be naturally good finishers. Approaching their equivalent of the finishing line, they relax. They then aim to flow, focus and finish. Sometimes, as a by-product, they gain a sense of fulfilment.

Some people see every moment as a chance to do their best. They believe that the way they behave has consequences – both for themselves and other people.

Such people aim to do great work at both small moments and big moments. They therefore do not get phased by critical situations. They believe every moment is a kind of denouement.

Some people go through a struggle when approaching the finishing line. They get distracted by what Steve Peters, the forensic psychiatrist, called their Inner Chimp. This can take many forms – such as negative self-talk or remembering past failures.

They sometimes overcome this by channelling their Inner Champ rather than their Inner Chimp. They recall times when they tackled similar challenges successfully. They then follow similar principles – plus add other skills – to deliver the goods when it matters.

Looking back, can you think of situation when you have delivered at the denouement? You may have done this when rising to the occasion, finishing a project, playing a sport, dealing with a crisis or doing another activity.

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 delivered at the denouement.

Describe the specific things you did then to deliver at the denouement.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result.

Different people face different situations when they aim to deliver at the denouement. Some face such moments on a daily basis; some face them on exceptional occasions. Here are some examples of people saying when they want to do their best in such situations.

Delivering At The Denouement.
I want to do my best when I am:

Helping troubled people to retake control of their lives … Showing compassion in my work at the hospice … Playing golf in the Ryder Cup … Performing in concerts around the world … Pitching for business that will shape the future of our company.

Competing in a triathlon … Helping companies to recover from PR disasters … Working as a chef to continually produce great meals for my guests … Managing the daily challenges in my work at Accident and Emergency. 

Looking ahead, can you think of a situation when you may want to do your best to deliver at a denouement? This could be in your personal or professional life.

You may want to do this many times during the course of your daily work. Looking at my own mentoring work, for example, the aim is to ensure that the person goes away feeling it has been a valuable session. My job is to do my best to help to achieve this successful conclusion.

You may want to deliver in a pressure situation. An athlete looking forward to an Olympic Final, for example, will bear in mind what they can control, such as their own performance on the day. They may then describe their goals in the following way.

After the Olympic Final, I want to
be able to say the following things:

I prepared properly – both physically and psychologically.

I was fully present and concentrated on what I could control.

I gave everything I could and performed at my personal best on the day.

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 at the denouement.  

Describe the picture of success. Bearing in mind the things you can control in the situation, describe the real results you want to achieve.

Imagine that you have a strong drive and the discipline to do your chosen activity. These qualities take you a long way. You will then come to a point where you need to deliver the goods when it matters.

One approach to taking this step is to focus on being good at decision making and then doing your best. Let’s explore these themes.

Decision Making

Imagine you are clear on your goals. The next step is to clarify how you can do your best to achieve these aims.

Good decision makers often try to buy time when making decisions. Sometimes they must do something to deal with the immediate situation, of course, such as stopping the haemorrhaging or creating stability.

Different people then have different approaches to making decisions. Al Siebert, who wrote The Survivor Personality, studied people who made decisions in critical situations.

The challenges they faced included physical assaults, life-threatening illnesses, being prisoners of war and crippling accidents. He discovered that survivors adopt various strategies to overcome crises successfully.

The first step is for them to take responsibility. Al wrote:

The survivor way of orientating to a crisis is to feel fully and totally responsible for making things work out well.

Here are some of the strategies that survivors used. You can discover more via the following link.

Al Siebert

Survivor Strategies

They stay calm

Al gives examples of hijack survivors who stay calm. They gather information about how the hijackers behave, look for patterns and explore potential options not only for themselves, but also for other people.

They are positive realists and
quickly read the new reality

Such people have a positive attitude, but also quickly read reality. They read situations quickly and start considering the consequences.

Other people ignore what is happening or bury their heads in the sand. Survivors click into awareness mode and take snapshots of what is actually happening.

They explore all the possibilities
and are open to doing anything

Al found that survivors choose their strategies from a wide repertoire of options. One contributing factor is that they have a quality common to many peak performers.

Such people embrace what appear to be seeming paradoxes. They are able to see the big picture and the small details, to be focused and flexible, to be serious and playful. This means they are able to see a wider number of options than, for example, people who have been trained to behave in one way.

They choose their way forwards and
totally commit to doing their best

Survivors make their decision and then throw themselves into pursuing their chosen strategy. Such people are also able to balance the apparent paradox of being simultaneously helicoptering and hands-on.

They are completely committed to the task in hand, yet hover above it to get perspective on what is happening. They then employ every ounce of energy to reach the goal.

You will, of course, use your own approach to making decisions. One approach is to focus on Clarity, Creativity and Concrete Results. This involves exploring the following themes. 

Clarity

What is actually happening? What are the short term challenges? What can I do to manage the immediate situation, stop the haemorrhaging or create stability?  

What are the medium and longer term goals? What are the real results I want to achieve? What is the picture of success? What will be the benefits of achieving these results? 

Creativity

What are the possible options – together with the consequences of each option – for doing my best to achieve the picture of success? What is the attractiveness of each option?

Option A is … The pluses are … The minuses are … Attractiveness … /10

Option B is … The pluses are … The minuses are … Attractiveness … /10

Option C is … The pluses are … The minuses are … Attractiveness … /10 

What are the best parts of each option? Can I put these together into another possible option? Are there any other possible creative solutions?

Bearing in mind the results I want to achieve, what are the key strategies I can follow to give myself the greatest chance of success?

Concrete Results 

What is the route – or combination of routes – that I want to follow? What are the pluses and minuses of following this route? How can I build on the pluses and minimise the minuses?

How can I translate my chosen route a clear action plan? How can I get a quick success? How can I encourage myself on the journey? What else can I do to increase the chances of achieving success? 

Let’s return to the situation in the future when you want to deliver at the denouement. If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific situation in the future when you may want to deliver at the denouement.

Describe the possible choices you have for working to achieve the picture of success – together with the consequences and attractiveness of each option.

Describe the route you want to take towards achieving the picture of success.

Doing Your Best To
Deliver At The Denouement

Imagine that you have decided how to move forward. It will then be time to swing into action. One approach is to do your personal best and maintain high professional standards on the way towards achieving the picture of success.

Different people take these steps in different ways. Let’s looking at one person who followed these to deliver at the denouement.

Chris Hoy – Focusing On The
Process Of Riding The Perfect Race

Chris Hoy, the Olympic cyclist, made a habit of setting big goals. Breaking these down into smaller targets, he focused on the step-by-step process of working to achieve these aims. This included visualising and riding the perfect race.

Later we will look at how he translated this approach into winning gold medals. Before then, here is some background from his website. You can discover more via the following link.

http://www.chrishoy.com/profile/

Sir Chris Hoy MBE is one of Great Britain’s most successful Olympic athletes of all time, with six gold medals and one silver. 

Chris won his first Olympic gold medal in Athens 2004 in the Kilo – an event that was dropped from the programme for Beijing 2008. 

Chris took this in his stride and switched his focus to three other track sprint events – the Keirin, Sprint and Team Sprint. He went on to win a gold medal in all three at the Beijing Olympics, cementing his name in the history books.

Following his historic hat-trick of gold medals at the Beijing Olympics, Chris was voted 2008 BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

He was also awarded a Knighthood in the 2009 New Year Honours list, capping an extraordinary year for the track cyclist from Edinburgh.

In 2012 at his home Olympic Games in London, Chris won his fifth and sixth gold medals – in the Keirin and Team Sprint – becoming Great Britain’s most successful Olympic athlete of all time with six gold medals and one silver. 

Chris gave an interview to Michael Johnson, who himself won four Olympic gold medals, for the video series Chasing Perfection. In it he explained what he learned from working with Steve Peters, the psychiatrist who helps people to perform at their best.

Here is a precis of what Chris said. You can see the full interview via the following link.

Chris Hoy Interview

I sought Steve’s help because I wanted to improve. 

One trigger was what happened at the World Championships in 2003. Then I changed my strategy based on watching a rival’s race and them doing an incredibly fast time.

Instead of thinking that he was quick because of the track conditions – and therefore maybe we would all be quick – I changed the gears on my bike. I also attacked too hard at the start. This led to me dying off at the end and giving a really poor performance.  

When I met Steve, he explained how he could and could not help. He said that it was not possible to suddenly become super human and conjure magical performances out of thin air.  

What it was possible to do, however, was to help me to do what I was fully capable of doing. It was also possible to help me to do this under the most extreme pressures.

This would be particularly relevant in front of Olympic crowds where there might also be many distractions. For me it would be about focusing on my performance. Anything that was irrelevant and out of my control, forget it.  

The key would be hone in on the A-B-C process that I knew worked rather than worry about the outcome. If you perform at your best and focus on the process, the result will take care of itself.

Chris also describes how Steve prepared him to deal with potential challenges. Before one competition, for example, Steve asked him what he would do if one of his rivals went just before him and set a new world record.

Chris said that he did not want to think about such an issue. Steve explained that it was important to clarify how to respond to such challenges, however, rather than ignore them. Otherwise it is like somebody saying:

Don’t think of a pink elephant.

You immediately think of a pink elephant.

Steve urged him to practice how to take positive steps to deal with such potential issues. Chris explained this in the following way.

Steve said that, from now on whenever you get a negative thought between now and the Games – there are only two weeks to go – I want you to visualise your race.

It is only a minute long. Do it in real time, from the moment you are at the start gate. 

The count down, the deep breaths, the snap out of the gate, the first half lap … Visualise the whole race. 

Chris says that the anticipated challenges actually appeared, in triplicate. 

I got to the race on the night itself and it seemed like Steve had some sort of crystal ball.

I was to ride last. With four riders to go, including myself, the guy broke the world record.

Three riders to go another guy broke the world record. The guy before me broke the world record again.

Instead of panicking and changing my strategy, I was so focused on myself and getting my ride out.  

Chris went on to ride his perfect race. He focused on the process, performed at his personal best and won the prize.

Great workers start from their destination and work backwards. They clarify their big goal and break this down into smaller goals they must achieve along the way. Such workers then focus on professional standards they can deliver each day on the way towards achieving the picture of success.

Chris adopted this approach and began by setting a big goal. Sometimes this was four years in the future. He then set goals to achieve each year, month, week and day. Taking this approach, he then followed daily disciplines to get successes each day.

Below is a video in which he explains how he followed this process. This was produced by the London Business Forum.

Let’s return to the situation in which you want to deliver at the denouement. Here are some questions you can ask yourself before moving into action.

How can I prepare both physically and psychologically? How can I rehearse what I am going to do? How can I then follow my chosen rhythm and get the desired results? 

How can I click into action when going into my equivalent of the arena and be fully present? How can I pursue my chosen strategies? How can I deliver the required professional standards?

How can I do superb work and get some quick successes? How can I focus on constant improvement? How can I clarify: a) The things I am doing well and do more of these; b) The things I can do better and how? 

How can I anticipate and manage any potential problems? How can I buy time to think when faced by crises? How can I find solutions by focusing on clarity, creativity and concrete results?

How can I keep following my chosen disciplines and, when appropriate, be daring? How can I refuse to be distracted by any dramas? How can I then re-centre, refocus on the results to achieve and pursue my chosen strategy?

How can I keep doing the basics and then add the brilliance? How can I do my best to achieve the goals? How can I then add that touch of class? What else can I do to achieve the picture of success? 

There are many ways to do fine work. One approach is to do what you do best, demonstrate the required drive and be disciplined. It is then to make good decisions and do your best to deliver the goods when it matters.

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

Describe the specific situation in the future when you may want to deliver at the denouement.

Describe the specific things you can do to do your best to deliver at the denouement.

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

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    A is for The Achievement Model

    There are many models for understanding how people do superb work. One approach is to clarify how they rate in the areas of attitude, ability, application, adventure and achievement.

    Imagine that you are recruiting people for your team. How can you be a good talent spotter? How can you tell whether a person is hungry? How can you judge whether they will translate their potential into performance?

    This piece outlines five qualities you can look for to recognise potential achievers, but one key point is worth underlining. A person may be an achiever in one or two specific areas of brilliance, but not necessarily in others.

    The talent spotter’s role is to identify where the person has both the will and the skill required to deliver the goods. If appropriate, it is then to work with them to create a win-win – a win for the organisation and a win for person.

    The following pages provide questions you can ask yourself – and the person – regarding each step along the road to achievement.

    Attitude

    Imagine you are interviewing a person or watching them in action. Here are some questions to ask as you consider their performance.

    What is the person’s attitude? Are they positive or negative? Will they bring positive energy to the team? How do people feel about them?

    Do they take responsibility or avoid responsibility? Do you believe they will make and keep clear contracts? Will other people be confident that the person will deliver?

    Is the person resilient? How do they react to setbacks? Do they say: “I can shape the future,” or “The world is wrong”?

    Are they customer focused? Do they have the desire to give good customer service? Can they give examples of when they have given good customer service?

    If you asked them to do some pre-work before an interview, what was their approach to the task? Was it professional or careless?

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

    Describe the extent to which you believe the person has the right attitude to deliver the required results. Rate this on a scale 0 – 10.

    Describe your reasons for giving this rating.

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    Ability

    People need more than the right attitude. They also need to have the right ability, to apply themselves and, on occasions, to be adventurous.

    Let’s focus on their ability. Do you believe the person has the ability to deliver the required results? Here are some questions you can ask when exploring this topic.

    What are the person’s strengths? What are the specific activities in which they consistently deliver As, rather than Bs or Cs?

    One approach to recognising a person’s abilities is to clarify their pattern for delivering things successfully. Looking back on their life and work, invite them to describe what for them have been two deeply satisfying projects.

    Looking at each project in turn, what did they find satisfying? Can you see any recurring patterns? What is their successful style – their preferred way – of working? What were the principles they followed to do superb work?

    If you are looking for a co-ordinator, for example, you are looking for somebody who says some of the following things.

    I like to make things work. I enjoyed organising the social events at University. I still organise the annual ski trips some of us take.

    At work I am often used to make sure projects are delivered properly. I just love to make sure thing work well.

    You will obviously be looking for a particular history of successful patterns if you are hiring for a visionary leader, people manager, marketer or whatever.

    Clarify the principles the person has followed previously to superb work. You can then decide whether they have the ability to deliver the required results.

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

    Describe the extent to which you believe the person has the ability to deliver the required results. Rate this on a scale 0 – 10.

    Describe your reasons for giving this rating.

    Describe what the person can do to maintain or improve the ratings.

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    Application

    Application is vital, so the person must be prepared to work hard. Many people have talent but refuse to apply themselves to the task. Ask yourself the following questions.

    Is the person prepared to work hard? What are the activities in which the person is naturally self disciplined? Do they prepare properly? How do they manage their work? Invite them to describe their system for organising themselves.

    Is the person proactive or reactive? Do they make clear working contracts with people? Do they consistently deliver high professional standards?

    Do they proactively keep people informed about their progress? Are they good at managing their sponsors – their bosses and other stakeholders? Do they provide great service to both internal and external customers?

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

    Describe the extent to which you believe the person has the application to deliver the required results. Rate this on a scale 0 – 10.

    Describe your reasons for giving this rating.

    Describe what the person can do to maintain or improve the ratings.

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    Adventure

    Application will get a person so far and that may be enough to reach the goals. On some occasions, however, they may also be required to add creativity.

    What are the activities in which they always do the basics and then add the brilliance? When does the person add that touch of adventure? When do they use their creativity? When do they add that touch of class?

    What are the specific situations in which they are good at creative problem solving? When do they focus on clarity, creativity and concrete results?

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

    Describe the extent to which you believe the person has, if appropriate, the adventure to deliver the required results. Rate this on a scale 0 – 10.

    Describe your reasons for giving this rating.

    Describe what the person can do to maintain or improve the ratings.

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    Achievement

    What are the specific activities in which the person achieves the required results? Looking back at their previous achievements, what did they do right then to finish successfully? How can they follow similar principles in the future?

    What are their personal and professional goals? Are they willing to align their agenda with that of the team? Are they willing to show how they can contribute towards achieving the team’s goals?

    What would be their best contribution to the team? What will be pluses – for the team, the customers, the colleagues and the person? What may be the potential minuses? How can they and you build on the pluses and minimise the minuses?

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

    Describe the extent to which you believe the person is likely to achieve the required results. Rate this on a scale 0 – 10.

    Describe your reasons for giving this rating.

    Describe what the person can do to maintain or improve the ratings.

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    Bringing it all together

    Complete your assessment by listing all the ratings. Based on this, decide if you want to take the discussions further with the person.

    One crucial point. It is vital for the person to score at least 7+ in the areas of Attitude, Ability and Application. This provides the basis for making a fine contribution to the team. You can then explore further how they can make clear working contracts and deliver the required concrete results.

    The achievement model can also be used in many different fields. I used it in such diverse areas as when scouting players for football clubs and recruiting senior managers for business.

    Once a person knows where they can excel, it can be useful to invite them to rate themselves on each of the five steps. This can lead to a fruitful conversation and provide the basis for building a development plan. You can then work together to achieve ongoing success.

    If you wish, try tackling the final exercise on this theme. Looking at the candidate, this invites you to do the following things.

    Describe the ratings you gave the person in each of the areas.

    Bearing in mind these ratings, describe your recommendations regarding the next steps with the person.

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