The Art of Strengths Coaching

P is for Pursuing Your Principles And Not Worrying About The Opposition

There are many models for doing fine work. One approach is to put all your energy into pursuing your principles for achieving peak performance.

It is not to use energy worrying about the opposition. The latter may be other competitors or even negative thoughts inside your head.

Great workers always do the basics and then add the brilliance. They often take this step by aiming to become the best they can be rather than by worrying about distractions. Sometimes these distractions come from outside, sometimes they come from inside.

Tim Gallwey popularised aspects of this approach in the 1970s. He encouraged people to focus on their inner game as well as the outer game. He provided many tools that people could use to perform at their best in sports and other aspects of life.

Tim summarised this approach in the following way. You can discover more via the following link to The Inner Game website.

The inner game can be summarised as: Performance = Potential – Interference.   

Performance can be enhanced either by growing Potential or decreasing Interference.

It is impossible to achieve mastery or satisfaction in any endeavor without first developing some degree of mastery of the relatively neglected skills of the inner game.

Most of us have experienced days when our self-interference was at a minimum.

Whether on a sports field, at work, or in some creative effort, we have all had moments in which our actions flowed from us with a kind of effortless excellence.  

Unfortunately most of us have also experienced times when everything we do seems difficult. With minds filled with self-criticism, hesitation, and over-analysis, our actions were awkward, mistimed, and ineffective.  

Obviously we all would prefer to have more of the first and less of the second. 

http://theinnergame.com/

Looking back, can you think of a situation when you pursued your chosen principles for achieving peak performance? You did not get side-tracked by negative thoughts. Nor did you worry about potential competitors.

You may have taken this approach when performing creative work, playing a sport or pitching for business. You may have done it when giving a keynote speech, auditioning for a part or doing another activity.

What did you do then to keep focusing on your principles? What did you do to, when appropriate, buy time to find solutions to challenges? What did you do to keep focusing on the picture of success?

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

Describe a situation in the past when you pursued your chosen principles for achieving peak performance rather than worried about the opposition.

Describe the specific things you did to take these steps.

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

Today there are many models that encourage people to follow the principles approach. Here are some of these.

The Positive History Approach

This positive history approach encourages individuals to find and follow their successful patterns. Everybody has a positive history. Everybody has overcome challenges and worked to achieve specific goals.

This approach is used in many fields. Sports psychologists, for example, often invite athletes to recall their best performances and explore the principles they followed. They then focus on how the person can follow similar principles to achieve success in the future.

Mentors sometimes use this approach when helping a person to manage a crisis. They create an encouraging environment in which the person can feel at ease and express at their feelings.

At a certain point, however, they may ask the person to explore their positive history. They may then ask some of the following questions.

Looking back on your life and work, when have you have tackled a similar challenge successfully? 

What did you do right then – what were the principles you followed – to tackle the challenge successfully?  

Looking ahead, how can you follow some of these principles – plus maybe add other skills – to tackle this challenge successfully?

Mentors often enable a person to build on their inner strengths and successful patterns. When appropriate, they also provide positive models, knowledge and practical tools that the person can use to achieve their picture of success.

The Process Approach

Great athletes sometimes focus on the process rather than worry about the prize. Paradoxically, this approach can result in them actually winning more prizes.

Nathan Barber wrote an article for Edutopia that describes how this approach can be applied to education. Below are excerpts from the article. You can discover more via the following link.

Nathan Barber On Process

Focus On The Process
And Results Will Follow

Great sports coaches focus on player growth and development for the ultimate win. Educators can follow suit by focusing on student learning rather than test scores. 

As I explored the correlation between great coaching and great teaching while interviewing highly successful sports coaches for a book about what teachers can learn from them, a common theme surfaced repeatedly. 

Several coaches stressed the importance of emphasizing the process rather than the results. This approach may seem counterintuitive, especially given the unprecedented emphasis on testing and performance in education today.  

However, the process-oriented approach to teaching and learning falls in line nicely with classroom instructional goals such as growth mindset and mastery.

One might expect coaches competing for Olympic medals and NCAA national championships to focus on big-picture goals, wins, and titles.

While truly great coaches such Marv Dunphy, Terry Schroeder, Brad Frost, and Brandon Slay do have NCAA titles, Olympic medals, or both, what I learned from them runs counter to what might be expected.  

Many of these coaches maintain that focus on the process has been a key ingredient for their success. They define “the process” as the emphasis on player growth and team development, mastery of skills, and mastery of elements of their respective games. 

Each insists on staying centered daily on the process, rather than talking daily about how to win games and championships. Consider, for example, the words of the Tampa Bay Rays’ manager Joe Maddon:

“You’re not trying to beat the Yankees or the Red Sox or the Blue Jays, you’re trying to beat the game of baseball through execution.”

What makes this philosophy perhaps both counterintuitive and ironic is this: athletes and teams perform best when their coaches focus on the process and train to mastery, not when their coaches train them to perform.  

An athlete focused on his own growth and mastery of the game will see improved performance. For example, when a pitcher in baseball focuses on mastering the curve ball rather than striking out batters, the results will follow. 

Great leaders who see the value in process-focused teaching and learning, though, can help teachers improve what happens in their classrooms.  

Focus on the process will lead to mastery, growth, and ultimately, better performance. If you don’t believe me, ask Coaches Dunphy, Schroeder, Frost, and Slay – to name just a few.

The Professional Standards Approach

This is an approach used by artists, athletes, scientists, medical staff and people in many other fields. They aim to set and maintain high standards that will result in them delivering success.

Different people set different standards depending on the field in which they operate and the goals they want to achieve. The key is for them to go beyond simply writing grand sounding words and translate the standards into action.

Great workers consistently deliver the standards. They deliver excellence and on occasions produce extraordinary work. Such workers also embody the Japanese concept of Kaizen and are committed to constant improvement.

Good mentors, for example, create an encouraging environment in which a person can feel at ease. They clarify the person’s agenda and the real results they want to achieve.

When appropriate, they then pass on knowledge and practical tools the person can use to tackle the challenge. Such mentors also keep expanding their repertoire of tools for helping people to achieve their pictures of success.

Below are the guidelines we provide for people who want to act as mentors in their own organisation. They are also encouraged to add other points that will enable them to achieve the required professional standards.

Choosing to follow
the principles approach

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation where you want to follow your principles for achieving peak performance?

You may want to take this step when encouraging a person, teaching a course, giving a keynote speech or creating something beautiful. You may want to do it when leading a team, managing a crisis, acting as a trusted advisor or doing a creative project.

Imagine that you have chosen to focus on a specific activity. What are the principles you want to follow in the situation? How can you translate these into action? What may happen as a result of taking these steps?

You can put 100 percent of your energy into pursuing your principles rather than worrying about the opposition. You can then keep doing your best to achieve the picture of success.

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 pursue your principles for achieving peak performance rather than worrying about the opposition.  

Describe the specific things you can do to take these steps.

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

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    G is for Choosing The Ground Where You Want To Follow Certain Guidelines And Do Great Work  

    Military leaders talk about choosing the ground where they can have an advantage. This is a rule followed by individuals in other fields.

    Great workers choose the ground where they want to work. They take this step whether they are working as an educator, craftsman, entrepreneur, sports coach, leader or in another role.

    Such workers focus on a place – or a niche – where they can build on their strengths and are likely to achieve success. They then pursue their chosen guidelines and do their best to perform great work.

    Different people follow this approach in different ways. Abraham Maslow chose to study healthy people and helped to give birth to humanistic psychology. Anita Roddick chose to run an ethical business and use her savvy to create The Body Shop.

    Dame Cicely Saunders chose to care for people reaching the end of their lives and helped to give birth to the modern hospice movement. John Wooden chose to help basketball players become the best they could be by using the guidelines described in his famous Pyramid Of Success.

    Can you think of somebody who has followed these steps in their own way? This could be somebody you have known or have heard about. They may have been a teacher, psychologist, lawyer, entrepreneur, writer, artist, business person, athlete or a specialist in a particular field.

    Looking at this person, what was the niche in which they aimed to do their work? What led to them choosing this ground? Looking at their work, what were the guidelines they aimed to follow? What did they then do to do their best to perform great work?

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

    Describe a person who chose the ground where they wanted to work and then followed certain guidelines to do great work.

    Describe the specific things they did to take these steps.

    Describe the specific things that happened as a result.

    Choosing The Ground

    There are many models for choosing the ground where you want to do fine work. One model is to follow the strengths approach. You can build on your strengths, find sponsors – people who want to hire you – and help them to achieve success.

    Different people follow this approach in different ways. If appropriate, you can start by focusing on the following themes.

    The next step is to focus on the actual situation where you want to do fine work. This may involve finding or creating an opportunity where people will pay you for doing what you do best.

    Here is an introduction to the kinds of work you can do. These focus on people’s present and future needs. You can explore the possibilities for doing such work and then clarify the chances of success.

    How to find or create such work? One approach is to do the following exercise. This builds on the work you may have done on clarifying your strengths. It involves doing the following things.

    Describe your strengths

    Describe the deeply satisfying activities in which you deliver – or have the potential to deliver – As rather than Bs or Cs. If possible, give specific examples of when you have done such work.

    You may deliver As when helping people to be good leaders, solving technical problems, providing great customer service, improving profits or doing other activities.

    Describe people’s challenges

    Describe the present and future challenges that people – individuals, teams, organisations and societies – face that you can help them with by using your strengths.

    They may face the challenge of educating people to be more self-managing, developing leaders who know how to manage knowledge workers, solving massive technical problems, equipping their organisation to create a successful future or other issues.

    Describe the steps you can take to
    help these people to achieve success

    Describe the specific steps you can take to get work with some of these people – individuals, teams, organisations or societies – and then deliver success.

    This may involve finding ways to connect with such people in a way that fits your values system. If they show interest, it may then involve making clear working contracts, performing superb work and delivering the success. Here is the exercise on these themes.

    Clarifying the
    chances of success

    There is one final but vital point regarding choosing the ground where you want to work. Do your due diligence and make sure that, providing you do your best, you stand a good chance of success.

    Imagine that you are about to settle on doing a project. What are the real results you want to achieve? Bearing these in mind, how high would you rate the chances of success? Rate this on a scale 0-10.

    Looking at the score you have given, what can you do to maintain or improve the rating? It may be that you need certain kinds of support or you can do other things that will improve the chances of success.

    Once you have completed your due diligence, make sure the rating is at least 8+/10. It is vital to give yourself a good chance of success rather than set up a failure.

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

    Describe the specific piece of work you want to do and the specific results you want to deliver.

    Describe the present success rating you would give regarding the chances of delivering these results. Do this on a scale 0-10.

    Describe the specific things you can do to maintain or improve the rating.

    Choosing The Guidelines

    Great workers often follow certain guidelines when doing their work. Some are conscious of these principles and keep checking to make sure they are following them on a daily basis. Some follow such guidelines in a more subconscious way.

    Different people follow different guidelines depending on their personal philosophy and profession. Some therapists, for example, will believe in helping people to build on their strengths when tackling challenges. Other therapists will believe in other approaches.

    Here is an example of the guidelines that some people follow when counselling veterans returning from the war zone. These were put together by Al Siebert, who helped many people to overcome adversity. Other counsellors may adopt other approaches, of course, but these bring to life the idea of following certain guidelines.

    Let’s return to your own life and work. Imagine that you want to tackle a specific piece of work or project. You may aim to produce an article, provide medical care, work as a counsellor, act as a trusted advisor or do another activity.

    What are the guidelines you want to follow to do great work? You may aim to follow certain principles and deliver certain standards. How can you do your best to follow these guidelines?

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

    Describe a specific piece of work you want to do. 

    Describe the specific guidelines you want to follow when doing this piece of work.

    Choosing To Do Great Work

    There are many ways to do fine work. One approach is to follow the principles for doing great design. This is to design things that are simple, satisfying and successful. Let’s explore these themes.

    Doing work that is
    simple in a profound way 

    “Simplicity is genius,” we are told. Great workers make complicated things look simple.

    They also design things that are simple but profound. Art Fry’s invention of Post-it Notes demonstrated simplicity in action. So did the Sony Walkman and Apple Macintosh.

    Great designers, for example, love to make things work. They love to find solutions to problems or create their version of paradise. Different people do this in different ways.

    Christopher Alexander, the pioneering architect, said that we can sometimes recognise great design by the fact that it helps us to feel alive. He wrote in The Timeless Way of Building:

    Each one of us has, somewhere in his heart, the dream to make a living world, a universe.

    Architects nurse this desire at the centre of their lives, says Christopher. One day, somewhere, somehow, they want to create a building that is wonderful, a place where people can walk and dream for centuries.

    Every person has some version of this dream, maintains Christopher. Some wish to create a house, a garden or a fountain. Others wish to create a relationship, a painting or a book. He described how this is embodied in his own field of architecture.

    There is one timeless way of building. It is a thousand years old, and the same today as it has ever been. 

    The great traditional buildings of the past, the villages and tents and temples in which man feels at home, have always been made by people who were very close to the centre of this way.  

    If you have a feeling-vision of the things – a painting, a building, a garden, a piece of a neighbourhood – as long as you’re very firmly anchored in your knowledge of that thing, and you can see it with your eyes closed, you can keep correcting your actions.

    It’s not a question of holding onto every little detail, but of holding onto the feeling.

    Doing work that is satisfying

    Great design is satisfying on a number of levels. Physically it looks and feels good. Practically it works and is user friendly. There is an old Shaker dictum that says:

    Don’t make something unless it is both necessary and useful;
    but if it is both necessary and useful,
    don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.

    Good educators embody some of these elements when designing satisfying educational experiences. They follow the old belief that ‘the learner learns what the learner wants to learn.’ They try 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.

    Doing work that is successful

    Great design works. It does the job. Terence Conran, a pioneer in design, said:

    Good design is probably 98% common sense. Above all, an object must function well and efficiently – and getting that part right requires a good deal of time and attention.

    Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous house Falling Water shows how something can be simple, satisfying and successful.

    Great workers often take a pride in their craft. Originally the word craft was applied to making things by hand. More recently it has expanded to include other activities that involve the pursuit of excellence. One definition is:

    To create or make something with skill and careful attention to detail.

    This often involves a lifetime quest. The aim is to learn, develop and master the skills involved in carrying out your work. Dave Gamache wrote an excellent piece on this theme for the lifehacker website.

    Here is an excerpt from his article. You can discover more via the following link.

    Dave Gamache

    Craftsmanship: Doing what
    you love and doing it right

    Craftsmanship is doing what you love and doing it right. No matter what you do – designer, baker, electrician, architect, author – your job is your craft.  

    Learn to think of your work as practice towards becoming an absolute expert at what you do. Craftsmanship is not a destination; it’s a life-long discipline.

    Craftsmanship is universal. Designing a product (or site) shares the same core values as any other craft. Quality, passion and experience are still the ingredients, the difference is the outcome.  

    Love your craft everyday. Designing a product, web site, or workflow shares the same core values as any other craft. So design the simplest, most delightful product you can.  

    Watch people use your product and make it better for them. Improve your work by learning from others and from your own experiences.

    Let’s return to your own life and work. Imagine that you want to tackle a specific piece of work or project.

    How can you do your best to do great work? How can you practise your craft? How can you keep improving your work?

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

    Describe a specific piece of work you want to do. 

    Describe the specific things you can do to do your best to perform great work. 

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

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      G is for Balancing The Global Purpose and The Local Practice

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        S is for Satisfying Work, Standards And Success

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          W is for People Having The Will Power And Way Power To Do Wonderful Work  

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                    D is for The Dispassionate Approach To Channelling Your Passion And Delivering The Desired Results

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