P is for The Positive Approach To Pursuing Your Purpose During Your Time On The Planet

There are many ways to live life. One approach is to choose to have a positive attitude. You can then pursue your purpose, principles and picture of success. It is to keep following this approach during your time on the planet.

People who take this approach are often positive realists. They have a positive attitude but are also good at reading reality. They are good at seeing patterns and anticipating what may happen. They then build on what they can control and manage what they can’t.

Such people develop a sense of purpose. Sometimes it means following a spiritual faith, a vocation or serving something greater than themselves. Sometimes it means focusing on short-term goals. Sometimes it means working towards their life goals.

They believe in following their principles and expressing these in their daily lives and work. They may choose to do this by, for example, encouraging people, doing satisfying work or helping to build a better world.

Such people sometimes translate their purpose and principles into achieving specific aims. They focus on the real results they want to achieve. They then translate these into working towards a clear picture of success.

Looking back, can you think of a situation when you chose to take some of these steps? You may have chosen to overcome a setback, pursue a stimulating project, tackle a challenge or do another activity that gave you satisfaction.

What did you do then to have a positive attitude? What did you to focus on the specific purpose, follow your principles and achieve your 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 past when you pursued a specific purpose, followed your principles and worked to achieve a picture of success.  

Describe the specific things you did to take these steps. 

Describe the specific things that happened as a result.

Imagine that you want to maintain a sense of purpose and pursue this in future. Let’s explore how you can take some of these steps in your own way. 

Choosing To Have
A Positive Attitude

People make choices every day. They can choose to be positive or negative, to be creators or complainers, to take responsibility or avoid responsibility. The choices they make have consequences, both for themselves and other people.

Alice Herz-Sommer was somebody who chose to be positive. A pianist and survivor of Nazi concentration camps, she continued to enjoy life well past the age of 100.

Alice’s view of life reached a wider audience after an interview she gave to the BBC became popular on the web. Here are some things she said in the interview.

Life is beautiful

I have lived through many wars and have lost everything many times – including my husband, my mother and my beloved son.

Yet, life is beautiful, and I have so much to learn and enjoy. I have no space nor time for pessimism and hate.

And life is beautiful, love is beautiful, nature and music are beautiful. Everything we experience is a gift, a present we should cherish and pass on to those we love.

Life brings pain and beauty, said Alice, but she focused on gratitude, love, kindness, nature, music and the joyful things in life. She said the secret of happiness is:

To focus on what is really important in life.

Caroline Stoessinger gave an insight to Alice’s approach in her book A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer. She provided a series of quotes in which Alice explained her philosophy. These included the following.

Gratitude is essential for happiness. Only when we are old do we realise the beauty of life.  

When I play Bach, I am in the sky. My world is music. Music is a dream. It takes you to paradise. 

I am richer than the world’s richest people, because I am a musician. Music saved my life. Music is God.

Every day is a miracle. No matter how bad my circumstances, I have the freedom to choose my attitude to life, even to find joy.  

Evil is not new. It is up to us how we deal with both good and bad. No one can take this power away from us.

My optimism has helped me through my darkest days. The more I read, think and speak with people, the more I realise just how happy I am.

When I die I can have a good feeling. I have done my best. I believe I lived my life the right way.

Here is a video in which Alice talks about her life and philosophy.

I learned a similar lesson about choosing to be positive during my early twenties when I was caring for older people in hospital. Jacko, as he wished to be called, was one of the people I looked after. He had lost the use of his lower body but he loved his food and continued to enjoy each day.

Part of my duties involved dragging small pieces of faeces from his bottom. Jacko asked me to count each piece during the process and he took great delight in reaching a certain number. Procedure over, he then looked forward to the food he was going to enjoy that day. He taught me about the joy of being alive each day.

Choosing To
Develop A Purpose

People love to have a sense of purpose. They love to do something they believe in and work towards achieving a stimulating goal.

Sometimes this can involve pursuing a short-term purpose, such as completing a satisfying task. Sometimes it can involve doing something each day towards achieving their life goals.

Some people seem to know their purpose at an early age, whilst for others it is a lifetime quest. Here are some of the approaches that people take towards developing a sense of purpose. We will then explore some of these approaches.

One view is that finding a sense of purpose can happen in a Eureka Moment. Another view is that it is more likely to develop over time. Let’s explore several approaches you can take towards making this happen.

Clarifying the things that
give you positive energy

One approach is to focus on doing things that give you positive energy. This can lead to exploring many themes and sometimes result in developing a compelling purpose.

Energy is life. Bearing this in mind, what are the things that give you positive energy? Here are some of the answers that people give when doing this exercise.

The things that give
me positive energy are:

Encouraging people … Spending time with our children … Cooking for friends … Caring for animals … Showing kindness … Nurturing gardens … Building boats … Teaching wellbeing.  

Helping people to find satisfying work … Fixing certain kinds of problems … Making things better … Working on new ways to treat cancer … Mediating disputes … Leading pioneering companies.

If you wish, try tacking the exercise on this theme. This invites you to explore the following themes.

Describe the things that give you positive energy in your personal and professional life.

Describe the specific things you can do to do more of these things in the future.

Clarifying the positive things
you want to give to people
during your time on the planet

Another approach is to explore the positive things you want to give to people during your time on the planet. Different people mention different themes when doing this exercise. Here are some of the answers they give.

I want: 

To give my family a loving home … To give people encouragement … To give my students hope … To give people nourishing food … To show people how they can take care of their health … To show people how to make use of their talents.

To give people tools they can use to build great organisations … To give people models they can use to build successful and sustainable systems … To pass on knowledge that helps both present and future generations.

Some people experience an interesting realisation when answering this question. They realise that the things they want to give to others may mirror the things they have been given in life. Some build on what they have written and translate this into a clear purpose.

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

Describe the positive things you want to give to people during your time on the planet. 

Describe the specific steps you can take to give these things to people.  

Describe the specific benefits of giving these things to people.

Clarifying something you really
believe in and serving
something greater than yourself

People often gain strength by doing something they really believe in. This often involves choosing to serve something greater than themselves. A person will aim to serve their loved ones and they may also choose:

To serve a spiritual faith, a set of values or a philosophy

To serve a purpose, a mission or a cause

To serve a vocation, a creative drive or a project

People often want to serve a cause even though they may be not around to see the fruits of their labours. Doing what they believe in helps them to feel alive and able to give to other people.

Different people choose to different things to serve. Here are some examples.

A spiritual follower may serve their faith … A nurse may help people to regain their health … A medical scientist may aim to find a breakthrough cure … A counsellor may help people to manage problems successfully.

A singer may serve the songs they sing … An architect may aim to make beautiful buildings … An environmentalist may make TV films that encourage people to appreciate the beauty of the Earth.

An educator may help students to shape their futures … A social entrepreneur may improve the quality of people’s lives … A mediator may find positive solutions to conflicts … A trusted advisor may pass on knowledge that helps other people to succeed.

A person who serves something greater than themselves is more able to withstand outside pressures. They keep focusing on what they really value in life. When in doubt, they go back to their inner compass and ask:

What do I believe in? How can I keep following these beliefs – even during difficult times? How can I take steps to translate these beliefs into action?

Such people also gain strength from recognising their tradition. Many people have followed this path in the past and others will follow it in the future.

Bearing this in mind, they realise they are not alone. They are part of something greater than themselves. Being aware of this tradition can help people to feel humbler yet stronger. It can encourage them to keep following this path in their own way.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Is there something that you really believe in doing? You may want to follow a particular faith, pursue your vocation or do a specific project. How can you translate this into action?

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

Describe the specific thing you really believe in doing. 

Describe the specific things you can do to do what you believe in. 

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

Clarifying your
positive goals

People often get a sense of purpose by choosing to work towards specific goals. Here are some of the aims that people mention when exploring this theme.

My positive goals are:

To appreciate life and maintain a sense of gratitude … To provide a happy childhood for our children … To help our teenage children to find and do work they love … To do satisfying work that helps other people.

To build a pioneering company … To keep stretching myself and achieve peak performance … To pass on knowledge that helps people to shape their future lives … To do work that helps to build a better world.

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

Start by brainstorming ideas and then whittle these down to the top three positive goals you want to focus on in life. If appropriate, write these in headline terms and then add examples that bring these to life.

Move on to describing the benefits of achieving these goals – both for other people and yourself. It can be useful to keep focusing on the benefits, especially when you need to motivate yourself. Here is the exercise.

Clarifying
your purpose

Imagine that you have done some of the earlier exercises. It can then be useful to focus on clarifying your purpose.

Many people’s primary purpose, of course, is simply to get access to the basics of life. They spend their days focusing on how to get food and be healthy.

Many other people have access to these basics. Some then simply want to accumulate money, but some want to go further. They want to give to others and pursue a satisfying purpose.

Here are some of the ways that individuals describe their sense of purpose. They may, however, express these in different ways.

I want to be kind in my daily life and work … I want to help people to build on their strengths and achieve their picture of success … I want to show people the power of slow thinking … I want to spread positive news across the planet.

I want to enable people to shape their futures … I want to create enriching environments in which people can grow … I want to create beautiful things that bring people joy and give them positive memories for life.

I want to help people to see what they have in common and find peaceful solutions to conflicts … I want to ensure that as many people as possible have access to clean water … I want to develop pioneering technology that provides people with cheap renewable energy.

Viktor Frankl, the author of Man’s Search For Meaning, spent much of his life helping people to find their meaning in life. Below is a video from 1972 in which he explores this theme. He said:

Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfilment.

Some people may have a number of overlapping purposes. This is important to bear in mind if a person starts agonising about trying to find the one big thing they should focus on in their life.

Seth Godin underlined another key point. He said that it could sometimes be more fruitful to focus on what we care about rather than being too concerned with our calling. Here is a short piece he wrote on this topic.

Seth Godin

In search of your calling

I don’t think we have a calling. I do think it’s possible to have a caring.

A calling implies that there’s just one thing for you, just one thing you’re supposed to do. 

What we most need in our lives, though, is something worth doing, worth it because we care.

There are plenty of forces pushing us to not care. Bosses, systems, bureaucracies and the fear of mattering.

None of them are worth sacrificing something as important as caring.

As we have seen, there are many ways to begin developing your purpose. We will soon move on to the exercise that invites you to take this step.

Before doing this, it can be useful to revisit several of the earlier exercises. These have invited you:

To clarify the things that give you positive energy. 

To clarify the positive things you want to give to people during your time on the planet.

To clarify the things you really believe in and to serve something greater than yourself.

To clarify your positive goals.

There are, of course, many other themes you can explore to develop  a sense of purpose.

Looking at the answers that you have given, can you see any recurring theme or themes? Bearing these in mind, what may be one of the things you feel really compelled to do in your life? Can you summarise this in a one-liner?

Different people give different answers to this question. The answer I give, for example, is:

I want to be a positive encourager and help to build a positive planet.

Some individuals answer by describing the philosophy they want to follow in their personal and professional life. Some describe a personal strength they want to use to serve others. Some describe a specific passion they want to pursue.

As mentioned earlier, there are some things to bear in mind when describing your purpose. It is important:

To focus on something you feel really compelled to do. 

To begin clarifying your purpose by writing a one-liner that begins with the words ‘I want to …’ 

To recognise that it may take a lifetime to get the wording right, but this one-liner can give a pointer to your purpose.

Here is the exercise on defining a purpose. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific thing you really want to do. 

Describe the specific things you want to do to translate this purpose into action.

We will revisit this second part – translating the theme into action – later in the article. For the moment, however, it can be useful to begin thinking about the specific things you can do to follow your purpose. Here is the exercise.

Choosing To Follow
Your Principles

Imagine that you have begun to clarify your purpose. You may want to encourage other people, create beauty, help people find satisfying work, pass on a positive legacy or pursue another activity.

How you can you translate this into action? One approach is to clarify the principles you want to follow in your daily life and work. The Dalai Lama says, for example:

My religion is kindness.

He therefore tries to express kindness in his daily life when communicating with people, giving television interviews and doing other activities. He keeps focusing on the core drivers in his life.

Many individuals take this approach. They clarify their purpose and the principles they want to follow to translate this into action. They aim to express these principles in personal and professional situations.

Such individuals then return to their centre. They relax, re-centre and refocus. This enables them to keep drawing strength from the central beliefs in their life. They then explore how they can follow their principles in the next situation.

A person who takes this approach is more likely to be centred. They keep returning to their inner compass. They then focus on how they can follow their chosen principles in the different situations they encounter in life.

Looking at my own life, for example, there are several principles I aim to follow in situations. These are:

To be a positive encourager.

To help people to build on their strengths and achieve their picture of success. 

To help to build a positive planet.

I try to follow these principles when meeting people, mentoring, running super team workshops and writing. The aim is to provide practical tools that people can use to achieve their picture of success.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Imagine that you have done some work on clarifying your purpose. What are the principles you want to follow to translate this purpose into action?

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

Describe your purpose – the specific thing you want to focus on doing. 

Describe the principles you want to follow to translate this purpose into action.

Describe the specific things you can do to translate these principles into action.

Clarifying Your
Picture Of Success

Imagine that you have begun to develop a sense of purpose and the principles you want to follow. It can be useful to look ahead and translate these into specific goals.

You may want to keep building a loving family, help students to take charge of shaping their futures or enable people to find satisfying careers. You may want to write a book, make films, build a pioneering company or deliver a stimulating project.

Looking ahead, what are the real results you want to achieve? What will be the benefits – both for yourself and other people?

Describe your purpose – the specific thing you really want to do.

Describe the specific results you want to achieve by pursuing your purpose and following your chosen principles.

Describe the specific benefits of achieving these results.

Different people choose to pursue this approach in different ways. Let’s look at one person who followed  this path to achieve their aims.

Richard St. Barbe Baker chose to dedicate his life to showing people the value of planting trees. This epiphany came about at a young age.

Writing in his book My Life My Trees, he describes how in 1894, at the age of five, he had an unforgettable experience that charted his future path.

After much coaxing, his nurse allowed him to explore the woods by himself. He continues:

No explorer of space probing the secrets of other planets could have felt more exultation that I did at that moment.

Soon I was completely isolated in the luxuriant, tangled growth of ferns which were well above my head. In my infant mind I seemed to have entered a fairyland of my dreams.  

I wandered on as in a dream, all sense of time and space lost. I became intoxicated with the beauty all around me, immersed in the joyousness and exultation of feeling part of it all.

I had entered the temple of the wood. I sank to the ground in a state of ecstasy; everything was intensely vivid – the call of a distant cuckoo seemed just for me. The overpowering beauty of it all entered my very being.

At that moment my heart brimmed over with a sense of unspeakable thankfulness which has followed me through the years since that woodland re-birth. 

I was in love with life: I was indeed born again, although I could not have explained what had happened to me then. 

Richard was a changed person. Returning from his walk in the woods, he found the commonplace things in life had a new beauty.

The bread he ate tasted crustier and more delicious. The grumpy old gardener looked like a favourite uncle. His parents gave him even more affection than they had done the previous day.

At least, that was how it seemed. Twenty-six years later he translated this passion into his life’s work.

He visited Kenya in 1920. Enlisting the backing of chiefs and elders, he started a programme that led to planting over one million trees. He then co-founded The Men of Trees and was invited to speak around the world.

After helping President Roosevelt to establish the Civil Conservation Corp, he instigated the Save The Redwoods campaign in California. He also started the Green Front action group, returning to Africa to develop re-forestation work in the Sahara. During his life Richard is believed to have personally planted many millions of trees.

He focused on a crystal clear vision. He wanted to save the Californian Redwoods. After crossing America and seeing the trees for the first time in 1931, he wrote:

It was here that I came upon superb trees representing the supreme achievement of tree growth in the world today. Here it seemed that my search for the beautiful had ended.  

This, I decided must be known as the ‘Grove of Understanding’. It was here that I visualised international plays and youth gatherings. What better setting could there be in which to plan the better world of tomorrow?

Richard then set three goals that he worked towards during the rest of his life. These were the following.

To save the trees for posterity.  

To provide a magnificent backdrop where young people could meet and marvel at the beauty of the Redwoods and the planet.  

To inspire young people to work together to hand over this legacy to future generations.

Here is the first part of an interview with Richard. This was filmed in 1981.

Some people, like Richard, have a grand vision. Many people, however, set shorter-term goals. They then translate these into a clear picture of success.

As mentioned earlier, there are many ways to live life. Some people choose to have a positive attitude. They then focus on their purpose, principles and picture of success.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation when you may want to take this approach? You may want to do this when encouraging a person, managing a transition, tackling a challenge or doing another project.

Looking at the situation, what can you do then to have a positive attitude? How can you clarify the purpose – the specific thing you really want to do? How can you follow your chosen principles? How can you do your best to achieve your 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 a specific purpose, follow your principles and work to achieve a picture of success. 

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

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

P is for The Positive Teams Approach

There are many ways to build superb teams. This article describes how you can build a team that keeps focusing on its purpose, following its principles and achieving its picture of success.

This approach is based on a model that I have seen work in many fields during the past fifty years. Here it is called Positive Teams but different organisations have branded it in different ways. They have called it Super Teams, Peak Performing Teams or other names.

Whatever the name, however, the principles remain the same. They are based on what works and – providing people do the work – it works. This article provides many practical tools you can use to build such teams. You can apply use these in your own way to encourage and enable people to deliver positive results.

Good leaders start by creating a positive environment in which motivated people can achieve peak performance. They sometimes take the following steps towards making this happen.

Such leaders make sure that everybody understands the team’s purpose, principles and picture of success. They do this because they believe that people work best when they have context and can see the big picture.

They then give people the chance to reflect and decide if they want to contribute. If so, they encourage people to build on their strengths and clarify their best contributions.

Positive teams are made up of people who aim to be positive, professional and peak performers. They also want to do superb work and do their best to help the team to succeed.

Good leaders make clear contracts with people about the results they will deliver towards achieving the goals. They also give people the support they need to deliver the goods.

Such leaders then manage by outcomes rather than by tasks. They encourage people to co-ordinate their strengths, perform superb work and find solutions to challenges. People then do whatever is required to achieve the picture of success.

Imagine that you are leading a team that is about take the next step in its development. You will have your own framework for making plans.

If you wish, however, you can use the following approach for enabling people to achieve peak performance. The following pages describe the specific things you can do:

To clarify and communicate the team’s purpose, principles and picture of success;

To make clear contracts with people about their best contributions towards achieving the picture of success;

To enable people to perform superb work and ensure they keep others informed about their progress towards achieving the picture of success.

Let’s explore these themes.

Clarifying the
team’s purpose

There are many ways for a person or team to begin clarifying their purpose. Here are some of the common approaches.

They focus on something they want to serve that is greater than themselves – such as a set of values, spiritual faith, vocation or mission.

They focus on the things they feel passionately about in which they can also achieve peak performance. 

They focus on how they can use their strengths to do satisfying work that helps other people to succeed.

They focus on the things they want to pass on to people and aim to leave a positive legacy.

Some people combine all of these approaches. They then translate their findings into a compelling purpose.

Looking at my work with teams, many of them take the strengths and satisfying work approach. This involves them taking the following steps.

They clarify their strengths – the deeply satisfying activities in which they deliver As rather than Bs or Cs.

They clarify the specific kinds of people – customers, clients and other stakeholders – with whom they work best and the challenges these people face. 

They clarify how they can use their strengths to do satisfying work and help these people to achieve success.

Building on what they have discovered, they then do an exercise that involves them beginning to clarify their purpose. Let’s explore how this works in practice.

Imagine that you and your colleagues have done some work on clarifying the team’s strengths. You can then invite them to define the specific thing that the team really wants to do.

Here is one approach you can take to begin the process. Invite each person to complete the following sentence. They can write their ideas on Post-its.

The purpose of our team – the specific
thing we really want to do – is: 

“We want to …”

Here are some examples of what people have written when defining their team’s purpose.

Tell people not to worry too much about the specific wording at the moment. The key thing is for them to simply describe what they believe the team can do and what they want it to do.

You can also invite people to give examples of what this might look like in practice. These may cover, for example:

The actual things that are happening that show that the team is achieving its purpose.

The actual words that customers and other stakeholders are saying about the work the team is doing. 

People can put their ideas on flip charts that are headed in the following ways. They can also explain what they have written on the Post-its.

Imagine that you have done this exercise with your colleagues in the leadership team. It can then be useful:

To build on the points people have in common.

To take time to reflect and then have a first go at defining the team’s purpose.

To use this as the basis for focusing on the principles and picture of success – but also being prepared to return to the one liner and change it if you wish.

There is one key point worth bearing in mind when doing this exercise. Some people may want to get into a discussion about the difference between a purpose, mission and vision.

Different people interpret these words in different ways. So try to avoid getting into a long discussion about semantics.

One view is that a team’s purpose describes the specific thing people feel really driven to do. They then translate this into specific goals that they want to achieve by a certain date. This then becomes the team’s vision or picture of success.

Some organisations prefer to use the word mission. A military mission, for example, must have achievable objectives. It must also be time based and, if appropriate, have a clear exit strategy. Military people then know what they must achieve by a certain date.

Susan Ward produced an excellent definition regarding a mission statement which is reproduced below. You can discover more about her views, together with some examples of missions, via the following link.

https://www.thebalance.com/mission-statement-2947996

A mission statement is a brief description of a company’s fundamental purpose. It answers the question, “Why does our business exist?” 

The mission statement articulates the company’s purpose both for those in the organization and for the public. For example:

“Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”

Imagine, however, that you have chosen to focus on the team’s purpose. The theme you have come up with may still need some polishing which you can do later. It can be useful, however, to move on to the next step.

Clarifying the
team’s principles

Imagine that you have gone some way towards defining the team’s purpose. The next step is to define the principles – the guidelines – you would like people to follow to achieve the purpose.

One key point to remember is that the principles are driven by the team’s purpose rather than by the whim of the leader. They describe the behaviours people can demonstrate to enable the team to achieve success.

Different types of teams may therefore have different principles. These may differ if, for example, people are aiming to climb a mountain, build a pioneering business or act as trusted advisors.

There are many ways to define your team’s principles. One approach is to invite people to describe the overall Dos and Don’ts that everybody can follow to work towards achieving the goals.

Here is a list of the Dos, for example, that one organisation communicates to people when they join. They describe these as their Professional Guidelines and use real examples to bring these to life.

Principles

The principles we would like people to follow
to work toward achieving our goals are: 

Do be positive and encourage other people. 

Do be clear on the organisation’s goals and your part in contributing towards achieving these goals. 

Do make clear contracts with people and fulfil these contracts.

Do focus on outcomes – the real results to achieve in a situation – and do your best to achieve these outcomes. 

Do behave professionally, present solutions to challenges and help both colleagues and clients to succeed.

Your team will have its own set of principles. You can invite people to clarify these by writing what they believe are the Dos and Don’ts on Post-it Notes. They can then put these on Flip Charts.

Later on it will also be important to be able to give the reasons for each of the principles. When communicating these to your team members, you will then be able to say: 

The first principle we would like people to follow to
increase the team’s chances of achieving success is:

*

The reasons why it is important
to follow this principle are:

* 

This helps people to understand the team’s purpose and also why it is important to follow certain principles in order to reach the goals. So, if you wish, you can invite people in the leadership team to complete the following exercise.

Clarifying the team’s
picture of success 

Imagine that you and the leadership team are reasonably happy about the team’s purpose and principles. You can then translate these into specific goals to achieve by a certain date. These goals will then become the team’s picture of success.

There are many frameworks you can use to take this step. One approach is to clarify the What, Why, How, Who and When. (See below.)

You can keep communicating these to your people. They can then clarify their contributions towards achieving the picture of success.

Several points are worth bearing in mind when writing the team’s picture of success.

You can choose
your own time frame

Different teams choose different time frames. You may want to pick a date one year, two years or three years in the future.

Start by settling on your chosen date. You can then create a one line goal that describes – in headline terms – what the team wants to achieve by this date.

You can then go into more detail. Describe the specific things you want to achieve by that date under, for example, the headings of profits, products and people. This becomes your picture of success.

(You may, of course, choose a different template with different headings. More on this later.)

You can be clear on the mandatory things
the team must deliver to achieve success

The team will be expected to deliver its Scorecard – the specific targets it must deliver – over the Financial Year. You can add other things on top of this – such as stimulating projects and successes – that will enrich the team’s story.

You can clarify for whom you
are writing the presentation

You may initially write it for your employees. This will ensure everybody knows the team’s goal. Later you can adapt the presentation – whilst staying true to its spirit – so that it resonates with other key stakeholders.

You can create it by yourself or involve
other key people at various stages

If you are a leader, you will ultimately be responsible for delivering the picture of success. Bearing this in mind, it is vital that you believe in it.

At the same time, however, it can be useful to involve the rest of the leadership team and other key people. This will give people a sense of ownership and make it more likely they will work to achieve the goals.

You may also involve other employees and stakeholders to get their responses and additions. Later we will look at how to take this step in the section called Getting Responses To The Picture Of Success.

You can choose your own template

Different teams use different templates for framing their goals. Many leaders in companies focus on the 3 Ps when clarifying their aims. They focus on the Profits, Products – including Customer Satisfaction – and People. For example:

Profits – The profitability they want to deliver.

Products – The product quality, customer satisfaction and processes they want to deliver.

People – The culture they want to deliver.

Here is one approach you can use to craft the picture of success. You may, of course, have your own framework.

Clarifying the road map

The road map goes into greater detail about the When part of working towards achieving the picture of success.

The following sections provide a framework you can use for creating a road map. You may, however, have your own approach to planning.

The road map will become your ongoing working document. It may also evolve over time, however, as circumstances change. This means that it is important to keep updating the road map.

Here are several points that are worth remembering when making the road map.

Start from the destination
and work backwards
 

Start by picking a date in the future. Describe the specific things you want the team to have delivered by that date.

You can then work backwards. Describe what the team aims to deliver by, for example, the end of each quarter on the road towards achieving the end goals.

This starting from the destination approach is used on many successful projects. It encourages people to keep focusing on the end goal.

Dating the road map

Start at the top of the Dates column and put the end date. Then work backwards towards the present day. You may want to break up the road map into quarters or other suitable periods.

There is one key point to remember, however, if you are creating a road map that spans more than one year.

It is still important to start from the destination and work backwards. What you may find, however, is that people run out of ideas about what should be delivered around the middle period of the road map.

If that happens, then get people to begin working from the present date and work towards the middle. They may then find it easier to do the road map.

There may still be some parts that remain hazy when creating a road map that, for example, aims to cover 3 or more years. But these parts will become clearer as time goes by.

The key principle that remains, however, is for people to keep their eyes on the long-term goals. They can then make sure they are still working towards the picture of success.

Describe cumulative targets

The totals under each heading for each quarter should be cumulative. This is illustrated below with Profits, but do it with each heading. For example:

Q4. Profits £1 million
Q3. Profits £750k
Q2. Profits £500k
Q1. Profits £250k

This describes the headline under Profits, but this could be broken down into more detail. You might want to consider having three bullet points of deliverables under each of Profits, Products and People. This helps to flesh out the road map

Bring the road map
to life with quotations

Describe the actual words you would like to hear people saying at various stages of the journey. These can be quotes from leaders, customers, colleagues or whoever.

Here is the framework for the road map. This describes the specific things the team needs to have delivered by the end of each quarter over one year. You can use a longer or shorter time frame for the road map.

Communicating
the picture of success

Imagine you have completed the team’s purpose, principles and picture of success. You can then share this with the whole team.

If this is the first time you have described the purpose and principles to your people, then it will be important to spend some time on these. What you may find, however, is that people may simply see these as confirmation about the overall direction. They may be more concerned with their specific goals for the next year.

If you feel it is appropriate, however, you can give people further background about the purpose and principles. Again, it will be important to explain the reasoning and bring the ideas to life by giving concrete examples.

You can then share the picture of success. Talk people through each of the sections regarding the What, Why, How and Who. Again, it is important to give examples that resonate with people. 

You can also give people a brief overview of the team’s road map – the When. This can be explored in greater depth, however, after people know the team’s direction and picture of success.

Bearing these things in mind, you may want to gather people together and say something along the following lines. You can, of course, supplement this with attractive slides that bring the ideas to life.

The Team’s Purpose, Principles
And Picture Of Success

Welcome to the session. Today we would like to look at how the team can continue to achieve ongoing success.

The Purpose

As you may know, the team’s purpose is: 

*

The Principles

As you may also know, the principles we encourage people to follow to work towards achieving the team’s purpose are: 

*

*

* 

The Picture of Success

Looking ahead, there are certain goals we want to achieve in the next year. We have translated these into a provisional picture of success.

Before describing this, however, we would like to give you some context. We want to explain the possible strategies we have considered for going forwards. We will then describe the strategy we have chosen to follow and the reasons for pursuing this route. 

Bearing in mind the various challenges we face, there are many different routes the team can take towards achieving its goals. Here is an overview of some of the possible routes we could take in the future.

Option A would be to …

The pluses and minuses of this route would be …

Option B would be to …

The pluses and minuses of this route would be …

Option C would be to …

The pluses and minuses of this route would be …

Option D would be to …

The pluses and minuses of this route would be … 

Option E would be to …

The pluses and minuses of this route would be …

Bearing these options in mind, we have chosen to take the following route … 

The reasons we have chosen this route are because …

There are, of course, pluses and minuses involved in pursuing this route. The specific things we can do to build on the pluses and minimise the minuses are …

We have therefore put together the following picture of success.

Later we will describe the potential road map. We will then want your input regarding the action plan.  

You can then go through the slides that describe The Picture Of Success. 

You can also bring it to life by giving examples that resonate with people.

Getting responses to
the picture of success

Imagine you have communicated the purpose, principles and picture of success. Again, if this is the first time you have communicated the team’s purpose and principles, it will be good to get people’s responses to these themes.

Imagine, however, that people are already generally aware of these. It can then be useful to explain that, whilst you are happy to answer questions about the purpose and the principles, you mainly want their views on the picture of success.

How to get good quality responses from people? Instead of simply asking for questions, you can take the following steps to stimulate and involve the team.

Invite people to form groups. There is to be a scribe in each group. Ask people to give their responses under the following headings.

Give people at least 30 minutes to do the exercise. People’s ideas are to be written on a flip chart as they go along.

If you are the leader – or if there is a leadership team that has introduced the strategy – you can give people twenty minutes to get started. You can then go around and look at the themes that are emerging.

This helps you to prepare to address the themes and answer any questions. (You will have told people beforehand that you will be going around to see the themes that emerging.)

The next step is to invite people to report back. It can be useful to cluster the themes and questions that emerge. You can then respond and answer more effectively.

When answering questions, it can be useful to explain the following guidelines to people.

You will aim be honest and answer as fully as possible. You will do this because you want people to understand the strategy, the rationale behind it and the steps going forwards.

You will focus on the overall strategic issues when answering the questions. You will not be able to say exactly what each person in each job will be doing in a few months time.

You will set aside time over the next week to meet individuals and answer, as far as possible, their questions. They can book a time to see you.

You may not be able to answer all the questions in the session. You will be able to get back with some answers. There may also be questions that, because of certain issues, you will choose not to answer.

You will also take away the ideas and see which of these can be added to the strategy.

Bearing these things in mind, you can embark on addressing the themes and questions that have emerged.

Good leaders often see these sessions as an opportunity to educate people about the strategy. People go away with a wider grasp of the issues. They are then more able to explain the strategy to new people who join the team.

Here are the exercises you can give to the team members to get their responses to the presentation.

Clarifying everybody’s contribution
towards achieving the picture of success

Good leaders build teams that are made up of people who aim to be positive, professional and peak performers. They then invite these people to make their best contributions towards achieving the picture of success. They take the following steps to make this happen.

They communicate the purpose, principles and picture of success.

They give people a chance to reflect and decide if they want to opt into achieving the goals.

They invite people – the smaller teams within the larger team and the individuals within those teams – to make clear contracts about their best contributions towards achieving the goals.

Good leaders manage by outcomes, rather than by tasks. So you may wish to take the following steps.

To, if appropriate, ask each smaller team within the team to produce its road map towards delivering its contribution towards achieving the overall picture of success.

To pick a date – perhaps three weeks in the future – when the whole team will gather and each smaller team will present its road map.

To then set a date by which each individual will have made clear contracts about the contribution to achieving the picture of success.

To make sure that these contracts are written in outcome terms – the specific things people are going to deliver under the headings of profits, products and people.

To tell people that, after the contracts are agreed, everybody will gather each month to report their progress on the road towards achieving the picture of success.

Imagine that you have clarified each small team’s contributions. People can then clarify the outcomes they will personally deliver towards achieving these goals.

There are many frameworks you can use to help people to clarify their individual contributions. This approach encourages people to take the following steps.

To clarify their strengths.

To clarify how they can use their strengths to make their best contributions towards achieving the team’s picture of success.

To meet with their manager and make clear contracts about their agreed goals.

The following pages provide a set of exercises that can be sent to the team member before they meet with their manager to agree on their contribution. 

As mentioned earlier, this framework follows the strengths approach. The person can follow the instructions and then make clear working contracts. 

Good organisations ensure that everybody knows the overall goals. Each team and each person then makes clear contracts about their contributions towards achieving the aims. So the overall picture may look something like the following.

Continuing to focus on
the picture of success

Good leaders encourage people to keep doing the right things in the right way every day. The road map may evolve, of course, but it is vital to keep people focusing on the goals.

Imagine that you have gone through the stages mentioned earlier. You can then encourage people by doing the following things.

You can encourage people to give regular updates on their progress towards achieving their goals.

You can share success stories.

You can encourage people to embody the ethic of constant improvement.

You can keep reminding people of the principles and report the progress that is being made towards achieving the picture of success.

Let’s explore these themes.

You can encourage people to give
regular updates on their progress

It can be useful for people to proactively keep you and other stakeholders informed about the progress they are making towards achieving their goals.

Bearing this in mind, it can be useful for then to schedule regular meetings with you – or their manager – to give updates.

Here is one framework that they can follow for reporting the progress they have made and their plans for the future.

They can then share this with you or their manager every month or another time frame.

You can share
success stories

Good leaders keep reminding people of the team’s principles. They also show how following these can contribute towards achieving the picture of success.

How to make this happen? One approach is to produce success stories that show what good looks like. These can highlight:

The specific times when people have performed brilliantly.

The specific things people did right then – the principles they followed – to perform brilliantly.

The specific things people can do to follow these principles – plus maybe add other skills – to perform brilliantly in the future. 

Imagine you want to produce stories that provide positive models for others in the team. 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. They do 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. Here is one framework.

People start by choosing a title for the story. They then describe the specific situation they encountered – such as helping a client, solving a problem, making internal processes work better or whatever. They then describe:

The challenges they faced and the desired picture of success.

The principles they followed to tackle the challenge and achieve success.

The lessons they learned and how they can apply these to achieve success. 

Communicate the success stories

Different teams have different approaches to sharing the success stories. They may choose, for example:

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 new stories that encourage people and show how they can follow the team’s principles to deliver success.

Here is a framework that can be used for publishing success stories. You can, of course, adapt this in your own way.

You can encourage people to embody
the ethic of continuous improvement

Good leaders encourage people to build on their strengths and also tackle areas for improvement. There are many approaches to making this happen. One approach is to invite teams to focus on the following areas.

What We Are Doing Well 

The specific things we are doing well and how we can do more of things in the future.

What We Can Do Better

The specific things we can do better and how.

This sounds a simple exercise but doing it regularly encourages people to get into the habit of focusing on constant improvement.

 

You can encourage people to focus on the
things that are in the
green, amber and red zones

Good leaders encourage their people to be proactive and take action to deal with any challenges. There are many models for making this happen.

One approach is for people to focus on the activities that are currently in the green, amber and red zones. They also suggest what can be done to maintain or improve what is happening in these areas.

One team I worked with had a dedicated room where people constantly updated the progress towards achieving the goal. It had charts that covered the following areas.

The Picture of Success

People could keep referring to the team’s aims that were displayed on one wall. These were grouped in terms of what it wants to achieve under the 3 Ps: profits, products – including customer satisfaction – and people.

The other walls had the following charts that described the current state of play regarding various activities.

The Green Zone 

People listed the things that were going well. They also provided concrete suggestions regarding how to maintain or build on these activities.

Great workers capitalise on what is working. If things are going well with a particular customer, for example, they explore how to continue providing great service. This can lead to developing the relationship even further.

The Amber Zone

People described where there were warning signs. They also provided suggestions regarding how to improve these activities.

Great workers worry about things that are in the amber zone. They are concerned that, unless these issues are addressed, these may quickly slide into the red zone. So they focus on how to move these activities more towards the green zone.

The Red Zone

People listed the things that were going badly. They also gave suggestions regarding how to improve these activities. These could involve making radical improvements or even call for key decisions to be taken.

Great workers think ahead to ensure that, as far as possible, things do not slide into the red zone. Crises do occur, of course, so then it is vital to find positive solutions.

There may be some issues, however, that are continually falling into the red zone. If systems are breaking down, for example, these may well need replacing.

A more challenging issue could be if a particular customer continually makes life difficult. Certainly it is vital to do whatever possible to provide great service. In some instances, however, a customer may prove impossible to please.

They may also prove to be a massive drain on resources. In such cases it may mean deciding to move on from the customer. This can be a difficult but necessary decision.

The Blue Zone

The team also went further and added another area called the blue zone. This was the space for both practical and imaginative ideas.

People listed the specific ideas, suggestions and other things that it might be worth considering to help the team shape a successful future. This led to some of the ideas being implemented and delivering positive results.

The Positive Team – Keeping people
informed by giving progress reports 

Good leaders keep reminding people of the team’s purpose and principles. They also keep people informed about the progress towards achieving the picture of success. Here is one approach to making this happen.

Imagine you lead a team. You can gather people together every month and use the following framework. After reminding people of the team’s purpose and principles, it can then be useful to describe the following things.

The specific things the team has delivered in the past month to work towards achieving the picture of success.

The specific things the team aims to deliver in the next month to work towards achieving the picture of success.

The other topics it would be useful for people in the team to know about as they work towards achieving the picture of success.

You can use this framework for bringing people up to date on the team’s progress and plans. If appropriate, you can also have a question and answer session.

When doing this, it can be useful to give people chance to reflect and, either individually or in small groups, list any questions they would like to ask. They can then put these on flip charts.

This gives you the chance to see the questions and, where appropriate, group them in themes. You can then, as far as possible, answer the questions. If appropriate, you can follow up with individuals after the meeting.

You can keep sharing the big picture to help people to see the progress being made. One framework for making such presentations can be found at the end of this piece.

Good leaders sometimes need to take tough decisions, of course, especially if things go off-track. When doing so, they go back to the positive teams philosophy. They start by making sure the team is made up of people who choose to have a positive attitude.

They then make decisions by focusing on the team’s purpose and principles. Good leaders do whatever is required to encourage and enable their people to deliver the picture of success.

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