The Art of Strengths Coaching

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 you are clear on your purpose and the principles you want to follow. What are the goals you want to achieve by taking these steps? What is your picture of success? Let’s look at the path that one person took to pursue his 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.

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.

Super Teams Often Pursue
Their Purpose, Principles
And Picture Of Success

Great teams also focus on their aims. There are many models for building such teams and the following section looks at one approach.

Super teams create a positive environment in which motivated people can achieve peak performance. They believe that people work best if they have context and can see the big picture. Bearing this in mind, they make sure that everybody understands the team’s purpose, principles and picture of success.

Such teams 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.

Super teams are made up of people who choose to have a positive attitude and be professional. They also want to perform superb work and do their best to help the team to succeed.

Such teams 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.

Super teams 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 lead a team. The following sections provide a framework that you can use to clarify and communicate the team’s purpose, principles and picture of success. People can then make clear contracts about their best contributions towards achieving the goals.

This is an approach that I have used hundreds of times with teams in organisations. There we have used the framework of focusing on the 3 Ps – Profits, Products and People. But you may use another framework for clarifying your team’s aims.

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.

S is for Seven Approaches To Helping People To Achieve Success  

 

There are many ways to help people to achieve success. This article looks at some of these approaches. There are, of course, many other ways that people can be helped to achieve their goals.

The Supportive Approach

This is the most basic approach. It is to provide people with the basic materials for life – food, shelter and encouragement. It is also to offer them practical tools they can use to be healthy, hopeful and happy.

The supportive approach is taken by many people in their daily life and work. They focus on helping people to climb the hierarchy of needs that were described by Abraham Maslow.

People have an ascending set of needs, said Maslow. Once they are satisfied on one level, they are more likely to move onto the next level. These drives start with the physiological needs and climb towards self-actualisation.

People are more likely to fulfil their potential in environments that enable them to satisfy their needs, said Maslow. Many people have since expanded on his theory and translated it into action. Here is one summary of this hierarchy of human needs.

Many people in the caring professions follow this approach. They also draw on the work of Carl Rogers, the founder of modern counselling, Virginia Satir, the family therapist, and other practitioners of Humanistic Psychology.

Such professionals provide an encouraging environment in which people can feel safe, set specific goals and shape their futures. They then provide practical tools that people can use – in a responsible way – to live fulfilling lives.

The supportive approach starts by helping people to identify and fulfil their basic needs. Different professionals – such as counsellors, educators, therapists, trusted advisors and mentors – then use their own approaches to helping people to develop.

The following sections explore some of these approaches. You will, of course, use your skills and specialist knowledge to help people to achieve success.

The Strengths Approach

The strengths approach is an organic approach to development. It believes that:

People have the seeds of development within them; 

People already have strengths and successful patterns; 

People can build on their strengths – plus add other skills – and achieve their picture of success.

The approach combines elements of both Humanistic and Positive Psychology that studies humanity at its best. It then provides practical tools that people can use to follow these principles and achieve their goals.

Bernard Haldane, Don Clifton and Tom Rath were some of the many practitioners who have helped to spread this approach. Here is a selection of books on the topic.

The strengths approach starts – like many others – by clarifying a person’s picture of success. This may mean different things to different people.

Some people may simply aim to be happy. Some may aim to do satisfying work that pays a salary. Some may aim to achieve peak performance. Some may aim to encourage other people.

Some may aim to build a team that focuses on its purpose, principles and picture of success. Some may aim to build a pioneering business that becomes a pacesetter in its chosen field.

Some may aim to regain a sense of control, overcome setbacks and refocus on their life goals. Some may aim to find creative solutions to challenges. Some may aim to leave a positive legacy.

The strengths approach then provides positive models and practical tools that people can use:

To build on their strengths and manage the consequences of any weaknesses; 

To pursue practical strategies that work; 

To do superb work and achieve their picture of success.

Some practitioners combine the strengths approach with elements Positive Psychology, Humanistic Psychology, Existential Psychology or Appreciative Inquiry. Many follow certain common principles, however, to help people to achieve success. You can discover more about these via the following link.

Strengths Coaching

The Stimulating Approach

People love to work towards stimulating goals. Bearing this in mind, professionals sometimes do the following things when working with people.

They create a positive environment in which people feel at ease, alive and able to explore;

They use stimulating exercises or activities that encourage people to be creative;

They share success stories that provide people with inspiration and hope;

They share knowledge, positive models and practical tools that work;

They show how people can, if they wish, do their personal best to achieve stimulating goals.

Different professionals follow these principles in different ways. Great educators, for example, often focus on inspiration, implementation and integration.

They create an inspiring environment and provide implementation tools that work. They then help people to integrate the learning in their own ways. Let’s look at one person who took this route.

Maria Montessori created stimulating environments in which children could learn and develop. She helped students to go through the learning process of absorption, adventure and achievement.

Maria was one of the first women in Italy to qualify as a doctor and began working with children in hospital. This led to meeting children in asylums. The Association Montessori Internationale explains what happened as a result.

She started to educate them: to lead them out of their isolation and deprivation of any stimulus. Maria really became an educator through force of circumstance and her dedication to truly invest in these ‘idiot’ children.

The children in the asylums started to develop positively beyond anybody’s imagination. So Montessori started wondering how well ‘normal’ children might benefit from the sensory didactic materials.

She was part of a group of socially committed young people that had connections. Through these she came into contact with Signor Talamo, who was responsible for the San Lorenzo social housing project.

He asked her to do something with the children of the San Lorenzo tenants. As their parents were away during the day to earn money, they were left to their own devices.

The positive results of her work in San Lorenzo became well-known, with the news spreading across Italy, Europe, the US, Australia and India.

Maria’s work won her the right to set up her own schools that eventually spread across the world. She would later express some of her educational philosophy in the following quotations. You can discover more about her work via the following link.

Maria Montessori

What actually happens in a Montessori environment? Imagine you are visiting a class for the youngest children. You will probably see over 30 children, ranging from two and a half to six years old.

The room has a prepared environment in which children can follow their natural tendency to work.

It will embody the characteristics of beauty, simplicity, order, accessibility and reality. Children will have many enticing materials that are designed to help them explore their world and develop their skills.

The children will be working.

Some will be totally concentrated on their activity; some will be co-operating with others; some will be tidying up after their last activity and moving onto the next. Some may be preparing food. Some may be engaged in other activities.

The children will be given freedom to work, learn and develop.

They will move around within suitable guidelines that enable them to act as part of a social group. They can pursue their own interests – though they must also respect others.

The educator will be watching the children.

They will see when the children become enraptured. When appropriate, they will encourage and guide them to further exploration on this theme.

The children will continue to develop their skills.

They will repeat an activity until it satisfies an inner goal. They will then move onto the next activity they want to explore.

Different practitioners use different methods to provide stimulating environments in their respective fields. They then help their clients to go through the stages of inspiration, implementation and integration.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, how can you use your strengths to provide stimulation?

You may want to encourage people, create inspiring environments or simply focus on helping people to achieve their goals. You may want to pass on positive models or practical tools that work.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Bearing in mind your strengths, this invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific activity in which you would like to use aspects of the stimulating approach. 

Describe the specific things you can do to use aspects of the stimulating approach.

Describe the specific benefits of using these aspects of the stimulating approach.

The Strategic Approach

Trusted advisors often take a strategic approach towards helping people to achieve their goals. They start by making their client feel welcome and clarifying what they want to explore.

Such advisors gather information to get an overview of the situation. They then use their expertise and knowledge:

To clarify the real results the person wants to achieve – the picture of success;

To clarify the key strategies the person can follow to give themselves the greatest chance of achieving success; 

To help the person to follow their chosen strategies and achieve the picture of success.

Trusted advisors are experts in their chosen field and are able to helicopter above a situation. They can explain the big picture and the possible options for going forwards. They can also outline the pluses and minuses of each option.

This is an approach I have seen used by therapists, medical consultants, coaches and other professionals. Such people are often both warm and clear-headed.

They help a person to do some strategic thinking and consider the possible options for going forwards. When appropriate, they also pass on their knowledge.

Once the person has settled on their chosen route, it then involves focusing on the following themes.

The Picture of Success

The real results the
person wants to achieve are:
 

To … 

To …

To …

The key strategies they can follow to give
themselves the greatest chance of success are:

To …

To …

To …

When appropriate, such professionals encourage and enable their client to follow the strategies. This can involve using elements of the next approach for helping a person to achieve their goals.

The Solutions Approach

Professionals sometimes help people to get immediate solutions. They may do this when working as a nurse, doctor, counsellor, technical specialist or when applying their particular expertise.

Babette Rothschild, a specialist in helping people to manage trauma, is somebody who takes this approach. She provides practical tools they can use to stay calm, manage flashbacks and shape their future lives. You can read more about her work via the following link.

Babette Rothschild

Good professionals sometimes help people to find both short and long-term solutions to challenges. Many of the approaches they use are based on the Three C model for creative problem solving. You can discover more about this approach via the following link.

Creative Problem Solving

Good leaders also focus on finding solutions. During the early part of the Coronavirus crisis, for example, many took the following steps to help their people. They aimed:

To care for their people – such as taking care of their people’s wellbeing and wealth; 

To manage the present situation – such as dealing with any haemorrhaging and pressing challenges for their colleagues and customers;

To shape a positive future – such as focusing on the specific things they could do to build a successful future.

Such leaders recognised that it was important to communicate with their people and explain the organisation’s strategy. This was vital because otherwise other voices would fill the vacuum.

Here are the key messages that some of the leaders I worked with gave to their people. Each leader did, of course, adapt this to the specific situation facing their people and organisation.

Shaping The Future 

We want to let you know about the key strategies we are following in the present situation and how we aim to shape the future.

We will also keep you regularly updated about the progress we are making with these strategies. 

As you know, we have an organisation that is made up of people who are caring and creative. We are already seeing how they are channelling their strengths to come through this situation.  

Here are the strategies we are following.

1) We are doing the following things to manage the present situation and care for our colleagues and customers. 

a) We are …

b) We are …

c) We are …

2) We want to involve you in shaping and carrying out these strategies because you have strengths and expertise. 

Please let us know how you would like to contribute in some way.  

This might include using skills and strengths that you don’t normally use in our workplace, but you have these abilities so we can look at how to use them in an imaginative way. 

3) We have the ability to shape a successful future. 

We are putting lots of efforts into dealing with the present situation.

At some point, however, we will also focus on developing the strategies for shaping a positive future for our people and the organisation. 

Please let us know if you would like to contribute to helping to develop these strategies.

Finally, thank you again for your creativity and co-operation.

If you have any individual questions, please let us know. We will then talk with you individually.

Leaders recognised that people want to feel in control and some had not been through such challenges before. It was therefore important to offer them practical tools they could use to navigate the situation

Such leaders kept people informed about the progress being made on the strategies. They kept finding solutions to challenges and focused on how to help people come through the situation successfully.

The Sharing Knowledge Approach

This is an approach often used by educators, trusted advisors and other professionals. They pass on knowledge in a way that helps a person to achieve their goals.

How to take this step? One approach is to begin by clarifying the knowledge that you can pass on to people. One person explained this in the following way.

“My first thought was that I had little to give, but then I reflected on my life-experiences.  

“During the past 20 years I have had quite a few successes and setbacks. But I have been able to do the following things. 

“I have turned-around two failing businesses and helped two friends to set-up their own firms.

“I have created a pressure group to help dyslexic children. Like me, my son is dyslexic, and I know the difficulties such people face at school.  

“I have also overcome a difficult illness and set up a website to help others who are given a similar diagnosis. 

“Whilst nothing I say may be new, some of the lessons – especially those about setting-up businesses – could be worth sharing with people.”

What is the knowledge you can pass on? You may have expertise in gardening, counselling, building houses, managing crises, coding, leading teams, first aid, solving particular problems or whatever.

Sometimes it can be useful to brainstorm all the topics you may be able to teach about. You can then settle on, for example, three themes and describe these in ‘How to …’ terms.

The knowledge I want
to pass on to people is:

How to …

How to …

How to …

Imagine that you have clarified the knowledge that you can offer to people. How can you share this in a way they can use to achieve their goals?

Good educators – in the widest sense – often take the following steps. They have a conversation with the person, watch them in action or see an example of their work. They then ask themselves the following questions.

Good educators buy time to think. After clarifying the knowledge they can pass on, they ask the person:

“Is it okay for me to share some ideas?”

It is important to make this psychological contract. It means the person may then be more open to ideas they can add to their repertoire.

Good educators then aim share things in a way the person can receive. This calls for moving from the concept to the concrete and giving examples that resonate. The person is then more likely apply the learning in their daily life and work. 

The Sage’s Approach

Sages are generous, kind and able to quickly get to the heart of the matter. They then pass on knowledge in a way that helps people to succeed.

Such people are often seen as wise, but they do not see themselves this way. They see themselves as lifetime students. They learn from eternal wisdom – such as the common lessons in many spiritual faiths – and also study humanity at its best.

They see the big picture yet are also practical. They are soul-wise but also savvy. They give examples that bring things to life. They also provide practical ideas that people can use in their daily lives.

Sages often aim to serve something greater than themselves. Building on their own strengths and specialism, they aim to encourage both present and future generations.

Different people take different routes towards becoming sages. Some go through the following stages.

Student

Sages often start off as students. They focus on something they want to learn and become fascinated by the subject. They may want to learn about people, spiritual faiths, science, art, beauty or another topic.

Such people throw themselves into the learning process. As mentioned earlier, they often go through the stages of absorption, adventure and achievement.

Gathering as much information as possible, they look for patterns and begin to make sense of what they are learning. They may also, at some stage, begin to develop their own models for understanding experience. This can lead to the next stage.

Seeking

A person may set out to seek more knowledge. They may do this by exploring different kinds of adventures, work or experiences.

Some pursue the equivalent of what Joseph Campbell called The Heroic Journey. This can involve an outer journey, an inner journey or a combination of both.

A person may try many different kinds of work, visit various cultures or test themselves by tackling specific challenges. They learn from the experiences and begin to settle on specific activity. This can lead to the next stage.

Satisfying Work

A person concentrates on an activity that gives them positive energy. This can be challenging because they still want to explore, but they decide to focus on a deeply satisfying activity.

Pursuing this route, they discover more about their strengths and limits. They also begin to develop their preferred way of working. They eventually learn it is important to go through the stages of rehearsal, following a rhythm and delivering results.

They do work they enjoy and aim to deliver excellence. Sometimes they experiment and explore other fields. Sometimes this works and they expand their strengths; sometimes it does not work. This can lead to the next stage.

Service, Strengths And Specialising

A person recognises that they feel most themselves when they forget themselves. Bearing this in mind, they choose to serve something greater than themselves. They may aim to follow a spiritual faith, a vocation or a mission.

This gives them a sense of purpose and the opportunity to follow their chosen principles. They then work towards achieving a picture of success.

People who take this path often return to focusing on their strengths. They ask themselves the following questions.

“What are my strengths? How can I use these strengths to serve something I believe in? How can I do satisfying work that helps others to achieve success?”

Different people then choose to pursue different kinds of work. They may choose to work in the caring professions, education, the arts, science, technology or another activity.

They may do many jobs in their chosen activity but then develop their own specialism. They may become a subject matter expert, project director, co-ordinator, leader, prototype builder or develop another role. This can lead to them aiming to make a specific contribution.

Successes And Setbacks

A person may do superb work and achieve success. They may also experience setbacks. Both can lead to improving the quality of the work they do to help people.

Great workers often embody Kahlil Gibran’s belief that work is love made visible. They often put themselves in the background. They believe the most important thing is to focus on the work.

Such people love to keep following their principles. Sometimes, as a by-product, they also get prizes. But the most important thing is to serve the thing that is greater than themselves. It is then to do their best to deliver positive results.

Great workers learn from successes. They clarify what they did well and how they can continue to follow these principles. They also learn from setbacks. They clarify what they can do better in the future to help people or the planet.

They feel fortunate to be able to pursue their principles and do positive work. Sometimes they also want to share what they have learned from the successes and setbacks. This can lead to the next stage.

Sharing Knowledge

Some people move into the role of being an educator, teacher, coach, mentor or advisor. Some take this step in a proactive way. Some find themselves being asked to share their knowledge with other people.

Different people choose different ways to take this step. As mentioned earlier, they can build on their strengths and aim:

To clarify the specific knowledge they want to pass on to people; 

To clarify the kinds of people whom might be open to such knowledge;

To clarify the best ways for them to pass on this knowledge.

They share the knowledge in a way that plays to their strengths. This may involve working face-to-face with people, writing, making films or using another media.

Sometimes they do this in the course of their daily work. Sometimes they do it when approached by other people. This can lead to moving towards the next stage.

Sage

Sages sometimes start off by being a student and then becoming a worker. Aiming to pass on knowledge, they may become a teacher. Then comes the most dangerous phase.

They may be seen as a guru, but this is full of pitfalls. Why? Some gurus want followers, but the sage wants to give things away.

The sage realises they have gone a full circle and they are really a student. They cannot take credit for anything they have been given. They can only do their best to pursue the path they have been given the opportunity to follow.

Sages can often demonstrate the second simplicity. They get to the heart of the matter and explain things in a way that is simple yet profound. It can take years of experience, however, before people reach this stage.

Such people have wisdom in their bones and make complicated things simple. As mentioned earlier, however, the sage’s journey is full of paradoxes.

Once a person thinks they are wise, they automatically aren’t. Similarly, once they think they are a sage, they are in dangerous territory. It is vital to remind themselves that they will always be a student.

This piece has explored many approaches to supporting people. You will, of course, do this in your own way. If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific ways in which you want to support people in the future.  

Describe the specific benefits of supporting people in these ways.

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