The Art of Strengths Coaching

A is for Some Of The Basic A, B, C, D And E Models For Helping People To Achieve Their Goals    

There are many models for helping people to shape their futures. This article looks at some of the basic approaches that are used to help people to achieve their goals.

Many people will be familiar with these approaches and apply them in in their own ways. There is, however, one key point that is worth underlining.

These models are different from those that focus on urging people to change. Although, paradoxically, these approaches may result in people demonstrating changes.

The change approach can sometimes work if a person or a group feels they are in a critical situation. They may then feel motivated to achieve a different outcome, but this can still be challenging.

People who are told they must change may feel resentful or resist such calls. They may feel they are being told that they are failures or are bad people. This does not help.

There are many other models that can help a person to achieve their aims. Let’s explore some of these approaches. 

The Adding Model

This is a positive approach to development. It encourages a person to build on what they are doing well whilst also tackling areas for improvement.

One key point involves the use of the word add rather than change. Here is one example of how this works in action.

A newly arrived football coach was about to run his first individual session with the players at Manchester United. One session was with the young and often brilliant Cristiano Ronaldo. The coach asked himself:

“How do you help Ronaldo to develop? There are some parts of his game he can improve, but how do you encourage him to be open and listen?”

The coach decided to focus on what Cristiano might want to add to his repertoire. The player could then have even more tools he could use to be successful.

Bearing this in mind, the coach prepared what he would say on their first meeting. The approach he took went along the following lines.

This approach worked. Ronaldo said he wanted to add to his skills and be even more successful.

People are often more open if they are offered specific things they can add to their repertoires. They then have more practical tools they can use to achieve their goals.

The Benefits Model 

There are many views about what motivates people. One view is that people are more likely to alter their behaviour if they believe they have something to gain. As they old adage goes:

People buy benefits rather than features. 

People may make changes because they want to feel more pleasure or less pain. They may see a way to be more productive or make more profits. They may believe that pursuing a course can help them to achieve personal or professional success.

Some people make changes after having a shock. Feeling vulnerable, they may reflect on their behaviour and refocus on their life goals. This can lead to them adopting a healthier lifestyle.

A person may give up smoking, for example, after having a health scare. They may want to live longer and enjoy being with their grandchildren rather than greet them through an oxygen mask.

The benefits approach can be used in conjunction with the choices approach, which we will explore in the next section. There may be consequences – including both pluses and minuses – involved in working to achieve a goal.

Bearing these in mind, it can be useful to help a person to focus on the benefits. They can then keep motivating themselves when working to achieve the goal.

Imagine that you are helping a person who is considering taking such a step. If appropriate, you can invite them to focus on the following themes.

To clarify the specific goal – and the real results – they want to achieve;

To clarify the specific benefits – for themselves and for other people – of achieving the goal;

To clarify the specific strategies they can follow to give themselves the greatest chance of achieving the goal.

The Choices Model 

This is a model in many situations. Imagine that a person has asked for your help to tackle a challenge. These may include some of the following themes.

“How can I take control of my life rather than feel out of control?”

“How can I stay healthy rather than take drugs?” 

“How can I manage my anger in a way that does not hurt my loved ones?” 

“How can I have a positive attitude when playing my sport rather than fall into a negative cycle after experiencing setbacks?” 

“How can I be a good leader for the people than sometimes fly off the handle?”

The choices model invites a person to go through some of the steps taken by good decision makers. Such people start by clarifying the real results to achieve. They clarify the options for going forwards together with the pluses and minuses of each options. They then explore other creative solutions.

Good decision-makers often make decisions based on the consequences of each option rather than the options themselves. They recognise that they often choose their set of consequences. They then aim to build on the pluses and manage any minuses on the way towards achieving success.

Different practitioners apply this approach in different ways when helping a person to achieve their goals. Bearing this in mind, however, many follow similar principles when running a session. Here are some of these principles.

The choices model can be useful in many situations. Whilst helping a person to tackle the current challenge, they can use this framework when making other decisions. There are several key aspects to this approach. It can be useful to help a person:

To see that they can choose from many options and that each option has consequences;

To recognise that by choosing to pursue a certain route they can increase the chances of experiencing a particular set of consequences; 

To clarify whether they are prepared to accept both the pluses and minuses involved in pursuing their chosen route towards achieving their goals.

The latter point is crucial. It is important to clarify two things. First, whether a person understands the implications of pursing a certain route. Second, whether they are prepared to accept the whole package. Let’s explore what this means in action.

During my early career I worked with many recovering addicts who said they wanted to be healthy and give up drugs. After clarifying their options, we then explored the pluses and minuses involved in taking this path.

Bearing in mind their situation, let’s look at what this could mean from the recovering addict’s point of view rather than another person’s point of view.

Staying Healthy

The pluses may be: 

They may live longer; they may feel better; they may become a better parent or partner; they may be more in touch with their real self; they may get a satisfying job; they may build better relationships; they may feel more at peace;

The potential minuses may be:

They will need to find a new purpose rather than getting the next fix; they will need to take responsibility; they will need to manage their feelings without drugs; they will need to form a new group of friends.

Some recovering addicts choose to accept both the pluses and minuses. They then follow their chosen daily disciplines on the way towards achieving their aims.

The choices approach sounds tough, but it can also help a person to develop their decision-making skills. They can apply these skills in the future when working towards achieving their life goals.

The Development Model

This is an organic approach to development. It believes that many people already have inner strengths and successful patterns. They can build on these – plus add other skills – to achieve their picture of success.

Why take this approach? People are emotional beings. They need to believe in their guts that following a certain strategy will achieve success. This is easier to do if they have followed some of these approaches successfully in the past.

The development approach is different from models that urge people to change. The change approach can sometimes work if people feel they are in a critical situation. They may then feel motivated to achieve a different outcome, but this can still be challenging.

People who are told they must change may feel resentful or resist such calls. They may feel they are being told that they are failures or are bad people. This does not help.

The development approach is an inside out approach. It encourages people to channel their personality rather than change their personality. The paradox is that, as a result, the person’s behaviour can appear to change.

People can obviously learn things from outside, such as knowledge, models and tools. But the belief must come from within. They are more likely to sustain their motivation when following successful principles they believe will work in a situation.

Let’s look at how this works in action. Here is an example that took place several years ago when I was doing mentoring work in a company. This focuses on the following theme.


People who have strong personalities can choose to be inspiring or intimidating. This was the case with Tom, a top salesperson who wanted to become a Sales Director.

He was great with customers and always exceeded his targets. But in some interactions with colleagues he came across as dismissive. During meetings he talked across others and did his emails whilst they were talking.

Tom had a dynamic personality and could energise people, especially when talking about future possibilities for the company. On the other hand, he could also be destructive. Such swings in behaviour raised question marks about whether he could achieve his ambition to be Sales Director.

He had recently been turned down for such a role. The reasons given were that his behaviour sometimes upset peers and other colleagues in the company. He was told:

“There is no point in applying for such a role until you change this behaviour.”

Tom asked for help in tackling this challenge. After ten minutes or so, I gave him the following messages. This sounds rather blunt, but it seemed to resonate.

“You have a strong personality and can be very inspiring. On some occasions, however, you may also be intimidating. Bearing this in mind, you may face a choice about the possible roads you want to travel in your career.

“You are superb with customers. As far as I understand, you prepare properly for those meetings and make the customer feel the centre of your world.  

“You listen to the customer, clarify their goals and then share ideas to help them achieve success. These are skills that, if you wish, you can also use to help your colleagues.  

“Looking ahead in your career, you will always get a job in sales and make lots of money. If you want to be considered for a Sales Director role, however, you may need to explore how you can build a good reputation with colleagues.

“You already have the skills to make this happen, because you use these with customers. It is up to you to decide if you also want to use these with colleagues.  

“Let me know if you want take this route. If so, we can work together and focus on how you can achieve success.” 

Tom already had the required skills and used these constantly with customers. Choosing to encourage others in his company would involve him focusing on the following themes.

“Do I want to apply these same skills with colleagues? If so, how can I translate these into action? What will be the benefits – for myself and for my colleagues? 

“Sometimes I get bored in internal meetings, so what can I do to manage my impatience? How can I recognise the triggers that lead to me behaving in ways that cause trouble? How can I manage these triggers? 

“What are the actual words I want my colleagues to be saying about the way I behave towards them? What do I want my bosses to be saying? How can I do my best to ensure that people are saying these things?”

Tom chose to build on the skills he used with customers and apply these with colleagues. He developed these and, as a result, people said he had changed.

The key, however, was that Tom was channelling his personality in a way that created wins for his colleagues and company. He also learned how to manage the triggers that previously led to him flying off the handle.

Tom eventually moved into a Sales Director role. Bearing in mind his strengths, however, he mainly focused on being the person who led the way and carried the banner. He complemented his style by hiring a superb orchestrator who could ensure the team delivered the goods.

He still set aside time to talk with individuals, however, and treated them like his internal customers. Tom gave them his full attention, focused on their aims and helped them to achieve their goals. This helped the individuals and the company to deliver success.

The Evolutionary Model

The evolutionary approach is one that you can use with people, teams and organisations. Looking ahead, it invites people to focus on the following themes.

Building On The Best From The Past 

The specific things they want to take forward
from the past and keep doing in the future are:

To …

To …

To …

Developing In The Future

The specific things they want to add,
develop or do differently in the future are:

To … 

To …

To …

This is an approach you can use when working with individuals. You can help them to build on the best from the past and add other ideas to shape their future. They can then translate their ideas into action and work to achieve their goals.

You can also use this approach when working with teams. They may be planning the next year’s activities, moving office or making a transition. Let’s explore one way to take this step.

People like to feel in control, especially when facing challenges. Sometimes they want to cling to the past. Whilst it is good for them to respect their heritage, they may also need to focus on shaping the future.

Imagine that you lead a team that wants to keep developing in order to stay ahead of the game. Here are some steps you can take to make this happen.

Setting The Scene

Gather people together and explain that you want to focus on how the team can continue to develop. One leader explained this in the following way.

“The purpose of this session is to look at how we can continue to shape a successful future.  

“I want you to come up with ideas about: a) The specific things we can do to build on the best things we have done in the past; b) The specific things we want to add, develop or do differently in the future. 

“Looking back, we have done outstanding work when acting as trusted advisors to clients. We have also worked well together when tackling certain crises.  

“Looking ahead, we must continue to do what we do best. We also need to keep our internal stakeholders happy. The profit targets are mandatory, so we need to find ways to hit these targets.  

“We also need to be proactive in keeping our stakeholders informed about our progress towards achieving the goals. This will stop them worrying. 

“Many of our competitors are producing new applications that could put us out of business. We need to build on our strengths and develop ways to help our customers to achieve success.  

“Bearing these things in mind, I am going to invite you to share how we can continue to do superb work in the future.”

There are many ways to set the scene when inviting people to take charge of a transition. People often work best, however, when they are able to see the big picture.

Imagine that you have set the context in your own way. You can then invite people to do the following exercise. Give each person a pile of Post-it Notes.

They are to each write ideas on the following themes. Here are some of the things that people come up with when doing these exercises.

Building On The Best From The Past

The specific things we want to take forward
from the past and keep doing in the future are:

To have the regular monthly breakfast meetings with the leadership team … To maintain the ethic of giving great customer service … To give input into how we can achieve the team’s goals.

To work remotely providing we deliver the required … To do mentoring work with young people in schools … To have the profit share … To manage by outcomes rather than by tasks. 

Developing In The Future

The specific things we want to add,
develop or do differently in the future are:

To play more to our strengths as individuals … To produce success stories about our work as trusted advisors … To design the office so that people can work in small groups and also have individual spaces where they can work alone. 

To bring in inspiring speakers from different fields … To separate the performance management and career development sessions … To have regular sessions where we can contribute ideas to shaping a successful future.

Imagine you are doing this exercise with your team. You can give people 15 minutes to write their ideas on Post-it Notes. They can then each go up in turn and put their ideas on the following flip charts.

You can then discuss the ideas. Clarify the ones that you and the team want to implement and translate these into a clear action plan.

Invite people to volunteer to be mission holders for the various projects. You can then provide them with the required support to deliver the goods and help the team to keep developing.

Keep Doing, Start
Doing And Stop Doing

There are many applications of the evolutionary approach to development. One is the old exercise that invites a person or a team to focus on the following steps.

This is an interesting exercise to do with individuals. One thing that emerges is a person realising what they want to keep doing to maintain the quality of their life. For example, they may say something like the following.

Keep Doing 

The specific things I want to keep doing are: 

To keep encouraging my partner and children … To keep myself healthy … To keep exercising … To keep doing things that give me positive energy … To keep building on my strengths … To keep doing work that helps other people … etc. 

This exercise highlights the often-overlooked things that people want to keep doing. The same rule applies to teams, organisations and societies.

The coronavirus crisis, for example, highlighted the key things that a society needs to keep doing in order to thrive. These included the need to maintain the infrastructure and health of a nation.

Such factors often get overlooked until they fall apart. One reason for this is that people can become attracted to what they want to start doing or stop doing. But failing to do the basics can result in disaster.

Good workers continually focus on the principles and practices they want to keep following to get the basics right. These provide the platform for them being able deliver peak performances.

Great teams also focus on what they want to keep doing, start doing and stop doing. Below is an exercise that teams often use to take these steps. They then translate these ideas into action and work towards achieving their goals.

This article has explored several approaches to encouraging people. Whatever approach is used, the aim is to help people to shape their futures. It is then to encourage and enable them to achieve their picture of success.

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