The Art of Strengths Coaching

D is for Being A Deviant Who Delivers

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Creativity calls for doing things differently. But organisations often have an ambivalent relationship with people who are different.

So how can you survive – and even thrive – by doing things your own way? Sometimes this is exciting, but failing to deliver the goods will have strong repercussions. So the key rule is:

“If you are going to be a deviant, you have to deliver.”

Great organisations are built on similarity of spirit and diversity of strengths. They want people who have similar values but who have a variety of talents.

Bearing this in mind, it can be useful to do the following things when working for an organisation:

To contribute to an organisation whose values you believe in.

To contribute by using your strengths in ways that enable people and the organisation to succeed.

How can you do these things in your daily work? One approach is to be positive, be professional and be a peak performer. Let’s explore these points.

Being Positive

You can encourage other people and help them to succeed. Sounds obvious, but some individuals flaunt their individuality by dismissing other people’s opinions.

“Be nice to people on your way up because you’ll meet them on your way down,” is an old saying from show business.

Today’s equivalent in fast moving organisations is:

“Be friendly towards everybody – whatever their role – because one day you may find yourself the being interviewed by them for a job.”

Being an encourager increases the chances of getting away with being different. Being negative makes life an uphill struggle.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe the specific things you can do to be positive towards the people you meet in your work.

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Being Professional

Several years ago I was approached by a brilliant marketer, let’s call him Dave, who had been twice been passed over for promotion.

Getting a reality check from his boss, he found his colleagues considered him unprofessional. They said:

“He is great with clients, but rude to colleagues. He promises clients a proposal in 2 days, but doesn’t check whether we can get the data by then.

“During meetings he does email, rather than listen to what people are saying. He shows impatience by interrupting the speaker or going out to make phone calls.

“He has a brilliant strategic brain, but shows little respect for colleagues in the team.”

Dave had previously been in denial. But now he saw that his behaviour was preventing promotion to a more strategic role. He could choose:

To ignore the feedback.

To say everybody else was wrong.

To attach himself to bosses who would hire him for his strategic brain, rather than interpersonal skills.

To take the messages on board and try to get another result.

Dave opted for the latter option. He aimed to become more professional with both colleagues and clients. The approach we explored together was:

“Imagine you are a freelancer running your own business and supplying services to this company. How would you behave?

“You would recognise that you are always on stage. People make judgements about you every moment.

“So you would probably behave professionally towards everybody in the business – the receptionist, managing director, PA and potential future clients you met in the corridor.

“You certainly have these skills, because you demonstrate them superbly with clients. Here are two questions to consider.

“Do you want to take the time to behave professionally towards everybody in the business? If so, how can you do so in the next week, month and year?”

Dave chose to make the effort. When somebody stopped him to ask for a chat as he was rushing to a meeting, for example, he no longer brushed them off. He gave them 100% attention and said:

“It would be good to catch up. Right now I am on my way to a meeting. But as soon as it is finished I will get back to you with a time when we can meet.”

Doing simple things like saying ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ also had an effect. People began to feel easier in his presence and more willing to help him to succeed.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe how you can be professional toward both colleagues and customers in your daily work.

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Being A Peak Performer

How can you do your best to ensure both you and other people deliver peak performances? Sometimes it can be helpful to recall the basic rule about team sports that is often quoted in various forms.

Great team members go beyond achieving individual success. They also encourage and enable other people and the whole team to achieve success.

Bearing this in mind, it is vital to proactively make clear contracts with your manager and other stakeholders about your best contribution.

How to clarify this contribution? One approach is to do the exercise called My Best Contribution.

This invites you describe the contribution you want to make to the organisation. It also asks you to describe the benefits to the various stakeholders.

There is a strong emphasis on relating your contribution to the organisation’s goals. People who take this approach are more likely to get support to use their strengths. Here is the exercise.

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Some people adopt the deviant mannerisms, but fail to produce the goods. Providing you encourage others and also do great work, you will maintain the freedom to be a deviant who delivers.

If you wish, try tackling the final exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe how you can deliver peak performances that contribute towards achieving the organisation’s picture of success.

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