The Art of Strengths Coaching

D is for The Dedicated Approach To Delivering The Goods


This article explores the dedicated approach towards doing fine work. It involves focusing on discipline, daring, dealing with dramas and delivery.

Looking back, can you think of a time when you went through some of these steps? You may have dedicated yourself to one of the following themes:

To pursuing a philosophy; 

To following certain principles; 

To working towards achieving a picture of success.

Embarking on the journey, you followed daily disciplines. When appropriate, you added that touch of daring. Sometimes you dealt with dramas but kept your eyes on the goal. You then did everything possible to deliver the goods.

You may have taken this route when following your life philosophy, pursuing a project, writing a book, playing a sport or doing another activity. You may have done it when acting as a parent, carer, educator, leader or in another professional role.

If you wish, try tackling the following exercise. This invites you to describe when you followed some of the steps in the dedicated approach.

Imagine that you want to follow some of these principles in the future. Let’s explore how it may be possible to take this route.


Some people dedicate themselves after having an epiphany. Some after consulting their inner compass. Some after a period of research and reflection.

Some people take the following approach. After exploring many of their drives, they go through a process of decision making. They then dedicate themselves to pursuing a certain path.

As mentioned earlier, different people dedicate themselves to different things. They may, for example, focus on the following themes.

Let’s consider how a person may dedicate themselves to following a particular route. This may begin by exploring their drives, making a decision and then committing themselves.


A person will aim to satisfy their basic drives for food, shelter and other necessities. They may also feel driven to do other things. Here are some answers that people give when exploring this theme.

I feel driven:

To provide for my family … To help people to manage pain and live positive lives … To help young footballers to graduate from the academy to the first team … To make films that show people the importance of caring for animals. 

To write popular songs and donate the profits to providing food for people … To design care homes that enrich the lives of people experiencing dementia … To provide frameworks in which people can develop and find fulfilment.

To run a recruiting business that is dedicated to getting wins for the candidates and wins for the employers – not one that just aims for profit  … To run a successful intrapreneur programmes in companies … To pass on knowledge in a way that helps people to succeed.

How can a person choose the theme they want to focus on? One approach is for them to ask:

What is the theme I keep returning to? What are the principles I believe in following? What is the drive I want to pursue?

Imagine you have provisionally settled on this theme. You may then move on to the next stage.

Decision Making

Great workers take time to think before committing themselves to a chosen path. They explore a potential way forwards, do their due diligence and consider the possible implications.

There are many models for decision making. Some people explore their possible choices, the consequences and the attractiveness of each option. They then decide on their chosen route.

Some people work through these themes logically and deliberately. Some do it quickly and use strategic intuition.

Gary Klein studied people who took this latter approach. His books on the topic include Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions and The Power of Intuition.

He studied firefighters and other professionals who made decisions in pressure situations. The following section draws on an interview he gave to Bill Breen for The Fast Company magazine. He explained what he had learned in the following way.

I noticed that when the most experienced commanders confronted a fire, the biggest question they had to deal with wasn’t ‘What do I do?’ It was ‘What’s going on?’

“That’s what their experience was buying them – the ability to size up a situation and to recognise the best course of action.”

Gary explained that firefighters saw the big picture and looked for patterns. They then began exploring potential strategies.

They reached into their experience – their hyperdrive – to scan previous scenarios and see what lessons might apply to the present situation.

They chose a potential course of action and played scenarios – like running a film in their heads – to see this might work in practice. 

They ran the film to see if the strategy would work and, if so, they began pursuing it.

Gary said that firefighters kept exploring various strategies until they found one that worked. He explained this in the following way.

“Once they make a decision, firefighters evaluate it by rapidly running a mental simulation. They might run through several choices, but they never compare one option with another.  

“They rapidly evaluate each choice on its own merits, even if they cycle through several possibilities. They imagine how a course of action may unfold and how it may ultimately play out. 

“They don’t need the best solution. They just need the one that works.”

Let’s return to your own life and work. Imagine that you have settled on a drive you want to pursue.

You may then want to translate this into following certain principles, doing a piece of work or achieving specific goals. As ever with decision making, it can be useful: 

To clarify the real results you want to achieve and translate this into a clear picture of success; 

To clarify the key strategies you can follow to achieve the picture of success;

To clarify the pluses and minuses involved in working to achieve the picture of success.

Imagine that you have explored these themes. It is then time to move to the next part of this stage.


Great workers embark on their journey with their eyes open. They embody the qualities described by T.E. Lawrence. He said the those who dream by night may or may not follow up. A summary his view was that:

Dreamers of the day are dangerous … They may act their dreams with eyes open, to make it possible.   

Imagine that you have clarified the thing you want to do, the strategies you want to follow and the desired picture of success. You have also considered the pluses and minuses involved in working towards achieving the goals.

Great workers often take one more step before leaping into action. They check their motivation and commitment. This involves them working through the following steps.

Looking at your own rating, make sure it is at least 8/10. You can also focus on how to maintain or improve the rating.

This can include finding ways: a) To build on the pluses; b) To manage or minimise any minuses; c) To encourage yourself on the journey. It will then be time to embark on the next step.


Great workers follow certain disciplines. Bearing in mind their chosen strategies, they aim to keep doing the right things in the right way every day. They follow good habits on the way towards achieving their goals.

Twyla Tharp, the American choreographer, believed in this approach. Even into her sixties Twyla started the day at 5.30 am and walked out of her flat onto the Manhattan Street. She then hailed a cab that took her to the gym for a two-hour workout.

Twyla explained that it is vital to start the day properly. Writing in her book The Creative Habit, she explained how she followed certain rituals to develop good habits. She wrote about this in the following way.

Imagine that you want to pursue a particular route. How can you develop a daily rhythm in which you follow your chosen disciplines? One approach is to pursue the path of relaxed relentlessness.

Great workers sometimes separate the phases of being relaxed and relentless. Sometimes they combine both elements, however, and go into a state of relaxed relentlessness. They are then more likely to flow on the way towards delivering the desired results.


Good habits will sometimes be enough to help you to reach your goals. On some occasions, however, you may need to go further than demonstrating consistency. You may need to demonstrate creativity or, in some cases, be prepared to be courageous.

Great sports teams, for example, follow their chosen disciplines and are then prepared to be daring. They put their energies into trying to win rather than trying not to lose.

Great workers follow a similar pattern. They keep doing the basics and then, when appropriate, choose to be brave. They often do this in a calculated way, however, rather than being careless.

Looking at the situation, they decide they have more to gain – and less to lose – by being daring. They use their preferred decision making process to clarify the options. They then commit themselves fully to pursuing their chosen strategy.

Dealing With Dramas

Great workers channel their feelings into working towards achieving the goals. They do not get distracted by dramas or their own emotional ups or downs.

They do not, when working in organisations, get caught up in turf wars or game playing. They do not get side tracked by individuals who choose to be dramatic or have serial problems.

Such workers anticipate the potential dramas they may encounter on the journey. They then explore the follow themes.

How can I prevent these dramas happening? How can I deal with any dramas if, despite my best efforts, they do happen? 

How can I buy time to think? How can I focus on the real results to achieve in the short-term and long-term? How can I do my best to find possible solutions to the dramas? How can I implement these solutions? 

How can I return to following the required disciplines? How can I get a quick success? How can I continue doing good work on the way towards the destination?

Great workers regain their rhythm and continue to do good work. They can do this because they have rehearsed how to prevent and manage dramas.

Let return to the route you may want to follow. Looking ahead, what are the possible dramas you may encounter? How can you prevent or manage these successfully?

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



Imagine that are dedicated to pursue a certain route. Different people choose different ways to work towards delivering the goods. Let’s look at one person who aimed to do their personal best.

Chris Hoy – Focusing On The
Process Of Riding The Perfect Race

Chris Hoy, the Olympic cyclist, made a habit of setting big goals. Breaking these down into smaller targets, he focused on the step-by-step process of working to achieve these aims. This included visualising and riding the perfect race.

Chris gave an interview to Michael Johnson, who himself won four Olympic gold medals, for the video series Chasing Perfection. In it he explained what he learned from working with Steve Peters, the psychiatrist who helps people to perform at their best. Here is a precis of what Chris said.

“I sought Steve’s help because I wanted to improve. One trigger was what happened at the World Championships in 2003. Then I changed my strategy based on watching a rival’s race and them doing an incredibly fast time.

“Instead of thinking that he was quick because of the track conditions – and therefore maybe we would all be quick – I changed the gears on my bike. I also attacked too hard at the start. This led to me dying off at the end and giving a really poor performance.”


“This would be particularly relevant in front of Olympic crowds where there might also be many distractions. For me it would be about focusing on my performance. Anything that was irrelevant and out of my control, forget it.

“The key would be hone in on the A-B-C process that I knew worked rather than worry about the outcome. If you perform at your best and focus on the process, the result will take care of itself.”

He also describes how Steve prepared him to deal with potential challenges. Before one competition, for example, Steve asked him what he would do if one of his rivals went just before him and set a new world record.

Chris said that he did not want to think about such an issue. Steve explained that it was important to clarify how to respond to such challenges rather than ignore them.

Otherwise it is like somebody saying: “Don’t think of a pink elephant.” You immediately think of a pink elephant.

Steve urged him to practice how to take positive steps to deal with such potential issues. Chris explained this in the following way.

“Steve said that, from now on whenever you get a negative thought between now and the Games – there are only two weeks to go – I want you to visualise your race.  

“It is only a minute long. Do it in real time, from the moment you are at the start gate. The count down, the deep breaths, the snap out of the gate, the first half lap. Visualise the whole race.”

Chris says that the anticipated challenges actually appeared, in triplicate.

“I got to the race on the night itself and it seemed like Steve had some sort of crystal ball. I was to ride last. With four riders to go, including myself, the guy broke the world record.

“Three riders to go another guy broke the world record. The guy before me broke the world record again.  

“Instead of panicking and changing my strategy, I was so focused on myself and getting my ride out.  

Chris went on to ride his perfect race. He focused on the process, performed at his personal best and won the prize.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, imagine that you want to pursue a certain route. How can you follow some aspects of the dedicated approach?

How can you follow the required disciplines? How can you, when appropriate, be daring? How can you deal with any dramas? How do you do your best to deliver the desired results?

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

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