The Art of Strengths Coaching

E is for Doing Work That Is Enjoyable, Effective And Exceptional

 

Imagine that you want to do exceptional work. How can you build on your strengths and achieve your picture of success?

One approach is to focus on the following themes. You will, of course, follow these in your own way.

Enjoyable Work

You can do work that is enjoyable and may also be exciting. If appropriate, you can do work that encourages people. You can translate this into doing a specific project and clarifying the picture of success. 

Effective Work

You can do work that is effective and efficient. One approach is to study what works and follow these principles in your own way. You can then pursue the strategies that will give you the greatest chance of achieving success.

Exceptional Work

You can continually deliver excellence. One approach is to keep doing basics and then add the brilliance. You can then aim to go beyond this and do work that is exceptional.

Later we will explore how to translate these principles into action. Before then, however, can you think of a person who you believe has done exceptional work? Different people answer this question in different ways.

Some mention creative artists such as Martha Graham, Alexander Calder, Paul Simon and Marcel Marceau. Some mention pioneers such as Anita Roddick, Tim Berners-Lee and Steve Jobs. Some mention individuals such as Emily Pankhurst, Richard Feynman and David Attenborough.

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

Describe a person who you believe has done exceptional work. Write their name. 

Describe the specific things you believe they did – such as the principles they followed and the practical steps they took – to do exceptional work.  

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of them doing this exceptional work.

Imagine that you want to follow these principles in your own way in the future. Let’s explore these themes.

Doing work
that is enjoyable

You can start by focusing on the things you enjoy doing. Looking at these, are there any activities in which you have the ability to do fine work? If so, how can you translate this into doing a specific project?

How to choose the activity you want to pursue? One approach is to ask yourself the following questions. 

What are my strengths? What are the deeply satisfying activities in which I deliver As rather than Bs or Cs? What are the activities that give me positive energy – even when I think about them? When am I in my element – at ease and yet able to excel?

What are the activities in which I see the destination quickly? When do I go ‘A, B … and then leap to … Z’? Where do I see patterns quickly? Where do I have the equivalent of a photographic memory? What are the activities that I find fascinating, have a feeling for and in which I have a track record of finishing? 

When do I enjoy the journey as much as reaching the goal? What are the activities in which I have natural self-discipline? Where do I always do the basics and then add the brilliance? When do I have a sense of purpose, follow my principles and achieve the picture of success? 

What are the activities in which I feel calm? When do I do creative problem solving by focusing on clarity, creativity and concrete results? What are the activities in which I am good at dealing with crowdedness – many things happening at once? 

What is my successful style of working? Looking back, what for me have been the most satisfying projects? What made each of these projects satisfying? Can I see any recurring patterns? How can I follow these principles – plus maybe add other skills – to do satisfying work in the future? 

What would be my perfect project? What for me would be a stimulating project with stimulating people in a stimulating place? How can I find or create such a project? What would be the benefits of doing this project? How could it help other people?

Imagine that you have chosen to focus on the activity you enjoy doing. How can you translate this into a specific project?

One approach is to do work that encourages both yourself and other people. Different people choose to encourage others in different ways. Here are some of the paths you may wish to consider.

You can encourage people:

By helping them in your role as a parent, educator, counsellor, nurse, doctor, sports coach, social entrepreneur, leader, broadcaster, performer, trusted advisor or in another role.   

By offering specific products or services that help people to improve the quality of their lives. 

By passing on knowledge and practical tools that help both present and future generations.

Different people take this path in different ways. Kiran Bir Sethi, for example, founded a global movement called Design For Change. This encourages children to express their ideas for a better world and translate these into action.

Below is an excerpt from its website. This is followed by video that shows some of its work. You can discover more via the following link.

http://www.dfcworld.com/default.aspx

Children and adults learn through the Design for Change Challenge that “I Can” are the two most powerful words a person can believe.  

Children who have discovered this are changing their world.

This year, Design for Change reaches 34 countries and over 300,000 schools inspiring hundreds of thousands of children, their teachers and parents, to celebrate the fact change is possible and that they can lead that change!

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking at what you enjoy doing, how can you translate this into a specific project?

You may choose to write an article, produce a web site, nurture a garden, care for animals or build a business. Alternatively, you may choose to raise money for charity, start a social enterprise, build a successful prototype or care for the planet.

What would be the benefits of doing such a project – both for yourself and other people? You may aim to create something beautiful, lift people’s spirits or pass on practical tools that people can use to shape their future lives.

Looking at the specific project, what are the real results you want to achieve? What is your picture of success? What are the specific things you can deliver to perform exceptional work?

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

Describe the specific project you want to do in which you want to do exceptional work. 

Describe the specific things you want to deliver to do your best to make it a piece of exceptional work.  

Describe the specific benefits of doing this piece of exceptional work.

Doing work
that is effective

Imagine that you are clear on your picture of success. You can then focus on how to do effective work.

Being effective calls for clarifying the strategies that are most likely to help you to achieve success. This involves clarifying what works and then following these strategies in an effective and efficient way.

Some people confuse efficiency with effectiveness. The problem can be, however, that people are simply being more efficient at following strategies that do not work.

How to be effective? One approach is to explore the following steps.

You can study what works

Great workers study success. When focusing on a particular challenge, they focus on what works. They ask some of the following questions.

When have I tackled similar challenges successfully in the past? What did I do right then? What were the principles I followed? How can I follow similar principles – plus add other skills – to tackle this challenge?

When have other people tackled similar challenges successfully? What did they do right then? What were the principles they followed? How can I follow these principles in my own way?

Looking at the challenge, what do I believe will work? What are the strategies I can pursue that are most likely to achieve the goals? How can I follow these principles to work towards achieving the picture of success?

You can build on your strengths

Great workers build on their strengths whilst also managing the consequences of their weaknesses. When focusing on a particular challenge, they ask some of the following questions.

What are my strengths – the activities in which I deliver As? How can I build on my strengths to work towards achieving the goals? 

What is my successful style of working? How can I follow this successful style to work towards achieving the goals? 

What are my weaknesses? How can I manage the consequences of these weaknesses – such as by getting help from other people – when working towards achieving the goals?

You can pursue successful strategies

Great workers clarify the most effective ways forward and translate these into a clear action plan. They ask some of the following questions.

What are the real results I want to achieve? What is the picture of success? What are the key strategies I can follow to give myself the greatest chance of success? How can I translate these into a clear action plan?

How can I get some quick successes? What are some of the potential difficulties that I may face? How can I prevent some of these difficulties happening? How can I manage these difficulties if, despite my best efforts, they do happen?  

How can I keep doing the right things in the right way? How can I keep following my chosen rhythm? How can I encourage myself on the journey? What else can I do to increase the chances of achieving success?  

Jack Sim is somebody who aims to do effective work. He takes pride in being known as Mr. Toilet and founded the World Toilet Organization. He is committed to providing sustainable sanitation for people around the world.

Here is some background about him and the organisation taken directly from its website.

http://worldtoilet.org/wto/

Jack Sim, Mr. Toilet, has broken the taboo on sanitation and brought issues about toilets and hygiene out into the open.  

After attaining financial independence as a businessman in Singapore by 40, Jack decided to devote the rest of his life to development work in line with his motto:  

“Live a useful life.” 

In 1998, Jack established the Restroom Association of Singapore (RAS) whose mission is to raise the standards of public toilets and address the issues of poor toilet design, inadequate building codes and poorly trained cleaners in. 

As Jack began his work, he realized there were organizations similar to this in other countries and without any central governing body. Soon thereafter, he founded the World Toilet Organization (WTO) in 2001.

Let’s return to the specific activity you want to focus on where you will enjoy the journey as much as reaching the goal. How can you tackle this in an effective way?

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

Describe the specific project in which you want to do exceptional work.

Describe the specific things you can do to be effective and give yourself the greatest chance of success.

Doing work
that is exceptional

You get into the habit of delivering excellence. You can keep doing the basics and, when appropriate, add the brilliance. You can then go beyond this and deliver work that is exceptional.

Let’s begin by focusing on excellence. Some definitions of excellence include the following.

The quality of being outstanding or extremely good … An outstanding feature or quality.

Tom Peters and Bob Waterman spread the gospel of excellence in 1982 with their book In Search Of Excellence. This inspired many individuals and companies to focus on how they could deliver excellence.

These approaches often drew on ancient wisdom contained in the following quotes from Confucius and Aristotle. 

The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.

Confucius 

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. 

Aristotle

There are many approaches to excellence. One approach is to do superb work that delivers success.

Great design, for example, is often simple, satisfying and successful. It is simple in a profound way and satisfying on a number of levels. Physically it looks and feels good. Practically it works and is user friendly. Great design gets the job done and is successful.

Another approach to excellence is to aim to become the best kind of person, artist, athlete, engineer or whatever you want to be. It is to aim to achieve personal or professional excellence.

John Wooden, the basketball coach, espoused this approach in his work with young players. He never mentioned ‘winning’, but his teams won more titles than any other in College basketball history. He defined success in the following way.

Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.

During his early career John began developing what later became known as his famous Pyramid Of Success. This consisted of guiding principles that athletes could follow both on and off the court. You can discover more via the following link.

Pyramid Of Success

The base of the Pyramid consists of phrases such as: Industriousness; Friendship: Loyalty; Cooperation; Enthusiasm. Behind each of these words is an explanation.

The word Industriousness, for example, is explained in detail. This includes the following phrases.

In plain language, I mean you have to work – and work hard. There is no substitute for hard work. None. Worthwhile things come only from real work.

There are several levels to the Pyramid Of Success. It culminates in the principle of Competitive Greatness. This is explained as:

Perform at your best when your best is required. Your best is required each day.

John built teams that aimed to live these values rather than just laminate them. He reinforced the Pyramid Of Success by using certain maxims to remind people of their responsibilities. These included the following.

Be true to yourself … Be more interested in character than reputation … Help others … Make friendship a fine art … There is a no substitute for hard work and careful planning … Make each day your masterpiece.

Imagine that you have kept doing the basics and, when appropriate, also added the brilliance. You may then want to go beyond achieving excellence and deliver something special that is exceptional.

Different people produce exceptional work in different ways. Here are two examples.

Thorkil Sonne created The Specialist People Foundation that aims to create one million jobs for people with autism. This came in response to discovering his son had autism.

Below are excerpts from the Foundation’s website. You can discover more via the following link.

http://specialistpeople.com/

 The Idea Started With Lars 

My son Lars was 2½ years old when my wife and I noticed that his development began to differ from that of his older brothers.

We arranged with his nursery carers that he would get extra support from a qualified child psychologist, all the while hoping of course that we could learn how best to help him become more like his brothers. 

Our Lives Changed 

Eventually, we were informed that Lars had infantile autism – a life-long invisible handicap in the category of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). 

Lars would face a life where he would be constantly misunderstood and isolated because it would be difficult for him to interpret what others expected of him. 

Most likely, Lars would never have a normal working life. 

My Fight

I became active in the Danish Autism Association. I also studied the Danish welfare model, and realized that although the model is strong and has many good aspects, there was a lot of room for improvement. 

I learned that families with a child with ASD have a high risk of disintegration.

This is most often because this handicap is invisible, meaning that the family has to struggle get the outside world to understand and provide timely support.

Social workers also work under difficult conditions where welfare schemes are available, but the knowledge of how best to help people with complicated invisible handicaps is thin on the ground. 

I experienced that both those who need the help and those who provide help are under great and increasing strain.

Specialisterne 

With the support of my family I re-mortgaged our home and established Specialisterne (The Specialists) in an attempt to tailor a working environment geared towards people with ASD, enabling them to use their specialist skills to act as consultants to the business sector, at market terms. 

My vision is to create new possibilities for people with ASD and to influence society to adopt a more positive attitude towards people with ASD.

One Million Jobs

It is believed that one percent of the world’s population may have Autism Spectrum Disorder. This is equivalent to 68 million people worldwide. 

Even more people may have other disorders on the autism spectrum, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). These are all potential specialist people – with great business potential. 

We have set our goal: to provide meaningful and productive jobs for one million people with autism and other invisible disorders.

Thorkil has been recognised by the Ashoka Organization as a person who has helped to improve the lives of many people across the world. Here is an interview with him after being made an Ashoka Fellow. 

Kathleen Taylor has spent more than 20 years working as a counsellor in hospices. When asked about her work, she says she loves her job.

Why? Kathleen enables people to tackle this final chapter. At the same time, she learns from them about what does and does not matter in life.

When facing death, a person is able to be who they really are. They become courageous and honest. They find joy in the smallest moments.

They are authentic and able to be their true self. They talk about things they have never expressed before. They look back on and make sense of the body of work in their life.

Kathleen says that, whilst there are many stages in our lives, three stand out.

When we are young we are fearless and set our course. When we are in mid-life we question and maybe readjust our course. When we are at the end of our life we find answers about our course.

Kathleen says that we can take a hint from people who are living their last days. She says:

I would like to hope it is never too soon to learn these lessons. 

There are many ways to do fine work. One approach is to do work that is enjoyable, effective and exceptional.

You may wish to take some of these steps when pursuing a passion or doing a creative project. You may wish to do so when encouraging people, passing on knowledge or aiming to leave a positive legacy.

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

Describe the specific project in which you want to deliver exceptional work. 

Describe the specific things you can do to do your best to deliver exceptional work.

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