The Art of Strengths Coaching

E is for Ease, Effectiveness and Excellence In Situations Where There Is An Edge

There are many ways to do fine work. One approach is to focus on being at ease, being effective and delivering excellence in situations where there is an edge.

Some people thrive in stimulating or challenging situations. Some people experience difficulty, however, in situations where there is an edge. They may find it hard to manage the high intensity, emotion or pressure.

Different people use different approaches to being positive and doing their personal best in situations. They sometimes do this by focusing on the following steps.

Ease

They put themselves into situations where they are in their element – at ease and yet able to excel. They then use own approach to doing their personal best. They may, for example, keep focusing on their purpose, principles and picture of success.

Effectiveness

They prepare properly and then pursue the strategies most likely to achieve success. They aim to be professional and perform superbly. They also keep focusing on constant improvement on the road to delivering success.

Excellence

They keep doing the basics and then add the brilliance. They buy time to regroup in situations that may be challenging. They relax, refocus and rehearse what they will do next.

They are then able to flow, focus and finish. They may reach the goals by adding that touch of class. They move through the stages of being effective to delivering excellence and doing work that is extraordinary.

Looking back, can you think of a time when you went through some of these steps in a situation that had an edge? This could have been in your personal or professional life.

You may have done so when encouraging a person, playing a sport or doing a creative project. You may have done so when leading a team, building a successful prototype or tackling another challenge.

Looking back, what did you do to feel at ease? What did you do to be effective and deliver excellence? What were the specific steps you took to make this happen?

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 aimed to be at ease, be effective and deliver excellence in a situation where there was an edge.

Describe the specific steps you took to be at ease, be effective and deliver excellence. 

Describe the specific things that happened as a result.

 

Ease

Great workers often feel at ease and yet fully alert when doing the activities in which they excel. They feel positively engaged and able to perform at their best.

The sprinter feels at ease and yet excited when competing in the Olympic Games. The trouble shooter feels calm and confident they can use their knowledge to solve a problem. The singer feels at home when commanding the stage and performing to a huge audience.

Great workers use their ease to relax and yet be relentless. They then pursue a relaxed relentlessness when following their chosen route towards achieving the desired results.

Some people feel at ease when doing things that gives them positive energy. They then do great work by focusing on a specific activity where they demonstrate the following qualities.

They have good personal radar. They see patterns and seem to know what will happen before it happens. They are able to quickly clarify the desired picture of success. 

They have a wide professional repertoire. They study success and know what works. They have many strategies and practical tools they can use to achieve the picture of success. 

They have the ability to deliver the desired positive results. They reach into their repertoire and apply the appropriate strategy. They then do their best to achieve the picture of success.  

Some people feel at ease by serving something greater than themselves. They may aim to pursue a spiritual faith, a philosophy or a sense of vocation. They then do their best to focus on their chosen purpose, principles and picture of success.

Some people feel at ease by practising the art of recentering. They may use deep breathing or other techniques for being fully present. They then feel more able to go into their version of the arena and do their personal best.

Different people use different approaches to feeling at ease, but many have one approach in common. They aim to control the controllables. They build on what they can control and manage what they can’t. Bearing this in mind, they then focus on achieving their picture of success.

Effectiveness

Great workers start by establishing clarity. They know what mountain they are climbing and how they are will climb it. Most of all, they make sure they are climbing the right mountain.

Such workers clarify the most effective strategies they can follow for achieving the mission. They then aim to follow these efficiently.

Some people confuse effectiveness with efficiency. They end up climbing the wrong mountain in a more efficient way.

Different people take different routes to doing effective work. One approach is to focus on the following themes.

Different people take these steps in different ways. Some do this by asking themselves the following questions

What are the real results I want to achieve? Bearing in mind what I can control, what is the picture of success? What are the specific things that will be happening that will show I have achieved the picture of success?

What are the key strategies I can follow to give myself the greatest chance of success? What are my strengths and how can I use these when pursuing the strategies? What other skills do I need to add? 

What are the potential challenges I may face? How can I prevent some of these challenges happening? How can I manage these if, despite everything, they do happen?

How can I translate the strategies into a clear action plan? How can I then perform superb work? How can I keep doing the right things in the right way every day?  

How can I get some early successes? How can I keep doing reality checks and focusing on constant improvement? How can I encourage myself on the journey? What else can I do to increase the chances of achieving success?

Great workers prepare properly. This often involves rehearsing how to pursue the key strategies and deal with challenges. They then prepare to move into their version of the arena.

Clicking into action, they pursue their chosen strategies. Following their preferred rhythm, they aim to follow good habits. They keep doing the right things in the right way to perform superb work.

Such workers keep doing reality checks and focusing on constant improvement. They keep asking the following questions. What is working and how can I do it more? What can I do better and how? They implement these ideas and move on to the next step.

Excellence

Great workers keep doing the basics and then add the brilliance. They buy time to think in situations that may be challenging. They relax, refocus and rehearse what they will do next.

Such workers are sometimes able to flow, focus and finish. They may reach the goals by adding that touch of class. They move through the stages of being effective to delivering excellence and doing work that is extraordinary.

Good decision makers stay calm and take the following steps before making key decisions.

They gather information and, if appropriate, do something to manage the immediate situation – such as stopping the haemorrhaging or creating stability.  

They buy time to think and decide on the strategy for going forwards.  

They pursue their chosen strategy and do everything possible to achieve the picture of success

Great workers translate their chosen strategy into action and aim to achieve excellence. Sometimes they do this by going into a state of flow.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi pioneered much of the work in this field. He described his findings in books such as Flow and Creativity.

He said that flow experiences are those where you become completely absorbed in an activity and time goes away. Below are some of the characteristics shown by people who do such work.

 

People who go into a state of flow often enjoy the journey as much as reaching the goal. Mihaly explains this approach in his book Flow.

The mystique of rock climbing is climbing; you get to the top of a rock glad it’s over but really wish it would go on forever.  

The justification of climbing is climbing, like the justification of poetry is writing; you don’t conquer anything except things in yourself.

The act of writing justifies poetry. Climbing is the same: recognising that you are a flow.

The purpose of the flow is to keep on flowing, not looking for a peak or utopia but staying in the flow. It is not a moving up but a continuous flowing; you move up to keep the flow going.

This does, however, highlight a paradox. In order to enjoy the journey, sometimes you need to set a specific goal. How to make this happen?

One approach is to set stimulating but achievable goals each day. This give you the chance of achieving meaningful success. You can then go through the process of absorption, adventure and achievement.

Mihaly describes this approach in his book Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. Here is how he describes the process that people can follow to both enjoy the journey and reach the goal.

Wake up in the morning with a specific goal to look forward to. Creative individuals don’t have to be dragged out of bed; they are eager to start the day.  

This is not because they are cheerful, enthusiastic types. Nor do they necessarily have something exciting to do. But they believe that there is something meaningful to accomplish each day, and they can’t wait to get started on it.

Most of us don’t feel our actions are that meaningful. Yet everyone can discover at least one thing every day that is worth waking up for.  

It could be meeting a certain person, shopping for a special item, potting a plant, cleaning the office desk, writing a letter, trying on a new dress. 

It is easier if each night before falling asleep, you review the next day and choose a particular task that, compared to the rest of the day, should be relatively interesting and exciting.

Then next morning, open your eyes and visualise the chosen event – play it out briefly in your mind, like an inner videotape, until you can hardly wait to get dressed and get going. It does not matter if at first the goals are trivial and not that interesting.  

The important thing is to take the easy first steps until you master the habit, and then slowly work up to more complex goals.  

Eventually most of the day should consist of tasks you look forward to, until you feel that getting up in the morning is a privilege, not a chore. 

Such workers are then sometimes able to flow, focus and finish. They may reach the goals by adding that touch of class. They may move through the stages of being effective to delivering excellence and doing work that is extraordinary.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, when may you want to deliver excellence in a situation that may have an edge?

You may want to do this when doing a creative project, leading a team or tackling a challenge. You may want to do it when managing a transition, solving a problem, tackling a crisis or doing another activity.

What can you do to feel at ease? What can you do to be effective and deliver excellence? What are the specific steps you can take to make this happen?

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 aim at ease, be effective and deliver excellence in a situation where there may be an edge.

Describe the specific steps you can take to aim to be at ease, be effective and deliver excellence. 

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result.

 

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