The Art of Strengths Coaching

E is for Focusing On Your Element, Effectiveness And Excellence

There are many approaches to doing fine work. One model is to put yourself into situations where you are in your element. It is then to be effective and to deliver excellence.

Imagine you want to go through these steps in your own way. Let’s explore how to make this happen.


When are you in your element? These are the situations in which you feel at ease and are able to excel. Here are some answers that people give to this question.

I feel in my element when I am: 

Encouraging positive people … Caring for my rose garden … Managing certain kinds of crises … Nursing animals back to health … Being a trusted advisor for my clients … Fixing computer problems … Playing a particular role in a team.

Doing eye surgery … Making custom-made furniture … Teaching motivated students … Mentoring entrepreneurs … Building successful prototypes … Leading teams that must deliver something special by a deadline.  

How to recognise when you feel in your element? You get positive energy even thinking about the activity. Going into the situation, you feel alive and alert. Gathering information about what is happening, you quickly see patterns.

You get to the heart of the matter. You are able to deal with crowdedness – many things happening – and clarify the real results to achieve. You go ‘A, B … and then leap to … Z’. You see the picture of success.

“They are in their element,” is a phrase often used to describe a person who is doing superb work. Ken Robinson describes how people often follow this path in his book Finding Your Element. You can discover more about his work via the following link.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a specific situation you can put yourself in where you will feel in your element? Later we will explore how you can do fine work in this situation.

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

Describe a specific situation you can put yourself in where you will feel in your element.

Describe the specific reasons why you will probably feel in your element in that situation.

Describe the specific things you can do to put yourself in that situation.


Imagine that you have chosen to focus on a specific activity where you feel in your element. The next step will be to do effective work in this area.

There are many approaches to making his happen. Great workers sometimes go through the following stages.

They clarify the real results they want to achieve. They then translate this into a clear picture of success. 

They clarify the key strategies they can follow to give themselves the greatest chance of success. They translate these strategies into a clear action plan.

They perform superb work, encourage themselves on the journey and find solutions to challenges. They then do whatever is required to achieve the picture of success.

There are many approaches to being effective. One approach is to study what works, simplify what works – but in a profound way – and then do what works.

Great workers start by clarifying they own successful patterns. Everybody has a positive history. Everybody has performed superb work or tackled challenges successfully – even only for a few minutes. Bearing in mind the work to be done, great workers take the following steps.

They clarify when they have performed brilliantly when tackling similar challenges in the past.

They clarify what they did right then – the principles they followed – to perform brilliantly.

They clarify how they can follow similar principles – plus add other skills – to perform brilliantly in the future.

Great workers also learn from best practice around the world. They study what individuals, teams and organisations have done to tackle similar challenges successfully. They then study what people did to deliver peak performances.

Such workers focus on effectiveness rather than just efficiency. This starts by making sure they are focusing on the right goals and climbing the right mountain. Many organisations, for example, are trying to climb the wrong mountain more efficiently.

Effectiveness calls for focusing on what works and then making things work. Great workers learn from their own and other people’s experiences. Bearing in mind what works, they then complete the following exercise.

The Picture Of Success

The real results I want to
achieve and by when are:

* To … 

* To …

* To … 

The Key Strategies

The key strategies I can follow to give myself the
greatest chance of achieving the picture of success are: 

1) To …

2) To …

3) To …

The Specific Action Plan

The first strategy is:

1) To … 

The specific things I can do to
implement this strategy are:

To …

To …

To …

The second strategy is:

2) To …

The specific things I can do to
implement this strategy are:

To …

To …

To …

The third strategy is:

3) To …

The specific things I can do to
implement this strategy are:

To …

To …

To … 

Let’s return to your own life and work. Imagine that you want to do a specific piece of work where you will feel in your element.

You may want to write an article, renovate a house, run a marathon, coach a sports team or perform in a play. You may want to build a successful prototype in your work place, act as a trusted advisor to a client, lead a peak performing team or throw yourself into some other activity.

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

Describe a specific piece of work you want to do where you will be in your element.

Describe the picture of success – the real results you want to achieve – by doing the piece of work.

Describe the key strategies you can follow to do effective work and give yourself the greatest chance of success.


Imagine you are tackling a piece of work. You want to move from doing the basics to adding the brilliance. Different people have different approaches to adding this touch of class.

Nelson Mandela, for example, had the ability to make people feel special. Departing one hotel at 6.00 a.m. one morning, he took the time to say goodbye to each of the staff on duty. Giving each person his famous two-handed handshake, he looked them in the eyes and said:

“Thank you for looking after me.”

The desire to deliver great work comes from within. One approach is to start by doing what you enjoy and being effective. Embracing the ethic of constant improvement, you can then move on to delivering excellence.

Richard Sheridan has followed this path at Menlo Innovations. Developing a different kind of software company, he set out to build what he called:

“An intentionally joyful culture.”

Below is a video in which Richard describes this approach. This is encapsulated in his book Joy Inc. The video is followed by excerpts from the company’s website. You can discover more via the following link.

Our clients hire us to design and build custom software. Our CEO, Richard Sheridan, elaborates on this by describing:

“We are like a custom homebuilder. If you have the house of your dreams in mind, you would want to find an architectural firm, a design firm, and a build firm to bring it to life.”

We do the same thing for software.

Our mission as an organization is to end human suffering in the world as it relates to technology™.

For our clients, we do this by creating software that is widely adopted and enjoyably used by their intended end users.

Within our organization, we achieve this mission by intentionally choosing to create a culture founded on the Business Value of Joy™.

What’s the secret to Menlo’s influential culture? The first step is to ensure that we have the right people on our team. 

Above and beyond the specific skill sets and experiences someone might bring, we look at kindergarten skills.

Do you play well with others? Are you curious? 

From there, team members enter an environment where constant learning and mentoring pervade all we do.

In the end, the secret to our culture comes down to leadership.  

The best type of leadership is that which helps those around you produce better results than they would on their own. It’s not about hierarchy or authority.  

We want to develop leaders within Menlo who think about how to leverage their skills and experiences to support those around them.

We acknowledge that we all have room to grow in this area, but are committed to continuous improvement.

Great workers embrace the ethic of constant improvement on the way towards achieving excellence. There are many approaches to taking this step.

One approach is to build on your strengths whilst also tackling areas for improvement. Peak performers, for example, aim to religiously follow good habits that get them to 7/10. They then focus on how to improve and make the exponential climb to 10/10.

Imagine that you are doing a piece of work. You are doing certain things well, but you also want to improve. You want to do your best to deliver excellence.

If you wish, try tackling the final exercise on this theme. This invites you to focus on the specific things you are doing in your work – or even in your life – at the moment.

The exercise invites you to do the following things. You can the implement these ideas on the road to delivering excellence.

Describe the specific things you are doing well or have done well. 

Describe the specific things you can do better in the future and how. 

Describe the specific things you can do to build on what you are doing well, continue to keep improving and do your best to deliver excellence.

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