The Art of Strengths Coaching

F is for Creating The Foundation And Framework That Enables People To Do Fulfilling Work  

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There are many models for encouraging people to do their best. One approach is to create the right foundation and framework that enables people to do fulfilling work.

Good leaders implement the right strategy with the right people in the right way. This also calls for getting the basics right and enabling people to do fine work. Let’s explore these themes.

Foundation

Imagine that you lead a team. You can start by creating the right foundations. This calls for getting the physical, philosophical and psychological things right. Let’s start with a real life example.

Dave had built a successful team of 50 people. The global company that he worked for then took over another business that had around 200 people. As part of the integration, Dave was invited to lead the new business.

There were, however, many challenges. The business being taken over had falling revenues, more institutionalised employees and was located in an ugly tower block. It called for a massive culture shift.

Dave took the expanded role, but on several conditions. The first step was to change the physical things to change the psychological things. It was to put all 250 employees under one roof in an attractive office.

The second step was to give people the practical support they needed to do the job. Dave made sure that people were given the encouragement, practical tools and infrastructure required to deliver the goods.

This is a vital step that is often overlooked in organisations. Whether people are running a hospital, leading a business or climbing a mountain, they need the tools to do the job. This provides the platform for achieving success.

The third step was to build a positive culture. Dave started by making the professional deal clear to people. He outlined this in the following way.

The Company’s Responsibilities Are:

To communicate the company’s purpose, principles and picture of success. 

To create a positive environment and give people the support they need to make their best contributions towards achieving the picture of success.

To do whatever it can to ensure the company achieves its picture of success.

The Employee’s Responsibilities Are:

To understand the company’s purpose, principles and picture of success.

To decide if they want to follow the principles and, if so, to then make their best contributions towards achieving the picture of success.  

To encourage other people and do whatever they can to help the company to achieve its picture of success.

Dave then gave people the chance to reflect and decide if they wanted to contribute towards achieving the goals. He followed up by making clear contracts with people about the best contributions.

Many people chose to opt into shaping the future culture. Some people from the previously failing business chose to move on. These roles were filled by people who wanted to follow the principles required to achieve the picture of success.

Imagine that you lead a team. How can you create the right foundation that encourages people to do fulfilling work? What will be the benefits of taking these steps?

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

Describe the specific things you can do to create the right foundation that encourages people in the team to do fulfilling work. 

Describe the specific benefits of doing these things.

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Framework

There are many frameworks that teams can follow to enable their people to do fulfilling work. Whatever framework is used, it is important to ensure that people do the basics and then add the brilliance.

One approach is to co-ordinate people’s strengths so that they do superb work and achieve the picture of success. Let’s explore how this works.

The Strengths Approach

Imagine that you lead a team. You can take the strengths route by taking the following steps.

You can communicate the team’s picture of success. 

You can make clear contracts with people about how they want to use their strengths to achieve the picture of success. 

You can co-ordinate people’s strengths so that they do superb work and achieve the picture of success.

Co-ordinating people’s strengths often calls for finding creative solutions. Here are some of the questions that people can ask when going through each of the following stages.

Clarifying The Picture Of Success 

What are the team’s goals? What are the real results we want to achieve? What is the picture of success? What are the specific things that will be happening that will tell us we have achieved the team’s goals?

Clarifying The Strategies 

What are the key strategies we can follow to give ourselves the greatest chance of success? How can we get the right people with the right spirit and skills required to deliver the goals? How can we put the right people in the right places in the team?

Co-ordinating People’s Strengths

What are people’s strengths? What are the specific activities in which each person delivers As, rather than Bs or Cs? How can we co-ordinate people’s strengths to achieve the team’s picture of success?

How can we make sure any remaining tasks get done? How can we divide these up effectively or find other creative ways to get these completed?

Contracting About People’s Contributions

How can we make clear contracts with people about their best contributions towards achieving the team’s goals? How can we give them the required support? How can we ensure they proactively keep others informed about their progress?

Who will take responsibility for continuing to co-ordinate people’s talents? How can we make sure they have the authority and autonomy to make this happen?  

Co-ordinating The Work To Ensure
People Achieve The Picture Of Success

How can we build in regular team co-ordination meetings? How can we ensure that people keep reporting the following things?

The specific things they have delivered in the past month, for example, towards achieving the goal.

The specific things they will deliver in the next month.

The specific challenges they face and their solutions for tackling these challenges.

The specific kinds of support they would like to help them to deliver success. 

Imagine that you plan to go this route. It will be important to make clear contracts with people about their individual contributions.  

There are many frameworks you can use to clarify people’s contributions. Dave, who was mentioned earlier, encouraged all the people in the organisation to use the template described below.

People spent time clarifying what they believed would be their best contributions. They then met with their managers to make clear contracts about what they would deliver towards achieving the picture of success.

Below is the template that people completed. You can discover more about how to co-ordinate people’s strengths via the following link.

Co-ordinating Strengths

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Imagine you lead a team. You will have your own framework for enabling people to do fulfilling work.

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

Describe the specific things you can do to create the right framework that enables people in the team to do fulfilling work. 

Describe the specific benefits of doing these things.

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Fulfilling Work

There are many models for enabling people to do fulfilling work. Whatever approach is used, however, these often embody two themes. These are managing by outcomes and also the progress principle. Let’s explore these themes.

Managing By Outcomes

Good leaders manage by outcomes, rather than by tasks. They start by making clear contracts with each person about what they will deliver towards achieving the team’s goals. They then give them freedom, within parameters, to use their strengths to achieve the agreed goals.

The person needs to follow the team’s principles, however, and keep others informed about their progress. They also need to deliver their contribution towards the team’s picture of success.

Good leaders recognise that they cannot actually manage people. Such an approach would be patronising, because people manage themselves.

They can provide people with an inspiring framework, however, and the support they need to do the job. Leaders can then manage people’s contributions towards achieving the team’s goals.

Imagine that you are following this process with people in your team. It is vital to spend a lot of time with each person agreeing on ‘What’ must be delivered. Make crystal-clear contracts about the real results to achieve.

Why? Because from then on virtually every performance conversation will start by concentrating on this ‘What’ – the agreed outcomes – rather than getting into ‘supervising’ the tasks.

After agreeing on the outcomes, make sure people are given the necessary support required to do the job. Otherwise you are asking them to climb a mountain without the right equipment.

Good leaders set up people to succeed. They then encourage, educate and enable them to do superb work. How to make this happen?

One approach is to meet with each person every month. They are to prepare ahead of time and complete the following framework. You can then work through it together during the session.

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You can create an encouraging environment in which a person can share their successes and challenges. During the conversation, however, keep returning to the agreed ‘What’. You can say:

“Let’s go back to the real results to achieve. How can we do our best to deliver those results? What are the steps we need to take to make this happen?”

Why take this approach? People can get into a pattern of talking about details, making excuses or whatever. They may also confuse activity with results.

Certainly sometimes it is vital to revisit the aims to ensure these are still desirable and possible. But then it is good to go back to the ‘What’. Whatever the topic, the mantra is:

“Let’s go back to agreed outcomes. How can we do our best to deliver those results?”

Sounds tough? Perhaps, but it is also a good way of leading a team. People learn:

To clarify specific goals that are written in outcome terms and that contribute towards achieving the team’s picture of success.

To make clear contracts about the goals, including the required support.

To take responsibility, be creative and do their best to deliver the agreed outcomes

The Progress Principle

People often develop by doing stimulating work and stretching themselves to reach achievable goals. This is a theme that is described by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer in their book The Progress Principle. 

This is a key principle that affects people’s wellbeing. They need to feel they are making progress – whatever that means to them. People are more likely to feel good about their work when they are doing the following things.

They are working towards meaningful goals.

They work in a supportive environment that is based on encouragement, practical support and respect. 

They have a sense of autonomy and can use their talents to achieve daily wins on the way towards achieving the meaningful goals.

The Progress Principle provides a detailed description of what people need to flourish in their work. Below are excerpts from the website that describes the book and also from an article written for the Harvard Business Review. You can discover more via the following links.

http://progressprinciple.com/

https://hbr.org/2011/05/the-power-of-small-wins

The power of progress is fundamental to human nature, but few managers understand it or know how to leverage progress to boost motivation.  

What really sets the best managers above the rest? It’s their power to build a cadre of employees who have great inner work lives -consistently positive emotions; strong motivation; and favorable perceptions of the organization, their work, and their colleagues. The worst managers undermine inner work life, often unwittingly.

As Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer explain in The Progress Principle, seemingly mundane workday events can make or break employees’ inner work lives. But it’s forward momentum in meaningful work-progress that creates the best inner work lives.  

Through rigorous analysis of nearly 12,000 diary entries provided by 238 employees in 7 companies, the authors explain how managers can foster progress and enhance inner work life every day.

The book shows how to remove obstacles to progress, including meaningless tasks and toxic relationships. It also explains how to activate two forces that enable progress – catalysts and nourishers. 

Catalysts

Catalysts are actions that support work. They include setting clear goals, allowing autonomy, providing sufficient resources and time, helping with the work, openly learning from problems and successes, and allowing a free exchange of ideas.  

Their opposites, inhibitors, include failing to provide support and actively interfering with the work.

Nourishers

Nourishers are acts of interpersonal support, such as respect and recognition, encouragement, emotional comfort, and opportunities for affiliation.

Toxins, their opposites, include disrespect, discouragement, disregard for emotions, and interpersonal conflict. For good and for ill, nourishers and toxins affect inner work life directly and immediately.

Catalysts and nourishers – and their opposites – can alter the meaningfulness of work by shifting people’s perceptions of their jobs and even themselves.  

The more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run.  

Whether they are trying to solve a major scientific mystery or simply produce a high-quality product or service, everyday progress – even a small win – can make all the difference in how they feel and perform.

A person’s inner work life on a given day fuels his or her performance for the day and can even affect performance the next day.

Managers needn’t fret about trying to read the psyches of their workers, or manipulate complicated incentive schemes, to ensure that employees are motivated and happy. As long as they show basic respect and consideration, they can focus on supporting the work itself. 

You won’t have to figure out how to x-ray the inner work lives of subordinates; if you facilitate their steady progress in meaningful work, make that progress salient to them, and treat them well, they will experience the emotions, motivations, and perceptions necessary for great performance.

Their superior work will contribute to organizational success. And here’s the beauty of it: They will love their jobs.

Imagine you lead a team. You will have your own way of enabling people to do their best and develop. One approach is to create the right foundation and framework that enables people to do fulfilling work.

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

Describe the specific things you can do to encourage and enable people in the team to do fulfilling work.

Describe the specific benefits of doing these things.

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