The Art of Strengths Coaching

F is for Focusing On Friendliness, Fairness And Fulfilment

There are many frameworks for encouraging people. One approach is to focus on friendliness, fairness and fulfilment.

Good encouragers often follow these steps to support others in their daily lives and work. They may do this in their roles as friends, parents, teachers, mentors, leaders or decision makers.

Looking back at my own life, for example, I have been helped by many people who displayed these qualities. Some were famous in their own fields, but they were kind and generous.

Good leaders, for example, often follow these steps to build cultures in which people can do fulfilling work. Different leaders build cultures in different ways.

Some build them based on friendliness, fairness and fulfilment. Some build them by relying on fear. Let’s explore these themes.


Some leaders are warm, human and build an environment based on friendliness. This enables people to feel at ease and able to express themselves.

Other leaders are stern, grumpy and create environments based on fear. This leads to people feeling afraid and unable to do their best.


Some leaders create environments in which everybody is given encouragement and the chance to do their best. They also explain the guidelines people can follow to treat others fairly in the culture.

Other leaders create environments that are repressive and unfair. This leads to people feeling resentful or going underground.


Some leaders create cultures based on giving people the chance to make progress and work towards achieving their potential. This leads to people being willing to work hard and also encourage others to achieve success.

Other leaders create environments in which a few people reap the rewards and others are treated as cogs in the wheel. This leads to unhappiness and the system being unsustainable.

Can you think of a culture in which people aimed to follow the principles of friendliness, fairness and fulfilment? You may have experienced this in a family, school, team or organisation. Alternatively, you may have heard about such a culture.

How did people demonstrate warmth and friendliness? How did they demonstrate fairness? How did they encourage people to work towards fulfilment?

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

Describe a specific culture that you have known – or have heard about – that was based on friendliness, fairness and fulfilment.

Describe the specific things that the leader and other people did to base the culture on these principles.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of them taking these steps.





Good leaders are positive and predictable rather than negative and unpredictable. They help to create an environment in which people feel welcome and able to do their best.

You may have experienced this feeling when visiting a school, clinic, work place or organisation. People were hospitable, put you at ease and encouraged you to be yourself.

Good leaders set the tone in such organisations. They are warm, friendly and show respect to other people. They often demonstrate the human touch.

Mark Emberton, a world-renowned expert on prostate cancer, is somebody who shows these qualities. He works in several hospitals and clinics, including The Macmillan Cancer Centre in London.

Surrounded by nurses, it would be easy for him to ask them to summon the patients. Mark goes out of his way, however, to walk into the waiting room, greet individuals and then escort them to his office. He is professional but human.

After making the person feel welcome, Mark explains what is happening with the illness. When the person is ready, he then describes the possible ways forward. I was fortunate enough to be operated upon by Mark. Many people remember him as wise and trusted advisor.


Henry Pluckrose was a remarkable educator who helped to create a wonderful atmosphere at Prior Weston Primary School in London. The school encouraged children to be creative and also master skills they could use to shape their future lives.

I first heard about Prior Weston on the BBC radio programme The World At One. It was introduced as a school that ‘everybody liked’. Students and parents were so enthusiastic that the presenter pleaded: “Please tell me one thing that is wrong with the school.”

The school attracted visitors from around the world. People were shown around by the children, who explained the school’s approach. Eventually the school became so popular that visitors had to be limited to 4,000 a year.

Prior Weston was successful because the staff believed in the educational – rather than engineering – approach to running a school. Whilst it was important to deliver certain results, these could be achieved by treating students as individuals.

For example, parents were asked to bring their child to school at least 12 times before the official starting date. Why? This was the child’s first introduction to an ‘institution’, so it was vital to get it right. The school believed in pursuing the following principles of learning.

Learning should be relevant … Learning should recognise that students have different learning styles … Learning should encourage curiosity and creativity … Learning should encourage students to work towards achieving success … Learning should help students to learn skills they can apply in their lives.

Visitors to Prior Weston were impressed by the warmth of the welcome and the work done by the students and teachers. Many went on to create similar environments in their own schools and work places. 

Henry passed away on April 6, 2011, but his legacy continues to live on. Here is his obituary in the Guardian.


Good leaders create an environment in which people feel safe and yet stimulated. At the same time, however, they also outline the principles that people are encouraged to follow to reach certain goals.

These principles are based on respect, fairness and, when appropriate, delivering certain professional standards. Fairness is a crucial component in organisations and societies.

People may grow resentful if they feel that, despite working hard, they are not given chance to progress. In societies they may become targets for demagogues who want to manipulate their emotions.

Good organisations treat people with respect. At the same time, however, they outline that is important for people to follow certain principles to reach the goals.

People need to see the reasons for these guidelines and, by and large, perceive them as fair. They also need to see how following them can contribute towards reaching the agreed picture of success.

Good leaders often follow the global-local model to achieve these aims. They start by explaining the global purpose and principles. They then give people local autonomy – within parameters – regarding how they achieve the purpose.


Different leaders communicate this approach in different ways. One method is for them to gather people together and say something along the following lines.

Welcome To Today’s Session

I am going to give an overview of our organisation’s purpose and the part you can play in making this happen.

Later I will give some examples of how people have contributed to this purpose in the past and how they can contribute in the future.

But first let me give an outline of our overall approach to working together.

The Purpose

The purpose of our organisation is:

* To

The picture of success – the specific things the
organisation wants to achieve by a certain date –
that will be an expression of the purpose are:

* To 

* To 

* To 

The positive benefits for all the various
stakeholders of achieving these things will be:

* To

* To 

* To 

The Principles

The key principles we aim to follow to achieve this purpose
– together with the reasons for following these guidelines – are:

* To 

* To

* To

The Practice 

The way you practice these principles will – within parameters – be up to you in your part of the organisation.

But there is key point. You must show how what you practice supports the principles and contributes toward achieving the purpose.

Great leaders manage by outcomes rather than by tasks. Each department – and each person – then makes clear contracts about their contributions towards achieving the organisation’s goals.

People are given great autonomy. But, as mentioned earlier, they must keep showing how what they are delivering is contributing towards achieving the overall picture of success.

Some leaders work for fairness on a wider scale. In the video below, Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland, explains why it is important to promote fairness across the planet. This is vital if we are to build a sustainable system that achieves ongoing success. You can discover more via the following link.


Good leaders create positive cultures in which motivated people can work towards achieving their potential. There are many models for making this happen.

One model is to pursue the strengths approach. This aims to encourage people to build on their strengths, do satisfying work and help the organisation to achieve its picture of success.

Leaders sometimes take the following steps towards making this happen.

They communicate the picture of success. 

They co-ordinate people’s strengths to achieve the picture of success. 

They encourage and enable people to achieve ongoing success.

Such leaders start by communicating the organisation’s picture of success. They then invite people to reflect and decide if they want to contribute towards achieving the goals.

If so, they invite people to do the following exercise. Individuals then make clear contracts with their manager about their best contributions. Here is the exercise. This can, of course, be adapted to suit the needs of the organisation.

Good organisations often have co-ordinators who enable people to channel their strengths towards achieving the picture of success. They encourage people to do what they do best, but they also make sure any outstanding practical tasks get done.

Co-ordination is crucial because otherwise individuals may simply do their own thing. Here are some of the questions it can be useful to ask when taking this step.


Good organisations implement the right strategy with the right people in the right way. They make sure they have the right people – with the right strengths – in the right places. They also give them the support to do the job.

People are then more likely to do stimulating work, find solutions to challenges and keep developing. This provides the foundation for equipping both individuals and the organisation to achieve ongoing success.

There are many ways to build cultures. One approach is to base them on friendliness, fairness and fulfilment. This can be more beneficial than basing them on fear.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation in which you may want to build a culture based on these elements?

You may want to use the ideas in a family, school, sports team, work place, organisation or elsewhere. How can you follow these principles in your own way? What might be the benefits?

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

Describe a specific situation in which you would like to build a culture based on friendliness, fairness and fulfilment.  

Describe the specific things you can do to follow these principles in your own way.

Describe the specific benefits of building the culture based on friendliness, fairness and fulfilment.




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