The Art of Strengths Coaching

F is for Frameworks For Fulfilment

Great leaders create a positive environment in which motivated people can achieve peak performance. There is many models for making this happen.

One approach is to create a framework that enables people to focus, flow, do fine work, finish and find fulfilment. It is a model that enables both the people and the organisation to reach their goals.

This is an approach that I was encouraged to use when leading therapeutic communities and educational courses. Later I used it when providing support to work teams, businesses and organisations.

Imagine that you want to use elements of this approach to build a build a successful team. It can be useful to work through the following steps.

Setting Things Up To Succeed:
Creating The Framework

You can create a positive environment in which motivated people can achieve peak performance. It can be helpful to create a clear framework that ensures people know the team’s purpose and the principles they can follow to achieve the picture of success.

Step 1: Focus

You can encourage people to focus on the guiding principles they can follow to perform superb work. It can be important to make clear contracts about how they can build on their strengths and make their best contributions towards achieving the picture of success. 

Step 2: Flow

You can encourage people to build on their strengths and follow their successful patterns to do superb work. It can be helpful to encourage and enable them to flow when working towards achieving the picture of success.

Step 3: Fine Work

You can give people the support they need to do their jobs and encourage each other on the journey. It is then important to co-ordinate people’s strengths so they work well together and perform superb work on the way towards achieving the picture of success. 

Step 4: Finish 

You can encourage people to keep following the principles, find solutions to challenges and finish successfully. It can be helpful to enable them to do whatever is required to achieve the picture of success.

Step 5: Fulfilment

You can keep encouraging people to do their best and ensure that both they and the team reach their goals. It can be useful to enable them to embrace the ethic of continuous improvement. You may then find that, as a by-product, people develop and experience a sense of fulfilment.  

Looking back on your life, can you think of a situation when you may have followed some of these steps in your own way? This could have been in your personal or professional life.

You may have taken some of these steps when raising a family, running an educational session, facilitating a workshop, coaching a sports team, leading a project team, running an organisation or whatever.

What did you do then to create a positive environment? How did you communicate the purpose, principles and picture of success? How did you encourage people to build on their strengths and do superb work? How did they and you work together to achieve the picture of success?

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 helped to create a framework that enabled people to focus, flow, do fine work, finish and find fulfilment.

Describe the specific things you did to help to create such a framework.

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

Setting Things Up To
Succeed: The Framework

How to create such a framework for fulfilment? Different people take different approaches to making this happen. The key is to focus on what works.

Some people start by studying success. They may study teams, for example, that have enabled both individuals and teams to achieve success. They then apply these principles in their own ways.

Some may also study their own positive history. Looking back at their experiences in education, sports teams or organisations, they may ask some of the following questions.

When have I been in a team in which both the individuals and the teams achieved success? 

What did people to right then to create such a team? What were the principles they followed?

How can I follow these principles – plus maybe add other skills – to create a team in which both the people and the team achieve success?

Some people create their own model for creating a fulfilling framework. They may aim, for example, to create an encouraging environment in which motivated people are enabled to achieve excellence.

Some people take the super teams approach. Super teams start by building on their strengths and clarifying their picture of success. They then translate this into a compelling story, strategy and road to success.

Everybody knows what mountain they are climbing, why they are climbing it and how they will reach the summit. They also know who will be delivering what and by when.

Such teams are made up of people who want to be positive, professional and peak performers. They choose to opt in and make clear contracts about their best contribution towards delivering the goals.

Super teams co-ordinate people’s strengths to perform superb work. They overcome setbacks and find solutions to challenges. People do whatever is required to achieve the picture of success.

Imagine you want to build a successful team. One approach to set the scene is to communicate the team’s purpose, principles and picture of success. It is also to communicate the professional deal to people.

If you take this approach, you may want to gather people together and explain the framework. This gives you the opportunity to describe the following things.

The positive environment that you want to create.

The team’s purpose, principles and picture of success.

The professional deal that you will invite people to sign up to if they want to contribute to achieving the purpose.

If you wish, you may want to say something along the following lines. You will, of course, do this in your own way. You will also add your own team’s purpose, principles and picture of success.

Step 1: Focus 

Imagine that you have communicated the team’s purpose and principles. You can then encourage people to build on their strengths and focus their efforts towards achieving the picture of success. How to make this happen?

One approach is invite each person to do the following exercise. This invites them to describe their strengths and best contribution to the team.

They can then meet with their manager and agree on the specific results they will deliver. During this meeting it will also be important to ensure that the person aims to, in their own way, follow the guiding principles towards achieving the goals.

The following slides show the exercise that can be sent to the person before the contracting meeting. They also show the format for the agreed goals and the subsequent follow up sessions in which they can update others on their progress.

 

Step 2: Flow

Great teams implement the right strategy with the right people in the right way. Bearing in mind each person’s strengths, they put the right people in the right places in the team. People then have the chance to use their strengths to achieve the team’s goals.

Imagine that you have made clear contracts with people about their contributions. There are various models you can follow to encourage them to perform at their best.

One approach is simply to provide them with support. They can then keep you informed about their progress towards achieving the agreed goals. There are also more active approaches.

Many sports teams, for example, encourage the athletes to focus on how they can do their best to achieve peak performance. Some of these methods can be used by people in other fields.

One common approach is to invite a person to explore their positive history. It is to invite the person to explore the following themes.

My Personal Best 

The specific situation in the past when
I performed at my personal best was:

* When I …

The specific things I did right then – the principles
I followed – to perform at my personal best were:

* I … 

* I …

* I … 

The specific things I can do to follow these principles – plus
maybe add other skills – to perform at my personal best in future are:

* I can … 

* I can … 

* I can …

Some people taken another approach. They aim to achieve the Holy Grail of flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has devoted his life to studying this approach.

He says that flow experiences are those where you become completely absorbed and time goes away. A person starts by doing something stimulating. They may be pursuing a specific activity, solving a problem, tackling a challenge or whatever.

They tackle a task that they have a chance of completing and set clear goals. They enjoy a sense of control, concentrate on what they are doing and get immediate feedback.

The person may then experience a deep and effortless involvement that removes the frustrations of everyday life. They find their sense of self disappears but their sense of self emerges stronger. They find the experience is so enjoyable that their sense of time disappears.

Mihaly says that teams can also go into a state of flow. He describes one example in the following way.

Surgeons say that during a difficult operation they have the sensation that the entire operating team is a single organism, moved by the same purpose.

They describe it as a ‘ballet’ in which the individual is subordinated to the group performance, and all involved share in a feeling of harmony and power.

Mihaly explains that we can learn from the moments when we are at our best. He explains:

We have all experienced times when, instead of being buffeted by anonymous forces, we do feel in control of our actions, masters of our own fate.

On the rare occasions that it happens, we feel a sense of exhilaration, a deep sense of enjoyment that is long cherished and that becomes a landmark in memory for what life should be like.

The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.

Optimal experience is therefore something that we make happen.

 

Imagine you are encouraging people in your team to flow on the way towards doing fine work. One approach is to encourage them to focus on the following themes.

Strengths

They can build on their strengths – the specific activities in which they deliver As rather than Bs or Cs. They can also learn how to manage the consequences of their weaknesses.

Stimulating Goals

They can set stimulating goals. Certainly this may involve some grunt work. They need to make a decision that they want to do these things, however, on the way to doing great work.

They must take responsibility for contributing to delivering the Scorecard. These are the mandatory things that the team must deliver. They can also do stimulating things that will contribute towards the team achieving success.

They must take responsibility for setting goals: a) That they are prepared to deliver; b) That they do, bearing everything in mind, find stimulating; c) That will contribute towards achieving the team’s picture of success.

Successful Style

This is one of the most important steps towards achieving a state of flow. They can follow their successful style of working. Let’s explore what this means.

Everybody has a successful style of working. Clarifying this style is often the clue to finding their real strengths and doing satisfying work. Following this style can lead to them experiencing a state of flow.

How can you help a person to find their successful style? One approach is to invite them to do the following exercise. Doing this exercise can take a long time, but it can be worthwhile.

It highlights when they have translated their strengths into action. It also highlights how they work best. The exercise invites them to do the following things.

Describe two or three satisfying projects they have done in their life.

The word project can be used in its widest sense. For example: writing an article, organising a fun run, launching a web site, solving a particular problem, leading a team or whatever.

Describe each of these projects in turn and the things that made them satisfying.

The person is to try to be as specific as possible, especially about the things that made them satisfying. Looking at these projects, can they see any recurring patterns? These often provide clues to their preferred style.

Describe their successful style of working – the principles they follow when doing satisfying work.

They may, for example, find it satisfying to do something they really care about, set a stimulating goal, work with motivated people, have a manager who gives them freedom within parameters, follow a certain rhythm in their daily work, build in quick successes, work to a deadline and present their work.

Alternatively, they may have a totally different successful style. They may have one when they are working alone, one when working with other people.

Describe how they can follow these principles in the future.

They may want to make specific plans for following their successful style. This could include doing certain kinds of projects and organising their time in a certain kind of way. The key, however, will be to do satisfying work and deliver success – both for themselves and other people.

Different people describe different things when exploring their successful style. One person explained their preferred way of working in the following way.

My pattern is clear. I love building prototypes, but several characteristics stand out.

I must believe the project will improve people’s lives.  I want to have lots of in-put into clarifying the ‘What’ – the goal to achieve. I also like to have lots of autonomy rather than be micro-managed.

I prefer to be aiming for a specific deadline, because this gets the adrenaline going. Finally, I love to see the prototype having a positive impact on people’s lives.

Another person explained that they loved co-ordinating projects. They explained this in the following way.

I am not a visionary myself, but I enjoy working with inspiring people. I love to manage a project that I believe in, help people to work well together and deliver the goods. 

Looking back, this is what I did at university, where I was the organiser for the social committee. I still arrange the annual get togethers and skiing trips we have every year.

I get satisfaction from improving processes and making things work. It is vital that I work for somebody I respect, however, and am given freedom to organise things in my own way.

I enjoy going home feeling that I have completed lots of tasks from my list and made people’s jobs easier. I get a buzz from helping people to do great work.

Imagine you want to help somebody to find and follow their successful style. Here is the exercise that you can give them to clarify their preferred working style. This includes the instructions for doing the exercise.

The person can follow their successful style and work to achieve their goals. They may sometimes find that, in the process, they achieve a state of flow.

Step 3: Fine Work 

Imagine that you are giving people the support they need to do their jobs and they are encouraging each other on the journey. Here are some themes it can be useful to highlight when enabling people to work well together.

You can aim:

To keep reminding people what good looks like by sharing success stories.

To keep co-ordinating people’s strengths to do superb work. 

To keep doing reality checks by focusing on things that are in the green, amber, red and blue zones.

Reminding people of what good
looks like by sharing success stories

Great leaders continually remind their people of the team’s purpose. They also highlight when people have followed the principles on the way towards achieving the picture of success.

How to make this happen? One approach is to show what good looks like. You can highlight the following things.

The specific times when people have performed brilliantly. 

The specific things people did right then – the principles they followed – to perform brilliantly.

The specific things people can do to follow these principles – plus maybe add other skills – to perform brilliantly in the future.

Imagine you want to produce stories that provide positive models for others in your organisation. Here are some steps you can take to make this happen.

Clarify who will be the mission holder

Appoint a mission holder who is accountable for ensuring the stories are collected, written and published. Do not leave it to a committee. They do not have to do the writing. They can hire an internal or external writer to collect and produce the stories.

Clarify how many stories you want
and the timetable for publication

One company I worked with translated this approach into action by quickly producing six success stories. The material was already there. It was just a question of collecting it and producing the stories.

Clarify the framework
for producing the stories

Different people use different frameworks for sharing success stories. Below is one framework. People start by choosing a title for the story.

They then describe the specific situation they encountered. They could be helping a client, solving a problem, making internal processes work better or whatever. They describe the challenges they faced and the desired picture of success.

People move on to describing the key principles they employed to tackle the issue. They describe the results that were delivered to achieve the picture of success. They also summarise what they learned from the experience and how these lessons could be applied in the future.

Co-ordinating people’s strengths

Great teams co-ordinate people’s strengths to achieve the picture of success. Peter Drucker, the management guru, wrote:

The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths in ways that make the system’s weaknesses irrelevant.

Let’s look at one approach to making this happen. Start by appointing a mission holder who will take responsibility for co-ordinating people’s strengths.

Make sure the mission holder has the ability, authority and autonomy required to do the job. Also make sure the team members understand the mission holder’s role. They will support them in co-ordinating people’s strengths to achieve the picture of success.

Let’s assume that you and the mission holder know each person’s strengths. It can then be useful to create an overview of the talents you have available to reach the team’s goal.

There are many ways to make a team strengths inventory. Some approaches tend to list general characteristics. Others go into much greater detail about the specific activities in which people deliver As, Bs and Cs.

The following team strengths inventory approach appears lengthy. But it provides lots of information that can be used when considering how to harness people’s talents.

The mission holder and you may produce something like the following overview. (You can apply the same approach to producing an inventory for each department’s strengths.)

Imagine that you have produced such an inventory. The next step will be to keep focusing on the following questions.

What is the team’s specific goal? What are the real results we want to achieve? What is the picture of success? 

What are people’s strengths? What are the activities in which they each deliver As rather than Bs or Cs?  

How can we co-ordinate people’s strengths to achieve the goal? How can we make sure all the other practical tasks get done on the way towards achieving the picture of success? 

How can we make clear contracts with people about their contributions? How can we make sure they proactively keep others informed about their progress?  

How can we keep encouraging people on the journey? What else can we do to ensure we achieve the picture of success?

There are many ways that teams do fine work. One approach is to co-ordinate people’s strengths to achieve the goals. Here is a summary of the steps you can take to make this happen.

Doing reality checks by focusing things that
are in the green, amber, red and blue zones

Great teams ensure that people keep others up-to-date on the progress they are making towards achieving the picture of success. There are many methods for making this happen.

Some teams ask their people to make monthly presentations regarding their progress. People are asked to present, for example:

The specific things we have delivered in the
past month towards achieving the goals are:

*

* 

* 

The specific things we aim to deliver in the
next month towards achieving the goals are:

* 

*

*

Some teams take another approach. They have a dedicated room or other place that shows the state of play regarding pursuing the various strategies.

People flag up the activities that are currently in the green, amber, red and blue zones. They also suggest what can be done to maintain or improve what is happening in these areas.

One company I worked with had a dedicated room where people constantly updated the progress towards achieving the goal. It had charts that covered the following areas.

The Picture of Success

People could keep referring to the company’s aims that were displayed on one wall. These were grouped in terms of what it wants to achieve under the 3 Ps: profits, products – including customer satisfaction – and people.

The other walls had the following charts that described the current state of play regarding various activities.

The Green Zone

People listed the things that were going well. They also provided concrete suggestions regarding how to maintain or build on these activities.

Great workers capitalise on what is working. If things are going well with a particular customer, for example, they explore how to continue providing great service. This can lead to developing the relationship even further.

The Amber Zone

People described where there were warning signs. They also provided suggestions regarding how to improve these activities.

Great workers worry about things that are in the amber zone. They are concerned that, unless these issues are addressed, these may quickly slide into the red zone. So they focus on how to move these activities more towards the green zone.

The Red Zone

People listed the things that were going badly. They also gave suggestions regarding how to improve these activities. These could involve making radical improvements or even call for key decisions to be taken.

Great workers think ahead to ensure that, as far as possible, things do not slide into the red zone. Crises do occur, of course, so then it is vital to find positive solutions.

There may be some issues, however, that are continually falling into the red zone. If systems are breaking down, for example, these may well need replacing.

A more challenging issue could be if a particular customer continually makes life difficult. Certainly it is vital to do whatever possible to provide great service. In some instances, however, a customer may prove impossible to please.

They may also prove to be a massive drain on resources. In such cases it may mean deciding to move on from the customer. This can be a difficult but necessary decision.

The Blue Zone

This was the space for both practical and imaginative ideas. People listed the specific ideas, suggestions and other things that it might be worth considering to help the team shape a successful future.

Great workers continually look for ways to improve. It can be useful to create different forums for exploring these ideas and then translating some of these into action.

Different teams use different methods for tracking their progress. One approach is to keep focusing on the activities that are in the green, amber, read and blue zones.

People can walk into the room each morning and get an immediate overview of the team’s work. This approach also enables everybody to see what needs to happen to ensure the team delivers success.

You can also provide support to people who are tackling the various issues and enable them to move things forward. This takes us to the next step.

Step 4: Finish

Finishing is a key skill in life. “Focus, flow and finish,” is the motto. Sounds easy in theory, but how does it work in practice?

One approach is to channel your Inner Champ rather than your Inner Chimp. What does this mean?

During the last decade Steve Peters, the psychiatrist, has helped many athletes to manage their chimp. Their chimp can take many forms. It can be self-doubt, irrational emotion and negative self-talk.

Steve helps them to manage these impulses. He also encourages athletes to make specific plans for performing at their best. He uses his own terms to describe this pursuit of excellence and become the best they can be.

One way of looking at it, however, is that he helps people to channel their champ whilst managing their chimp. You can read more about Steve’s work via the following link.

http://chimpmanagement.com/

As mentioned earlier, everybody has a positive history, so it can be useful for a person to learn from their Inner Champ. It is to recall the times when they have performed brilliantly, even if this was only for a few minutes. They can clarify the principles they followed then and how they can follow these – plus add other skills – in the future.

One soccer coach used this approach to improve his team during the latter parts of games. On several occasions the players failed to close out games when they were leading by the odd goal. They had drawn or lost games where, with ten minutes to play, they were leading 1-0 or 2-1.

The players forgot to do the basics. They became paralysed and kept watching the clock, hoping for the game to end. This led to the other team scoring and taking over the game.

The coach had a choice. One option was to rip into them for forgetting to do the basics. Taking this route, however, may have increased their sense of fear. So he chose another route.

He invited the team to recall the times when they had won matches after leading by one goal with ten minutes remaining. What did they do right to see out the game?

They had stayed calm and continued doing the basics. They had kept pressing and winning the ball. They had kept moving rather than become paralysed. This created opportunities for team mates to pass to them. They had aimed to play the game in the opponent’s half of the field.

The coach then created training situations in which the players followed these principles. Whilst nothing could compare with the intensity of a match, he enabled them to follow the game plan in pressure situations. The team grew in confidence and went on to win more games from leading positions.

Great teams get people to practice under pressure. Below is a video in which Ceri Evans, a sports psychologist, describes how the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team took this step.

Here is the official introduction to the piece that was part of Leaders In Sports summit. You can discover more about Leaders, the organisation that holds the summit, via the following link.

http://www.leadersinsport.com/

Ceri is a world-class forensic psychiatrist and sports psychologist.

He helps top athletes reach peak performance, handle pressure and make better decisions and played an integral role in developing the New Zealand All Blacks mental strength during their 2011 Rugby World Cup win.

In this session snippet, Ceri uses an analogy of a surgeon to explain why sports teams should embrace their vulnerabilities to reduce big game pressure and emotional responses.

Ceri works for an organisation called Gazing. You can discover more about their work via the following link. 

http://www.gazing.com/gazing-performance-systems-blog/performing-under-pressure-in-rugby

Imagine that you have one person in the team who would like to improve their ability to finish things. There are several steps they can take towards making this happen. Let’s explore these steps.

The person can begin by deciding if they really want to finish a specific task. Creative people start lots of things but do not always finish everything. Bearing this in mind, the person can decide if they want to finish the task. (Not finishing something may, of course, have consequences for both themselves and other people.)

The person can clarify if they are prepared to put in the effort required to finish the task. Good finishers clarify both the pluses and minuses involved in working to complete something. They then decide if they are prepared to accept the whole package. If so, they commit themselves to finishing.

The person can find and follow their successful pattern for finishing. They can explore this by doing the following exercise.

They can describe a specific situation in the past when they finished something successfully.  

They can describe what they did right then – the principles they followed – to finish successfully.  

They can describe how they can follow similar principles – plus maybe add other skills – to finish something successfully in the future.

The person can then, if appropriate, make their action plan for tackling the specific task. They can also clarify how they can encourage themselves on the journey. Here is the exercise that they can use to take this step.

Step 5: Fulfilment 

Imagine you lead a team. You can keep encouraging people to do their best and reach their goals. This can lead to both the individuals and the team gaining a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment.

Fulfilment often comes after feeling you have done your best. Sometimes it can be accompanied by a feeling of elation, positive exhaustion and peak experiences.

Sometimes it comes from practising your craft, getting small wins and feeling you are improving each day. It means continually going through the process of absorption, adventure and achievement.

Wayne Gretzky, the great ice hockey player, loved going through these steps as a youngster. Writing in his book In The Zone, Michael Murphy describes how Wayne kept practicing throughout his career.

Looking back on this childhood, the only thing Wayne wanted to do was skate. He describes this in the following way.

I’d get up in the morning, skate from 7.00 to 8.30, go to school, come home at 3.30, stay on the ice until my mom insisted I come in for dinner, eat in my skates and then go back out until 9.00. 

On Saturdays and Sundays, we’d have huge games, but night time became my time. It was sort of an unwritten rule around the neighbourhood that I would be out there by myself or with my dad.

I would just handle the puck in and out of those empty detergent bottles my dad set up as pylons.

Then I’d set up targets in the net and try to hit them with forehands, backhands, whatever. Then I’d do it all again, except this time with a tennis ball, which is much harder to handle. 

I was so addicted that my dad had big kids come over to play against me. And when the kids wanted to go home, I’d beg them to stay longer.

Fulfilment sometimes comes from feeling that you have done your best. Like when experiencing a sense of flow, this can result in a profound sense of satisfaction. As Mihaly said:

The person may find their sense of self disappears but their sense of self emerges stronger.

Great workers have an interesting balance between contentment and continuous improvement. They love to do their best and enjoy feeling contented at the end of the day. They are happy to enjoy the positive emotions that result from doing satisfying work.

Such workers rest and reflect. They then begin to explore how to keep improving and also look forward to the next day. This calls for having a positive rather than negative mindset. They get a sense of fulfilment from doing good work and yet also enjoying the journey of continuing to improve. Great teams take a similar approach.

Imagine that you lead a team. You will celebrate success, produce success stories and encourage people to keep doing satisfying work. At the same time, it will be important to encourage an ethic of continuous improvement.

How to take this step? One approach is to invite people to do the following exercise. This is a framework that works with teams in many different fields. It encourages them to build on their strengths and also find ways to keep improving.

There are many models for helping people to develop. One approach is to create a framework that enable them to focus, flow, do fine work, finish and find fulfilment.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking to the future, can you think of a situation when you want to create such a framework? This could be in your personal or professional life.

You may want to take these steps when raising a family, running an educational session, facilitating a workshop, coaching a sports team, leading a project team, running an organisation or whatever.

What can you do to create a positive environment? How can you communicate the purpose, principles and picture of success? How can you encourage people to build on their strengths and do superb work? How can you enable them to achieve the picture of success?

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 want to help to create a framework that enables people to focus, flow, do fine work, finish and find fulfilment. 

Describe the specific things you can do then to help to create such a framework.

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of taking these steps.

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