The Art of Strengths Coaching

F is for The Art Of Creating Frameworks For Fulfilment

 

This article builds on the flow approach described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It shows how to create frameworks that enable motivated people to flow, focus and find fulfilment.

You can use this model when working with individuals, teams or organisations. Let’s explore how you can translate it into action in several different scenarios.

Flow

One approach is to start by creating an environment in which people feel at ease and able to flow. The way you do this will depend on the situation, but there are some principles that it can be useful to bear in mind.

Good encouragers often begin by focusing on the themes outlined in Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. They create a positive environment where people are offered the following things.

The Essential Things

They provide people with the essential things. They make sure that people have the basic materials for life – food, safety, shelter – and the chance to shape their futures.

The Encouraging Things

They treat people with respect and offer them practical encouragement. They may, for example, encourage people to build on their strengths and make their best contributions.

The Extra Things

They sometimes encourage people by doing something extra. Different people do this in different ways, but it has the effect of helping people to feel valued.

Good encouragers offer people the safety, support and stimulation that may encourage them do superb work. Different people do this in different ways.

Many teachers in primary schools make sure that the children have a good breakfast. They then create a learning environment that inspires them to want to develop.

Good sports coaches create a culture where athletes can flow rather than fear. They show an interest in each athlete and help them to grow as a person and a professional.

Good leaders are positive, predictable and enable people to achieve peak performance. They often aim:

To create a positive environment in which motivated people can perform superb work; 

To give people the big picture and explain the team’s purpose, principles and picture of success; 

To explain the professional guidelines that people can follow to achieve the picture of success.

Looking ahead, can you think of a situation where you may want to help people to flow, focus and find fulfilment? You may want to do this when conducting a mentoring session, running a workshop, leading a team or doing another activity.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe the specific things you can do to help them to feel at ease and flow.

Focus

Imagine that you have created an environment where people can feel at ease and able to flow. The next step will be encourage them to focus.

The aim will be to encourage them to channel their energy into working towards a specific goal. The ways you do this will depend on whether you are working with one person, a team or an organisation.

Good mentors, for example, will help a person to feel at ease. They will then invite the person to describe the challenges or themes they would like to explore.

The mentee may start by listing many topics. Depending on what is happening in their world, these may include the following. 

How to take more control of my life … How to manage my boss … How to take the next step in my career … How to feel calmer in certain situations … How to encourage my partner … How to build a superb team. 

Looking at these topics, the mentor will invite the mentee to focus on the first one they want to explore. They will then work through the following themes with the person.

Good leaders often encourage their team members to focus. Gathering people together, they start by giving the big picture and context. They then aim:

To explain the team’s purpose, principles and picture of success;

To make clear contracts with people about their best contributions towards achieving the picture of success; 

To manage by outcomes and give people the support they need to do superb work on the way towards achieving the picture of success.

Good leaders recognise that clear contracting is vital to enable people to achieve the goals. Everybody needs to know the team’s goals, the strategy and their parts in working to achieve the picture of success.

People are more likely to do fine work when they focus on: a) What they want to achieve; b) How they can do their best to achieve it; c) When they want to achieve the desired results. They can then channel their energies towards achieving the goals.

Imagine you are helping people to focus on their aims. The format you use will differ depending on whether you are working with an individual or a team. The short version of the plan to achieve the aims may, however, look something like the following framework.

Looking ahead, can you think of a situation where you may want to help people to flow, focus and find fulfilment? You may be conducting a mentoring session, running a workshop, leading a team or doing another activity.

How can you encourage them: a) To clarify the real results to achieve? b) To clarify the key strategies they can follow to achieve the picture of success?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe the specific things you can do to help a person or a group of people to focus.

Fulfilment

Imagine you have created an environment where people are able to flow and focus. The next step will be encourage them to do fine work, finish and, as a by-product, maybe find fulfilment. Let’s explore these themes.

Fine Work

Good mentors offer practical tools that the mentee can use to work towards achieving their aims. When appropriate, they enable them to take the following steps:

To build on their strengths and manage the consequences of any weaknesses; 

To follow their chosen strategies and do superb work;

To find solutions to challenges and keep working towards their picture of success.

Good leaders recognise their own strengths and limits in terms of enabling people to do fine work. Some visionary leaders therefore employ a co-ordinator who can orchestrate people’s efforts towards achieving the goals.

Bearing in mind the team’s picture of success, they start by clarifying each person’s strengths. They then work through the following steps to enable people to do good work.

Please note. The following example relates to a small team, but I have seen this approach work successfully across large organisations and multiple teams.  

It then calls for having a good co-ordination team at the centre plus co-ordinators within each team. They can work together to make sure things get done.

Finishing

Different people use different models to flow, focus and finish. Let’s explore some of these approaches.

Some people follow their
successful pattern for finishing

Everybody has a successful pattern for finishing. Some people therefore go through the following steps. They focus on: 

The specific times they have finished successfully in the past;  

The specific principles they followed then to finish successfully;

The specific things they can do to follow these principles – plus add other skills – to finish successfully in the future.

Some people focus on
rising to the occasion

Some people put in the hard yards and put themselves in a good position to finish properly. They then move on to the final challenge. As one person said:

“When you have done 80% of the work it can still feel like there is 80% left.”

How to take this step? Some people rehearse properly before going into their version of the arena. They then go through the following steps.

Relaxation

They relax physically and psychologically. They breathe deeply, relax their body and follow their ritual for preparing to do their best.

They also see things in perspective. They recognise that, whilst what they are about to do may be important, there are many more important things in life. Some people find that, paradoxically, this approach helps them to relax and give their best.

Rhythm

They follow their ritual for clicking into action. They then aim to  follow their chosen rhythm whether working as a writer, athlete, leader or in another role.

They keep following this rhythm but will be resourceful when dealing with interruptions, setbacks or other events. Buying time, they relax and rehearse their next step. They then follow their chosen ritual for regaining their rhythm.

Rising To The Occasion

Some people rise to the occasion by doing something that sounds paradoxical. They keep following their chosen principles rather than see the occasion as something special. They then aim to deliver peak performances.

Some people aim to do their best by giving everything. They believe excellence is a habit. They believe in following this approach whether they are working at their equivalent of the Village Hall or the Carnegie Hall.

Some people aim to flow rather than freeze on big occasions. They may do this by keep reminding themselves of their chosen mantra. Some do this by following the old saying:

Some people keep following their
principles on the way to finishing

Good leaders often encourage their people to keep following the team’s principles. Bill Walsh, the American Football Coach, took this route with his San Francisco team that won three Super Bowls.

The 49ers became known for winning games in the last few minutes. Why? Bill describe this to Steve Jamison and Craig Walsh in the following way.

Keep following the standards of performance
and then the score takes care of itself

Have you noticed that great players and great companies don’t suddenly start hunching up, grimacing, and trying to ‘hit the ball harder’ at a critical point?

Rather, they are in a mode, a zone in which they’re performing and depending on their ‘game,’ which they’ve mastered over many months and years of intelligently directed hard work. 

By focusing strictly on my Standard of Performance, the 49ers were able to play the bigger games very well because it was basically business as usual – no ‘try harder’ mentality was used. 

In fact, I believed it was counter-productive. Consequently, the San Francisco 49ers could function under tremendous stress and the forces that work on individuals in competitive situations.

Finding Fulfilment

Different people choose to have different philosophies about fulfilment. Some people focus on what they can control. They then aim to follow certain principles and do their personal best. Such a person may say something like the following:

“I want to do my best every day: a) To be a good parent and partner; b) To encourage people in my life and work; c) To use my strengths to help both present and future generations.  

“I want to do these things every day. I want to help other people and, as a by-product, this will increase the chances of feeling a sense of fulfilment.”

Some people may find fulfilment by doing their personal best. They may aim to become the best kind of person, artist, athlete, scientist or whatever they want to be.

Some people may gain fulfilment by performing superb work and achieving certain personal or professional goals. They may also, on some occasions, gain recognition or even win prizes.

Some people recognise they can control certain things in life but not others. Nevertheless, they sometimes want outside recognition in order to feel fulfilled. But this is not always in their gift – they may not get recognition from certain individuals or institutions.

Such a person may cross a Rubicon at a certain point in their life. They realise it is important to be true to their principles rather than be captivated by outside prizes. The paradox is that sometimes this can result in getting prizes.

Some people want to serve something greater than themselves during their time on the planet. They aim to follow their principles, do their personal best and leave a positive legacy. This is more likely to produce a sense of fulfilment and peace.

Let’s return to your own life and work. How can you help a person or a group of people to do fine work, finish and, as a by-product, maybe find fulfilment?

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

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