The Art of Strengths Coaching

G is for Choosing The Ground Where You Want To Follow Certain Guidelines And Do Great Work  

Military leaders talk about choosing the ground where they can have an advantage. This is a rule followed by individuals in other fields.

Great workers choose the ground where they want to work. They take this step whether they are working as an educator, craftsman, entrepreneur, sports coach, leader or in another role.

Such workers focus on a place – or a niche – where they can build on their strengths and are likely to achieve success. They then pursue their chosen guidelines and do their best to perform great work.

Different people follow this approach in different ways. Abraham Maslow chose to study healthy people and helped to give birth to humanistic psychology. Anita Roddick chose to run an ethical business and use her savvy to create The Body Shop.

Dame Cicely Saunders chose to care for people reaching the end of their lives and helped to give birth to the modern hospice movement. John Wooden chose to help basketball players become the best they could be by using the guidelines described in his famous Pyramid Of Success.

Can you think of somebody who has followed these steps in their own way? This could be somebody you have known or have heard about. They may have been a teacher, psychologist, lawyer, entrepreneur, writer, artist, business person, athlete or a specialist in a particular field.

Looking at this person, what was the niche in which they aimed to do their work? What led to them choosing this ground? Looking at their work, what were the guidelines they aimed to follow? What did they then do to do their best to perform great work?

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

Describe a person who chose the ground where they wanted to work and then followed certain guidelines to do great work.

Describe the specific things they did to take these steps.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result.

Choosing The Ground

There are many models for choosing the ground where you want to do fine work. One model is to follow the strengths approach. You can build on your strengths, find sponsors – people who want to hire you – and help them to achieve success.

Different people follow this approach in different ways. If appropriate, you can start by focusing on the following themes.

The next step is to focus on the actual situation where you want to do fine work. This may involve finding or creating an opportunity where people will pay you for doing what you do best.

Here is an introduction to the kinds of work you can do. These focus on people’s present and future needs. You can explore the possibilities for doing such work and then clarify the chances of success.

How to find or create such work? One approach is to do the following exercise. This builds on the work you may have done on clarifying your strengths. It involves doing the following things.

Describe your strengths

Describe the deeply satisfying activities in which you deliver – or have the potential to deliver – As rather than Bs or Cs. If possible, give specific examples of when you have done such work.

You may deliver As when helping people to be good leaders, solving technical problems, providing great customer service, improving profits or doing other activities.

Describe people’s challenges

Describe the present and future challenges that people – individuals, teams, organisations and societies – face that you can help them with by using your strengths.

They may face the challenge of educating people to be more self-managing, developing leaders who know how to manage knowledge workers, solving massive technical problems, equipping their organisation to create a successful future or other issues.

Describe the steps you can take to
help these people to achieve success

Describe the specific steps you can take to get work with some of these people – individuals, teams, organisations or societies – and then deliver success.

This may involve finding ways to connect with such people in a way that fits your values system. If they show interest, it may then involve making clear working contracts, performing superb work and delivering the success. Here is the exercise on these themes.

Clarifying the
chances of success

There is one final but vital point regarding choosing the ground where you want to work. Do your due diligence and make sure that, providing you do your best, you stand a good chance of success.

Imagine that you are about to settle on doing a project. What are the real results you want to achieve? Bearing these in mind, how high would you rate the chances of success? Rate this on a scale 0-10.

Looking at the score you have given, what can you do to maintain or improve the rating? It may be that you need certain kinds of support or you can do other things that will improve the chances of success.

Once you have completed your due diligence, make sure the rating is at least 8+/10. It is vital to give yourself a good chance of success rather than set up a failure.

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

Describe the specific piece of work you want to do and the specific results you want to deliver.

Describe the present success rating you would give regarding the chances of delivering these results. Do this on a scale 0-10.

Describe the specific things you can do to maintain or improve the rating.

Choosing The Guidelines

Great workers often follow certain guidelines when doing their work. Some are conscious of these principles and keep checking to make sure they are following them on a daily basis. Some follow such guidelines in a more subconscious way.

Different people follow different guidelines depending on their personal philosophy and profession. Some therapists, for example, will believe in helping people to build on their strengths when tackling challenges. Other therapists will believe in other approaches.

Here is an example of the guidelines that some people follow when counselling veterans returning from the war zone. These were put together by Al Siebert, who helped many people to overcome adversity. Other counsellors may adopt other approaches, of course, but these bring to life the idea of following certain guidelines.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Imagine that you want to tackle a specific piece of work or project. You may aim to produce an article, provide medical care, work as a counsellor, act as a trusted advisor or do another activity.

What are the guidelines you want to follow to do great work? You may aim to follow certain principles and deliver certain standards. How can you do your best to follow these guidelines?

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. 

Describe the specific guidelines you want to follow when doing this piece of work.

Choosing To Do Great Work

There are many ways to do fine work. One approach is to follow the principles for doing great design. This is to design things that are simple, satisfying and successful. Let’s explore these themes.

Doing work that is
simple in a profound way 

“Simplicity is genius,” we are told. Great workers make complicated things look simple.

They also design things that are simple but profound. Art Fry’s invention of Post-it Notes demonstrated simplicity in action. So did the Sony Walkman and Apple Macintosh.

Great designers, for example, love to make things work. They love to find solutions to problems or create their version of paradise. Different people do this in different ways.

Christopher Alexander, the pioneering architect, said that we can sometimes recognise great design by the fact that it helps us to feel alive. He wrote in The Timeless Way of Building:

Each one of us has, somewhere in his heart, the dream to make a living world, a universe.

Architects nurse this desire at the centre of their lives, says Christopher. One day, somewhere, somehow, they want to create a building that is wonderful, a place where people can walk and dream for centuries.

Every person has some version of this dream, maintains Christopher. Some wish to create a house, a garden or a fountain. Others wish to create a relationship, a painting or a book. He described how this is embodied in his own field of architecture.

There is one timeless way of building. It is a thousand years old, and the same today as it has ever been. 

The great traditional buildings of the past, the villages and tents and temples in which man feels at home, have always been made by people who were very close to the centre of this way.  

If you have a feeling-vision of the things – a painting, a building, a garden, a piece of a neighbourhood – as long as you’re very firmly anchored in your knowledge of that thing, and you can see it with your eyes closed, you can keep correcting your actions.

It’s not a question of holding onto every little detail, but of holding onto the feeling.

Doing work that is satisfying

Great design is satisfying on a number of levels. Physically it looks and feels good. Practically it works and is user friendly. There is an old Shaker dictum that says:

Don’t make something unless it is both necessary and useful;
but if it is both necessary and useful,
don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.

Good educators embody some of these elements when designing satisfying educational experiences. They follow the old belief that ‘the learner learns what the learner wants to learn.’ They try to make the learning personal, practical and profitable.

Personal – It must relate to the person and their goals 

Practical – It must be practical and provide tools that help the person to reach their goals.

Profitable – It must be, in the widest sense, profitable and help the person to achieve their goals.

Doing work that is successful

Great design works. It does the job. Terence Conran, a pioneer in design, said:

Good design is probably 98% common sense. Above all, an object must function well and efficiently – and getting that part right requires a good deal of time and attention.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous house Falling Water shows how something can be simple, satisfying and successful.

Great workers often take a pride in their craft. Originally the word craft was applied to making things by hand. More recently it has expanded to include other activities that involve the pursuit of excellence. One definition is:

To create or make something with skill and careful attention to detail.

This often involves a lifetime quest. The aim is to learn, develop and master the skills involved in carrying out your work. Dave Gamache wrote an excellent piece on this theme for the lifehacker website.

Here is an excerpt from his article. You can discover more via the following link.

Dave Gamache

Craftsmanship: Doing what
you love and doing it right

Craftsmanship is doing what you love and doing it right. No matter what you do – designer, baker, electrician, architect, author – your job is your craft.  

Learn to think of your work as practice towards becoming an absolute expert at what you do. Craftsmanship is not a destination; it’s a life-long discipline.

Craftsmanship is universal. Designing a product (or site) shares the same core values as any other craft. Quality, passion and experience are still the ingredients, the difference is the outcome.  

Love your craft everyday. Designing a product, web site, or workflow shares the same core values as any other craft. So design the simplest, most delightful product you can.  

Watch people use your product and make it better for them. Improve your work by learning from others and from your own experiences.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Imagine that you want to tackle a specific piece of work or project.

How can you do your best to do great work? How can you practise your craft? How can you keep improving your work?

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. 

Describe the specific things you can do to do your best to perform great work. 

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

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