The Art of Strengths Coaching

I is for Innovation, Implementation And Impact

  

This approach starts by clarifying the desired impact – the real results to achieve. It then invites people to go through stages of innovation, implementation and checking they have achieved the required impact.

The model can be used by individuals, teams and organisations. It can help them to build on their strengths and manage the consequences of any weaknesses.

Some companies, for example, are good at innovation. Some are good at implementation and delivering impact. Some may be good at all three, but that is a rarity.

The following section gives an introduction to how I used this approach with two companies. Both worked in the digital space, but the principles we explored can be used in many fields.

Company A and Company B both had around 30 employees. Each was considering whether to scale up and increase their numbers. The exercise resulted in each company making different decisions about shaping their futures.

As mentioned earlier, this approach can be used by individuals. It can help a person to build their own business or clarify their best contribution to an employer. They can focus on their strengths and how they can use these to help others to achieve success.

The approach can also be used by teams and departments in organisations. They can clarify: a) The areas where they are strong; b) The areas where they are weak; c) The specific things they can do to make their best contribution to the organisation.

Let’s return to the two companies mentioned earlier. Each company held a day workshop that focused on them shaping a positive future.

Before the session I asked them to do some homework. They were invited:

To clarify their strengths by describing the principles they had followed – and the ways they had translated these into action – to do brilliant work for customers in the past;

To clarify the specific kinds of customers with whom they worked best and: a) The challenges these customers faced at the present time; b) The challenges they would face in the future; 

To clarify the specific things they could do to build on their strengths to help these customers: a) To manage their present challenges; b) To achieve success in the future. 

The following section describes some activities we did during the leadership team workshops. The outcomes were interesting.

Company A chose to be an innovations house; Company B chose to become an implementation house. Both went on to achieve good results.

Let’s explore some of the steps we went through during the sessions.

Clarifying The
Desired Impact

Company A started by clarifying how good it was at connecting with customers and clarifying the desired impact. The leader explained their approach to establishing clarity – the real results to achieve.

“Our people are relatively good at clarifying a customer’s brief and playing this back to them.  

“The customer is often already suggesting how they believe it is possible to solve the present problem. Those ideas may or may not work. But we have to be careful how we position what we can do to help them succeed. 

“We are good at producing innovative solutions. Bearing this in mind, we could probably use our expertise more:  

a) To solve their present challenges;

b) To solve the challenges they will face in the future.

“This probably has implications for the way we shape our company in the future. But we can look at that later.” 

The leadership team then did an exercise. Each person gave the company a rating regarding the following area. 

Impact

The rating I would give our company regarding clarifying the
desired impact – the real results the customers want to achieve – is:

___ /10

Company B had different strengths and were good at implementation. Bearing this in mind, the leader explained their approach to clarifying the desired impact.

“Businesses often hire us to improve and run their systems. This calls for making crystal clear contracts about: 

a) The specific systems and service outcomes to deliver;

b) The specific principles and processes to be followed;

c) The specific key performance targets by which we will be judged.

“This means that we have to check and re-check before signing up to a contract.

“The pluses of this approach are that the customer and we agree on clear targets. This makes it easy to organise our resources and measure the success. 

“The possible minuses are that we may narrow our focus too much on solving the present problems. There may be future business opportunities that we miss.” 

Company B’s leaders gave themselves 9/10 in terms of clarifying the desired impact. They felt that sometimes they were too reactive, however, and could be more proactive in focusing on the customer’s future challenges.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Imagine that you work in a team, organisation or company. This could be your present work place or one where you have worked in the past. Try completing the following sentences.

Innovation

Company A was good at doing innovative work that helped customers to achieve success.  The leader recognised, however, that the business had reached a crucial point in its development. They expressed this in the following way.

“Looking at innovation, we probably score at least 8/10. We have a track record of designing and delivering creative solutions.

“The customers often like our innovative work. They then ask: ‘Can you implement it for us?’ This has led to us doing more long term contracts, which can be lucrative.

“We have hired lots of people who are good at doing ongoing work. This has led to us having more than 30 people in different locations.

“The question is: Do we really want to be in this kind of business? Perhaps that is a question we can explore later. In the meantime, when it comes to innovation, we score highly.” 

Company A’s core people loved being problem solvers and prototype builders. This was difficult to scale, however, so the business faced some challenges.

Company B’s leader knew its strengths. She expressed these in the following way.

“We do some innovation, but not much. I would give us a 6/10 in this area. We are best at doing hands-on work for customers. They rely on us to make things work over a long period of time. 

“We have tried to bring in people who might help us to be more innovative, but this has not worked out. Some wanted to do their own thing and not blend into the company. These hires also cost us a lot of money.”

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. How would you rate your work place in terms of being innovative in helping customers to succeed? How could it maintain or improve the rating? Try completing the following sentences.

Implementation

Company A was good at clarifying the strategic implementation principles that their customers could follow to achieve success. It was not great at managing the daily work involved in helping customers to run operational processes.

Such projects paid well, but these seemed like an add on to the core business. The leadership team therefore rated the company 6/10 in terms of ongoing implementation with customers.

Company B was strong on implementation. Their leaders expressed in the following way.

“Most of our work involves doing long-term projects for customers. Some we can do from our office but we also spend a lot of time on-site in their work places.  

“Previously we thought our business would be threatened by off-shoring. This has happened in some fields, but many of our clients want us to support them by running different projects.

“Many of our people enjoy following a structure, doing technical work and getting things done. Looking at implementation, I would rate us as 9/10.”

Company A and Company B were made up of people who had different drivers in terms of doing satisfying work. Company A had many people who were either entrepreneurial or experts in their fields. Company B had many more eager beavers who enjoyed getting things done.

Excellent teams often get the right balance of entrepreneurs, experts and eager beavers. This balance they aim to get will, of course, depend on their chosen work.

Teams that focus on innovation will need to be enterprising and use their expertise to generate solutions. They will also need a few co-ordinators and eager beavers who make sure things get done.

Teams that focus on implementation need some people who are entrepreneurial. They may also need many co-ordinators and technical experts. Such people need to be industrious and channel their efforts towards getting things done.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. How would you rate your work place regarding being consistently good at implementation? How could it maintain or improve the rating? Try completing the following sentences.

Impact

Company A and Company B looked beyond the headline issue of delivering the goods. They focused on the following things:

Being good at delivering the agreed impact – the required results – for the customers;

Being good at documenting, describing or, when appropriate, publicising the impact;

Being good at building a reputation about the impact the company delivered.

Company A’s leadership team gave differing marks for each of these themes. They believed that, when the business played to its strengths, it was good at delivering the desired impact. The leader expressed this in the following way.

“When we focus on what we do best, we probably get 9/10 for delivering the desired results. This often leads to getting more business. 

“We are not so good at publicising our success stories. This is something we could do better, providing we get the client’s permission.”

Company B gave a similar response. They were driven by results because their funding depended on hitting certain performance targets. These often involved delivering high quality standards and fulfilling the agreed service contracts.

Their work often came from previous clients who trusted them to deliver. Some work was highly confidential, so they were not able to share it publicly. Nevertheless, they felt it was possible to improve their reputation for doing good work.

Both companies decided to find ways to share success stories. This needed to be done sensitively, however, in order to maintain their good relationships with customers.

Look at your own work place, how would you rate it in the following areas? Being good at: a) Delivering the required impact; b) Publicising the impact; c) Building a reputation about the impact it delivers?

You will probably have different scores for each theme. Bearing these in mind, describe the specific things your work place can do to boost the ratings.

Decision Making

Both companies moved on to the final stage. Bearing in mind their strengths, they each took decisions and translated these into action. As mentioned earlier, these resulted in each business doing certain things to shape their futures.

Company A decided to focus on their talents as innovators. They rebuilt the business around their core strengths and focused on their perfect customers. These were often pacesetting businesses that were already ahead of the field.

They spent time with these customers, clarified their challenges and found solutions. They built prototypes that worked and helped the customers to achieve both present and future success.

They decided to split the business. There were 12 people in the core business. They still delivered impact, but mainly through developing innovation solutions.

This core business proved profitable. It delivered high quality work and had much fewer overheads. The leader realised that it would be harder to sell such a knowledge-based business because it relied its key people. But they were happy to go this route.

Company A sold its implementation arm. This was taken over by managers in that part of the business. It improved its delivery to clients and continued to make profits.

Company B chose to focus on implementation. The leadership team spent masses of time with both present and potential future clients. This led to more contracts and ongoing work.

The company needed good managers to co-ordinate so many moving parts. This proved a challenge. Some managers they recruited behaved like supervisors and this caused problems. Several crises led to the leaders moving back into operational roles to get things on course.

Company B is still doing well. It has encouraged and educated its managers to maintain good teams. It has also created an excellent wellbeing programme for its people. This has contributed to helping people to deliver success.

If you wish, try tackling the final exercise on this theme. Imagine that your work place has worked through the stages described in this piece.

What decisions may it now need to make? How can it build on its strengths? How can it do its best to shape a successful future? If you wish, try completing the following exercise.

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