The Art of Strengths Coaching

O is for The Organic Approach To Encouraging People

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The organic approach aims to develop the seeds that are already within people. It focuses on when people, teams and organisations come alive and perform brilliantly.

The approach encourages people to build on their strengths and follow their successful patterns. When appropriate, it also helps them to add other skills they can use to achieve their picture of success.

Everybody has a positive history. Everybody has done superb work and overcome challenges. Everybody has followed successful principles – even if only for a few minutes.

The organic approach helps people to find these patterns. It helps them to build on their positive habits – plus develop other skills – to achieve success.

Why follow this approach? People are emotional beings. They need to believe in their guts that following a certain strategy will achieve success.

The organic approach is an inside out approach to development. It nurtures belief by building on the strengths and successful patterns that people already have within them.

People can obviously learn things from outside, such as knowledge, models and tools. But the belief must come from within. People are more likely to sustain their motivation when following successful principles they know will work in a situation.

Looking back, can you recall a time when you have seen or experienced this approach?

You may have been on the receiving end of it when being encouraged by a parent, teacher, coach or other person. If so, they may have said some of the following things.

“Let’s start by looking at your goals. Looking back, when have you done performed well in similar situations?

“What did you do right then? What were the principles you followed? How did you translate those principles into action? What were the specific things you actually did to succeed?

“Looking at your present situation, can you follow any of those principles to help you to achieve your goals? What can you do to follow those principles? What are the actual action steps you need to take?

“Are there any other skills that you may need to add? If so, what are those skills? If you wish, we can explore how to add those skills to your repertoire.”

You may also have seen other professionals – such as mentors, coaches or trusted advisors – using this approach. They may have been working with individuals, teams or organisations.

Certainly these professionals had knowledge to give. They often began, however, by helping people to see their own successful patterns for achieving certain goals. Then, when appropriate, they passed on knowledge in a way that people could accept and use.

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 experienced or saw the organic approach in action.

Describe the specific things that the person did to follow elements of the organic approach to encourage you or other people.

Describe the specific outcomes – both the pluses and any minuses – that resulted from the person following the organic approach to encourage you or other people.

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The Organic Approach In Action

Different people apply the organic approach in different ways. Here is one example from sports.

Sometime ago I was working with a soccer coach. The following example comes from a time when he and I stood together watching his team in action.

The coach was particularly interested in the performance of one player who had just arrived from South America. The player had been bought to play two roles:

To act as a protector by playing just in front of the defence and cutting out danger.

To act as an orchestrator by gathering the ball from the defenders and, when appropriate, driving forward or passing the ball to set up attacks.

The coach liked the player, but after one particular incident he expressed exasperation. He said:

“Ah, he had the ball then but passed backwards. He had ten yards of free space in front of him.

“He should have driven forward into the space, set up the attack and worried the opposition. We will have a word with him about that.”

Bearing in mind the organic approach, I asked the coach:

“What would he have done if he was still playing in South America? Would he have driven forward?

“One approach could be to remind him of the times when he has done this when playing in his home country. He had just arrived here, so he may be afraid of making mistakes.

“It might be useful to get him to recall when he has driven forward successfully in the past. When appropriate, he can then follow similar principles in the future. What do you think?”

“That is interesting,” said the coach. “It may be worth trying, rather than criticising him.”

The coach applied the ideas and the South American player grew in confidence. He became a key part of the team.

The organic approach can be used to help individuals, teams and organisations to develop. When working with teams, for example, one of the first things I do is to invite each person in the team to do the following exercise.

Describe a specific time when people in the team performed brilliantly. They may have been giving great service to a customer, solving a problem or doing some other activity.

Describe the specific things people did right then – the principles they followed – to perform brilliantly. Try to give specific examples of what they actually did – in behavioural terms – to translate these principles into action.

Describe the specific benefits – for the various stakeholders – that happened as a result of people performing brilliantly.

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Each person in the team makes a flip chart. If they are new to the team, they describe a time when they were part of another team that performed brilliantly.

People put their flip charts on the walls. They form pairs and share the examples they have given. Then, after the team reconvenes, we highlight some of the key principles.

People like the exercise. A common response is for them to say:

“We already know what works. We have succeeded before and we can succeed again.”

Looking at the team’s goals, we then focus on how people can follow some of these principles – plus add other relevant skills – to achieve their picture of success.

The Organic Approach Calls
For Using Relevant Examples

“That sounds good in theory,” somebody may say.

“But how do you avoid people simply repeating old habits that will not help them to achieve their goals?”

The key is to focus on relevant examples that will enable people to achieve the required results. The first step is to ask:

What are the real results you want to achieve?

Be crystal clear on the picture of success. You can then invite the person, team or organisation to explore relevant examples from their positive history.

If a person wants to deal with a disappointment, you can ask when they have overcome similar setbacks successfully.

If a team wants to co-ordinate its strengths, you can ask when they have previously done this superbly.

If an organisation wants departments to cooperate, you can ask when people have worked across departments successfully to achieve a specific goal.

Clarify what people did right – the principles they followed – in the similar situation. If possible, get them to describe what they actually did – in behavioural terms – to achieve success.

Looking at the present situation, help people to clarify which of the principles may be relevant. They can then explore how to follow these principles in an appropriate way – plus maybe add other skills – to achieve their goal.

There are many ways to encourage people. The organic approach aims to build on the spirit, strengths and successful patterns already within them. They can then build on these assets to achieve their 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 where you may want to use the organic approach to encourage people. This may be a person or a group of people.

Describe the specific things you can do to use the organic approach to encourage them.

Describe the specific outcomes – the pluses and any minuses – that may happen as a result of you using the organic approach to encourage them.

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