The Art of Strengths Coaching

P is for Building On The Positive Majority Of People rather than The Psychopathic Minority

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Good leaders build on the positive majority of people. They do not pander to the psychopathic minority.

They recognise that most people want to be positive, to help other people and to live in peace. They encourage people to become the best they can be and make the full use of their talents. They believe in helping people to be hopeful, healthy and happy.

Such leaders build on the principles embodied in most spiritual faiths. These include people being kind, respectful and fair. They try to build on what human beings have in common and find solutions to challenges. They aim to encourage both present and future generations.

Good leaders believe it is vital to take responsibility. They are also prepared to take a stand towards the psychopathic minority of people who want to hurt others.

There are many definitions of the word psychopath. Here are some of the tendencies that such people demonstrate.

Using cruelty for gain … Being mean … Exploiting others … Lack of empathy for the suffering of others … Desire for instant gratification … Destructive excitement seeking.

Such individuals sometimes say the following things.

I am right and the world is wrong … I have the right to gain my own way by using bullying, power and other forms of abuse … If I abuse people, I will say that I am actually the victim … I will pursue my own agenda and reframe things to justify whatever I am doing to achieve my goals.

What do you believe are the characteristics of the positive majority of people? Looking at your own experience, you may find that most of those you meet are helpful and treat others decently.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe the characteristics of the majority of people you meet.

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There are many ways to encourage the positive people, but first let’s have a look at these two personality types.

The Positive Majority

Different people have different views about the nature of human beings. Some of these views are contained in various schools of psychology. So let’s explore some of these approaches, ranging from Behaviourism to Positive Psychology.

Behaviourism saw human beings as strongly moulded by their conditioning. People behaved in ways that were dependent on rewards and punishment.

Behaviours could be changed by, for example, getting people to associate certain actions with either pleasure or pain. People could therefore be conditioned to behave in certain ways.

Psychoanalysis saw human beings as driven by their past experiences. People behaved in ways that stemmed from feelings about their childhood or other experiences.

Growth was dependent on people understanding both their unconscious and conscious drives. This was particularly so, for example, if they continually failed in particular areas of life.

People could gain understanding through ‘the talking cure’. This involved talking through their experiences with a doctor who had gone on to become a psychiatrist.

The ethos was that of a medical model. People who got into difficulties were sick. They could be helped to grow by understanding their behaviour and adopting other strategies in the future.

Humanistic Psychology rebelled against both the conditioning and medical models. It saw human beings as basically good. People could develop by being true to themselves. Environment was crucial.

Abraham Maslow, for example, believed that people were more likely to grow if their basic needs were met. They could then take charge of their futures, be creative and grow towards fulfilment.

Existential Psychology had an impact on Humanistic Psychology and developed at approximately the same time. It saw human beings as neither good nor bad.

People shaped their lives by the choices they made and each choice had consequences. They could take responsibility for choosing their attitude and actions.

People who were true to their values – and who lived in good faith – were more likely to feel good. Those who failed to follow their values – and lived in bad faith – were more likely to feel troubled. People could grow by finding and following their purpose.

Positive Psychology studies what people do right to live healthy and happy lives. Martin Seligman’s initial work in the field led to creating the Positive Psychology Center at The University of Pennsylvania. The Center says:

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive.

Other researchers in the field have included people such as Ed Diener, Robert Diswas-Diener, Christopher Peterson, Tal Ben-Shahar and Sonja Lyubomirsky.

Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson decided to explore the field of human virtues. These are the qualities of moral excellence that are admired across different philosophies, religions and cultures.

There are obviously many views on how people should live a good life. But the researchers collected data on both the philosophical guidelines and practical examples of moral excellence in different cultures.

There were some obvious starting points. These included, for example, looking at virtues in the following fields.

The Buddhist Tradition … The Taoist Tradition … The Hindu Tradition … The Confucian Tradition … The Jewish Tradition … The Christian Tradition … The Muslim Tradition … The Bahá’í Tradition … The Greek Tradition … The Roman Tradition … The African Traditions … The Asian Traditions. 

The North American Traditions … The South American Traditions … The European Traditions … The Pacific Traditions … The Various Ethnic and Tribal Traditions … The Various Philosophical Traditions … The Humanistic Tradition … The Traditions Embodied in Various Guilds, Professions and Social Movements.

These provided good starting points. The researchers went further, however, and interviewed over 15,000 people in different cultures.

Martin and Christopher synthesised the findings in their book Character Strengths and Virtues. They found six main virtues that were admired across many cultures. They then described various character strengths associated with these qualities. Martin wrote:

When we look we see that there are six virtues, which we find endorsed across cultures, and these break down into 24 strengths.

The six virtues that we find are non-arbitrary – first, a wisdom and knowledge cluster; second, a courage cluster; third, virtues like love and humanity; fourth, a justice cluster; fifth a temperance, moderation cluster; and sixth a spirituality, transcendence cluster.

We sent people up to northern Greenland, and down to the Masai, and are involved in a 70-nation study in which we look at the ubiquity of these. Indeed, we’re beginning to have the view that those six virtues are just as much a part of human nature as walking on two feet are.

You can discover more via the following link.

https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/classification-character-strengths-virtues/

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There are many ways to live life. One approach is to encourage people to pursue these virtues. It is also, of course, to recognise that some people will choose to pursue another route.

The Psychopathic Minority

Some people choose to demonstrate characteristics associated with psychopaths. The Medical Daily website says such people are cold hearted and calculating.

It also outlines some differences between psychopaths and sociopaths. Here is an excerpt from the website. You can discover more via the following link.

http://www.medicaldaily.com/psychopath-definition-may-be-different-you-thought-7-facts-about-psychopaths-361112

According to Dr. L. Michael Tompkins, a psychologist at the Sacramento County Mental Health Treatment Center, the difference lies in having a conscience.

A psychopath simply doesn’t have one. They will steal from you without feeling a twinge of guilt – though they may pretend to if they’re caught, so they aren’t “found out.”

“They’re skilled actors whose sole mission is to manipulate people for personal gain,” Tompkins said.

They carefully plot their moves, and use aggression in a planned-out way to get what they want. If they’re after more money or status in the office, for example, they’ll make a plan to take out any barriers that stand in the way, even if it’s another person’s job or reputation.

Encouraging The
Positive Majority Of People

Imagine that you want to encourage the positive majority of people. How can you do that in your life and work? Here are some steps you may wish to consider to encourage people.

You can act as a positive model

One approach is act as a positive model. You can, if you wish, aim to embody the values of being kind, encouraging and helping other people.

Alice Herz-Sommer was such a person who continued to be optimistic well past the age of 100. A pianist and survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, she inspired many people with her belief that: “Life is beautiful.”

Alice’s view of life reached a wider audience after an interview she gave to the BBC became popular on the web. In it she said:

I have lived through many wars and have lost everything many times – including my husband, my mother and my beloved son.

Yet, life is beautiful, and I have so much to learn and enjoy. I have no space nor time for pessimism and hate.

And life is beautiful, love is beautiful, nature and music are beautiful. Everything we experience is a gift, a present we should cherish and pass on to those we love.

Life brings pain and beauty, said Alice, but she said the secret of happiness is:

To focus on what is important – what is really important.

She focused on gratitude, love, kindness, nature, music and the joyful things in life.

Caroline Stoessinger gave an insight to Alice’s approach in her book A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer. Concluding the book, Caroline provided a series of quotes in which Alice explained about her philosophy. These included the following.

Gratitude is essential for happiness … Only when we are old do we realise the beauty of life … When I play Bach, I am in the sky … My world is music.

Music is a dream. It takes you to paradise … I am richer than the world’s richest people, because I am a musician … Music saved my life. Music is God.

Every day is a miracle. No matter how bad my circumstances, I have the freedom to choose my attitude to life, even to find joy. Evil is not new. It is up to us how we deal with both good and bad. No one can take this power away from us.  

My optimism has helped me through my darkest days. It helps me now … The more I read, think and speak with people, the more I realise just how happy I am.  

When I die I can have a good feeling. I have done my best. I believe I lived my life the right way.

You can encourage
the positive people

Encouragers also need encouragement. You can, if you wish, proactively support the positive people you know in your life and work.

Let’s assume that you are encouraging your loved ones and friends. How can you encourage people at work?

One approach is to learn from good mentors. They make people feel welcome and the centre of their world. They also create a stimulating sanctuary in which people feel able to explore ideas and talk about their goals.

Such mentors look for when people come alive. They encourage people to build on their strengths and do more of these things in the future. When appropriate, they also provide practical tools people can use to achieve picture of success.

Good leaders also build on the positive people. Imagine you lead an organisation. Some of the people are positive, some swing between being positive and neutral, some are negative.

How do you want to work with the different kinds of people? In the old days organisations often told you to concentrate on turning-around the negative people. But that did not work. Nowadays you put your energy into the engine, not the trailer.

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Good leaders give everybody a chance to contribute. They keep reminding everybody in the organisation of the big picture. People need context. If they can see the big picture, they are more likely to see their part in making it happen.

Different leaders communicate this in different ways. Some share the organisation’s story, strategy and road to success. Some communicate the organisation’s purpose, principles and the positive benefits of achieving the goals.

Imagine you want to follow the latter route. You can gather people together and remind them of the following themes.

The Purpose

The purpose of our organisation is:

To …

The benefits of achieving this purpose – for
all the various stakeholders – will be:

To …

To …

To …

The Principles

The key principles we want people to follow – including the professional
standards we want them to demonstrate – to achieve this purpose are:

To … 

To …

To …

The Practice

The way you practice these principles will – within parameters – be up to you in your part of the organisation.

But there is key point. You must show how what you practice supports the principles and contributes toward achieving the purpose.

Good leaders believe it is important to be moral and give everybody the big picture. People can then decide if they want to opt in and help to make it happen.

Imagine that you have gone through this stage. Looking around, it has become apparent that people are choosing either:

To be positive – yet also realistic – and do their best to achieve the goals.

To be positive some of the time, whilst neutral or guarded at other times. 

To be negative.

Let’s explore how you can work with the different kinds of people.

The Positive People

“Reward the behaviour you want repeated,” is the motto in all organisations. So you encourage the positive people.

They are the engine, but they also need support. Such people frequently volunteer for tasks and do fine work, but also get exhausted. You can encourage them:

To play to their strengths and make their best contributions to the organisation. 

To act as positive models for other people in the organisation.

To produce success stories that demonstrate the professional standards required for building a successful organisation.

Good leaders build on the positive people and encourage them to make their best contributions.

The Positive-Neutral People

Some people may swing between being positive and neutral. There can be many reasons for their behaviour.

They may have seen new leaders come in before, make big promises and then fail to deliver. This can explain why they are guarded.

Whatever their reasons, however, at some point it is vital for them to opt in. Otherwise you are climbing a mountain with some people choosing not to give their best.

The positive-neutral people can become the backbone of the organisation, however, if they choose to become positive and professional.

They must each make their own decisions, of course, but there are many things you can do to provide an encouraging environment. This can increase the chances of them choosing to give their best. It can be useful to spend time with these people to ensure that:

They know the organisation’s specific goals and strategy. 

They are given a sense of ownership in implementing their part of the strategy. 

They are given the support they need to do their job and deliver success.  

Let’s assume that you have given people an overview of the strategy and their part in making it happen. You may also have spent time with the individuals to focus on their best contribution.

Leaders who do these things often find that people choose to opt in. If individuals choose to remain neutral, that leads to making other decisions. 

The Negative People

They need to make a decision: Do they want to be part of the organisation or not? You can again outline:

The purpose – the specific results the organisation aims to achieve.

The principles people will be encouraged to follow – and the professional standards they will need to demonstrate – to achieve the results. 

The positive benefits – the rewards for all stakeholders of achieving the results.

Be positive but clear. Give people the opportunity to consider whether they want to opt in and make a positive contribution.

They need to follow up with deeds, rather than words. If they do not change, then act to protect the other people and maintain a positive culture.

Great organisations have people who choose to be there every day. They are volunteers, not victims. So build on the positive people and do whatever is necessary to guide the organisation to success.

Let’s assume you are building on the positive people you know in your life and work. How can you encourage other such people across the planet?

You can encourage people by
showing positive ways forwards

People want to see that there is a positive way forward to encourage both present and future generations. They want hope. People also want to leave a positive legacy.

You will have your own approach to planting seeds of hope. One approach that seems to work, however, is to share success stories.

People buy success, not the theory of success. People are more likely to evolve, however, if they can see a practical way forward that will deliver success.

Success provides its own arguments. Seeing what works can encourage people to adopt an approach that is likely to deliver positive results.

Here are a few examples of the many people who have built on their own strengths to share success. It would be possible list many hundreds more. These approaches have encouraged many people across the planet.

Kids Are Heroes

MaryMargaret founded Kids Are Heroes® at the age of nine. The website says:

“Our mission at Kids Are Heroes is to empower children from all cultures to become social change agents.”

By showcasing the stories of hundreds of kids from all over the world who are creating a better planet for all of us, we empower children to effect positive change in the world, among their peers, and especially within themselves.

We provide a gateway to leadership, self-confidence, and compassion for all children.

We believe kids are heroes and each one has the power to change the world!

Our kids are drilling water wells in Africa, feeding and clothing orphans in India, and standing up for their causes.

They are recycling and cleaning up their neighborhoods, helping their local animal shelters and making life better for their neighbors.

You can discover more via the following link.

http://www.kidsareheroes.org/

streetfootballworld

Jürgen Griesbeck developed Fútbol por la Paz (Football for Peace) in 1996. This was a project using football to combat violence and drugs on the streets of Medellín, Colombia.

Based on this experience, he created Straßenfußball für Toleranz (Street Football for Tolerance) in Brandenburg, Germany. This led to birth of streetfootballworld in 2002.

streetfootballworld supports a worldwide network of organisations that uses football as a tool to empower disadvantaged young people.

It engages private and public partners to create social change. Here is some background from its web site.

http://www.streetfootballworld.org/

Every day, millions of young people around the world wake up to an uncertain future.

streetfootballworld believes in the unique power of football to change lives and bring people together behind a common goal.

Our mission is to strengthen our worldwide network of local organisations that use football to help young people overcome challenges like poverty, discrimination and lack of education.

The streetfootballworld network unites over 90 organisations in more than 60 countries.

In 2011 alone they empowered over 600,000 young people. streetfootballworld strengthens network members through capacity development programmes, and by providing access to funding, sharing expertise and creating new partnerships – because stronger network members mean better opportunities for the young people who need them most. 

The Unreasonable Group

The Unreasonable Group believes in mobilising the power of entrepreneurs to tackle big issues in the world. It says:

We hedge our bets on the most thrifty, resourceful, creative, and disruptive class amongst us: entrepreneurs.

Our ambition is to serve as a catalyst for entrepreneurship in the 21st century & harness its collective power to address the greatest challenges of our time.

The vision behind Unreasonable Group found its roots at the Unreasonable Institute (an international accelerator for early stage entrepreneurs who are leveraging business to tackle major social & environmental challenges) in the summer of 2010.

The group is based on the famous George Bernard Shaw quote:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

Here are some excerpts from its websites. You can discover more via the following links.

http://unreasonablegroup.com/

http://unreasonable.is/

http://unreasonableinstitute.org/

Unreasonable Group was created out of shared desire to have the greatest impact possible on the world’s toughest challenges.

We believed from the onset that entrepreneurs building rapidly scalable businesses are our best bet for solving these challenges.  

To this end, our north star has always been to partner with and support world-class entrepreneurs positioned to bend history in the right direction.

Going back to the start, the vision behind Unreasonable Group found its roots at The Unreasonable Institute (our closest partner) in the summer of 2010.

That summer marked the first annual Unreasonable Institute and a few remarkable events took place that caused our founder, and the founder of the Institute, Daniel Epstein, to see a larger opportunity. 

By the time the inaugural program had come to an end, a number of the participating entrepreneurs had gotten a tattoo of the Unreasonable logo, on their body, for the rest of their lives…  

Nope, we aren’t making this up and yes, we agree this is a bit crazy. Furthermore, a handful of the entrepreneurs pledged to donate equity back to the Unreasonable Institute, after the Institute was over and after they had returned to their home countries.

The two things in life you can’t divorce from are tattoos and equity and yet the entrepreneurs who came out of the first Institute, and many who have participating in proceeding programs like Unreasonable@Sea, willingly got tattoos and desired to donate equity back to Unreasonable… we took note of this.

Beyond tattoos and equity, a greater story emerged when a number of the entrepreneurs in the inaugural Institute came to Daniel and said they wanted to change the name of their businesses.

They wanted to become Unreasonable Water, or Unreasonable Solar, or Unreasonable Trade…etc.  

When asked why they desired to rebrand their companies to Unreasonable “x” the entrepreneurs claimed they believed it would increase their impact and their bottom line, it would connect them into a global Unreasonable family indefinitely, and it would bake the intention of impact into their companies now and into the future.

In short, tattoos, equity, and the desire of founders to re-brand their businesses made us realize Unreasonable didn’t just need to be an accelerator program – it could be positioned to become a brand that stood for something even larger.

Today, our goal is to become the largest and most effective platform in the world for entrepreneurs solving BFPs.* Working towards this mission, over the past four years we launched Unreasonable MediaUNREASONABLE.isUnreasonable CapitalUnreasonable@Sea, the Girl Effect Accelerator and Unreasonable Alchemy.

Each company is part of our broader vision and was founded out of our shared desire to drive resources, exposure, and support the some of the world’s most promising and impactful entrepreneurs.  

Knowing we founded Unreasonable Group in 2012, we feel like we are just getting started.

Echoing Green

Echoing Green was founded in 1987 by leaders of General Atlantic. Since then it has supported more than 500 social entrepreneurs who have worked to improve life on the planet.

According to the organisation’s website, legend has it that the name comes from William Blake’s poem Echoing Green.

The poem combines the joy of life with the realisation that we are only here for a short time. We can nurture and care for the Earth so that others may enjoy it in the future.

Echoing Green therefore supports people who aim to encourage both present and future generations. Below is a summary of excerpts from its website.

http://www.echoinggreen.org/

Our mission is to unleash next generation talent to solve the world’s biggest problems.

We believe positive change is only possible when you live boldly, taking responsibility for finding your unique role in making the world a better place.

Echoing Green’s premier program is its highly competitive global Fellowship, which provides more than $2 million in seed support to a diverse group of emerging social entrepreneurs every year.

From thousands of applicants, typically fewer than one percent are ultimately selected to receive up to $90,000 over two years to support the launch of their new organizations.

There are many ways to encourage the positive majority of people. At the same time, when appropriate, it is important to take a standard towards psychopathic people.

You will plant seeds of hope in your own way. If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites to do the following things.

Describe the specific things you can do to build on and encourage the positive majority of people.

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of building on and encouraging the positive majority of people.

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