The Art of Strengths Coaching

P is for Explaining The Professional Deal To People

Good organisations create a positive culture in which motivated people can achieve peak performance. They are also moral and communicate the professional deal to people.

Such organisations recognise that people need to know about the culture. Marvin Bower described culture as: “The way we do things around here.” People can then decide if they want to contribute towards achieving the picture of success.

Imagine that you lead an organisation. It can be useful to go through the following steps.

Step One

You can give people the big picture by explaining the organisation’s purpose, principles and picture of success.

Step Two 

You can explain the professional deal – the organisation’s role and the individual’s role in working towards achieving the picture of success.  

Step Three 

You can invite individuals to decide if they want to contribute and, if so, to clarify their personal contributions towards achieving the picture of success.

People like to know what they can expect on the road towards achieving the goals. They can then reflect and decide if they want to contribute towards achieving the goal.

One apocryphal story is that, when advertising for volunteers to go to the Antarctic in 1912, Ernest Shackleton put an advert in The Times, saying:

Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.

There is little actual evidence that he used this advert, but it certainly communicates the spirit of the adventure. People had an idea of what they were getting into and the conditions to expect. They knew the deal.

People function best when they make clear contracts about the way they work together. They can get angry if either:

The professional deal is not made clear at the outset.

The parties seem to agree on the professional deal, but one party has a different interpretation.

The professional deal is agreed, but one of the parties breaks it.

Bearing this in mind, let’s explore how you can communicate the deal when working with people.

You can explain the organisation’s
purpose, principles and picture of success

Imagine that you have done some work on clarifying your organisation’s purpose. Different organisations phrase their purpose in different ways.

Some organisations have a purpose that may at first sight appear rather generic. A common purpose is:

We want to use our strengths to help all our stakeholders – our customers, colleagues and company – to achieve success.

They then bring the purpose to life by sharing success stories and giving specific examples. They describe: 

How people have translated the purpose into action in the past.

How people can translate the purpose into action in the future.

David Maister, who co-authored The Trusted Advisor, believes that every company in the world has the same aims. They aim to provide great returns for their shareholders, great service for their customers and a great place to work for their employees.

What makes the difference? Some companies are serious. They actually do what they say they are going to do. This is what makes the real difference.

Here are some examples from organisations that aim to follow their purpose.

Some organisations tie themselves in knots by getting into long discussions about the difference between a purpose, mission and vision.

Different people interpret these words in different ways. Here, however, are some examples of what some see as the differences.

Purpose

People love to have a sense of purpose. This is something that they feel really driven to do. It is their reason for being. They can have a short-term purpose – such as feeling driven to achieve a specific goal – or have a long-term or life purpose.

Mission

The word mission is sometimes used in a similar way to purpose. Susan Ward produced an excellent definition regarding a mission statement which is reproduced below. (See via the link.)

https://www.thebalance.com/mission-statement-2947996

A mission statement is a brief description of a company’s fundamental purpose. It answers the question, “Why does our business exist?” The mission statement articulates the company’s purpose both for those in the organization and for the public.

For example: “Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”

Different organisations have different views of what constitutes a mission. One view is that it goes beyond why they exist and focuses on how they translate this into action. Military missions, for example, must often meet the following criteria.

They must have achievable objectives, must have the required resources, must be time based and must, if appropriate, have a clear exit strategy.

Military people then know what they must achieve by a certain date.

Vision

Your purpose is the specific thing you really want to do. You can then express this by translating it into specific goals that you want to achieve by a certain date. This then becomes your vision or picture of success.

Clarifying the principles

Let’s assume that you have clarified the purpose. It can then be useful to clarify the principles the organisation wants people to follow to achieve the purpose.

One key point to remember is that the principles are driven by the organisation’s purpose rather than by the whim of the leader. They describe the behaviours people can demonstrate to enable the team to achieve success.

Different types of organisations may therefore have different principles. These may differ, for example, if people are going to climb a mountain, build a pioneering business or act as trusted advisors.

There are many ways to define your organisation’s principles. One approach is to describe the overall Dos and Don’ts that everybody can follow to work towards achieving the goals.

Here is a list of the Dos, for example, that one organisation communicates to people when they join.

Principles. The principles we would like people
to follow to work toward achieving the goals are:

Do be positive and encourage other people.  

Do be clear on the organisation’s goals and your part in contributing towards achieving these goals.  

Do make clear contracts with people and fulfil these contracts. 

Do focus on outcomes – the real results to achieve in a situation – and do your best to achieve these outcomes.  

Do behave professionally, present solutions to challenges and help both colleagues and clients to succeed.

Some organisations clarify the Dos and Don’ts but then communicate these in a ‘softer’ way. They position these by saying something like the following.

The principles we would like you to follow
to work towards achieving the goals are:

* To …

* To … 

* To …

Such organisations also bring these principles to life by giving specific examples. They may show how people have followed the principles when giving great service to customers or helping their colleagues to succeed.

Clarifying the picture of success

Imagine that you have clarified the organisation’s purpose and principles. You can then translate these into specific goals to achieve by a certain date. These goals will then become the organisation’s picture of success.

There are many ways to take this step. One approach is to clarify the What, Why, How, Who and When. Here is a framework that some leaders use to then communicate the aims. 

The What

The specific goals we want to achieve by … are:

* 

* 

*

The Why

The specific benefits of achieving these
goals for the various stakeholders are: 

* 

* 

*  

The How

The specific strategies we aim to
follow to achieve the goals are:

* 

* 

*

The Who

The specific roles of the various people when
working towards achieving the goals are:

*

* 

*  

The When 

The specific results we aim to achieve – and by
when – on the road towards achieving the goals are:

* 

* 

*

Communicating the purpose,
principles and picture of success

Imagine that you have done all this pre-work. You can then communicate this to your people.

Different leaders do this in different ways. Some gather everybody together; some share the information in small groups; some use video or other means.

Good leaders give people the big picture and explain the organisation’s purpose, principles and picture of success. They also communicate the professional deal – something we will explore in the next section. People can then make informed judgements about whether they want to contribute towards achieving the goals.

There are many frameworks for communicating this information. Here is one framework that people sometimes use. They do, of course, populate it with their own purpose, principles and picture of success.

You can explain the
professional deal to people

Good organisations make the professional deal clear to people. They make sure that potential employees know the kind of culture they may be joining.

They put a lot of time into explaining: “The way we do things around here.” People are then clear on what they can and can’t expect when working in the organisation.

Good organisations outline the organisation’s responsibilities and the individual’s responsibilities in working towards achieving the goals.

My first encounter with this approach was when running therapeutic communities for young people. The youngsters were anxious to get out of their present situation, such as being in an institution.

We knew the community would work best, however, if people followed certain guidelines. It was therefore important to be crystal clear about the deal. Bearing this in mind, we outlined the deal in the following way to the young people who applied to join the community.

Clear Contracting With People Applying
To Join The Therapeutic Community

We can help you to work towards achieving your life goals.

We can help you to build on your strengths and manage the consequences of any weaknesses.

We will do this by providing an encouraging environment in which you can develop.

We will also provide practical tools that you can use to shape your future.

We can help you to develop in ways that mean you stay healthy, stay out of trouble and work towards achieving your life goals.

We do, however, invite you to decide if they really want to come here.

If you do come here, you will be expected to do the following things.

– To have a positive attitude.

– To take responsibility.

Let’s explain why this is important. People who come here often come from troubled backgrounds. They can choose, however, how they respond to such issues.

People can choose to be responsible or irresponsible. Each choice has consequences, both for themselves and other people.

We therefore expect people to take responsibility for their behaviour. If a person chooses to be late for a group meeting or behaves in a way that hurts others, they have chosen not to take responsibility. They have therefore chosen to go back to the institution. 

– To develop healthy ways to deal with problems.

This means not taking drugs of any kind and not being violent.

– To encourage other people in the community.

– To keep working towards your life goals in a way that helps – rather than hurts – you and other people.

We would like you to reflect for a while and then decide if you want to come to this community.

Bear in mind, we do follow these guidelines, they are not just words.  

You can, if you wish, talk with the other young people here to see how we live and work together.

You can then let us know your decision.

This sounds tough, but it worked. People knew where they stood and we acted immediately if somebody stepped over the rules. We acted in order to protect the culture and those who wanted to follow the guidelines towards achieving the goals.

Let’s return to more conventional work places. Below is an example of a professional deal that combines elements from several organisations.

Doing all of these things would be a tall order. Many organisations therefore limit the points to five each for the organisation and for the individual. This example does, however, illustrate the kind of themes people mention when describing the deal.

The Professional Deal 

The organisation’s responsibilities in working
towards achieving the picture of success are:

To build a positive environment in which motivated people can achieve peak performance. 

To keep communicating the organisation’s purpose, principles and picture of success. 

To build on people’s strengths and make clear contracts with them about their best contributions towards achieving the picture of success. 

To give people the encouragement and practical support they need to do superb work. 

To manage people by outcomes rather than by tasks and enable people to deliver the goods. 

To encourage people to take care of their wellbeing and provide the resources people can use to achieve this aim. 

To provide people with practical tools they can use to shape their future careers inside or outside the organisation. 

To, when necessary, make tough decisions that protect the culture.

To keep sharing success stories that show how people are following the principles and keep people informed about the progress we are making towards achieving the picture of success.

To ensure the organisation embodies the ethic of constant improvement and does what is necessary to achieve future success.

The individual’s responsibilities in working
towards achieving the picture of success are:

To be professional and help to build a positive environment in which motivated people can achieve peak performance.

To make sure they understand the organisation’s purpose, principles and picture of success.

To keep following the principles and translate these into action in their daily work.

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

To make clear contracts about their best contributions towards achieving the picture of success. 

To do superb work and proactively keep the key stakeholders – such as their manager and colleagues – informed about their progress towards achieving the agreed outcomes. 

To achieve their individually agreed outcomes and also keep contributing towards achieving the team’s outcomes. 

To continue to develop and, when appropriate, use the practical tools the organisation offers them to shape their future careers.

To take care of their wellbeing and, when appropriate, make use of the resources we provide for helping people to achieve this aim. 

To embody the ethic of constant improvement and make practical suggestions about what the organisation can do to achieve future success.

Good organisations take a similar approach when communicating cultural or strategy changes. They recognise that present employers may or may not want to follow the kinds of principles the organisation will embody in the future.

Such organisations then behave in a moral way. They recognise that many people have been loyal, but some will not want to follow the new approach. They build on the people who want to contribute. They also try to find, as far as possible, win-win solutions for those who prefer to move on.

Imagine that you want to communicate the professional deal to people in an organisation. Here is one framework that you can use to communicate the responsibilities of the organisation and the individuals.

You will, of course, do this in your own way. Again, it can be useful to bring the themes to life by giving examples. You can describe how people have behaved in these ways in the past and how they can do so in the future.

You can invite people to clarify
their personal contributions

Imagine that you have communicated the purpose, principles and picture of success. You will also have explained the professional deal. The next steps will be:

To invite people to reflect and decide if they want to contribute towards achieving the goals.

To, if so, do an exercise in which they clarify their strengths and their best contribution.

To then have a meeting with their manager to make clear contracts about their agreed contribution.

(There may also be an interim step where each team clarifies its contribution towards achieving the picture of success. Each individual member then clarifies their contribution towards achieving the team’s goals.)

Below is the pack that can be sent to individuals. They can do the relevant exercises and send these to their manager a week or so before the contracting meeting. They can then make clear contracts about their agreed contribution.

The pack also provides a framework they can use to have monthly meetings with their manager. They can use this to update the manager on their progress towards achieving the agreed goals. Here is the pack.

Making the professional deal

There are many ways to present and make the professional deal. One approach is to go through the steps that have been mentioned in this article.

Another approach is to present the information to people before they join. They can then decide if they would like to follow the guidelines and make their best contribution.

Below is an example of the information that can be presented to people before they join. This is based on the approach that is taken by one organisation.

Clear contracting is crucial in any relationship. This includes both the practical and psychological contracting. Making such clear contracts can provide the basis for helping people to deliver peak performances.

Here is the example of the information that one organisation presents to people before they join. You will, of course, make the professional deal in your own way.

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