The Art of Strengths Coaching

P is for Helping People To Experience Things From A Positive Dimension

People sometimes develop by experiencing things in another dimension. They may do this when learning, working, listening to music, appreciating beauty, seeing new paradigms or having other experiences.

Some workers build on this approach. They aim to help people to see, feel and experience things from a positive dimension. They use their own strengths to create things that help people to have positive experiences.

They may then – if people wish – help them to apply the insights they gained from the experience. They may do this by helping people to go through the stages of decision making, design and delivery.

There are many people whose work is grounded in reality but also lifts people’s souls. These include creative artists who encourage people to feel alive and experience things from a positive point of view.

My own work has been strongly influenced by positive artists in different fields. These have been people who chose:

To study people performing at their best; 

To share positive knowledge about people performing at their best;

To share practical tools that people can use to perform at their best.

They show what is possible when people build on their strengths. They also show the strategies that people, teams and organisations can follow to achieve their pictures of success.

Looking back on your life, when have you aimed to offer people the chance to see, feel or experience things from a positive dimension? This could have been in your personal or professional life.

You may have done this when encouraging a person, teaching a class, coaching a team, running a workshop or doing another activity. You may have done it when acting as a parent, educator, creative artist, trusted advisor, leader or in another role.

How did you clarify the theme that the person or group of people wanted to explore? They may have wanted to pursue some of the following topics.

How to do satisfying work … How to help people to improve their wellbeing … How to help children who experience difficulties in school … How to tackle specific challenges … How to build superb teams.

How to work well together … How to continue to be creative … How to find solutions to conflicts … How to restore trust in public life … How to create sustainable success … How to help people to shape a positive future.

How did you help people to explore their chosen theme? How did you help them to learn from what works? How did you share practical knowledge they could use to achieve success?

How did you help them to decide on the ideas they wanted to pursue? How did you help them to design their chosen strategy? How did you help them to do their best to deliver their desired picture of success?

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

Looking ahead, can you think of a situation where you may want to follow similar principles in the future? One model is to build on your strengths – as a person or as a professional – when taking this approach.

You will do this in your own way, of course, but here are some steps it can be useful to consider.

As mentioned, it can be good to use your own strengths when offering people the chance to learn from such experiences. You will then feel on solid ground and be more able to bring things to life with concrete examples.

One film maker I know, for example, shows people films that highlight success stories in various aspects of life. If appropriate, they then invite people to clarify the insights they want to apply after seeing the film.

Looking at my own work, I began to use this approach from the 1970s onwards. Mainly held in Scandinavia, these five day courses focused on how people could build on their strengths. The participants came from all walks of life and were paid for by their employers.

There were normally between 24 and 30 people on each course. The first days were devoted to inviting people to do exercises around the following themes.

When do I feel most creative? How can I do more of these things? How can I encourage other people – such as my family members, students or colleagues at work – to do more of things where they feel creative?

What are my personal and professional goals? How can I work towards achieving these goals? How can I help other people to work towards their personal or professional goals? 

What gives me encouragement? How can I do more of these things? How can I encourage other people – such as my family members, students or colleagues at work?

What are the challenges I may face in the future? How can I manage these challenges successfully? How can I help other people to manage their challenges successfully? 

What can I do to make my best contribution in my work? How can I encourage other people to make their best contributions? What will be the benefits of doing this for them, the work place and for society?

We then moved on to exploring the topic of happiness. As many people have said, this is often the by-product of following certain principles in your life or work.

People were invited to do an exercise copied taken from the work of people such as Abraham Maslow. Today the exercise may sound rather basic, but many people found it to be valuable on a personal level.

Later we will look at an exercise that is more professionally focused. Before then, however, here are the instructions for the personal exercise.

People were given one hour in the groups but we found the often wanted longer to do the exercise. Returning to the big group, people then put their pictures around the walls. This proved an excellent backdrop for moving on to the next exercise on the course.

Extraordinary Work

Let’s move forward thirty years. During the early part of the 2000s I spent five years mentoring for a large software company. This also involved helping people to build superb teams.

The following section describes one occasion when we did this by using the positive dimensions approach. The Director of a team contacted me to give the brief. Here is a summary of what they said.

“Our team is excellent, but we want to go a step further. I believe there are some potential opportunities to do work that is extraordinary.

“Bearing this in mind, we have booked a two day workshop at the Training Centre for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. We want to learn from their work and also add other dimensions. 

“During one session we will do the capsize exercise. This involves us being capsized in a safe environment and rescued by the lifeboat crew.

“We would like you to help us to also run sessions on how we can build on our strengths. How can we move from doing work that is excellent to that which is extraordinary?” 

The Director and I agreed on the outcomes for the workshop. These were to provide them with practical tools that people could use:

To continue doing excellent work; 

To choose two projects where they could build on their strengths and do extraordinary work; 

To deliver these projects in ways that created wins for the customers, wins for the colleagues and wins for the company

During the workshop we would help people to learn from positive models and also from their experience at the RNLI. Being rescued from the water would certainly take them into a different dimension.

Bearing this in mind, before the session they were invited to do some homework. They each presented this during the morning session. Here is the exercise.

The first day began with an introduction to doing extraordinary work. The team members then made their presentations. These were engrossing and we only had time for 6 of the 12 members to present in the morning.

The afternoon involved people being capsized and rescued from the water. This was followed by a talk from the RNLI about how they aimed to translate their purpose into action.

The team continued with the presentations in the evening. Each person then shared what they had learned or relearned during the sessions. We concluded by agreeing on the specific goals to achieve the second day.

The next day began by listing all the potential projects for doing extraordinary work. The Director invited people to vote on these and this resulted in settling on two projects.

A mission holder was appointed for each project – they actually volunteered – and individuals allocated themselves to the projects. People then went through the normal process of decision making, design and working towards delivery.

The Director was pleased with the planning stage and provided people with the support they needed to do the work. Three months later both projects produced outstanding results and were published as success stories.

Many people in the company rated the work as extraordinary. The team members, however, felt they could have done more. During the next six months several moved on to leadership roles and applied the lessons from their time at the RNLI.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation where you may aim to offer people the chance to see, feel or experience things from a positive dimension?

You may want to do this when encouraging a person, teaching a class, coaching a team, running a workshop or doing another activity. You may do this when acting as a parent, educator, creative artist, trusted advisor, leader or in another role.

How can you clarify the theme that people want to explore? How can you use your strengths to help them experience things from a positive dimension?

How can you, if appropriate, help them to decide on their way forward and design their strategy? How can you do your best to help them to deliver the desired results?

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

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