The Art of Strengths Coaching

P is for People Being Positive And Predictable Rather Than Negative And Unpredictable  

There are many ways to support people. One approach is to be positive and predictable rather than to be negative and unpredictable.

Parents and leaders often take the positive approach when encouraging others to develop. They recognise that people need to feel safe, appreciated and able to explore. People also need to know the consistent guidelines they can follow to achieve success.

If the authority figures are negative or unpredictable it creates collateral damage. People feel scared and retreat into themselves. They try to find safety by putting their heads down or by going away.

Positive leaders believe in the power of acting as good models. They recognise that they are always ‘on stage’. People will look at what they do as a leader not just what they say.

Such leaders aim to model the principles they would like others to follow. If they want people to be professional, they act in a professional way. If they want people to be kind, they demonstrate kindness in their daily lives.

Looking back at your life and work, can you think of a person who behaved in a positive and predictable way? This could have been a parent, teacher, coach, mentor, manager, leader or another person.

How did they demonstrate a positive attitude? How did they behave in a predictable way? If they were in a professional situation, how did they act as a positive model? How did they communicate the desired professional standards?

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

Describe a person who was positive and predictable and had a positive influence on people.

Describe the specific things they did to be positive and predictable.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result.

People choose to express the positive and negative approaches in different ways. The choices they make have consequences for themselves and other people. Here is an example of what can happen when leaders choose to behave in certain ways.

Positive Leaders
And Negative Leaders

Several years ago I worked with an organisation that experienced a traumatic change when a positive leader was replaced by one who was negative.

Leader A wanted to create a positive culture in which motivated people could achieve peak performance. Moving on after two years, he was replaced by Leader B who aimed to rule by fear.

Leader A made people feel important. Arriving at the office, he spent time with the reception people, talked with the cleaners and was open to people stopping him to have a chat. He made people feel the centre of his world.

Leader A knew how to manage knowledge workers. Gathering people together, he explained the organisation’s purpose, principles and picture of success.

He then gave people the chance to reflect and decide if they wanted to work towards these goals. If so, he made clear contracts with people about how they could make their best contributions.

Leader A enabled people to do superb work on the way towards achieving the picture of success. His approach was to manage by outcomes rather than by tasks. If people came with a problem to solve, he would say:

Let’s focus on the outcomes we want to achieve. How can we do our best to achieve those results?

Leader A built an organisation in which people became more self-managing. They learned to focus on the outcomes to achieve and used their talents to deliver success.

Leader B arrived at the organisation in a blaze of publicity but there were soon warning signs. He tried to make himself feel important rather than make the staff feel important. His first instruction to the PA he inherited was:

I want a glass of water waiting for me on my desk at 8.30 each morning.

This sounds unbelievable in today’s world, but those were his actual instructions. He believed the staff’s job was to take care of his needs and boost his esteem.

Gathering people together, Leader B started by describing the prizes he had won in his career. He then announced:

Things are going to change around here.

Leader B tried to make himself look big by making other people feel small. Looking for scapegoats, he publicly criticised several employees who had previously done good work.

He replaced two well respected senior managers with two acolytes who bullied people. This created a climate of fear that led to many fine people leaving the organisation.

Leader B had been hired by the Board. Despite representations from the staff, at first the Board refused to believe the reports about his behaviour. They said that:

People are just afraid of change.

The reports of his bullying became so persistent, however, that eventually he was asked to leave the organisation. This led to one of the previously fired senior managers returning, but it took a long time for the organisation to heal.

People can choose how they behave. The choices they make have consequences both for themselves and other people. This can be seen in many work places.

Positive leaders aim to create a positive feeling in the work place and communicate the required professional standards. They then educate and enable people to deliver peak performances.

Negative leaders often create a negative feeling in the work place. This can lead to people feeling nervous and even neurotic. People may begin to believe that whatever they do will never be good enough.

Positive leaders are encouraging but also give clear messages about the required standards. If a person chooses to behave in an unprofessional way, then the leader sits down with them and goes through the following steps.

They focus on the future rather than the past.

They explain the professional standards that people in the organisation will need to follow – and the reasons for these – to deliver the picture of success.

They invite the person to decide if they want to follow these professional standards in the future.

The leader explains this in a calm and considered way. If the person argues, the leader does not get distracted. They simply go back to explaining the standards. They then ask the person to reflect and decide if they want to follow these professional guidelines.

If the person chooses to deliver the standards, the leader makes clear contracts with them about their aims. They also provide the required support and have regular meetings to help them deliver the professional standards.

If the person chooses not to deliver the standards, then the leader helps the person to move on in a fair way. They replace them with somebody who is prepared to deliver the required professional standards. This is how they protect the positive culture.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation where you want to be positive and predictable? This could be in your personal or professional life.

You may want to take this approach to encourage your child, partner, friends, colleagues or other people. You may want to do so when acting as counsellor, therapist, educator, coach, mentor, leader or in another role.

How can you be positive in your own way? How can you be predictable? How can you encourage other people? What else can you to do have a positive influence on people?

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

Describe a situation in the future where you want to be positive and predictable and have a positive influence on people.

Describe the specific things you can do then to be positive and predictable.

Describe the specific things that may happen as result.

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