The Art of Strengths Coaching

P is for The Positive Approach To Doing Your Personal Best  

There are many ways to do your personal best. One approach is to focus on the following themes. You can adapt these when focusing on your personal or professional life.

Being Positive

It is to have a positive attitude, build on your personal and professional strengths and clarify your picture of success.

Being Professional

It is to pursue practical strategies, be professional and perform superbly.  

Delivering Peak Performances

It is to focus on personal and professional improvement, find positive solutions to challenges and deliver peak performances.

Can you think of a time when you followed some of these steps in your own way? You may have done so when pursuing a creative project, tackling a challenge or aiming to reach a specific goal.

What did you do then to have a positive attitude? You may have made a conscious decision to take this approach by saying some of the following things.

This is something I really want to do. It may be a challenge, but I want to do my best. I will focus on the things I can control rather than worry about what I can’t control.

I want to do what I believe in, make plans and do my best to deliver the goods. Some people will say it is a risk to do what I am going to do. But for me it would be a greater risk not to do what I believe in.  

Looking back, how did you build on your strengths and clarify your picture of success? How did you aim to keep doing your personal best, be professional and deliver peak performance?

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 did your personal best by being positive, professional and aiming to achieve peak performance. 

Describe the specific things you did then to take these steps. 

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of taking these steps.

Being Positive

There are many ways to work towards achieving peak performance. One approach is focus on the following themes. You may aim:

To have a positive attitude; 

To build on your personal and professional strengths;

To set positive goals and clarify your picture of success.

Different people work through these themes in different ways. Let’s consider some of the areas they may explore.

Positive Attitude

People make choices every minute. They can choose to be positive or negative, to take responsibility or avoid responsibility, to help other people or hurt other people. The choices they make have consequences – both for themselves and other people.

Peak performers are often positive realists. They have a positive attitude but are also good at reading reality. They can spot warning signs and take steps to be proactive when dealing with potential challenges. Such people focus on what they can control in situations.

Simon Sinek describes one approach to having a positive attitude in the video below. In it he explains how athletes sometimes reframe nervousness as excitement.

This is an approach that is encouraged by sports psychologists. They help athletes to feel relaxed and channel their energy in a positive way.

The athlete must prepare by putting in all the hard work. On the day of the competition, however, they need to embrace the pleasure – rather than worry about the pressure – in order to perform. Here is the interview with Simon.

Personal And
Professional Strengths

Great workers build on their strengths. Imagine that you want to do superb work in the future. It can be useful to ask yourself some of the following questions.

 Picture Of Success

Great workers build on their strengths and aim to achieve peak performance. They clarify the real results they want to achieve and translate these into a clear picture of success.

Imagine that you want to take these steps in in your own way. You may want to encourage a person, do a creative project, lead a pioneering team or tackle another challenge. Here are some of the themes you may wish to explore.

How can I build on my strengths? How can I translate these into doing satisfying work? How can I focus on pursuing a specific project or achieving a positive goal?  

Looking at the specific activity I want to pursue, what are the real results I want to achieve? What for me would mean I had achieved peak performance? What would be the picture of success? 

Different people use different models to clarify their aims. One approach is to use the following framework. You would, of course, use your own approach to clarify your picture of success.

Being Professional

There are many ways to deliver high professional standards. One approach is to prepare properly and then focus on the following themes. You may aim:

To pursue practical strategies;

To be professional; 

To perform superbly.

Different people will work through these themes in different ways. Let’s consider some of these.

Practical Strategies

Great workers focus on what works and translate these into practical strategies. Imagine that you want to follow this approach in your own way. You can ask yourself some of the following questions.

Looking back, when have I tackled a similar challenge successfully? What did I do right then? What were the principles I followed? How can I follow these principles – plus maybe add other skills – to achieve success?

Looking around, when have other people tackled similar challenges successfully? What did they do right? How can I follow these principles in my own way to achieve success?

What are my strengths? How can I build on these to achieve the goals? How can I compensate for any weaknesses? What is my successful style of working? How can I follow this to work towards achieving the goal?

Looking at the present situation, what are the real results I want to achieve? What are the key strategies I can follow to give myself the greatest chance of success? How can I translate these into a clear action plan?  

Different people use different models to clarify their strategies. One approach is to use the following framework. You would, of course, use your own approach.

Professionalism

Great workers aim to be super professional. They keep doing the right things in the right way every day. They love to make lists in their heads and cross off the items. They also often enjoy the journey as well as reaching the goal.

Some people have natural self-discipline, whilst some learn discipline from the positive models they meet in their life and work. These models can be either individuals or the places in which they work.

Great organisations, for example, make sure that potential employees know the professional standards they must deliver. Here is an example of the information that one organisation presents to people before they join. They describe this as The Professional Deal.

They make sure that prospective employees are clear on both the organisation’s and the individual’s role in working to achieve the goals. People can then decide if they want to deliver these professional standards.

Performing Superbly

Great workers prepare properly. They then go into their version of the arena, click into action and are fully present. They aim to do their personal best and perform superb work.

Such workers demonstrate elements of OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Discipline rather than Disorder. They aim to keep doing the right things in the right way every day. This increases the likelihood of getting the right results.

Great workers believe in following their principles and being persistent in order to win the prize. They take this approach at the start, middle and end. Sometimes this calls for continuing to encourage themselves.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, an expert on leadership, describes how even visionary optimists can feel weary. Here is an excerpt from her piece on this theme in the Harvard Business Review. You can find the full article via the following link.

Change Is Hardest In The Middle

Welcome to the miserable middles of change. This is the time when Kanter’s Law kicks in.

Everything looks like a failure in the middle. Everyone loves inspiring beginnings and happy endings; it is just the middles that involve hard work.

Stay with it through its hurdles, make appropriate adjustments, and you could be on the way to success. Though some ideas are dead-ends, many simply need mid-course corrections.

Rosabeth provides a checklist of topics to ensure you are on course. These include ensuring that the vision is still inspiring and the benefits are worthwhile.

Looking at leadership as a whole, Rosabeth believes there are six factors that people can embrace when working to create positive change. Here is a video in which she explains that it is important to do the following things.

1) Show Up. 2) Speak Up. 3) Look Up. 4) Team Up. 5) Never Give Up. 6) Lift Others Up.

Delivering
Peak Performances

Great workers keep doing the basics and then add the brilliance. Different people do this in different ways. You may aim:

To focus on personal and professional improvement; 

To find positive solutions to challenges;

To deliver peak performances. 

Personal And
Professional Improvement

Great workers aim to perform superbly and are good at reading reality. They focus on what is working and what they can do better. Such people embody the Japanese concept of Kaizen and are committed to continuous improvement.

Different people take these steps in different ways. Here are two exercises that people use. The first one is often used by individuals and is called Continuous Improvement. This can, however, be adapted by teams.

Great teams also focus on continuous improvement. One company I worked with had a dedicated room where people constantly updated the progress towards achieving the goal. It had charts that covered the following areas. 

The Picture of Success

People could keep referring to the company’s aims that were displayed on one wall. These were grouped in terms of what it wants to achieve under the 3 Ps: profits, products – including customer satisfaction – and people.

The other walls had the following charts that described the current state of play regarding various activities.

The Green Zone

People listed the things that were going well. They also provided concrete suggestions regarding how to maintain or build on these activities.

Great workers capitalise on what is working. If things are going well with a particular customer, for example, they explore how to continue providing great service. This can lead to developing the relationship even further.

The Amber Zone

People described where there were warning signs. They also provided suggestions regarding how to improve these activities.

Great workers worry about things that are in the amber zone. They are concerned that, unless these issues are addressed, these may quickly slide into the red zone. They therefore focus on how to move these activities more towards the green zone.

The Red Zone 

People listed the things that were going badly. They also gave suggestions regarding how to improve these activities. These could involve making radical improvements or even call for key decisions to be taken.

Great workers think ahead to ensure that, as far as possible, things do not slide into the red zone. Crises do occur, of course, so then it is vital to find positive solutions.

There may be some issues, however, that are continually falling into the red zone. If systems are breaking down, for example, these may well need replacing.

A more challenging issue could be if a particular customer continually makes life difficult. Certainly it is vital to do whatever possible to provide great service. In some instances, however, a customer may prove impossible to please.

They may also prove to be a massive drain on resources. In such cases it may mean deciding to move on from the customer. This can be a difficult but necessary decision.

The Blue Zone

The company also went further and added another area called the blue zone. This was the space for both practical and imaginative ideas.

People listed the specific ideas, suggestions and other things that it might be worth considering to help the team shape a successful future. This led to some of the ideas being implemented and delivering positive results.

Different people use different ways to do reality checks. Whatever approach they use, it can be useful for them to focus on continuous improvement. They can then keep working to achieve their picture of success.

Positive Solutions

Great workers aim to anticipate and prevent problems. At the same time, however, they recognise that setbacks and unexpected events will happen. What to do in such situations?

One approach is to stay calm. It is then to buy time to clarify the potential options for going forwards. Kevin Cashman highlights the value of buying time in his book The Pause Principle.

Below is an excerpt from his website and a video of him talking about this approach. You can discover more via the following link.

http://cashmanleadership.com/the-pause-principle-book/

We live and lead in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world. But paradoxically, Kevin Cashman contends that leaders today must not merely act more quickly but pause more deeply.

Rather than merely doing more, we must learn to pause and to do things differently in order to grow, achieve and innovate. All of these practices lead to purposeful change, and contribution, an essential part of a leader’s everyday life. 

There are many models for finding positive solutions to challenges. One model is to use the 3C approach. This means going through the stages of focusing on Clarity, Creativity and Concrete Results.

Imagine that you face a challenge that you want to solve. It can be useful to work through some of the following themes.

Clarity

What is the challenge I want to tackle? Looking at this challenge, what are the real results I want to achieve? What is the picture of success? What are the things I can control in the situation?

Creativity

What are the possible choices for tackling the challenge? Option A is … Option B is … Option C is  … What are the consequences – the pluses and minuses – of each option? How attractive are each of these options on a scale 0-10? Are there any other potential creative solutions? 

Concrete Results

What is the option – or combination of options – I want to follow? How can I translate this into a clear action plan? How can I get some early wins? What else can I do to increase the chances of success?

You will find solutions in your own way. The next step will be to translate these into action.

Sometimes this involves returning to following your chosen strategies. Sometimes it involves stretching yourself, however, and going into new dimensions. The things you learn when taking this step may then become part of your future repertoire for achieving success.

Peak Performances

Different people have different approaches to doing great work. Some people pursue their purpose and principles, for example, rather than worrying about prizes. They then aim to do their personal best on the way towards achieving peak performances.

Charles Garfield describes aspects of this approach in his books Peak Performers and Second to None. He encourages people to become the best they can be. He wrote:

Do not compete with anyone except yourself. 

Charles has vast experience in many fields. He worked as a computer analyst and leader of a team of engineers, scientists, and support staff on the Apollo 11 project.

He is the founder and CEO of Shanti Project. This is a volunteer organisation that focuses on delivering service excellence for patients and families facing life-threatening illness. He is also a clinical professor at the University of California Medical School in San Francisco.

Charles says he first heard the phrase peak performance from a cancer patient who said:

Staying alive these days is my peak performance.

Remembering the phrase, Charles went on to study great workers in many fields. These included people in medicine, sports, business and the NASA work in which he was participating.

Charles say that, towards the end of the 1970s, he discovered a key trigger for peak performance. This led to him writing Peak Performers, which was published in 1986. Here are some of the themes that motivate people to perform at the best.

You will, of course, have your own approach to delivering peak performance. As mentioned earlier, some people pursue their purpose and principles. They focus on the following themes.

Purpose

The specific thing I really want
to do in my life or work is: 

*

Principles

The principles I want to follow
when pursuing my purpose are:

* 

*

* 

Peak Performance 

The specific things I can do to follow my principles
and do my best to deliver peak performance are:

* 

* 

*

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation in which you want to be positive, professional and deliver peak performance? 

You may want to do this when encouraging a person, doing a creative project or tackling a challenge. You may want to do so when acting a counsellor, educator, trusted advisor, leader or in another role.

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

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may want to do your personal best by being positive, professional and aiming to achieve peak performance. 

Describe the specific things you can do then to take these steps. 

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of taking these steps.

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