The Art of Strengths Coaching

P is for The Positive Encourager’s Way

There are many ways to live life. This article explores the positive encourager’s way. It looks at how we can encourage people during our time on the planet.

Different people support others in different ways. One approach is to focus on encouraging both present and future generations.

Those who take this path often go beyond saying fine words. They provide practical tools that people can use to shape their future lives. They then encourage and enable people to achieve their picture of success.

People can choose to shape their futures. They can choose to be positive or negative, to be creators or complainers, to take responsibility or avoid responsibility. Each choice has consequences.

There are many ways to enable people to live fulfilling lives. This article explores one approach. It focuses on how we can continue to be positive encouragers, do positive work and help to build a positive planet.

Continuing To Be
A Positive Encourager

There are many ways to encourage people. You can, for example, offer them practical, personal or professional encouragement.

Practical Encouragement

This often involves providing people with the basic materials for life. This means making sure they have food, shelter, healthcare and the practical things required to live fulfilling lives.

Personal Encouragement

This can involve giving people the love and support they need to develop. One person I know expressed this in the following way.

My parents always encouraged me. When I was in a wheelchair for a year, for example, they focused on what I could do rather than what I couldn’t do.

They taught me how to sail and this helped me to grow in confidence. Now I use my skills to create opportunities for other people.  

Professional Encouragement

There are many ways to take this step. One approach is to help people to build on their strengths and do satisfying work. It is then to provide practical tools they can use to achieve success.

The encouragement approach has had a strong influence on my own career. This began in the 1960s when I was given the opportunity to work in therapeutic communities.

At the time I had little formal training, so it made sense to focus on what worked. Bearing this in mind, I approached many different people to learn about development.

The people I interviewed included social workers, educators and leaders in their respective fields. The first question I asked was:

What has helped you to grow most in your life?

Different people answered the question in different ways but several key themes emerged. They said some of the following things.

I had somebody who encouraged me. They made me feel as if I was the centre of their world.  

They encouraged me to build on my strengths. They also offered positive suggestions about how to deal with my weaknesses.

These people were supportive but sometimes they were tough. They encouraged me to take responsibility for shaping my future life.

Looking back on your own life, can you think of a person who has encouraged you? This may have been a parent, teacher, coach, manager or another person.

What did they do to encourage you? They may have made you feel welcome, listened and provided support. They may also have offered practical suggestions or opened doors to new possibilities.

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

Describe the person who encouraged you in the past.

Describe the specific things they did to encourage you.  

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of them encouraging you.

 

At this point it can be quite reasonable to ask about the difference between positive and negative encouragement. Here is one view of the differences.

Positive Encouragement

This is when a person behaves in a positive way when aiming to encourage others. This often results in people feeling positive afterwards.

Negative Encouragement

This is when a person behaves in a negative way when aiming to encourage others. This often results in people feeling negative afterwards.

Positive and negative coaches in sports, for example, may embody the two different approaches. They translate their beliefs into action and these can have consequences.

Coach A may believe in encouraging people by creating a positive environment in which motivated people want to deliver high professional standards. They then enable people to achieve peak performance.

Coach B may believe in encouraging people by creating a negative environment in which people feel edgy and uncertain. They then act in a nervous manner and keep haranguing people from the sidelines.

Some people encourage others in their work. They may do so when acting as an educator, nurse, therapist, coach, mentor, leader or in another role. They may help people to develop their health, hope or happiness.

Good encouragers often demonstrate the qualities shown by good educators. They pass on knowledge and practical tools that people can use to shape their futures. They encourage, educate and enable people to achieve success.

Imagine that you want to continue to encourage people in your daily life. You may also want to do this in some aspects of your work. This takes us to the next step.

Continuing To
Do Positive Work

There are many ways to do fine work. One approach is to do positive work that helps people or the planet. Sometimes it is possible to do both. Different people take this step in different ways.

Many people encourage others in their daily work. They may do this by working as nurses, counsellors, chefs, mediators, designers, scientists, performers or in other roles. They want to help others or provide positive experiences that give people memories for life.

Some people do fine work by serving something greater than themselves. They may choose:

To serve a spiritual faith, a set of values or a philosophy;

To serve a purpose, a mission or a cause;

To serve a vocation, a creative drive or a project.

People who work in the service business all have the same mission. They want to use their strengths to do superb work that helps their stakeholders to achieve success. Different people will, of course, express this in different ways.

Many people love to give to others. They also find that this gives them a sense of satisfaction. Rabindranath Tagore described how discovering the way you want to serve can lead to joy. He expressed this in the following way.

Imagine that you want to continue to do positive work. There are many approaches you can take to pursue this path. The following section looks at some of these ways.

The Strengths Approach

Great workers often follow a similar path towards doing satisfying work and, if appropriate, earning a salary. They build on their strengths, find sponsors – customers or employers – who want what they offer and help those people to achieve success.

Such workers start by clarifying their strengths. These are the deeply satisfying activities in which they deliver As rather than Bs or Cs. They then clarify how they can use these to do satisfying work and help others to succeed.

Different people do this in different ways. A person may use their strengths as an encourager, counsellor, educator or crisis manager. They may do so as a chef, singer, actor, leader, mediator, writer, thought leader or in another role.

Great workers often translate what they offer into a specific service or product that helps people. They follow the old adage that:

People buy success rather than the theory of success.

They therefore clarify the benefits of what they offer. They show how it can help people either: a) To have more pleasure or less pain; b) To find positive solutions to challenges; c) To achieve their picture of success.

Great workers recognise that anybody can do work they love. If they want to get paid for it, however, they need to find sponsors. They therefore clarify the kinds of people – the individuals, customers and employers – with whom they work best.

Such workers look at the world from the potential sponsors’ point of view. They clarify the challenges these people face and the goals they want to achieve. They then clarify how they can use their strengths to help these people to achieve success.

Great workers find ways to reach potential sponsors in ways that match their values system. They make clear contracts with people, provide great service and get some quick wins. They continue to do superb work, find solutions to problems and help their sponsors to achieve success.

Different people choose different ways to find and do such satisfying work. You can discover more about one approach via the following link. This describes how you can take this step by going out and helping people to succeed.

Getting work by helping people to succeed

The Super Teams Approach 

Imagine that you want to build a team that does positive work. How can you make that happen? If appropriate, you can use the super teams approach. This model is based on what works and often leads to producing positive results.

Super teams are special. They are ones where people build on their strengths and set specific goals. People then combine their strengths to do superb work, find solutions to challenges and achieve success.

Such teams are made up of people who have a positive attitude and want to deliver high professional standards. They then keep focusing on the team’s purpose, principles and picture of success.

Some super teams aim to create a positive legacy. They aim to do positive work that helps people, the planet or both. They then do their best to achieve this picture of success.

Imagine that you lead a team. Leaders often take some of the following steps to guide the team to success. You may want to follow these steps in your own way.

Great leaders set the tone and act as positive models. They create an encouraging environment in which motivated people can achieve peak performance.

Such leaders communicate the team’s purpose, principles and picture of success. They believe people work best when they understand the big picture. People can then see how they can contribute towards achieving the goals.

They also communicate the professional deal. They explain: a) The organisation’s role in working to achieve the goals; b) The individual’s role in working to achieve the goals.

Great leaders then give people the chance to reflect and decide if they want to contribute. If so, they encourage people to build on their strengths and clarify their best contributions.

Such teams are often made up of people who aim to be positive, professional and deliver peak performances. These people take responsibility, encourage others and do their best to help the team to succeed.

Great leaders make clear contracts with such people. They agree on the results they will deliver and give them the support they need to deliver the goods. They also ask people to proactively keep their stakeholders informed about their progress towards achieving the goals.

They then manage by outcomes rather than by tasks. They encourage people to co-ordinate their strengths and perform superb work. They also encourage them to be self-managing and, when appropriate, find solutions to challenges.

Great leaders keep people informed about the team’s progress and future plans. They also highlight success stories that show how people are doing great work. At the same time, they encourage people to develop the ethic of constant improvement.

They sometimes need to take tough decisions, of course, especially if things go off-track. When doing so, they return to the team’s compass. They make decisions by focusing on the team’s purpose and principles.

Great leaders make sure the team continues to implement the right strategy with the right people in the right way. They then encourage and enable their people to work well together and deliver the picture of success.

You can discover more about this approach via the following link. This provides practical tools you can use to build a super team. You will, of course, follow these principles in your own way.

The Super Teams Approach

Continuing To Build
A Positive Planet

There are many views about how people can make a positive contribution to the planet. Some individuals, for example, reach a point in their lives when they may say:

I want to help to build a better world but it is hard to know the best way. The world is so big and I am small. So is there any way that I can make a positive contribution?

You will have your own approach to planting seeds of hope. You may do this by encouraging others in your daily life and work. You may do it by sharing positive models and practical tools that help people to get positive results. You may do it by aiming to leave a positive legacy.

Many people are now doing pioneering work across the planet. At the time of writing, thousands of them are being backed by organisations such as the Ashoka Organization, the Skoll Foundation and the Acumen Fund.

At the same time, however, many people feel frustrated. They believe that human beings must develop their thinking to take the next step in evolution. So how can you help to bring about such a development if it is needed?

People want to evolve but this seldom occurs from them being harangued and told that they must change. Any change that does occur is often the by-product of them doing what is required to gain benefits and achieve their desired picture of success.

Bearing this in mind, how can we encourage people to help both present and future generations? Each person will choose their own path for making this happen. Here are three approaches.

People who take the positive approach are often good at systems thinking. They recognise that what happens in one part of the system will affect other parts of the system.

They believe that human beings stand a better chance of thriving if we build sustainable systems that deliver ongoing success. These systems should create win-wins for people and the planet.

Peter Senge has done superb work in this area. He now talks about the importance of what is called systems intelligence rather than systems ignorance. Below is a short video in which he explains this approach.

The excerpt starts with him referring to a story he told earlier in the session about the decline of orange groves in his native Los Angeles. He then explains the need for systems intelligence because:

Our interdependence has grown and the awareness of our interdependence has declined.

Imagine that you want to share positive models that people can use in their daily lives and work. If so, it can be worth bearing in mind the following principles. Taking these steps can improve the chances of achieving positive results.

People who pass on positive models often build on their strengths. They concentrate on the specific activity where they or other people have delivered success.

They clarify their target group – the specific kinds of people whom they want to reach – and how they want to share the knowledge. They may pass on knowledge by doing superb work, writing, teaching, mentoring, building successful prototypes or using another media.

Good encouragers often demonstrate some of the qualities shown by good educators. Bearing in mind the person’s agenda, they pass on knowledge that is personal, practical and profitable.

Personal – It must relate to the person and their goals

Practical – It must be practical and provide tools that help the person to reach their goals.  

Profitable – It must be, in the widest sense, profitable and help the person to achieve their goals.

The next section highlights some people who have taken these steps. Some did this many years ago, some more recently. They all encouraged people, however, and passed on positive models.

Friedrich Froebel was an educational pioneer who gave birth to the kindergarten – the children’s garden. He believed children needed a place where they could be cherished, stimulated and helped to flourish.

The kindergarten approach appealed to people and spread across the world. Friedrich’s work has helped many children to feel encouraged during the early years of life. You can discover more about his work via the following link.

Friedrich Froebel

Virginia Satir was a family therapist who helped many people to build healthy families. She enabled people to encourage each other, communicate clearly and develop.

She also pioneered a systems approach to family therapy. Many of her ideas were later adapted to help people to build healthy teams and organisations. You can discover more about Virginia’s work via the following link.

Virginia Satir

Kiran Bir Sethi is the founder of a global movement called Design For Change. This encourages children to express their ideas for building a better world and translate these into action.

Children are invited to focus on a challenge they want to tackle. They then follow what they call the Design For Change process of Feel, Imagine, Do and Share.  

The movement is expanding and spreading hope around the world. Below is a video from one of their Global Summits. You can discover more via the following link.

Design For Change

Barbara Fredrickson demonstrated how developing positive emotions can improve our lives. Twenty years of research into emotions culminated in her best-selling book Positivity.

The book was based on solid research and also provided practical ideas that people could use to develop. Here are the key findings.

Barbara explains that positivity is more than simply being happy. It is based on being true to ourselves. It embodies gratitude, love, playfulness, curiosity and adventure.

These emotions trigger each other and create an upward spiral. They broaden and build – helping us to make breakthroughs and bring new things into being.

Such emotions provide the basis for creativity, problem solving and even evolution. They enable us to open our hearts and minds. Negativity, on the other hand, closes down our ability to think, create and grow.

Barbara also provided many practical tools that people can use to encourage themselves and others. You can discover more about her work via the following link.

Barbara Fredrickson

David Cooperrider has done pioneering work with Appreciative Inquiry. This is a positive approach that studies humanity at its best and has helped many organisations to achieve success. When focusing on a challenge, AI invites people:

To clarify when they have tackled a similar challenge successfully in the past;

To clarify the principles they followed then to tackle the challenge successfully;

To clarify how they can follow similar principles – plus add other skills – to tackle the present challenge successfully.

AI has a track record of delivering the goods. People like the approach because it is based on what works. They can build on their strengths and combine their talents to create a positive future.

In the video below David explores how AI can help to create a successful future for the human family. You can discover more about his work via the following link.

http://www.davidcooperrider.com/

Let’s return to your own life and work. Imagine that you want to continue to encourage people in your own way. How can you do this in your personal or professional life?

You may want to help a family member, friend, colleague or another person. You may want to encourage people when acting as a counsellor, mentor, sports coach, trusted advisor, leader or in another role.

You may want to inspire people by writing articles, making films, performing songs or doing other creative projects. You want to pass on positive models that people can use to maintain their health, hope or happiness.

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

Describe the specific things you can do to encourage people in the future.

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

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