The Art of Strengths Coaching

P is for Predictability

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Peak performers aim to create as much predictability as possible in their chosen field.

The athlete, for example, aims to follow certain principles to consistently deliver 8/10. This creates a platform for doing what is required to achieve 10/10.

People like predictability. They want to believe that, if they do certain things, they will achieve positive results. They like to feel:

“If we do A, B, C, etc. then eventually we will get to Z.”

People can sometimes gain comfort by returning to routines when they experience confusion. Faced by setbacks, they seek places where the rules are predictable. One person said:

Several years ago I was diagnosed with a potentially fatal illness.

Like many people in that position, I gathered as much information as possible. I searched the web to explore the treatments, side effects and success rates.

I am used to being control at work. But suddenly I was in a different world where I did not know the rules. That was tough.

Luckily I was able to carry on working most of the time. I was able to follow my routines and this provided some sense of stability.

Eventually I was operated on by one of the best surgeons in the world. He did a marvellous job and now I continue to enjoy life.

People can find solace in returning to habits that provide a sense of order in a confusing world. Sometimes this works, but sometimes it doesn’t. Old style institutions often return to old procedures that do not work in the modern world.

Educational systems, for example, need to help students to develop 21st Century Skills. There is little point in regurgitating ideas geared to equipping people to work in old style institutions. People need other skills to thrive in a fast moving world.

This poses the question: How can people create more predictability in an unpredictable world? Some people do three things.

They study success.

They study how to deal with potential future scenarios.

They study how do their best to achieve future success.

Peak performers, for example, aim to find and follow the principles that work in their chosen field. At the same time, they also do masses of due diligence. Such people prepare properly by doing lots of mental rehearsal.

They focus on the picture of success.

They rehearse pursuing the key strategies for achieving success.

They rehearse preventing any potential problems on the way to achieving success.

They rehearse finding solutions to any problems that may still arise on the way to achieving success.

They again rehearse pursuing the key strategies for achieving success.

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

Describe a specific example in the past when you aimed to create as much predictability as possible – plus you prepared for any unpredictability – and you reached your goal.

Describe the specific things you did to aim to create predictability and also prepare for any unpredictability.

Describe the specific things you then did to follow the principles you believed in – and manage any unpredictability – on the way to reaching your goal.

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Great workers aim to create as much predictability as possible. One soccer manager explained that his team aimed to deliver predictable performances that would frequently deliver the goods. He said:

“Our club has a certain playing style. This is based on the strategies that are most likely to achieve success.

“Performing the agreed strategies properly means we will always deliver high standards. The players can then go on and deal with any unexpected events during matches.”

Gary Klein has written extensively on how high performers deal with difficult challenges. He has studied firefighters, medical staff and many people who make decisions in pressure situations.

He has also explored how people find insights. You can learn more about his work and latest book via the following links.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/seeing-what-others-dont

http://www.insightexchange.net/about.html

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Bill Breen wrote an excellent article on Gary’s work for The Fast Company magazine. Setting the scene, Bill describes how Gary studied firefighters in action. He explains:

Klein and his research team are attempting to crack a mystery that has intrigued psychologists for decades:

How do people who work in unpredictable situations make life-and-death decisions?

Speaking with Bill, Gary explains:

“I noticed that when the most experienced commanders confronted a fire, the biggest question they had to deal with wasn’t ‘What do I do?’ It was ‘What’s going on?’

“That’s what their experience was buying them – the ability to size up a situation and to recognize the best course of action.”

Gary explains the steps that such people then take in high pressure situations.

They reach into their experience – going through it on ‘hyperdrive’ – to scan previous scenarios and see what lessons might apply to the present situation.

They are, at the same time, fully present: they look for patterns and clues to piece together what is happening.

They choose what they believe would be the best course of action and play scenarios about how this might work in practice.

Describing how Gary talks about firefighters, Bill’s article outlines what such people do next.

Once they make a decision, they evaluate it by rapidly running a mental simulation. They imagine how a course of action may unfold and how it may ultimately play out.

The process is akin to building a sequence of snapshots, says Klein, and then observing what occurs. He adds:

“If everything works out okay, the commanders stick with their choice.

“But if they discover unintended consequences that could get them into trouble, they discard that solution and look for another one.

“They might run through several choices, but they never compare one option with another.

“They rapidly evaluate each choice on its own merits, even if they cycle through several possibilities.

“They don’t need the best solution. They just need the one that works.

“Experienced decision makers see a different world than novices do,” concludes Klein.

“And what they see tells them what they should do.

“Ultimately, intuition is all about perception.”

Such people try to increase the possibilities of predictability. They also rehearse how to manage any unpredictability. They are constantly alert, however and are good at reading reality.

Great workers keep focusing on: a) The specific things that are working; b) The specific things that can be improved and how. They then pursue the strategies most likely to achieve success.

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

Describe a specific example in the future where you want to create as much predictability as possible – plus prepare for any unpredictability – on the way to achieving your goal.

Describe the specific things you can do to aim to create as much predictability as possible – plus prepare to manage any unpredictability.

Describe the specific things you can then do to follow the principles you believe in – plus manage any unpredictability – on the way to achieving your goal.

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