The Art of Strengths Coaching

I is for The Infrastructure For Inspiring Work

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Peak performers put in the right infrastructure to make sure all the practical tasks get done. They also make sure all the hygiene factors are covered.

Doing these properly provides the platform for doing inspiring work. This is a pattern that is repeated in healthy families, schools, teams, organisations and societies.

People can do fine work despite having a poor infrastructure, but there can be a long term price to pay. Creating a good infrastructure increases the chances of achieving sustainable success.

Ten years ago I worked with the UK arm of a multinational company that employed over a thousand people. The atmosphere was buoyant and the business was voted one of the best places to work in the UK.

The culture shifted quickly, however, after a directive from head office. Whilst the company was still making enormous profits, each country was told to cut its infrastructure.

Amongst other measures, the central accountants told the UK arm to find cheaper replacements for its top five Executive Assistants. They said this would save the UK business £100k a year.

The EAs left the company to replaced by inexperienced people on half their salaries. Within one month the company regretted the decision.

The EAs were saving the company masses of money each year. They knew how to get the best deals on flights, hotel bookings and conference venues. They knew the best outside suppliers to hire who gave value for money.

They knew the company inside out. They knew which person in the to go to in order to get things done quickly. This enabled the business to function effectively.

They also knew how to manage their bosses. They knew how to organise their diaries, meetings, speeches, mood swings and aspects of their personal lives.

Within 3 months two of the EAs were invited back to work in the company. They accepted the offers but came in as contractors, having set up their own businesses in the meantime. The company paid each of them £20k a year more than their original salaries.

It’s vital to provide a good infrastructure. This is the case whether providing basic services for a neighbourhood, equipping a school, asking people to work hard in a business, organising the transport system in a country or whatever. Failing to do so can produce both short and long term problems.

Looking back, when have you seen people provide the right infrastructure? What did they do to enable people to do fine work? What were the outcomes from providing such an infrastructure?

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 saw a person, family, team, organisation or society put in the right infrastructure to enable people to do inspiring work.

Describe the specific things they did to put in the right infrastructure to enable people to do inspiring work.

Describe the specific benefits that happened from taking these steps.

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Different people create different infrastructures. Some freelance workers, for example, spend extra days on the road to earn enough money to pay for accountants, IT experts and other services. They invest in professional support that releases them to do what they do best.

Some working couples build a support network of friends, family and others who help them take care of the daily practical tasks. They create an infrastructure that enables them to flourish in their personal and professional lives.

People need support to achieve success. Sometimes this can be difficult in organisations that are reluctant to spend on providing such support.

Leaders can see requests for resources as a cop out. They may respond by telling employees: “You have to work smarter.”

Sometimes this is a valid response, but other times it ignores reality. They tell their employees:

“We want you to deliver 10 Gold Medals. We are only giving you the resources, however, to deliver 3 Bronze Medals.

“Nevertheless, we believe that if you are committed, make efficiencies and work smarter you can get 10 Gold Medals.”

Imagine you lead a team in an organisation. How can you do your best to get the resources needed provide the right infrastructure?

One approach is to keep making clear contracts with your key stakeholders about the desired picture of success. Why?

People buy success, they don’t buy the theory of success. When talking with stakeholders, keep describing the specific results you will deliver. They also need to be confident you will deliver the goods.

It will be vital to reassure the key stakeholders – your bosses and other key people – that you understand the world from their point of you. It will then be important:

To agree with the stakeholders on the results to achieve – the picture of success.

To show you have a clear strategy for achieving the results.

To make clear contracts about the support – including the infrastructure – required to deliver the results.

To proactively keep the stakeholders informed about the progress towards achieving the goals.

To deliver some quick successes in order to buy time and reassure the stakeholders that you will deliver the picture of success.

Stakeholders need to cross an emotional threshold where they really want the success. You can do your best to get them across this threshold. They are then more likely to provide the required resources.

Looking ahead, can you think of a specific situation in the future when you may need to put in the right infrastructure to enable you or other people to, for example, do inspiring work.

This can be a personal or professional situation. It can be one that just involves you or may also involve other people in a family, team or organisation.

Looking at this future situation, what are the real results you want to achieve? What are the key strategies you can follow to achieve the picture of success?

What are the kinds of support you would like – including the required infrastructure – to help you or other people to reach the goals? What can you then do to achieve 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 future when you may want to put in the right infrastructure to enable you or other people to do inspiring work.

Describe the specific things you can do to put in the right infrastructure to enable you or other people to do inspiring work.

Describe the specific benefits of putting in the right infrastructure that enables you or other people to do inspiring work.

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