The Art of Strengths Coaching

S is for A Person’s Style Supporting Or Stopping Others Achieving Success  

A person’s style is the way they behave, communicate and relate to people. The way they operate can support or stop other people achieving success.

A person may have good intentions, for example, but their style may cause difficulties for themselves or other people. This can lead to a decision being made that the person is not a good fit for an organisation.

A person can learn to build on their strengths, however and develop their style to help others to achieve success. This can often both benefit themselves and other people.

Looking at your life, can you think of a person who behaves in a way that creates difficulties for other people? The person may have strengths but their style sometimes causes problems.

Looking at the person, are there any ways in which they support other people? On the flip side, how did they behave in ways that stop people achieving success?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to write the name of a person who demonstrates such characteristics. It then invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things the person does that may contribute towards helping people to achieve success. 

Describe the specific things the person does that may contribute towards stopping people achieving success.

As mentioned earlier, it is possible for a person to learn how to develop their style. They must have the will to do this, however, before they can learn the skill. A person can then be helped:

To build on the ways they support people;

To develop ways to support rather than stop people; 

To help both themselves and other people to achieve success.

As mentioned above, however, the person must be motivated to take these steps. There are then many ways to help them to achieve their goals. Let’s explore how this can work in practise.

Several years ago a company asked me to work with Tom, a potential peak performer. I agreed, but on the condition that it would be important to make clear contracts with him. He must want to tackle the particular challenge and work towards achieving an agreed picture of success.

Tom, a top sales person, wanted to become the Sales Director. He was great with customers and always exceeded his targets. In some interactions with colleagues, however, he came across as dismissive. During meetings he talked across others and did his emails whilst they were talking.

He had a dynamic personality and could energise people, especially when talking about future possibilities for the company. On the other hand, he could also be destructive. Such swings in behaviour raised question marks about whether he could achieve his ambition to be Sales Director.

Bearing this in mind, the company asked if I would see him. The first step would be to see if he really wanted to tackle the challenges. If so, we could then work together to find solutions.

Tom and I met for an initial chat. After a few minutes I explained the deal regarding us potentially working together. Here is a summary of the things I said to him.

As you know, the company has asked you and I to meet. This is because the company believes you have the ability to be a Sales Director. If you want to achieve that position, however, there may be certain things you may need to tackle. 

You have a strong personality and can be very inspiring. On some occasions, however, you may also be intimidating. Bearing this in mind, you may face a choice about the possible roads you want to travel in your career.  

You are superb with customers. As far as I understand, you prepare properly for those meetings and make the customer feel the centre of your world.

You listen to the customer, clarify their goals and then share ideas to help them achieve success. These are skills that, if you wish, you can also use to help your colleagues.  

Looking ahead in your career, you will always get a job in sales and make lots of money. If you want to be considered for a Sales Director role, however, you may need to explore how you can build a good reputation with colleagues.

You already have the skills to make this happen, because you use these with customers. It is up to you to decide if you also want to use them with colleagues. If so, we can work on how to make it happen.  

So I would like you to take a bit of time to reflect and look at the possible ways forward. You can certainly continue in the same way with customers, hit your targets and make money.   

If you want to be considered for future promotion, however, it may be useful to consider how you want to use your skills to support your colleagues.  

If you want to take this second route, we can work together. The aim will be to provide tools you can use to build on your strengths and manage the consequences of any weaknesses.  

Let me know which route you want to follow. 

Tom said that he wanted to lead large teams. This involved behaving in a professional way towards all people. Sometimes this might be difficult if he got impatient with people, but there were skills he could learn to deal with such situations.

On occasions this might involve learning how to channel his personality rather than change his personality. Tom and I made a contract to work together towards achieving his picture of success. 

People can change their behaviour by
focusing on choices and consequences

There are many views about what motivates people to change their behaviour. Some individuals change, for example, when they feel that doing so may bring them more pleasure and less pain.

A person must have the will, of course, before they can learn a skill. So what is it that motivates people to develop the will to alter their behaviour?

Some people spend a lot of time trying to convince others they should change. They may try to persuade another person or try to find some trigger that will get the person to alter their behaviour.

This approach can come across as criticism and be counter-productive. The person on the receiving end can feel attacked and responds badly to such messages.

There is another approach that can be effective when helping a person to change their behaviour. It is to invite the person:

To focus on the consequences of their behaviour and clarify if they want to continue to have those consequences;

To focus on the desired consequences – the real results – they want to achieve;

To, if appropriate, help them to explore how they can do their best to achieve these desired consequences.

Choosing the
desired consequences

Tom and I clarified the consequences – the outcomes – he wanted to achieve. He began by tackling the exercise called My Stakeholders. This involved him going through the following steps.

Clarifying the key stakeholders he wanted to satisfy – such as his bosses, team members and customers.

Clarifying the actual words he wanted them to be saying about his contribution.

Clarifying how he could do his best to ensure they were saying these things.

Tom described the actual words he wanted people to be saying. Looking at his bosses, for example, he wanted them to be saying the following things about his contribution to the company.

Tom continues to hit his sales targets, is good at managing upwards and gets good feedback from his colleagues. He is showing he has the ability to be a good Sales Director. He has become more strategic and makes positive contributions to senior team meetings.

Tom is good at managing all his stakeholders. He keeps people informed about his department’s progress and makes sure there are no surprises. He is good at finding solutions to challenges and also works well with other key people across the company. 

Tom is well regarded by his peers and team members. They say that he shows them respect, listens to their views and does practical things to help them reach their targets. He has become a respected colleague and people see him as a good contributor to the company.

Tom focused on each group of stakeholders and described the desired outcomes. He then made action plans for doing his best to achieve these aims. This involved working through the following exercise.

Tom worked through each of the sections and explored how to get some quick successes. He could draw on the skills he used with external customers, for example, and apply these to his interactions with internal customers.

Previously he had not seen the point of taking this step, but his dismissive approach had produced lots of collateral damage. He now saw how it would be beneficial to help his colleagues and peers to feel valued.

Different people cite different reasons for changing their behaviour. People are more likely to take this step, however, if they believe that doing so will increase their chances of success. This was the route taken by Tom.

Let’s return to the person whose style you described earlier. Imagine that they have asked for your help in developing ways they can support people rather than stop people.

How can you help them to take this step? When do they encourage people? What do they do right then? How can they follow these principles to encourage people in the future?

What are the situations in which they stop people? What can they do differently in such situations? How can they remain quiet or support people instead? What would be the benefits for themselves and other people?

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

Describe the specific things the person can do to continue to contribute towards helping people to achieve success.

Describe the specific things the person can do to support rather than stop people achieving success.

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