The Art of Strengths Coaching

S is for Crafting A Script You Can Follow To Stay Strong, Do Superb Work And Achieve Success  

There are many ways to do fine work. One approach is to craft a script you want to follow in a specific situation. This could be when you are encouraging people, performing creative work, leading a team or doing another activity.

You can clarify the key messages you want to give yourself – the mantra you want to follow – to stay strong, do superb work and achieve success. If appropriate, you can keep returning to this mantra to re-centre and refocus when doing the work.

Every person already has their own internal scripts. They continually give themselves messages about how they are feeling, what they are planning to do and whether or not they will succeed.

The idea of scripting became popular in the 1960s. Eric Berne, the founder of Transactional Analysis, explained that individuals learn life scripts that act like an internal programme. They then translate these into action.

Berne said that the scripts we follow can have consequences, both for ourselves and other people. There may be different outcomes, for example, in the following examples.

One person may follow a script that says:

I will focus on what I can control in life.

Another person may follow a script that says:

I will worry about what I can’t control in life.

People can choose the scripts they want to follow. It is important, however, to recognise these can be affected by our environment. The key people in our lives – and the messages they give us – can play a strong part in developing our scripts.

Imagine, for example, that you grew up in either of the two following situations.

Situation A: Your parents, teachers
and other significant people tell you:

Build on your strengths. Encourage other people. Become the best you can be.

Situation B: Your parents, teachers
and other significant people tell you:

Focus on your weaknesses. Life is a competition. Keep comparing yourself to others.

A person can choose to rewrite their script, but this sometimes calls for being aware of the scripts they are already following.  One tennis player, for example, often got to the final of events but then fell apart.

He had two contradictory messages going through his head. These were:

I want to win but I often fall at the final hurdle.

Working with a sports psychologist, the player rewrote his script. During the matches he kept saying to himself:

I want to be fully present and do my best on every point.

This message spread through his whole body. He learned how to relax and refocus on following his routine. As a by-product, he won a big tournament.

A person can choose to write their own script. It can be useful for them to recognise, however, that there may be many pressures from outside with people telling them how they should live life.

Rewriting their script can affect their mental model – the way they perceive life. This shapes the running commentary they have inside their head.

A person can then translate their script into principles they want to follow in life. They can then, when appropriate, refocus on how to follow these principles in a particular situation.

Looking at your own life and work, can you think of a situation when it may be useful to take some of these steps? This could be in your personal or professional life.

How can you clarify your chosen script? What are the key messages you want to keep giving yourself? How can you follow these principles in the specific situation?

Different people craft their script in different ways. One approach is to do the following things.

Clarifying your script

You can brainstorm all the Dos and Don’ts you want to follow in the situation.

You can then clarify the three key Dos – the three key principles – you want to follow in the situation.

You can translate these into the three positive headlines you want to follow in the situation.

It can be useful if the headlines you choose meet three conditions. They can: a) Be short and punchy; b) Be written in positive terms rather than negative terms – for example, you may write ‘Be calm’ rather than ‘Don’t panic’; c) Be principles that you believe in.

Different people will settle on different headlines. People who work in the emergency services, for example, sometimes come up with variations on the following themes.

Be Calm

Stay calm. Survey the situation. Gather all the required information.

Be Clear

Clarify the desired concrete results. Clarify the best strategy for achieving these results. Clarify the action plan for achieving the results.

Deliver The Desired
Concrete Results

Be professional when carrying out the plan. Care for all the people involved. Do whatever is required to deliver the desired concrete results.

Imagine that you want to follow your chosen script in a particular situation. Sometimes you may face challenges and be temporarily knocked off-course.

What can you do if this happens? How can you buy time to re-centre and refocus? How can you rehearse what to do next? How can you then continue to follow your chosen principles?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe a specific situation in the future when you want to follow your chosen script. It then invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific script you want to follow in the situation.

Describe the specific things you can do to keep focusing on your script – including when faced by challenges – in the situation.  

Describe the specific benefits of following your script in the situation.

Great teams also use this approach. Such teams often have a clear purpose, principles and picture of success.

They then translate these principles into a specific script – or mantra – they can keep following. People often find this helps them to co-ordinate their efforts and follow certain guidelines to achieve the goal.

The England Rugby Union team that won the World Cup in 2003 had such a mantra. They kept reminding each other of the phrase T-CUP which stood for Thinking Clearly Under Pressure. They used this to refocus their efforts when faced by challenges.

Great organisations take a similar approach. They do this by living their values rather than simply laminating their values. They highlight when people have translated the values into action and bring these to life by publishing success stories.

Imagine that you lead a team and want them to follow certain principles to achieve their picture of success. One approach is to get them to produce a script they can follow to help them reach their goals.

There are many ways to make this happen. Some organisations create and then communicate these principles. IBM’s basic beliefs, for example, became famous. These were:

Respect for the individual.

Superior customer service.

Excellence in everything we do.

When the company hit difficulties it was not because the beliefs had failed. It was because people failed to follow them or did not know how to apply them in a changing world.

IBM revisited its beliefs in the early 2000s. After much exploration, the themes it settled on were similar to those set out by the company’s founder, Thomas Watson. Then came the task of people trying to follow these beliefs every day.

Some organisations recall the times when their people have done great work and the principles that they followed to perform brilliantly. They then build on these themes – plus add other ideas – to clarify the principles people can follow in the future.

Such organisations then involve their people in fleshing out the guidelines. You can discover more about this approach in the blog called Building A Values Driven Organisation. Here is a link to that article.

Building A Values Driven Organisation

Imagine that you want to create a script that your team can follow. One approach is to create the script yourself and then involve your team in fleshing it out. This is a perfectly valid approach that is often followed by leaders who take over a team that is lacking direction.

Such leaders communicate the team’s purpose, principles and picture of success. They then invite people to decide if they want to opt-in and contribute towards achieving the goals. If so, they involve people in clarifying how they want to follow the principles and deliver their part of the plan.

Great leaders sometimes take another approach when embarking on a new venture with a team. They still communicate the team’s purpose, the overall principles and the picture of success.

Such leaders then involve their team in breaking down the principles into specific behaviours. This gives people a greater sense of ownership, within parameters, in clarifying the behaviours they can follow to reach the goals.

There are many ways to make this happen. The following section outlines one approach, but you would obviously adapt this in your own way.

Imagine, for example, that you have communicated the team’s purpose, overall principles and picture of success. (You can find practical tools for taking this step in the blog called The Super Teams Approach. Here is a link to that article.)

The Super Teams Approach

The next step will be to involve your people in fleshing out the principles they want to follow to achieve the goals. One approach is to invite them to do a relatively simple exercise.

You can invite people to clarify the Dos and Don’ts they believe are important to follow when working to achieve the goals. You can then build on the common themes and simplify the script.

When doing so, remember the rule of three. You can craft the script that has a maximum of three key messages. You can, of course, also put bullet points underneath each of these to explain the headlines.

One soccer coach, for example, involved his team in building their script at the pre-season training camp. People agreed on the following themes that would enable them to be positive, professional and deliver peak performances.

Doing Our Best As A Team

Be Decisive 

Be decisive and dominate the play. Know the team’s strategy and be determined when carrying out your part in making it happen.

Be Disciplined 

Be disciplined. Keep following the team’s strategy and do your job in making it happen. 

Be Daring 

When appropriate, be daring. Dare you use your strengths to produce something special and make things happen.

Imagine you are doing this exercise with your team. You can invite each person to write on Post-it notes what they believe are the Dos and Don’ts that people can follow to achieve the goals. They should write one idea per Post-it but can produce as many ideas as they wish.

You can then invite each person to go up and put their ideas on the Flip Charts under the Dos and Don’ts headings. Encourage them to explain each of their ideas and, where appropriate, how these can be translated into action.

After everybody has finished, you can build on the ideas that people have in common. When finalising the ideas, it can be useful to concentrate on the Dos, because these are positive messages.

You can then aim to write a team script that people have contributed towards creating. It may again useful:

To have a maximum of three key messages.

To keep these positive and simple – though you can also add explanations to each point.

To make sure that the people believe in following the key themes they have written.

Here is an illustration of the exercise, including the piece on finalising the script. Again, however, it is important to adapt this in your own way.

Great teams often perform superbly when under pressure. They use different techniques to re-centre and refocus.

One approach they use is to remind themselves of the key guidelines they want to follow. This is where it can be useful to have a script that people can revisit and then translate into action.

When creating the script, it is important for people to anticipate challenges that may throw the team off-course. They can then rehearse managing these disruptions. People can include these strategies for dealing with such challenges in the final script they want to follow.

Imagine that you want to craft a script for your team and also give them a sense of ownership in making this happen. If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme.

This invites you to describe a specific situation when you want to encourage a team to clarify and follow their chosen script. It then invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things you can to do to encourage the team to clarify and follow their chosen script.

Describe the specific things you can do to encourage them to follow their script – including when facing challenges – in the situation.

Describe the specific benefits of encouraging them to follow their script in the situation.

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