The Art of Strengths Coaching

S is for If It Succeeds It Leads rather than If It Bleeds It Leads  

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People like to hear about success, not just about failure. They like to hear about practical solutions, not just problems. They like to be given hope, not just bombarded with despair.

They want to know what works, rather than just what fails. Good educators therefore study success, simplify success – but in a profound way – and then share success. People can then follow these principles in their own ways to achieve success.

People often grow by being positive realists. They have a positive attitude, but are also good at reading reality. They then build on their strengths – whilst managing their weaknesses – and do whatever is required to achieve their picture of success.

People can grow by studying humanity at its best. They can clarify the principles that people have followed to work well together in the past. They can then follow these principles – plus add other skills – to do great work in the future.

They can build on what human beings have in common, rather than by looking for scapegoats. People can then combine their talents to tackle some of the challenges facing humanity.

Solutions Journalism recognises this need for practical hope. Journalists who follow this approach believe in the mantra: “If it succeeds, it leads.”

They do not follow the old journalistic approach of: “If it bleeds it leads.” It believes in highlighting practical approaches to solving problems. We will explore this approach later in the article.

Looking back at your own life, can you think of a time when you led with success? You may have been encouraging a person, coaching an athlete, running a workshop for a team, giving a keynote speech or whatever.

You may have started by clarifying what the person or group were experiencing at the present time. You may then have chosen:

To clarify their picture of success. 

To clarify when they had succeeded in the past and the principles they followed then to achieve success. 

To clarify how they can follow similar principles – plus maybe add other skills – to achieve success in the future.

This is an approach that I have found works for individuals, teams and organisations. It can be useful to remind people of their positive history. The next step is to focus on the practical things they can do to achieve their goals.

This approach can be more effective than that adopted by many consultants from the 1970s onwards. Going into an organisation, they would invite people to make long lists about the problems and barriers they faced.

Certainly it is vital to highlight challenges and find solutions. But starting by exclusively focusing on barriers can result in people getting depressed and having little energy to implement solutions.

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

Describe a specific situation the past when you led with success.

Describe the specific things you did to lead with success. 

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of leading with success.

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Imagine you are running a workshop for a team. How can you lead with success?

Let’s assume that you have already established the outcomes that the key stakeholders want to achieve from the workshop. The leaders may agreed on the following aims.

The specific things we want to achieve are
for people to go away feeling excited and:

To have understood the team’s story and strategy for achieving its picture of success. 

To have had the opportunity to contribute towards the story and strategy for achieving success.

To have made clear contracts about their best contributions towards achieving the picture of success. 

To have found creative solutions to the challenges we face on the road towards achieving the picture of success.

To have made clear action plans for getting some early wins, maintaining the momentum and doing whatever is required to achieve the picture of success.

Imagine that you have welcomed people to the workshop. You have set the scene, outlined the goals and checked that these fit with people’s expectations.

You may also have given some input about how to build superb teams. If appropriate, you may then want to invite people to focus on their strengths and successful patterns.

One approach is to invite them to tackle the exercises outlined below. These focus on the following themes.

How people have worked well together in the past.

How people have combined their talents to overcome setbacks.

How people can build on their strengths to deliver success for their customers and for their team.

Start by describing the exercises and bring these to life by giving examples. You can invite each person to choose one of the exercises they would like to do. Give them 15 minutes to do their chosen exercise, put it on a flip chart and then put these around the wall.

Invite people to get into pairs and explain to each other the examples they have given. This kind of sharing normally takes around 10 minutes and creates a buzz in the room.

Gather people back together. You can highlight some of the principles people have followed – and can follow in the future – to do fine work. You can then move on to the next stage of the workshop.

Here are the exercises you can invite individuals to choose from and then make flip charts to decorate the walls.

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There are many ways to use this approach. If you are working with an individual, for example, you may start by clarifying their picture of success. Bearing this in mind, you can then invite them clarify their strengths and successful patterns.

Looking back, when they have tackled similar challenges successfully. What did they do right then? What were the principles they followed? How can they follow similar principles – plus add other skills – to achieve their picture of success?

Leading with success helps people to develop both their will power and way power. What does this mean?

Rick Snyder described this approach is his book The Psychology of Hope. He explained the difference in the following way.

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This model explains why a normally positive person can be confused if they feel depressed when facing a particular challenge. They have a strong will to solve the issue, but as yet they cannot see a way to find a solution.

Once the person sees a way through the problem, however, the cloud evaporates. Their hope returns and they feel reinvigorated to tackle the challenge.

We are often told that: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” But this phrase can be turned around to say: “Where there’s a way, there’s a will.” If a person sees a way forward, they are more likely to develop the will to make it happen.

The Solutions Journalism Network aims to report solutions that provide practical ways forward. This calls for going beyond simply reporting good news. Here is their view of the difference between such news and solutions journalism.

Good news stories focus on the vision, kindness or courage of someone doing something positive.  

A common approach is to profile a person who had a personal awakening (often preceded by a personal crisis) which prompted him or her to quit a stable job to launch a charitable effort in a village in, say, Namibia.

The person finds new meaning and, though living on a shoestring, usually talks about being happier and more fulfilled.  

This kind of story can be heart warming and authentic, but is usually delivered without much critical analysis. 

Good news stories also rarely get people to think about systemic change. 

By contrast, solutions stories are driven by the problem solving – and rely on independent evidence to solve it.

Like any good story, they have interesting characters, action and tension, but they are constructed more like puzzles or mysteries than profiles or descriptive pieces. 

The tension is not grounded in an argument, but in the inherent difficulty of changing a system or making an idea come to life.

If told well, what get’s revealed is often a little treasure of understanding — an insight about how the world works.

Here is a video about Solutions Journalism. You can discover more on their website via the following link.

http://solutionsjournalism.org/

Let’s return to your own life and work. Imagine a specific situation in the future when you want to lead with success. You may want to do this when encouraging a person, facilitating a workshop, running a team session at work or whatever.

You will start by clarifying the goals for the session. What does the person or team want to explore? Looking to the future, what is their picture of success?

Bearing these goals mind, you can encourage them to focus on first theme they want to explore. You can then aim:

To clarify when they have succeeded in this activity in the past or to learn from other people who have succeeded in this activity. 

To offer practical tools they can use to build on their strengths – and manage the consequences of any weaknesses – to succeed in the future.  

To help them to translate these principles into specific action plans and to work towards achieving their picture of success.

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 lead with success.  

Describe the specific things you can do to lead with success. 

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of leading with success.

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