The Art of Strengths Coaching

S is for Satisfying Work rather than Soul Sapping Work  


Different people want to explore different topics during mentoring sessions. Some want to focus on the following themes.

How can I do work I enjoy rather than endure? How can I do work that is satisfying – and pays a reasonable salary – rather than soul sapping? How can I feel well rather than continually feeling worried?

Different people have different motivations for wanting to find satisfying work. Some want to find a way out of doing painful and poorly paid jobs. They want to do rewarding work and also get a reasonable salary that puts bread on the table.

Some people want to regain the zest they had when starting their career. They want to do work they feel passionately about and deliver peak performances.

Some people in senior positions want to move on from running the day-to-day operations. They want to play to their strengths and make their best contributions towards helping an organisation achieve success.

Different people need different kinds of support. A person in a painful job may need lots of practical help to make the transition to doing satisfying work. This can also take time.

Looking at my own life, for example, several people helped me to move on from spending six years working in a factory. They opened doors to doing full-time voluntary work with teenagers and then working in therapeutic communities.

Different people may be in different situations but it is possible to follow similar principles to help them to do satisfying work. The key difference may be in the kinds of practical help they need to achieve their goals. Let’s explore how this works in action.


There are many ways to help a person to make the transition to doing satisfying work. One approach is to start by clarifying their picture of success. This can take some time because different people will start from different places.

Some people will know what they enjoy doing and the kind of work they want to do in the future. Some may not have the information required to know what may be possible. Some may know their ideal scenario but be bogged down in doing a job that is unrewarding.

The first step is to get a fuller picture of a person’s situation. Here are some of the themes that can be explored at this stage.

Clarity is crucial. It is vital to understand the real results a person wants to achieve in their work. For example: 

They may want to play to strengths, do satisfying work in a stimulating environment and achieve specific goals; 

They may want to help other people, solve specific problems, co-ordinate projects, lead teams, build prototypes or do other activities; 

They may want to feel more in control, work for a certain kind of manager and keep developing as a professional.

The aim is to get a picture of what the person wants in their work. Sometimes a person may believe they will get these by obtaining a certain job, but this may not be the case. Let’s look at one example.

Several years ago I worked with an Executive Assistant in a company. They wanted to help young people and was thinking of retraining as a teacher. Whilst this was laudable, they had certain transferable skills which they could use in other ways to help young people.

The EA loved to organise things, co-ordinate people and teams from different countries and do stimulating projects. They also loved to run events at their local culture centre.

They could build on these strengths rather than retrain and start at the bottom. They could take a co-ordination role in a social enterprise dedicated to helping young people. They could run projects, organise conferences and lead media campaigns.

They could also develop their desire to help people on a one-to-one basis by taking a qualification in strengths coaching. They could then do individual work to help young people take charge of shaping their futures.

The EA took six months to make the transition and do stimulating work that helps other people. Building on their previous network from companies, they now also play a prominent role in helping businesses to do projects with young people in their local communities.

When helping a person to do satisfying work, the first step is to clarify the specific things they want from their future work. This information can help when exploring the potential strategies for achieving their picture of success.

Before considering these strategies, however, it is important to focus on the kinds of work they love doing. This takes us to the next step.

Satisfying Work

Anybody can do work they love, the art is to get somebody to pay them for doing it. How to take this step?

The following section outlines some of the themes that can be explored to help a person to do their soul work and, if appropriate, earn a salary. Later we will explore how to translate these ideas into action.

These questions can produce a lot of material. There are several key themes, however, that can be useful to focus on when working with a person. These are:

What are the person’s strengths? What the deeply satisfying activities in which they deliver As?  

Looking back, what for them have been the most satisfying projects? What made these satisfying? What were the principles they followed? How can they follow these principles in the future? 

Who are the kinds of people with whom they work best? How can they use their strength to help these people to achieve success?

The reasons for focusing on these themes are because: a) They highlight the activities the person finds most satisfying; b) They highlight when they have translated their strengths into action; c) They highlight the kinds of people with whom they work best and how they can help these people.

The Executive Assistant mentioned earlier, for example, loved to make things work. They often did this by co-ordinating activities in which people from different backgrounds could do creative work and achieve their agreed goals.

Because it seemed an obvious route, they had explored how to become a teacher. There were many other ways, however, that they could use their skills to help young people. This takes us to the next step when helping a person to do satisfying work.


So far it has been possible to clarify two things. First, the specific things the person wants in their future work. Second, the specific kinds of work the person finds satisfying. The next step is:

To clarify the specific strategies the person can follow to do satisfying work and achieve their picture of success. 

Sometimes there may be relatively obvious solutions, but often there is a need to be creative. This calls for exploring the following themes.

Depending on their situations, different people may need to pursue different strategies to do satisfying work.

The Executive Assistant mentioned earlier began researching potential roles in social enterprises. They attended several conference before doing voluntary work for one enterprise.

Whilst this was rewarding, they then opted to pursue another route. The EA began leading corporate responsibility programmes. This became their full-time role and benefited many young people in the community.

One Chief Executive Officer I worked with faced a different challenge. A pioneer by nature, they loved building businesses. Getting bogged down in the day-to-day running of their present business, however, they were losing energy.

The CEO needed to play to their strengths. These were being an evangelist, selling to customers and managing the investors. They were also good at inspiring the employees by communicating the company’s purpose, sharing success stories and, when appropriate, leading pioneering projects.

The CEO needed good co-ordinators who could run the business. Co-ordinators are crucial. Such people often focus on the following themes.


Getting the co-ordinators took longer than anticipated, but within 6 months there were three such people in place. The CEO was then released to do what they did best. They could focus on shaping tomorrow’s business whilst the co-ordinators ran today’s business.


During the past 50 years I have worked with many people who aimed to make the transition to doing satisfying work. Sometimes the transition can happen quickly, sometimes it takes longer. Here are some examples from people I have worked with in the past 12 months.

One person moved from unfulfilling work in an advertising agency to enjoying doing digital marketing for an eco-friendly company.

One person moved from being an out-of-work sports coach to travelling the world doing sports consultancy.

One person moved from being micromanaged in an old-style multi-national to leading a pioneering business across EMEA.

One of the keys is to help a person to increase their way power as well as their will power. Ricky Snyder, who wrote The Psychology Of Hope, did pioneering work on this topic. Here is a key message in his book.

Imagine that a person wants to tackle a challenge. They will have a strong sense of hope if, for example:

They score 8+/10 in terms of their will to solve the challenge.

They score 8+/10 in terms of seeing a way to solve the challenge. 

The person will then feel confident about how they can achieve their picture of success. This is because they score highly on both will power and way power.

This model also 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.

Mentors often aim to offer practical ideas and expand a person’s potential options for doing satisfying work. It is then up to the person to channel their will power and achieve their picture of success.

Imagine that you want to do satisfying work. You may already be doing such work and want to continue doing so in the future. Alternatively, you may want to make the transition to doing satisfying work.

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

Describe the specific steps you can take to do satisfying work.  

Describe the specific benefits – both for yourself and for other people – of doing such satisfying work.

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