The Art of Strengths Coaching

S is for Seven Approaches To Helping People To Achieve Success  

 

There are many ways to help people to achieve success. This article looks at some of these approaches. There are, of course, many other ways that people can be helped to achieve their goals.

The Supportive Approach

This is the most basic approach. It is to provide people with the basic materials for life – food, shelter and encouragement. It is also to offer them practical tools they can use to be healthy, hopeful and happy.

The supportive approach is taken by many people in their daily life and work. They focus on helping people to climb the hierarchy of needs that were described by Abraham Maslow.

People have an ascending set of needs, said Maslow. Once they are satisfied on one level, they are more likely to move onto the next level. These drives start with the physiological needs and climb towards self-actualisation.

People are more likely to fulfil their potential in environments that enable them to satisfy their needs, said Maslow. Many people have since expanded on his theory and translated it into action. Here is one summary of this hierarchy of human needs.

Many people in the caring professions follow this approach. They also draw on the work of Carl Rogers, the founder of modern counselling, Virginia Satir, the family therapist, and other practitioners of Humanistic Psychology.

Such professionals provide an encouraging environment in which people can feel safe, set specific goals and shape their futures. They then provide practical tools that people can use – in a responsible way – to live fulfilling lives.

The supportive approach starts by helping people to identify and fulfil their basic needs. Different professionals – such as counsellors, educators, therapists, trusted advisors and mentors – then use their own approaches to helping people to develop.

The following sections explore some of these approaches. You will, of course, use your skills and specialist knowledge to help people to achieve success.

The Strengths Approach

The strengths approach is an organic approach to development. It believes that:

People have the seeds of development within them; 

People already have strengths and successful patterns; 

People can build on their strengths – plus add other skills – and achieve their picture of success.

The approach combines elements of both Humanistic and Positive Psychology that studies humanity at its best. It then provides practical tools that people can use to follow these principles and achieve their goals.

Bernard Haldane, Don Clifton and Tom Rath were some of the many practitioners who have helped to spread this approach. Here is a selection of books on the topic.

The strengths approach starts – like many others – by clarifying a person’s picture of success. This may mean different things to different people.

Some people may simply aim to be happy. Some may aim to do satisfying work that pays a salary. Some may aim to achieve peak performance. Some may aim to encourage other people.

Some may aim to build a team that focuses on its purpose, principles and picture of success. Some may aim to build a pioneering business that becomes a pacesetter in its chosen field.

Some may aim to regain a sense of control, overcome setbacks and refocus on their life goals. Some may aim to find creative solutions to challenges. Some may aim to leave a positive legacy.

The strengths approach then provides positive models and practical tools that people can use:

To build on their strengths and manage the consequences of any weaknesses; 

To pursue practical strategies that work; 

To do superb work and achieve their picture of success.

Some practitioners combine the strengths approach with elements Positive Psychology, Humanistic Psychology, Existential Psychology or Appreciative Inquiry. Many follow certain common principles, however, to help people to achieve success. You can discover more about these via the following link.

Strengths Coaching

The Stimulating Approach

People love to work towards stimulating goals. Bearing this in mind, professionals sometimes do the following things when working with people.

They create a positive environment in which people feel at ease, alive and able to explore;

They use stimulating exercises or activities that encourage people to be creative;

They share success stories that provide people with inspiration and hope;

They share knowledge, positive models and practical tools that work;

They show how people can, if they wish, do their personal best to achieve stimulating goals.

Different professionals follow these principles in different ways. Great educators, for example, often focus on inspiration, implementation and integration.

They create an inspiring environment and provide implementation tools that work. They then help people to integrate the learning in their own ways. Let’s look at one person who took this route.

Maria Montessori created stimulating environments in which children could learn and develop. She helped students to go through the learning process of absorption, adventure and achievement.

Maria was one of the first women in Italy to qualify as a doctor and began working with children in hospital. This led to meeting children in asylums. The Association Montessori Internationale explains what happened as a result.

She started to educate them: to lead them out of their isolation and deprivation of any stimulus. Maria really became an educator through force of circumstance and her dedication to truly invest in these ‘idiot’ children.

The children in the asylums started to develop positively beyond anybody’s imagination. So Montessori started wondering how well ‘normal’ children might benefit from the sensory didactic materials.

She was part of a group of socially committed young people that had connections. Through these she came into contact with Signor Talamo, who was responsible for the San Lorenzo social housing project.

He asked her to do something with the children of the San Lorenzo tenants. As their parents were away during the day to earn money, they were left to their own devices.

The positive results of her work in San Lorenzo became well-known, with the news spreading across Italy, Europe, the US, Australia and India.

Maria’s work won her the right to set up her own schools that eventually spread across the world. She would later express some of her educational philosophy in the following quotations. You can discover more about her work via the following link.

Maria Montessori

What actually happens in a Montessori environment? Imagine you are visiting a class for the youngest children. You will probably see over 30 children, ranging from two and a half to six years old.

The room has a prepared environment in which children can follow their natural tendency to work.

It will embody the characteristics of beauty, simplicity, order, accessibility and reality. Children will have many enticing materials that are designed to help them explore their world and develop their skills.

The children will be working.

Some will be totally concentrated on their activity; some will be co-operating with others; some will be tidying up after their last activity and moving onto the next. Some may be preparing food. Some may be engaged in other activities.

The children will be given freedom to work, learn and develop.

They will move around within suitable guidelines that enable them to act as part of a social group. They can pursue their own interests – though they must also respect others.

The educator will be watching the children.

They will see when the children become enraptured. When appropriate, they will encourage and guide them to further exploration on this theme.

The children will continue to develop their skills.

They will repeat an activity until it satisfies an inner goal. They will then move onto the next activity they want to explore.

Different practitioners use different methods to provide stimulating environments in their respective fields. They then help their clients to go through the stages of inspiration, implementation and integration.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, how can you use your strengths to provide stimulation?

You may want to encourage people, create inspiring environments or simply focus on helping people to achieve their goals. You may want to pass on positive models or practical tools that work.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Bearing in mind your strengths, this invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific activity in which you would like to use aspects of the stimulating approach. 

Describe the specific things you can do to use aspects of the stimulating approach.

Describe the specific benefits of using these aspects of the stimulating approach.

The Strategic Approach

Trusted advisors often take a strategic approach towards helping people to achieve their goals. They start by making their client feel welcome and clarifying what they want to explore.

Such advisors gather information to get an overview of the situation. They then use their expertise and knowledge:

To clarify the real results the person wants to achieve – the picture of success;

To clarify the key strategies the person can follow to give themselves the greatest chance of achieving success; 

To help the person to follow their chosen strategies and achieve the picture of success.

Trusted advisors are experts in their chosen field and are able to helicopter above a situation. They can explain the big picture and the possible options for going forwards. They can also outline the pluses and minuses of each option.

This is an approach I have seen used by therapists, medical consultants, coaches and other professionals. Such people are often both warm and clear-headed.

They help a person to do some strategic thinking and consider the possible options for going forwards. When appropriate, they also pass on their knowledge.

Once the person has settled on their chosen route, it then involves focusing on the following themes.

The Picture of Success

The real results the
person wants to achieve are:
 

To … 

To …

To …

The key strategies they can follow to give
themselves the greatest chance of success are:

To …

To …

To …

When appropriate, such professionals encourage and enable their client to follow the strategies. This can involve using elements of the next approach for helping a person to achieve their goals.

The Solutions Approach

Professionals sometimes help people to get immediate solutions. They may do this when working as a nurse, doctor, counsellor, technical specialist or when applying their particular expertise.

Babette Rothschild, a specialist in helping people to manage trauma, is somebody who takes this approach. She provides practical tools they can use to stay calm, manage flashbacks and shape their future lives. You can read more about her work via the following link.

Babette Rothschild

Good professionals sometimes help people to find both short and long-term solutions to challenges. Many of the approaches they use are based on the Three C model for creative problem solving. You can discover more about this approach via the following link.

Creative Problem Solving

Good leaders also focus on finding solutions. During the early part of the Coronavirus crisis, for example, many took the following steps to help their people. They aimed:

To care for their people – such as taking care of their people’s wellbeing and wealth; 

To manage the present situation – such as dealing with any haemorrhaging and pressing challenges for their colleagues and customers;

To shape a positive future – such as focusing on the specific things they could do to build a successful future.

Such leaders recognised that it was important to communicate with their people and explain the organisation’s strategy. This was vital because otherwise other voices would fill the vacuum.

Here are the key messages that some of the leaders I worked with gave to their people. Each leader did, of course, adapt this to the specific situation facing their people and organisation.

Shaping The Future 

We want to let you know about the key strategies we are following in the present situation and how we aim to shape the future.

We will also keep you regularly updated about the progress we are making with these strategies. 

As you know, we have an organisation that is made up of people who are caring and creative. We are already seeing how they are channelling their strengths to come through this situation.  

Here are the strategies we are following.

1) We are doing the following things to manage the present situation and care for our colleagues and customers. 

a) We are …

b) We are …

c) We are …

2) We want to involve you in shaping and carrying out these strategies because you have strengths and expertise. 

Please let us know how you would like to contribute in some way.  

This might include using skills and strengths that you don’t normally use in our workplace, but you have these abilities so we can look at how to use them in an imaginative way. 

3) We have the ability to shape a successful future. 

We are putting lots of efforts into dealing with the present situation.

At some point, however, we will also focus on developing the strategies for shaping a positive future for our people and the organisation. 

Please let us know if you would like to contribute to helping to develop these strategies.

Finally, thank you again for your creativity and co-operation.

If you have any individual questions, please let us know. We will then talk with you individually.

Leaders recognised that people want to feel in control and some had not been through such challenges before. It was therefore important to offer them practical tools they could use to navigate the situation

Such leaders kept people informed about the progress being made on the strategies. They kept finding solutions to challenges and focused on how to help people come through the situation successfully.

The Sharing Knowledge Approach

This is an approach often used by educators, trusted advisors and other professionals. They pass on knowledge in a way that helps a person to achieve their goals.

How to take this step? One approach is to begin by clarifying the knowledge that you can pass on to people. One person explained this in the following way.

“My first thought was that I had little to give, but then I reflected on my life-experiences.  

“During the past 20 years I have had quite a few successes and setbacks. But I have been able to do the following things. 

“I have turned-around two failing businesses and helped two friends to set-up their own firms.

“I have created a pressure group to help dyslexic children. Like me, my son is dyslexic, and I know the difficulties such people face at school.  

“I have also overcome a difficult illness and set up a website to help others who are given a similar diagnosis. 

“Whilst nothing I say may be new, some of the lessons – especially those about setting-up businesses – could be worth sharing with people.”

What is the knowledge you can pass on? You may have expertise in gardening, counselling, building houses, managing crises, coding, leading teams, first aid, solving particular problems or whatever.

Sometimes it can be useful to brainstorm all the topics you may be able to teach about. You can then settle on, for example, three themes and describe these in ‘How to …’ terms.

The knowledge I want
to pass on to people is:

How to …

How to …

How to …

Imagine that you have clarified the knowledge that you can offer to people. How can you share this in a way they can use to achieve their goals?

Good educators – in the widest sense – often take the following steps. They have a conversation with the person, watch them in action or see an example of their work. They then ask themselves the following questions.

Good educators buy time to think. After clarifying the knowledge they can pass on, they ask the person:

“Is it okay for me to share some ideas?”

It is important to make this psychological contract. It means the person may then be more open to ideas they can add to their repertoire.

Good educators then aim share things in a way the person can receive. This calls for moving from the concept to the concrete and giving examples that resonate. The person is then more likely apply the learning in their daily life and work. 

The Sage’s Approach

Sages are generous, kind and able to quickly get to the heart of the matter. They then pass on knowledge in a way that helps people to succeed.

Such people are often seen as wise, but they do not see themselves this way. They see themselves as lifetime students. They learn from eternal wisdom – such as the common lessons in many spiritual faiths – and also study humanity at its best.

They see the big picture yet are also practical. They are soul-wise but also savvy. They give examples that bring things to life. They also provide practical ideas that people can use in their daily lives.

Sages often aim to serve something greater than themselves. Building on their own strengths and specialism, they aim to encourage both present and future generations.

Different people take different routes towards becoming sages. Some go through the following stages.

Student

Sages often start off as students. They focus on something they want to learn and become fascinated by the subject. They may want to learn about people, spiritual faiths, science, art, beauty or another topic.

Such people throw themselves into the learning process. As mentioned earlier, they often go through the stages of absorption, adventure and achievement.

Gathering as much information as possible, they look for patterns and begin to make sense of what they are learning. They may also, at some stage, begin to develop their own models for understanding experience. This can lead to the next stage.

Seeking

A person may set out to seek more knowledge. They may do this by exploring different kinds of adventures, work or experiences.

Some pursue the equivalent of what Joseph Campbell called The Heroic Journey. This can involve an outer journey, an inner journey or a combination of both.

A person may try many different kinds of work, visit various cultures or test themselves by tackling specific challenges. They learn from the experiences and begin to settle on specific activity. This can lead to the next stage.

Satisfying Work

A person concentrates on an activity that gives them positive energy. This can be challenging because they still want to explore, but they decide to focus on a deeply satisfying activity.

Pursuing this route, they discover more about their strengths and limits. They also begin to develop their preferred way of working. They eventually learn it is important to go through the stages of rehearsal, following a rhythm and delivering results.

They do work they enjoy and aim to deliver excellence. Sometimes they experiment and explore other fields. Sometimes this works and they expand their strengths; sometimes it does not work. This can lead to the next stage.

Service, Strengths And Specialising

A person recognises that they feel most themselves when they forget themselves. Bearing this in mind, they choose to serve something greater than themselves. They may aim to follow a spiritual faith, a vocation or a mission.

This gives them a sense of purpose and the opportunity to follow their chosen principles. They then work towards achieving a picture of success.

People who take this path often return to focusing on their strengths. They ask themselves the following questions.

“What are my strengths? How can I use these strengths to serve something I believe in? How can I do satisfying work that helps others to achieve success?”

Different people then choose to pursue different kinds of work. They may choose to work in the caring professions, education, the arts, science, technology or another activity.

They may do many jobs in their chosen activity but then develop their own specialism. They may become a subject matter expert, project director, co-ordinator, leader, prototype builder or develop another role. This can lead to them aiming to make a specific contribution.

Successes And Setbacks

A person may do superb work and achieve success. They may also experience setbacks. Both can lead to improving the quality of the work they do to help people.

Great workers often embody Kahlil Gibran’s belief that work is love made visible. They often put themselves in the background. They believe the most important thing is to focus on the work.

Such people love to keep following their principles. Sometimes, as a by-product, they also get prizes. But the most important thing is to serve the thing that is greater than themselves. It is then to do their best to deliver positive results.

Great workers learn from successes. They clarify what they did well and how they can continue to follow these principles. They also learn from setbacks. They clarify what they can do better in the future to help people or the planet.

They feel fortunate to be able to pursue their principles and do positive work. Sometimes they also want to share what they have learned from the successes and setbacks. This can lead to the next stage.

Sharing Knowledge

Some people move into the role of being an educator, teacher, coach, mentor or advisor. Some take this step in a proactive way. Some find themselves being asked to share their knowledge with other people.

Different people choose different ways to take this step. As mentioned earlier, they can build on their strengths and aim:

To clarify the specific knowledge they want to pass on to people; 

To clarify the kinds of people whom might be open to such knowledge;

To clarify the best ways for them to pass on this knowledge.

They share the knowledge in a way that plays to their strengths. This may involve working face-to-face with people, writing, making films or using another media.

Sometimes they do this in the course of their daily work. Sometimes they do it when approached by other people. This can lead to moving towards the next stage.

Sage

Sages sometimes start off by being a student and then becoming a worker. Aiming to pass on knowledge, they may become a teacher. Then comes the most dangerous phase.

They may be seen as a guru, but this is full of pitfalls. Why? Some gurus want followers, but the sage wants to give things away.

The sage realises they have gone a full circle and they are really a student. They cannot take credit for anything they have been given. They can only do their best to pursue the path they have been given the opportunity to follow.

Sages can often demonstrate the second simplicity. They get to the heart of the matter and explain things in a way that is simple yet profound. It can take years of experience, however, before people reach this stage.

Such people have wisdom in their bones and make complicated things simple. As mentioned earlier, however, the sage’s journey is full of paradoxes.

Once a person thinks they are wise, they automatically aren’t. Similarly, once they think they are a sage, they are in dangerous territory. It is vital to remind themselves that they will always be a student.

This piece has explored many approaches to supporting people. You will, of course, do this in your own way. If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific ways in which you want to support people in the future.  

Describe the specific benefits of supporting people in these ways.

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