The Art of Strengths Coaching

S is for Specialists Who Do Satisfying Work And Deliver Success

 

Imagine that you want to specialise in a certain kind of work that you find fascinating. You love developing your expertise in this specialism.

You may want to earn a living doing such work. This may also call for developing your strategic thinking, giving good service and helping your key stakeholders to achieve success.

Some people consider themselves to be generalists rather than specialists. They say things like:

“It is hard to find the right job title for what I do. I seem to do quite a lot of things and do not fit into a specific category. This can make it hard when applying for roles.”

After exploring their successful style of work, however, we often find that such people are actually specialists in a particular activity. The keys are:

To clarify their successful style of working; 

To put a name to what they do;  

To define what they can actually deliver for key stakeholders.

Let’s consider how you may want to take some of these steps in your own way.

Becoming A Specialist 

People who develop a specialism often start by doing things that give them positive energy. They may be exploring, playing with ideas or doing things where they feel creative.

Such people may then pursue one of the following paths. They focus on either:

The specific activities they feel passionately about where they may have the ability to deliver peak performances;

The specific activities they find fascinating, have a feeling for and have a track record of finishing;

The specific activities where they can build on their strengths, do satisfying work and deliver success.

Looking at your own life, when do you experience some of these feelings? What are the specific activities where you do satisfying work, develop and deliver the goods?

You may pursue this route when helping people, writing, drawing or performing songs. You may do it studying medicine, leading teams, tackling certain kinds of challenges or doing another activity.

People who develop a specialism often start by following their interests and exploring many areas on their chosen theme. These can eventually lead to them settling a specific activity. Here is one person who took this approach.

Steve – Becoming The Chief
Storyteller For A Big Company 

Steve grew up being fascinated by computers, stories and music. He went to university, studied IT and joined a small company. Enjoying being a techie, he wanted to bridge the gap between the technical world and the customers.

Believing that technology could enrich people’s lives, Steve moved to a big company. He was passionate about the company’s products and ran customised seminars for customers. Returning to his love of writing, he began publishing a weekly blog.

Steve explained how the company’s technology could help people. The blog became well-known and built a big audience. One day he received a call from the head office. They asked him to become the company’s Chief Storyteller.

The route that Steve took highlights a key themes that has emerged regarding such people.

Specialists sometimes have
to develop a new specialism

During the 1970s I ran sessions for many people who considered themselves to be specialists. They focused on becoming experts in therapy, medicine, sports, business or another activity.

The path they took was relatively straight-forward. They studied a specific topic, gained qualifications and joined a department in an organisation. Climbing the ladder, they became respected by their peers and developed a niche within an accepted profession.

During the early 1980s another trend began to emerge, though it had probably been there for centuries. People began exploring new kinds of work and developing new roles.

Some people began inventing titles for what they did. Some titles were specific; some were woolly. The work they did was valuable, but sometimes it was hard to capture in a job title. One person expressed this in the following way.

“The existing job titles are a start, but I seem to combine elements of different roles. It is hard to find a name for what I do.”

How to make a start? One approach is to explore the satisfying projects that a person has done in the past and look for recurring patterns. These give a clue to their successful style of working.

The next step is to find a name for it. Let’s look at one person who took this approach.

Sue – A Superb Orchestrator

Sue had always been a good organiser. Captain of the school netball team, she went on to university and led the social committee. She still organised the annual ski trips taken by her friends from university.

She followed the classic route taken by people with these skills. She loved making lists and getting things done. This produced a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Sue joined a company, did her day job and also volunteered to manage projects. These included running events, building new technology and leading a mentoring programme for young entrepreneurs in the community.

She gained promotion and became a manager. Sue enjoyed aspects of the role and worked best with the motivated people. Although a good listener, she found it difficult to understand people who did not deliver the desired professional standards.

She spent the next ten years taking various roles in companies. These included being a Project Manager, Project Leader, Co-ordinator and Customer Service Lead. She then became a Chief Operating Officer.

Sue and I met after she had spent 3 months abroad leading a project for a social enterprise. There were several COO jobs on offer, but she did not want to pursue the traditional version of such a role.

The COO’s role in a modern organisation is to be a good orchestrator. This is especially the case when aiming to co-ordinate teams and individuals to achieve a compelling goal.

The older type of COO was often an expert who got promoted to that role. Whilst good in their specialism, they were often an expert who aimed to become a leader. Today’s COO needs to be a leader of experts.

Sue could take a COO role and set it up to play to her strengths, but she was not sure it would be satisfying. Bearing this in mind, we clarified what she could deliver to an organisation. This produced the following list.

Delivery 

 The specific things I can
deliver to an organisation are:

To lead and orchestrate teams that deliver pioneering work which enables the organisation to achieve future success.

This could include, for example:

Delivering technology, products or services that will enable the organisation to stay ahead of the game;

Delivering programmes that recruit and retain people who embody the values and make their best contributions to helping the organisation achieve success;

Delivering co-ordinated work across many teams and cultures in a way that helps the organisation to achieve both present and future success.

Sue eventually chose to lead a worldwide project on improved technology for video conferencing. This played to her strengths as an orchestrator and had motivated people who wanted to achieve a compelling goal.

The project had a tight deadline, but this was fine. Sue believed in the work. She also believed that, when it was completed, she would find or create the next stimulating project.

Let’s return to your own life and work. At this point don’t be concerned about putting a title the work you do. It may be more useful to describe the specific things you can deliver to a potential employer. 

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

Being Strategic

People sometimes need to think strategically beyond their particular specialism. Whether working in an organisation or running their own business, it is important: 

To build on their strengths, do superb work and deliver success to their various stakeholders.

Some knowledge workers love to do satisfying work but sometimes neglect to manage their stakeholders. They may then be seen as just doing their own thing. This can lead to difficulties.

Such workers can follow certain principles to thrive. The way they express these may differ depending whether they are working in an organisation or running their own business. Let’s explore these approaches.

Specialists Working
in Organisations

Specialists often need to combine being true to their calling with satisfying their key stakeholders. This calls for doing their due diligence before taking a role. They need:

To be aware of the pluses and minuses of working in the organisation;

To be clear on what they can and can’t expect from working in the culture of the organisation;

To then make a decision whether they want to take the role and work in the organisation.

Bearing in mind these factors, do they want to take the role? If so, how can they build on the pluses and manage the minuses? How can they do good work and deliver success to the stakeholders?

Great workers go into a role with their eyes open. They then take the following steps to get wins for the organisation, wins for their customers and wins for themselves. They aim: 

To make clear contracts with the key stakeholders about the real results to achieve – the picture of success;

To be positive, professional and proactively keep their stakeholders informed about the progress being made towards the picture of success; 

To get some quick wins, do superb work, continue to keep in touch with their stakeholders and deliver the agreed picture of success.

Taking these steps can help them to thrive rather than just survive. They can do good work and maybe get a good salary working in the organisation.

This can provide them with the platform: a) To develop their craft within the role; b) To develop by doing stimulating projects in their free time; c) To, when appropriate, move on to the next role that will help them to develop.

Specialists Running
Their Own Business

Many specialists follow their calling and enjoy being creative. Some want to translate this into setting up and running their own business. Some take this step and thrive; others find they are more suited to working in an organisation.

Imagine that you have many creative ideas that you want to translate into services or products. These could lead to setting-up a business. You may want to work in consultancy, education, training, the arts, technology or in another field. Let’s explore some steps you may wish to consider.

Creativity

There are many views on creativity. Some people argue that it is hard to be truly original, because many ideas have been thought of before.

Others say that creativity often emerges when applying the idea. This often calls for going through the stages of imagination, implementation and achieving impact.

What do you have ideas about? Frequently these will focus on the topics you find fascinating. These may include ideas about people, technology, business, art, sport or whatever.

Different people give different answers to this question. Over the years I have worked with people who have said some of the following things.

I have ideas about:

How people can take more care of their health … How people can build on their strengths … How people can use technology to improve education … How to design gardens that give people pleasure … How to create more environmentally friendly houses.  

How to improve their recruitment and retention programmes … How to create effective wellbeing programmes in organisations … How companies can create more effective supply chains … How companies can enable their people to deliver peak performances. 

Many people have ideas. Sometimes these remain ideas, but other times they are taken onto another stage. Let’s imagine you want to take the next step.

Translating the creative idea into a service
or product that will help people to succeed

How to make this happen? Looking at the creative idea that could have an impact, you can ask the classic questions.

Who are the target group – the potential customers? What are their needs? What are the challenges they face? What is their picture of success?

What are the specific things that the service or product could do? What would be the benefits to the customers? What could it deliver to help them to achieve success?

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

Customers

Creativity is fun. If a person wants to turn this into a business, however, the advice is:

“Go out and get your first three customers.”

This can feel counter-intuitive to some specialists. They want to get things absolutely perfect before going out to market.

Certainly this is vital when developing a service or product that must work properly first time. It must then be tested to the limit to ensure it is safe or resilient.

Specialists who provide other kinds of services, however, can make sure that what they offer will be of high quality. They can then go out to work with customers and continue to improve the quality.

Taking this step can be difficult for some specialists, especially for knowledge workers. Such a person may say something along the following lines.

“But I don’t like to sell. It feels like I am imposing on people.”

Sometimes it can be important for a knowledge worker to reframe this in another way. Such people don’t like to sell, but they do like to share their knowledge in a way that helps potential customers to succeed. They can then say:

“I want to help people to succeed.”

Before taking this step it is important know how to position a service or product to potential buyers. If you aim to offer something to an organisation, for example, you can clarify how it will help them to improve their profits, product quality or people.

The key is to focus on the customers rather than yourself. As ever, it is about them, not about you. Trusted advisors, for example, show they understand people’s goals. They then provide advice that enables them to achieve success.

Specialists also sometimes need to create a shop window for their work. They may, for example, keep updating a website where they share their knowledge. This can help to increase their credibility and show the value of their work.

Different people have different ways of reaching customers. It is vital to follow your natural style and also help people in your network. We explored this approach earlier in the book. You can discover more different ways of doing this via the following link.

Getting Work

Bearing in mind the service or product you want to offer, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to complete the following sentences.

Cash

Specialists can gain satisfaction from pursuing their calling, but it can also be good to get a salary. This can put food on the table and also provide the platform for their future development.

Freelancers often remember the satisfaction of sending their first invoice and getting the money in the bank. If you want to follow the fulfilling road and get funding, it is good to develop commercial awareness.

Different people do this in different ways. My own approach may be seen by some people as being uncommercial. It has been visit potential customers and spend a couple of hours with them once or twice.

The aim is to pass on practical tools they can use to succeed. If they would like a third visit – or want to take things forward in other ways – we explore the possibility of funding.

Because I am not good at talking about money, I have tended to use the phrase:

“Would there be any possibility of any funding?”

Specialists may not want to make lots of money, but they need to get cash in the bank. They can then keep following the old advice:

“You have to earn more money than you spend.”

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

Success

Specialists sometimes have a multi-track approach to success. These may include the following elements.

Specialists want to keep
doing satisfying work

They love to immerse themselves in doing their chosen work. Some enjoy the journey as much as reaching certain goals. They want to dive deeply, discover new things and keep developing.

Some immerse themselves in such a way that they appear to have self-chosen autism. They focus completely on pursuing their craft and cut out noise that could distract them from this task. This can mean that sometimes they have to remind themselves to connect with the world.

Specialist often want to pass on
knowledge to other people

Such workers want to share knowledge about what they have learned. They may do this through writing articles, producing blogs, publishing books, making media appearances or using other media.

Some believe they may belong to a tradition. Many people have pursued this route in the past and many will pursue in the future. They want to follow their tradition and pass on knowledge that will help future generations.

Specialists want to work towards
achieving their definition of success

Specialists have different definitions of success. Some want to keep doing superb work in their chosen field. Some want to be recognised as experts by their peers.

Some want to deliver tangible successes for their stakeholders. Whilst aiming to pursue their calling, they also believe it is vital to fulfil their moral obligations. They therefore do their best to deliver great work and help others to succeed.

Some want to feel they have done their best and made the most of their talent. Some want to earn lots of money. Some want to achieve status or win prizes. Some want to pass on a positive legacy.

Let’s return to your own life and work. How can you continue to pursue your specialism? How can you continue to do satisfying work? How can you work towards your definition of success?

If you wish, try tackling the final exercise on this theme. This invites you to complete the following sentences.

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