The Art of Strengths Coaching

S is for The Success Iceberg  

The Success Iceberg is a model that explains both the seen and unseen work that people do to perform on the day. The model is often used when working with aspiring athletes, singers and others who want to deliver peak performances.

The model shows how success can sometimes take years of sweat and developing skills. It also embodies the famous joke.

The question: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”.

The answer: “Practice, practice, practice.”

The model describes some of the factors that provide the basis for delivering superb work. These include the personal drive, the practical and psychological support, the preparation and the required practice.

Great workers keep focusing on these themes, even when at the top of their profession. Some develop such habits naturally; whilst some do so after having a rude shock. They then choose to always prepare properly so they can perform on the day.

Some talented people can be at a disadvantage, however, because their natural gifts lead to them peaking early. This can create difficulties later on if they encounter disappointments. They must then choose whether or not to put in the hard yards required to achieve ongoing success.

Looking back, can you think of a situation when you followed some of the steps in the Success Iceberg? This could have been in your personal or professional life.

You may have done this when acting as a counsellor, singing in a choir, running a marathon or doing a creative project. You may have done it when performing surgery, tackling a crisis, leading a team or doing another activity.

How did you motivate yourself on that occasion? How did you get support, prepare properly and practice ahead of time? When doing the actual task, what did you do to perform at your best? What happened as a result?

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

Describe a specific situation in the past when you followed some of the steps in the Success Iceberg.

Describe the specific things you did to follow some of these steps. 

Describe the specific things that happened as a result.

Imagine that you want to take some of these steps again in the future. This could be in your personal or professional life.

You may want to pursue a specific activity, do a creative project or tackle a particular challenge. You may want to encourage a person, build a beautiful house, do your personal best in a situation, experience a certain feeling or achieve another aim.

Looking at the thing you want to do, what are the real results you want to achieve? What is the picture of success? What will be the benefits of reaching the goal – both for yourself and other people?

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

Describe the specific thing you want to do in your personal or professional life.

Describe the real results you want to achieve – the picture of success.

Describe the benefits of achieving these results – both for yourself and other people.

The Personal Drive 

“Will before skill,” is one of the mottos used by coaches when helping a person to develop. Bearing in mind the goals the person wants to achieve, they ask some of the following questions.

Does the person have the attitude required to succeed? Do they recognise the pluses and minuses involved in working towards achieving their goal? Are they prepared to accept the whole package?

Does the person have the ability required to succeed? What are their strengths? How can they build on their strengths and manage the consequences of their weaknesses? What is their successful style of working? How can they follow this – plus add other skills – to achieve their goals? 

Does the person have the application required to succeed? Do they have the self-discipline to keep following good habits? Do they have the hunger to keep improving after successes? Do they have the resilience to deal with disappointments and setbacks?  

Does the person show they are self-managing? Do they take responsibility rather than blame others? Do they build on what they can control rather than worry about what they can’t control? Do they have positive scripting or negative scripting?  

Does the person focus on their inner champ rather than their inner chimp? Do they recall when they have succeeded in the past and then follow similar principles in the future? Do they surrender to their inner chimp and go into a downward spiral?

Does the person keep focusing on the key principles they want to follow? Do they buy time when knocked off-course? Do they relax, re-centre and rehearse what they are going to do next? Do they then go back into the arena and aim to deliver high professional standards?

Does the person embody the ethic of constant improvement? Do they focus on: a) The specific things they have done well and how they can do more of these things; b) The specific things they can do better and how? Do they have the desire to become they best person or professional they can be?

Let’s return to the specific thing you want to do. Bearing in mind some of the questions listed above, do you have the required motivation? What will be the pluses involved in working to achieve your goals? What may be the potential minuses? Are you prepared to accept the whole package?

Looking ahead, how can you get some quick successes? How can you encourage yourself on the journey? How can you buy yourself time to re-centre if blown off-course? How can you refocus on your principles? How can you maintain your motivation to achieve your aims?

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

Describe the rating you would give yourself regarding your drive to do what is required to achieve the picture of success. Rate this on a scale 0-10. 

Describe the specific things you can do to maintain or improve the rating.

The Practical And
Psychological Support 

Great workers are often driven and self-motivated. They draw on their inner strength to perform at their best and they have the ability to overcome setbacks.

Such workers are resourceful, but they can perform even better with support. The practical support can include the required resources, facilities and finances. The psychological support can include help from family, friends, coaches and others in their network.

Different people require different kinds of support. If you are going to climb a mountain, you will need the financial backing, the proper equipment and the right team. You will need people who have the right attitudes and abilities to get everybody up and down the mountain safely.

Great workers make sure they have the right support. One person explained how he had learned this lesson the hard way. 

Many years ago I was flattered to be headhunted to takeover a difficult department in a high tech company. I entered the situation full of hope, but then realised I had not done my due diligence properly.  

I was accountable for turning around the department, but found that I did not have the necessary autonomy and authority. The team members were good in the old world, but they did not demonstrate the qualities required to succeed in the new world.  

My bosses suggested I hire consultants to put everybody through a change programme, but this did not work. My suggestion was to hire people who could take us forward, but this was vetoed.  

Looking back, I should have done proper due diligence. If I still wanted the job, I should have then clarified the strategies I could follow to achieve success.  

The next steps would have been to reassure the key stakeholders. I needed to show that I understood the world from their point of view and the challenges the organisation faced. I then needed:

To show that I would deliver the goods and get some quick successes;

To describe how I would proactively keep them informed about the progress towards achieving the goals;

To then, if appropriate, make clear working contracts including the support required to deliver the goods.  

This would have been the best approach, but it would probably have resulted in me not taking the role. These are lessons that I have applied since and they have worked. Setting things up to succeed is vital when embarking on any job. 

Great workers may be self-motivating, but sometimes they also need encouragement. Some individuals who became successful later in life sometimes had difficulties during their early years.

Such people may have grown up in challenging circumstances or had problems at school. They may have been dyslexic, introverted or seen as different. What helped them to develop? Research found that such people were often influenced by a Significant Other.

Today this term is sometimes used in a social context to describe a person’s partner. This is particularly so in certain circles when, for example, inviting a person to an event. They are invited to bring along the significant person in their life.

The term Significant Other has a different meaning in the psychological field. It was coined by Harry Stack Sullivan, a psychiatrist, in the first part of the 20th Century. He used it to describe key people who a person felt had significant influence on their life, upbringing and state of well-being.

The obvious Significant Others are parents. But it is also possible to be encouraged by grandparents, teachers, coaches, mentors or other people. This provided one explanation as to why young people from troubled backgrounds could turn out to be successful.

Great workers are self-motivated, but everybody needs encouragement. This can take the form of both practical and psychological support. Getting this help can increase the chances of delivering success.

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

Describe the specific thing you want to do in your personal or professional life. 

Describe the specific things you can do to get the support required to achieve the picture of success.

 

The Preparation 

Great workers are like mountain climbers and prepare properly before setting out on an expedition. Looking ahead, they also clarify the chances of achieving their goals. They then plan how to do whatever is possible to increase the chances of success.

Such workers often have several back-up plans. They may have a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C to deal with different scenarios. They then settle on their action plans for achieving their aims.

Arie de Geus, the author of The Living Company, spent many years helping companies to do scenario planning. He found that peak performers develop what he called a memory of the future.

They constantly envisage what might happen in their chosen field. They also develop a repertoire of tools for dealing with such challenges. This means they are several steps ahead when these situations become a reality.

During the 1960s and 70s I got the opportunity to see this approach in action when learning from peak performers in different fields. They loved thinking ahead, anticipating the different scenarios and making plans.

Some created storyboards that showed the milestones to be achieved and a visual image of them reaching the goals. They put this in a place where they could see it each day. This provided them with the motivation to keep working towards the picture of success.

Different people use different approaches to planning, but they often explore similar themes. Bearing in mind what they can control in the situation, they focus on the following steps.

The What

They clarify the real results to achieve – the picture of success.

The Why

They clarify the benefits – to all the various stakeholders – of achieving the goals.

The How

They clarify the principles they want to follow to give themselves the greatest chance of success. They then clarify how to translate these into action on the road towards achieving the picture of success.

They clarify the resources required and how to implement the right principles with the right people in the right way. They also clarify the potential challenges they will face and how to manage these challenges successfully.

They clarify the chances of success. Bearing in mind what they can control, they ask: 

“On a scale 0-10 what are the chances of achieving the goals? What are the specific things that can be done to increase the chances of success”

They then take practical steps to increase these chances of success.

The Who

They clarify who will do what – including the professional standards they will need to demonstrate – on the road towards achieving the picture of success.

The When 

They clarify the specific action plan – including what should be delivered by when – on the road towards achieving the picture of success. 

Let’s return to the specific thing you want to do in your personal or professional life. What will be your approach to preparing yourself properly?

How can you clarify the principles you want to follow? How can you anticipate and deal with any potential challenges? How can you rate and then increase the chances of achieving success?

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

Describe the specific thing you want to do in your personal or professional life. 

Describe the specific things you can do to prepare properly and give yourself the greatest chance of achieving success.

The Practice

Great workers rehearse how they will perform on the day. Sometimes this involves physical rehearsal, sometimes it involves mental rehearsal. They continue rehearsing until these actions become part of their muscle memory.

Different people practice in different ways. One approach is to start by focusing on their picture of success. They then take the following steps.

They practice following their chosen principles and translating these into action on the way towards achieving success. 

They practice managing the potential challenges they may face on the way towards achieving success.

They again practice following their chosen principles and translating these into action on the way towards achieving success. 

Such workers make sure the principles they want to follow become second nature. As mentioned above, they also pay attention to being able to deal with all eventualities.

Ceri Evans, a sports psychologist, took this approach when working with the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team. He believes it is vital for athletes to practice performing under pressure. Below is a video in which Ceri explains this approach.

Here is the official introduction to the piece that was part of Leaders In Sports summit. You can discover more about Leaders, the organisation that holds the summit, via the following link.

http://www.leadersinsport.com/

Ceri is a world-class forensic psychiatrist and sports psychologist.

He helps top athletes reach peak performance, handle pressure and make better decisions and played an integral role in developing the New Zealand All Blacks mental strength during their 2011 Rugby World Cup win.

In this session snippet, Ceri uses an analogy of a surgeon to explain why sports teams should embrace their vulnerabilities to reduce big game pressure and emotional responses.

 

Great workers practice until they feel confident they can follow their chosen approach. If blown off-course, they buy time to reflect and refocus. They then rehearse the next step they want to take towards achieving their chosen goals.

Let’s return to the specific thing you want to do. How can you practice the actions you want to take? How can you anticipate and manage any potential challenges?

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

Describe the specific thing you want to do in your personal or professional life.  

Describe the specific things you can do to practice properly and give yourself the greatest chance of achieving success.

 

The Performance
On The Day

Great workers go into their version of the arena. They then aim to click into action, be fully present and perform at their best on the day.

Some people choose to be positive in the situation. They build on what they can control rather than worry about what they can’t control. They aim to follow their principles and work towards achieving their picture of success.

Some people choose to be paralysed in the situation. They worry about what they can’t control and go into a negative spiral. They sometimes forget about their principles and fail to give their best performance.

You will have your own approach to doing your best. Whatever approach you use, however, it can be important to stay calm and remind yourself of the Success Iceberg.

You can remind yourself of your personal drive, the practical and psychological support, the preparation and the practice. Bearing these things in mind, you can then be fully present and aim to do your best.

You can keep following your chosen principles. At the same time, however, it is important to keep doing reality checks. You can focus on: a) The things that are working and do these more; b) The things you can do better and how.

Stay calm, controlled and centred. If thrown off-course, buy time. Consider the possible options for going forwards together with the pluses and minuses of each option. You can then pursue your chosen option and do your best to achieve the picture of success.

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

Describe the specific thing you want to do in your personal or professional life. 

Describe the specific things you can do to perform superbly on the day.  

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of taking these steps.

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