The Art of Strengths Coaching

S is for Surfing The Sigmoid Curve

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“My greatest challenge has been deciding how long to stay in a particular role,” said one person.

“Looking back at the jobs I have had, sometimes I kept growing and did fine work for my employer. At other times, however, I have stayed too long.

“Sometimes I lapsed into cruise control, when really I should have developed my successor and moved on.”

Looking at your own work, how can you decide when to stay or when to move? Peak performers often choose to surf the sigmoid curve.

Originally a mathematical term, Charles Handy popularised the sigmoid curve in his book The Age of Paradox.

It is now used to chart the life cycle of a person’s development, an organisation, a product or even a civilisation.

As one curve reaches its peak, it can sometimes be useful to surf onto the next one, rather than sink into decline. Let’s explore how to make this happen.

You can recognise where
you are on the sigmoid curve

Imagine you are climbing the curve in your professional life. Where are you now? You may find it useful to focus on a specific aspect of your professional life.

Perhaps you are halfway up the curve. Feeling hungry, you may believe there is lots of scope for development.

On the other hand, you may have hit a ceiling or believe that your own growth – or the product or service you offer – is deteriorating.

Many companies make most money, of course, from the products that have already reached their peak and may be in decline.

They capitalise on these products whilst, at the same time, the newer products are beginning to climb the curve.

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

Describe a specific aspect of your professional life that you want to focus on.

Describe where you are on the sigmoid curve in this aspect of your professional life.

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You can climb the sigmoid curve – but
also be aware of the warning signs

Imagine you are still climbing the curve. How can you keep developing?

How can you keep building on your strengths? How can you manage the consequences of your weaknesses? How can you stay close to your customers? How can you help them to succeed?

Let’s look at the total picture. Can you see further growth ahead? How can you continue to do stimulating work?

Are there any potential warning signs? If so, what are the symptoms? How can you take charge of shaping your future?

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

Describe the specific things you can do to keep developing and climb the sigmoid curve.

Describe the specific things you can do if you get warning signs.

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You can surf onto the
next sigmoid curve

Let’s start by looking at the things you find fascinating. How can you do the things that give you positive energy? How can you continue to build on your strengths? How can you do projects that are stimulating?

Let’s move on to your professional work. What will be happening in your field in the next three years? What are the challenges your customers will be facing? How can you use your strengths to help them to succeed?

How can you stay ahead of the game? How can you create or surf onto the next sigmoid curve? How can you stay alive and alert? How can you keep developing? How can you pass on your knowledge to other people?

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

Describe the specific things you can do to find or create the next sigmoid curve.

Describe the specific benefits of doing these things and surfing the sigmoid curve.

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