The Art of Strengths Coaching

T is for Developing The Talent, Toughness And Thinking Skills Required To Achieve 10/10

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Talent is a great starting point, but people often need to develop other qualities to perform superb work. This rule applies in many different fields.

Talented sports players, for example, often find it relatively easy to win most of their matches. They need to go into other dimensions, however, when faced by challenging opponents.

Such players must develop their toughness and be prepared to sweat. They must also develop their thinking skills to find new solutions to challenges.

The New Zealand All Blacks rugby team, for example, chose to shift their culture in this way. Because the team followed a command and control structure, the players had not been encouraged to think for themselves. They therefore made poor decisions at critical moments.

The All Blacks decided to build a culture based on managing by outcomes. The leaders communicated the team’s purpose and the principles that people were expected to follow.

The leaders encouraged the players to follow the game plan. At the same time, however, they gave the players freedom – within parameters – to make decisions on the field.

This called for running hundreds of training sessions that replicated match situations. The players were encouraged to follow the agreed principles but also apply their thinking skills to find solutions to real challenges.

The All Blacks went on to win trophies rather than fall apart at critical moments. You can discover more about this approach in James Kerr’s book called Legacy.

Let’s explore the aspects of talent, toughness and thinking skills.

Talent

Can you think of a specific activity in which you score highly on talent? You may be good at encouraging people, writing, athletics, music, mathematics, medicine, leading teams or whatever. Try to be as specific as possible when clarifying this activity.

One person said, for example, that they were good at leading teams. They worked best, however, when leading pioneering teams of motivated people who aimed to deliver extraordinary work by a specific deadline. They were no good at leading teams of unmotivated people.

How to find your specific talent? One approach is to clarify the specific activity in which you demonstrate the following characteristics. 

You get positive energy when thinking about the activity. You consistently deliver As, rather than Bs or Cs. You feel in your element – at ease and yet able to excel.

You see patterns quickly in the activity. You see the destination quickly – you go A, B … and then leap to … Z. You feel calm, clear and find creative solutions to challenges. 

You find it deeply satisfying to do the activity. You make complicated things appear simple. You score highly on drive, detail and delivery. You have a track record of delivering success.

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

Describe the specific activity in which you may have talent.

Describe the specific reasons why you believe you may have talent in this activity. If possible, give specific examples of when you have done good work in this activity.

Describe the specific things you can do to keep developing your talent in this activity.

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Toughness

Today it is common to talk about the need for people to develop grit or toughness to reach their goals. The whole grit discussion, however, needs to be seen in context. A person may show grit in one area but not in another.

A student may demonstrate it when building motorbikes, for example, but not when doing algebra. A person may show it when exceeding their sales targets, but not when overseeing the operational tasks involved in running a company.

How can a person develop such toughness? One approach is to invite them to revisit their positive history.

Looking back on their life, can they think of a specific situation when they overcame a setback? They may have done this when recovering from an illness, managing a transition or tackling a specific challenge.

What did they do right then to manage the challenge successfully? What were the principles they followed? How can they follow similar principles – plus maybe add other skills – to develop their toughness in the future?

There are many books that provide practical tips on how people can develop toughness. These include the following writers and their books.

Al Siebert: The Survivor Personality and The Resiliency Advantage.

Paul Stoltz and Erik Weihenmayer: The Adversity Advantage.

Brené Brown: Daring Greatly and Rising Strong.

Different people apply different approaches to tackling challenges. People who develop toughness, however, often demonstrate the following qualities.

They clarify how they can maintain a positive attitude and – bearing in mind what they can control – clarify their picture of success. 

They clarify the principles they have followed in the past to overcome challenges and clarify the strategies they can follow to achieve their picture of success. 

They clarify their action plan and – breaking it down into doable chunks – follow certain disciplines to work towards achieving their picture of success.

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

Describe the specific things you do well at the moment to maintain and develop your toughness.

Describe the specific things you can do in the future to keep maintaining and developing your toughness.

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Thinking Skills

Talented people are often used to doing well in their chosen field. They may be good at playing a sport, passing exams, climbing the corporate ladder or whatever.

Sometimes they get to a point, however, when they are confronted by challenges that require them to use their imagination. One soccer coach explained this in the following way.

“Many coaches use copy and paste thinking rather than creative thinking.

“They go to the World Cup, for example, and study the formations employed by the successful teams. They then go home and copy those formations without thinking.

“Suddenly you have lots of teams playing the same formation. The coaches slavishly follow the system for two years before going to the next tournament. They then repeat the process again.”

Great workers learn from their own and other people’s best performances. They also develop their creative thinking skills to find solutions to challenges.

There are many models for developing thinking skills. One approach is to use the 3C model for finding solutions. It is to focus on clarity, creativity and concrete results.

Good decision makers, for example, spend a lot of time establishing the ‘What’ – the real results to achieve – before moving on to the ‘How’. Here is overview of the stages you can go through when applying the 3C approach.

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Looking ahead, how can you continue to develop your thinking skills? You may want to study success in the specific activity in which you are talented. Bearing in mind what works, you can then follow these principles in your own way.

You may also want to develop creative thinking skills. One approach is to study the principles that other people have followed to make creative breakthroughs. Another approach is to apply the 3C model 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 things you do well at the moment to maintain and develop your thinking skills.  

Describe the specific things you can do in the future to keep maintaining and developing your thinking skills.

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