The Art of Strengths Coaching

T is for The Top Performances Approach

Imagine that you are helping a person to develop. The following pages describe a model you can use to help them to perform superb work.

You can use this approach when helping a person to develop as a counsellor, athlete, artist, surgeon, crisis manager, leader or doing other kinds of work. It can be used to help them to develop as a person and as a professional.

The first step is to clarify the specific activity in which a person may have the ability to do superb work. They can then keep developing in the areas of temperament, talent, tactics, technique and delivering top performances. Let’s explore how the approach can be translated into action.

Top Performances

Imagine that a person has asked you to help them to do superb work. They may be aiming to do this in a specific aspect of therapy, the arts, sports, business or another field.

The first step is to focus on the person’s strengths and take a reality check. One approach is to go through the following steps:

To clarify the specific activity in which they want to deliver top performances;  

To clarify the person’s ability to consistently do good work in this activity and deliver top performances;  

To clarify your reasons for giving this assessment of their ability to deliver top performances.

Imagine that you have seen the person in action or seen an example of their work. This has helped you to clarify the likelihood of them being able to deliver superb work.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe the specific activity in which the person wants to do fine work. If possible, describe this in ‘How to …’ terms. Here are examples of what a person may want to achieve.

How to help dyslexic children … How to help people to recover from trauma … How to do good work as a paramedic … How to be a top class surgeon … How to turnaround a toxic culture in a business … How succeed as a Premier League footballer.  

Bearing in mind the person’s strengths and the activity in which they want to do superb work, try completing the following sentences.

Temperament

Imagine that the person has chosen to focus on a specific activity. Looking at this activity, what do you believe is the temperament required to deliver top performances?

Different kinds of work require different temperaments. A paramedic needs to be calm in distressing situations. A sales person needs to be motivated and resilient. An athlete needs to manage pressure and rise to the occasion.

If a person wants to lead an organisation, for example, this calls for having a certain kind of personality. It also involves being prepared to accept the pluses and minuses involved in the role. Here are some of the upsides and downsides when running an organisation.

The pluses may include being able:

To clarify and communicate the organisation’s purpose, principles and picture of success; 

To create a positive culture in which motived people can grow and deliver success; 

To earn a good salary and grow as a person;  

To enjoy the adrenaline and excitement involved in leading an organisation;

To make sure the organisation keeps delivering today’s business whilst also building tomorrow’s business in order to achieve ongoing success.

The potential minuses may include:

To sometimes feel lonely because nobody else may be privy to the implications of the decisions you are making; 

To make decisions that have implications for all the stakeholders – the owners, employees, customers and society;

To proactively manage the key stakeholders – such as head office – to keep them satisfied and stop them interfering;

To perhaps work a minimum of 12 hours a day plus weekends;

To get cut off from the reality of what is happening on the ground – particularly what is happening for customers – and therefore make poorer decisions.

Let’s return to the person’s chosen activity. What is the temperament they need to demonstrate to deliver top performances? On a scale 0-10, how would you rate them in terms of demonstrating these qualities? What can they do to maintain or improve the rating?

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

Talent

Looking at the person’s chosen activity, what do you believe is the talent required to deliver top performances?

A therapist will need to combine being caring with being able to clarify a person’s aims and help them to achieve their goals. A general practitioner will need medical skills, people skills and, in some cases, organisational skills to run a good practice.

A leader must be able to make good decisions. They need to implement the right strategy with the right people in the right way. They also need to build a positive culture in which motivated people do superb work.

A footballer will need certain skills to play in a specific position. The Ajax football club, for example, has a great track record for producing young players. They use the Acronym TIPS when looking at a player’s development. Many clubs have built on this framework and have added elements of their own.

Let’s return to the person’s chosen activity. On a scale 0-10, how would you rate the person in terms of demonstrating the required talent? What can they do to maintain or improve the rating?

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

Tactics

Temperament and talent can take a person so far. Sometimes they also need to apply the right tactics to achieve their picture of success.

Great workers often start by clarifying their strategy. These are the key principles they will follow to give themselves the greatest chance of success.

They then clarify their tactics. These are the specific actions they will take to implement the strategy and do their best to achieve success.

Here we are using the term tactics to include both the strategic thinking elements and the specific actions. Depending on their work, different people will adopt this approach in different ways.

Peak performers often make good strategic decisions about the specific activity they will pursue. They put themselves into a place where they can play to their strengths and do superb work. They then do their best to deliver success.

Good sports coaches build on their team’s strengths. They educate their players to follow certain strategies and achieve routine perfection. They then translate these into specific tactics which the players can implement to achieve success.

Savvy people sometimes see things in simpler way. They use gumption to apply their gifts properly and do great work. Here are several definitions of gumption.

Gumption 

It was originally a Scottish team that meant having common sense or being shrewd.  

It is the ability to decide what is the best thing to do in a particular situation and then to do it with energy and determination.

It means bravery, get-up-and-go, drive or initiative. Someone who possesses gumption is a self-starter and has the nerve and motivation to succeed.  

Let’s return to the person you may be helping to develop. On a scale 0-10, how would you rate the person in terms of demonstrating the required tactics? What can they do to maintain or improve the rating?

How can you help them to develop their strategic thinking? How can you help them to develop their gumption? How can you help them to translate this into following the tactics required to deliver success?

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

 

Technique

Peak performers develop the technique required to do superb work. An artist needs to master the art of putting their vision onto canvas. A surgeon needs to be skilled at performing operations. A triathlete needs to be good at swimming, cycling and running.

Such workers follow the principle that practice makes permanent. They devote themselves to developing a particular technique. They practice, practice and practice. They practice until they can forget.

Wayne Gretzky, the great ice hockey player, described how he took this route. Talking with Michael Murphy for the book In The Zone, he explained how he practiced during his childhood.

“I’d get up in the morning, skate from 7.00 to 8.30, go to school, come home at 3.30, stay on the ice until my mom insisted I come in for dinner, eat in my skates and then go back out until 9.00. 

“On Saturdays and Sundays, we’d have huge games, but night time became my time. It was sort of an unwritten rule around the neighbourhood that I would be out there by myself or with my dad. 

“I would just handle the puck in and out of those empty detergent bottles my dad set up as pylons.  

“Then I’d set up targets in the net and try to hit them with forehands, backhands, whatever. Then I’d do it all again, except this time with a tennis ball, which is much harder to handle.

“I was so addicted that my dad had big kids come over to play against me. And when the kids wanted to go home, I’d beg them to stay longer.”  

Let’s return to the person you are helping. On a scale 1-10, rate the extent to which they demonstrate the technique required to deliver top performances. (It may be worth inviting the person to do this themselves, because you may not be an expert in their field.)

 

Top Performances

Great workers get into the habit of doing superb work. Sometimes they also add that touch of class and deliver top performances. This is the Holy Grail.

Many people are in roles where their actions can mean life or death. They aim to always do work that is effective, excellent and, on some occasions, is extraordinary.

A person is more likely to do such work if they are following principles they believe in. Bearing this in mind, it can be helpful to invite them:

To clarify when they have delivered top performances;

To clarify the principles they followed then to deliver top performances;

To clarify how they can follow these principles – plus add other skills – to deliver top performances.

Good workers see every day as an opportunity to deliver high standards. Maintaining this habit provides the platform for dealing with challenges. They are then more likely to produce great work when it matters.

Let’s return to the person you may be helping. When do they demonstrate the ability to deliver top performances? What are they doing right then? What are the principles they are following? How do they translate these into action?

How would you rate their ability to consistently deliver top performances in their chosen activity? What can they do to maintain or improve the rating? Are there any other activities where they are more likely to perform at their best? If so, how can you help them to find this activity and do superb work??

Bearing in mind what you have discovered about the person, the final exercise invites you to reassess the likelihood of them achieving their aims. If you wish, try complete the following sentences.

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