The Art of Strengths Coaching

W is for Wise People Who Focus On Warmth, Wants and Wisdom

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There are many models for encouraging people. One approach is to follow the steps taken by some wise mentors, coaches and trusted advisors.

Such people are often warm and make people feel welcome. They clarify what people want to explore or achieve. They then share wisdom that people can use in their own ways.

There are many definitions of wisdom. The Oxford English Dictionary gives one definition as:

“Wisdom is capacity for judging rightly in matters relating to life and conduct; soundness of judgment in the choice of means and ends.”

Wise people seldom consider themselves wise. Whilst acknowledging they have some expertise in a certain area, they also believe they have much to learn. They demonstrate humility, rather than hubris.

Many of the wise people I have met have studied success. They aimed to study, simplify and share what worked. They then offered positive models and practical tools that people could use in their daily lives and work.

Good trusted advisors, for example, sometimes follow this path. They are warm, clarify what people want to explore and pass on knowledge that can help people to achieve their goals. People can then decide whether they want to use this information in their own ways.

Looking back, can you think of a time when you took some of these steps to help a person? They were prepared to take responsibility for shaping their future, but they wanted help. They may have aimed to manage a transition, tackle a challenge or achieve success.

Starting the session, you made the person feel welcome and clarified their goals. You then did your best to encourage and enable them to achieve success.

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 aimed to be warm, clarify what a person wanted to explore and then shared wisdom they could use in their own ways.

Describe the specific things you did to take these steps.

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

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Warmth

Different people use different methods to create a positive atmosphere. They also have their own methods for preparing properly and setting up the sessions to succeed.

Good mentors, for example, often create a stimulating sanctuary. They help people to feel valued and the centre of their world. They create an environment in which people feel able to talk about their hopes.

Good workshop facilitators create an environment in which people feel at ease. The physical things – such as room, chairs and food – have to be right. They then open the workshop in an inspiring way.

Why? Creating a warm environment encourages the participants to explore and work hard to reach their goals. Warmth – rather then sternness – is more likely to deliver great results.

Good professionals also prepare properly and mentally rehearse the session. They focus on how to build on people’s positive energy and help them to achieve success.

Imagine that a person or group of people have asked for your help. Here are some ideas that people use to create a good atmosphere and set up the session to succeed.

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Wants

Good professionals focus on what people want to explore. They recognise that individuals or groups have specific challenges and goals. So it is important to clarify their agendas and help them to achieve their pictures of success.

This approach was reinforced for me during my early days in social work. At the time I wanted to learn from best practice in therapeutic communities and apply these lessons in my work.

Bearing this in mind, I wrote to some of the leading practitioners in psychology. Would it be possible to visit them and learn from their approaches?

Several said I would be welcome, providing I was prepared to make the long journey to their home or community. Generous with their time, they wanted to pass on knowledge and help others to succeed.

One practical thing they did early on, sometimes even before our meeting, was to clarify my aims. They asked questions such as:

“What are the topics you would like to explore? What for you would make it a successful session? What are the practical ideas and tools you would like to take away for the meeting?”

The people I met were able to quickly tune into people’s agendas. They followed the old educational maxim that:

The learner learns what the learner wants to learn.

Good professionals often take a similar approach. They each have their own sets of questions for uncovering: a) The specific things people want to explore in the session; b) The specific things people want to achieve in their lives or work.

Such professionals start by establishing clarity. Bearing in mind what the person can control in the situation, they ask questions like:

“Looking at the first topic you want to explore, what is your goal? What are the real results you want to achieve? What is your picture of success?”

They then play back their understanding of the aim. Such professionals make sure people are crystal clear on the ‘What’ before moving on to the ‘How’.

Imagine that a person or group of people have asked for your help. You will have your own questions for clarifying their aims. Here are some ideas, however, that you may wish to consider to clarify their aims.

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Wisdom 

Good mentors are wise and trusted advisors. They pass on positive models and practical tools that work. They see which ideas resonate with people and then enable them to reach their goals.

Different mentors ask themselves different questions before sharing knowledge. Here are some they may ask.

“What are people’s goals? What are the real results they want to achieve? What is their picture of success?

“What are the routes they have tried before to reach these goals? What have been the consequences of pursuing these routes?

“What are their strengths and successful patterns? What are they doing well that can help them to reach their goals? How can they do more of these things in the future? What can they do better and how?”

“What are the positive models and practical tools I can share that can help them to reach their goals? How can I bring these to life by giving concrete examples? How can I share this knowledge in a way they can accept and use?”

Good mentors have the ability to sit alongside people – their patients, clients or others – and show they understand their goals. When appropriate, they may say something like the following to the person or group of people.

“As far as I understand it, the real results you want to achieve are: 1) To … 2) To … 3) To …

“Bearing these things in mind, is it okay if I share some ideas and practical tools? If so, here are some possible ways forwards.

“Option A is to … The pluses are … The minuses are …

“Option B is to … The pluses are … The minuses are …

“Option C is to … The pluses are … The minuses are …

“Looking at these options, are there any that resonate with you? If so, we can explore how you can pursue these in your own way.”

Different people have different ways of helping others. One approach is to be warm, create an encouraging environment and clarify what people want to explore. It is then to pass on wisdom in a way that people can use in their daily lives and work.

You will, of course, have your own approach to sharing what works. Here are some themes that it may be useful to consider, however, when helping people to reach their goals.

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