Focus on Strengths

How do you develop people? How do you support their growth? How do you continue to develop and support your own growth?

In their ground-breaking book First, Break All the Rules Buckingham and Coffman reduce people management and development to the `Four Keys’:

* In selecting people, look for talent, not just experience, IQ or drive

* In setting expectations, define the outcomes desired, not the steps

* In motivation, focus on strengths rather than weaknesses

* In promotion, find the right fit, not the next rung on the corporate ladder

From a coaching perspective, to ‘Focus on Strengths’ means to identify core values in an individual and develop clarity around those values. Our coaches focus on motivation, with the goal of achieving ‘Whole-hearted Commitment’.

At Heron Coaching we work with each client to help them align innate talents with values and beliefs — and so bring passion to the art of achieving their goals.


Build Emotional Intelligence and ‘Intuition’

Applied Emotional Intelligence (EI)

How are top performing managers modeling EI at your company? How could this strength be used to establish `buy-in’ for an EI program of assessment and training among your ‘high potentials’?

In Primal Leadership (2002) Daniel Goleman presents a strong case that EI is an ideal `building block’ in developing both management and leadership skills:

* EI is the single most significant factor in success,

* EI is a learned skill (rather than innate strength, such as IQ),

* EI is measurable, and

* EI skills are sustainable (people tend to retain EI skills, once acquired)

EI assessment forms the basis and starting point for Heron Coaching.  Clients often are surprised by the results of their self-assessment. In a 360 format, the assessment is even more informative. Most of us simply never get any training in EI! An EI assessment gives instant insight into issues of trust, communication, and over-all job satisfaction. More important, it carries sufficient weight to encourage the client to reconsider some deeply held beliefs about how they relate to others. Reflecting back, our clients often remark that what had seemed so simple, even trivial in the beginning (the EI assessment), had had the most profound impact on job effectiveness and enjoyment in the end.


Many people still think of `intuition’ as that mysterious `gut’ instinct. It may be more productive to think of it as our innate ability to see relationships. In mathematical terms, we use our intellect to either analyze (break down into constituent parts) or integrate (bring together disparate parts, as in assembling a puzzle). The power to create something new, see new relationships, or devise new interpretations of given facts is using the intuitive or integrating aspect of our intellect.

Right Questions. Intuitive intelligence. Creativity. What might 'effortless high performance' mean to your colleagues?  To your bottom line?

There is significant evidence that intuition is critical to success – especially in an environment of information overload, which is typical of
any emerging growth company. Kurt Wright observes in Breaking the Rules – Removing the obstacles to effortless high performance(1998) that `right questions’ activate the intuitive/creative part of the brain, rather than the analytical/logical part. Research shows that intuitive conclusions are reached 1000 times faster than analytical conclusions. Wright argues that learning to ask right questions is a key to `removing the obstacles to effortless high performance’.

Right questions are a key aspect of coaching – and management. A sales manager asking, for example, `What does the client really want?’ invites an intuitive/integrating response, rather than an analytical one. This might invite the salesman to pause, remember that the client sounded upset and recently experienced a loss in their family. How possible is it that acknowledging the client’s personal loss is more important to the long-term relationship than today’s sale?


What’s Right? Questions

In terms of meetings or any team activity, `Build on Strengths’ means using the right kinds of questions. In Breaking the Rules Kurt Wright offers a powerful sequence of questions that (with thoughtful modification) can become a pervasive `style’ of managing for excellence. Imagine a meeting guided by the following questions:

1. What’s working/going well? (How many meetings begin with `What’s wrong? What’s the fire drill today? Given the opportunity, people love to focus on success!)

What would the impact on your company be if every meeting were organized around these questions?

2. Why is it going well? What are the strengths, values, relationships that are making/allowing it happen this way? (This question encourages creative response – there’s no `downside’, no defenses triggered – and group enthusiasm/participation rises.)

3. What would be the `best’? (Defining a vision/ideal is inherently challenging, but necessary.)

4. What’s not quite right, in light of the vision/ideal? (The stage has been set for the intuition to begin `filling the gaps’ between current and ideal)

5. What resources are available to build on our strengths?

In both business and non-business meetings I am always amazed at the difference between those leaders who focus on what’s going well and why (not to be confused with `optimists’, who simply assume what’s going well will continue) and those leaders who focus on problems or `issues’. The truly amazing thing is that with a ‘what’s right?’ approach, the initial perception of the problem or crisis changes so dramatically that it may cease to exist at all!


Coaching ‘Golden Rules’

There are certain ‘golden rules’ or foundational principles in our coaching.  Here are a few:

1.        We are a product of what we believe.

We don’t see things the way they are, we see things the way we are.” The Talmud

How often have you reflected back on a period of your life that felt out of control, a time of impossible choices, then somehow survived, perhaps flourished? Did your beliefs about the world change in some way? Often the only limit to our action is what we believe is possible. Our perception of our personal world is far more illusory than we care to admit.

2.      The client knows all the answers.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

Each of us has unique life experiences. At any given time, no one knows our life situation as well as we do — we’re living it! So the opportunity to find meaning and ‘answers’ in our challenges is also uniquely our own — once we have come to recognize the limited thinking that ‘we used when we created’ the problem.

3.      There are no mistakes.

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” Elbert Hubbard

How often are we paralyzed by the fear of ‘making a mistake’? In coaching, all decisions are viewed as inherently the best we can do in the moment of the decision (otherwise we would have done something differently!) As we look back at a decision and its perceived consequences, we may regret the action we took. But that does not make it a mistake! It is not something to be feared, but honored. Similarly, every ‘failure’ is a gift, a unique opportunity to learn.

4.      We are each here for a special purpose.

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” Gospel of Thomas

Each life is a unique combination of experiences, personal values and opportunities. To accept this simple truth as a ‘personal miracle’ is the first step to finding the many gifts of an authentic life, a life worthy of the honor we give to each and every great person that came before us. The potential that is unique in each person must be made manifest for a fulfilling life.

5.      There is only NOW, the present moment.

“The compulsion [to avoid the present moment] arises because the past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation, of fulfillment in whatever form. Both are illusions.” Eckhart Tolle

The past DOES give us the fodder for learning. The future DOES offer the opportunity to implement change. But it is only in the present that we can discern our passion and take each step toward our dreams. Coaching is ultimately about action — what action step can you take NOW to find fulfillment in this moment?


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