The Art of Strengths Coaching

C is for Choice Therapy

Choice Therapy.001

This article provides an introduction to Choice Therapy. Such an approach is strongly influenced by existential psychology, reality therapy, logotherapy and the work of some self help groups. This piece shows how a practitioner might facilitate such a session.

Choice therapy, like all therapy, is based on certain assumptions about people. These involve treating people like responsible adults and pursuing the following guidelines.

Choice Therapy.002

Choice Therapy.003

Choice Therapy.004

Let’s imagine you have had several years experience practicing this approach. Here is a snapshot of how you might facilitate such a session.

One disclaimer. The article gives an overview of how someone can facilitate such a session. It obviously does not provide a qualification for actually practicing the therapy.

You can create an encouraging environment
and help the person to clarify their goals

Imagine somebody has asked for your help in tackling a specific challenge. They may want to take more control of their life, overcome a setback, tackle a particular problem or whatever.

The first step is to have an informal conversation. You can invite the person to outline their goals and, if you are happy to help, explain your way of working. You can then ask the person to reflect on whether they would like to go ahead.

Let’s assume they want to meet. During the first meeting it will be important:

To start by creating an encouraging environment.

To welcome the person and make them feel at home.

To invite them to again explain the reason they are looking for help.

To explain what you can and can’t offer.

To, if the person wants to proceed, make clear working contracts.

To agree on your role and their role in working to achieve their goals.

When working with a person, it is vital to accept their feelings are real for them, even though they might sound crazy to other people.

This is the first empathy – showing that you understand the person’s actual situation.

You will soon move towards the second empathy. This is focusing on the person’s aspirations – what they want to feel, do and achieve in the future.

Let’s consider an example. Recently I worked with Dave, who felt overcome by pressure. He often broke into cold sweats, felt ill and got angry with loved ones at home.

Certainly he could learn techniques for managing the pressure, but the causes were obviously deep. I explained we could achieve this short-term goal.

If he wished, we could also focus on his medium and long-term goals. Dave said this would be useful, because he felt unhappy at work.

We agreed on the contract. My responsibility was to listen and clarify his goals. It was then to provide support and tools he could use to succeed.

His role was to shape his future and do whatever he felt appropriate to achieve his goals. Dave accepted there were no miracle cures and bought into the working contract.

How to clarify the person’s goals? There are several guidelines when taking this step. It is important:

To state the goals in positive terms.

Dave said: “I want to feel less pressure.” So we translated this into a positive goal: “I want to feel calm in a specific situation.”

To clarify the person’s short-term goals but, if appropriate, also their medium and long-term goals.

Dave wanted to focus on his life-goals. These included working in a culture where he felt at ease – one that was supportive yet stretching.

To clarify the person’s controllables.

A person can control their own attitude and behaviour, for example, but they can’t control other people’s opinions.

They can obviously try to influence other people, but ultimately they cannot control what other people think about them.

To revisit their goals and translate these into a clear picture of success.

To, if they have several goals, list these in order of priority.

To then focus on the first topic they want to tackle.

Certainly this sounds logical. But it must be done in a warm and encouraging way. You then have the basis for working well together.

Imagine you are conducting such a session. If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe the specific things you can do when starting a session.

Choice Therapy.005

Choice Therapy.006

You can help the person to clarify and choose
their strategies for achieving their goals

Start by tackling the first goal. Invite the person to consider all the potential routes they can take to achieve success. Whenever possible, draw these out from the person.

Invite the person to consider the consequences of each route, together with the pluses and minuses. At the end of this section you may want to summarise by saying something like:

Looking at the goals you want to achieve, there are many different strategies you can follow.

Option A is to ….

Option B is to …

Option C is to …

There are probably many more options, some of which we will explore in a moment. Each route has both pluses and minuses.

Some options are more attractive than others, but ultimately it is going to be your choice.

Which of these options is the most attractive? We can explore this further. Or, if you wish, we can look at other possible creative solutions.

Choice Therapy.007

If appropriate, you can also share other potential routes. This is an opportunity to share your knowledge.

You can, for example, offer positive models and practical tools they can use to achieve their goals. When doing this, watch the person to see which ideas resonate. They may then wish to add these to their strategies for moving forward.

There are many approaches to exploring creative solutions – such as brainstorming, sharing practical tools, exploring successful patterns or whatever.

“But what if a person goes into ‘Yes, but,’ mode?” somebody may ask. “What do you do then?”

Return to the beginning and clarify the goals they want to achieve – the ‘What’. Be positive and encourage the person, but do not try to persuade.

The person ultimately has the right to behave as they wish. There will be consequences, of course, both for themselves and other people.

Returning to the session with Dave, I invited him to explore his positive history. Looking back at his life, when had managed pressure successfully?

What had he done right then? How could he follow similar principles in the future? Fifteen minutes later he had clarified his successful pattern and translated this into an action plan for staying calm.

Dave’s key issue revolved around feeling in control. This was exemplified in difficult meetings at work where he felt attacked.

Looking ahead to the next such meeting, we clarified the results he wanted to achieve and rehearsed tackling the actual situation. Dave felt good about his strategies, but was still concerned about losing control.

So he made an action plan for staying calm. This involved taking the following steps.

To recognise the potential warning signs.

Such as starting to feel distant and dizzy, which then led to cold sweats.

To implement his successful pattern for staying calm.

This meant buying time by, for instance, getting a cup of coffee, breathing calmly and clarifying the results he wanted to achieve in the situation.

To be calm, speak slowly and try to find positive solutions with the other people.

If this was not possible, instead of being rushed into a decision, he would promise to get back to them with suggestions. Dave and I role-played the situation and kept going until he felt satisfied with his chosen strategy.

We then moved onto the next topic to explore. He wanted to find a stimulating role in a supportive yet stretching culture.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme of exploring the potential ways for going forwards. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things you can do to help the person to clarify their possible choices – and the consequences – for working towards achieving their goal.

Describe the specific things you can do to help them to, if appropriate, find creative solutions to challenges.

Describe the specific things you can do to help them to settle on their chosen way forward and clarify their specific action plan.

Choice Therapy.008

Choice Therapy.009

Choice Therapy.010

Choice Therapy.011

You can continue to help the
person to achieve their goals

Imagine the person has put their action plan into practice. Start the second meeting by clarifying what they want to explore – their desired take aways from the session.

Before getting into those topics, however, ask if it is appropriate to review the action plan. Invite the person to describe:

The things they did well.

The things they could do better next time.

The things they have learned and can apply in the future.

You can then move into the first topic they want to explore in this second session.

If appropriate, you can use the creative approach to coaching. You can help the person to focus on clarity, creativity and concrete results.

Choice Therapy.014

Choice therapy starts by providing a caring environment. It then involves helping the person to clarify their goals, explore the potential choices, consequences and find creative solutions.

The key differentiating factors, however, stem from the basic assumptions about people.

These include encouraging people to take responsibility, be creative and pursue their chosen strategies. It is then providing support that enables them to achieve ongoing success.

If you wish, try completing the final exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe how you can continue to help the person to achieve their goals.

Choice Therapy.012

Choice Therapy.013

Share

    C is for Becoming A Class Act

    Class Act.001

    “They are a class act,” is a phrase used to describe somebody who consistently performs brilliantly and also adds that touch of class.

    The singer produces a memorable encore. The athlete produces a spell binding performance. The victor behaves generously, whilst the loser makes a gracious speech.

    Nelson Mandela turned away from violence and personally thanked his warders when leaving Robbins Island. Such people demonstrate grace under pressure.

    Lady Marie Stubbs set the tone when taking over the London school where Philip Lawrence was murdered.

    On her first day at St George’s, Westminster, she shook hands with every pupil. Tackling the challenge head on, she worked with the staff and students to turn around the school.

    Let’s explore how you can continue to be a class act.

    Start by choosing an activity in
    which you can become a Class Act

    One approach is to start by choosing an activity in which you stand a chance of achieving 10/10. You can choose one where you feel at ease and are able to excel.

    One soccer coach, for example, chose to become the outstanding head of a youth academy, rather than a highly paid club manager. He said:

    “My skills are in helping talented young players to develop.

    “I am not suited to the roller coaster pressures of getting weekly results and talking with the press. I prefer to produce a succession of young players who go on to become internationals.”

    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 would like to become a class act.

    Describe the specific reasons why you believe it may be possible for you to become a class act in this activity.

    Slides Class Act.002

    Slides Class Act.003

    Let’s imagine that you have chosen an activity in which you have the ability to do great work. Here are some steps you can consider on the road to doing your best.

    You can focus on
    character and competence

    Character is the foundation of success. Looking at the activity in which aim to excel, do you have the right character to deliver the goods?

    Do you have the right drive, discipline and determination? A sales person must have the drive to hit financial targets. An actor must have the resilience to overcome rejection. An athlete must have the discipline to train every day.

    If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Bearing in mind your chosen activity, this invites you to do the following things.

    Describe the characteristics that you believe somebody in this field must demonstrate in order to excel.

    Describe, on a scale 0 – 10, the extent to which you believe you demonstrate these characteristics.

    Describe the specific things you can do to maintain or improve the rating.

    Slides Class Act.004

    Slides Class Act.005

    Slides Class Act.006

    Character is a good starting point, but a person must also have the required competence. Peak performers have the right combination of strengths, strategic thinking and skills.

    Chefs must have a natural feeling for food and a good palate. Trouble-shooters must be able to quickly get to the heart of the matter and make good strategic decisions. Carpenters must have the right skills to produce works of craftsmanship.

    If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Bearing in mind your chosen activity, this invites you to do the following things.

    Describe the specific kinds of competence that you believe somebody must demonstrate to excel in this activity.

    Describe, on a scale 0 – 10, the extent to which you believe you demonstrate these kinds of competence.

    Describe the specific things you can do to maintain or improve the rating.

    Slides Class Act.007

    Slides Class Act.008

    Slides Class Act.009

    You can focus on
    consistency and creativity

    Great workers are positive, professional and peak performers. Overcoming setbacks and crises, they consistently deliver at least 8/10.

    How do they maintain such high standards? Positive by nature, they focus on controlling the controllables.

    Professional to their fingertips, they practice good habits. They do the right things in the right way every day.

    Proactivity is crucial. They continually look ahead and address issues that are in the Green, Amber and Red Zones.

    If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Bearing in mind your chosen activity, this invites you to do the following things.

    Describe the specific kinds of consistency that you believe somebody must demonstrate to excel in this activity.

    Describe, on a scale 0 – 10, the extent to which you believe you demonstrate this consistency.

    Describe the specific things you can do to maintain or improve the rating.

    Slides Class Act.010

    Slides Class Act.011

    Slides Class Act.012

    Success calls for employing the right creativity at the right time to get the right results. Creativity comes in many different forms.

    Class acts often have the radar and repertoire required to deliver the right results. What does this mean?

    They have great personal radar in their potential field. They quickly see patterns and see the potential picture of success. They seem to know what will happen before it happens.

    They have a wide professional repertoire. They have the strengths, strategies and skills required to deliver the goods. They then employ their radar and repertoire to pursue their chosen strategy towards delivering the right results.

    If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Bearing in mind your chosen activity, this invites you to do the following things.

    Describe the specific kinds of creativity that you believe somebody must demonstrate to excel in this activity.

    Describe, on a scale 0 – 10, the extent to which you believe you demonstrate this creativity.

    Describe the specific things you can do to maintain or improve the rating.

    Slides Class Act.013

    Slides Class Act.014

    Slides Class Act.015

    You can add
    that touch of class

    Peak performers often produce something special at key moments. Doing whatever is required to reach the goal, they sometimes achieve it by adding that touch of class.

    Superb sprinters employ their talent and technique to get in sight of the tape. They then flow, focus and finish.

    Outstanding negotiators stay calm under pressure. They then produce a breakthrough solution that ensures all parties get a win-win.

    Great performers always do the basics and then add that touch of brilliance. Some people show class as human beings. Here is one outstanding example.

    Imagine you are a Polish Catholic mother in 1942. Suddenly a 12-year-old Jewish boy knocks on the door. His parents have been killed by the Nazis and he is looking for sanctuary.

    Hungry and frightened, he has nowhere to hide. He asks for your help. What would you do? Would you close the door, tell the authorities or take him into your home?

    Samuel Oliner, co-author of The Altruistic Personality, describes how he, the 12 year-old-boy, was saved by Bulwina, the Polish mother. She took him in, protected him from the Nazis and changed his name to Jusek.

    She taught him to go to church on Sunday, learn the Catholic Catechism and blend into the scenery. Bulwina then helped him to make his escape when the situation became too dangerous.

    Untitled

    This is an extreme example, but many people demonstrate class when under pressure. They show what human beings can do when they are at their best.

    If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Bearing in mind your chosen activity, this invites you to do the following things.

    Describe the specific touches of class that you believe somebody must demonstrate to excel in this activity.

    Describe, on a scale 0 – 10, the extent to which you believe you demonstrate these touches of class.

    Describe the specific things you can do to maintain or improve the rating.

    Slides Class Act.016

    Slides Class Act.017

    Slides Class Act.018

    There are many models for doing great work. You can, for example, study the path taken by peak performers.

    Such people often follow their passion and translate this into a clear purpose. They then do professional work, find solutions to problems and deliver peak performance. Whichever model you use, however, it often involves showing a touch of class.

    How can you do this in your own way? If you wish, try tackling the final exercise on this theme.

    Describe again the specific activity in which you want to excel.

    Describe the specific things you can do to become a class act in this activity.

    Describe the specific benefits – both to yourself and other people – of becoming a class act in this activity.

    You can then do your best to achieve this aim and make magic when it matters.

    Slides Class Act.019

    Slides Class Act.020

    Slides Class Act.021

    Share

      B is for The Three Kinds of Builders

      Imagine you have been given the brief and mandate to rebuild a struggling organisation.

      There are many ways to make this happen. Sometimes the different approaches can be likened to building a house.

      Some Read more

      Share

        B is for Beating The Double Bind

        Have you ever been in a double bind? This is a situation in which – no matter what you do – you seem bound to lose.

        Double binds cause great pain in the family Read more

        Share

          B is for Delivering The Basics and The Brilliance

          Great teams do the right things in the right way to reach 8/10. They then add what is necessary to achieve 10/10.

          “This sounds logical in theory,” said one leader.

          “But how do you Read more

          Share

            C is for Balancing Consuming and Creating

            There are many ways that people choose to live life. One approach is to see people as living systems who must balance consuming and creating.

            This is not just about food. If a person Read more

            Share

              A is for Appreciating Your Assets

              Looking at your life and work, what are your personal and professional assets? How can you build on those assets in the future?

              Alexander Calder, the sculptor, said: “I had the good fortune to Read more

              Share

                A is for The Achievement Model

                How can you be a good talent spotter? How can you tell whether a person is hungry? How can you judge whether they will translate their potential into performance?

                This piece outlines five qualities Read more

                Share

                  A is for Acting As If You Are The Person You Want To Be

                  My first contact with the act as if approach was during the late 1960s. This was just before I opened a therapeutic community for drug addicts.

                  As part of my education, I visited an Read more

                  Share

                    A is for Accountability, Autonomy and Authority

                    People like to set specific goals, do superb work and deliver success.

                    Many factors affect their ability to follow this path. These include having the freedom to be creative and make key decisions on Read more

                    Share