The Art of Strengths Coaching

N is for Doing What Comes Naturally

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How can you build on your strengths? The Gallup Organization encourages individuals to focus on ‘the things you cannot help but do’. Let’s explore some steps for making this happen.

Clarifying The Things
That Come Naturally

What do you do naturally? What do you find yourself doing, thinking or creating?

You may find yourself engrossed in encouraging people, gardening, solving particular kinds of problems or whatever. One leader explained:

“I am fascinated by how people succeed. During my teenage years I devoured books about sports people, artists and leaders.

“Then I switched to studying great teams. Nowadays I try to create environments that encourage people to do their best.

“The theme is the same whether I am in my role as a business leader, providing people with training or, hopefully, nurturing my family.

“I want to create systems that enable people to succeed.”

So what fascinates you? If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe the things that come naturally.

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Continuing To Do The
Things That Come Naturally

“I did not realise that what I did was special,” explained one IT trouble-shooter.

“Ever since the age of 8 I have fixed computer problems. Then a few years ago somebody said I was also good at customer service.

“I educate people to prevent and manage future problems, rather than just solve the immediate issue. Now my company sends me around the world to help our challenging clients.

“That’s fine by me, because I keep learning. The company also benefits by having satisfied clients.”

Knowing what you do naturally is one thing. Putting yourself in the right place to use this talent is another.

Good sports coaches select players in the position where they can make the most impact. Great leaders follow a similar philosophy when running an organisation. They put people in the place where they can use their strengths.

Finding your right niche is too important to be left to others, so it is vital to take charge of shaping your future. Bearing this in mind, how can you keep putting yourself in the places where you can use your talent?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe how you can continue to do the things you do naturally.

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Continuing To Develop The
Things That Come Naturally

“They make things look so simple,” is a phrase often used about peak performers.

“Yes, that is because they work hard at it,” is the stock response.

Natural talent can take you to 7/10, but then comes a key decision. Do you want to put in the effort required to achieve 10/10?

Some gifted soccer players, for example, can achieve 9/10 at under-16 level. When they move up an age group, however, they find themselves delivering 6/10.

Some players choose to put in the effort required to improve their performance, but others stall. This process is repeated as players climb the ladder to the first team and, perhaps, to international level.

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There are many ways for people to keep developing. Here are some of the tried and trusted options.

Pursuing Stimulating Projects

People often develop by doing stimulating projects in which they can stretch themselves and achieve success. One person said:

“The biggest step for me was to become proactive in creating such projects. I was given many exciting opportunities during the first part of my career, but then these dried up.

“It took several years – and quite a bit of pain – before I realised it was up to me to create the opportunities. Now I have got into the habit of seeking such projects.”

Passing On Knowledge To Other People

“The best way to learn is to teach,” we are told. Why? We are asked to clarify what we actually do and put this into a framework that other people can understand.

How can you clarify what you know? One approach to imagine that you have been asked to teach a half hour session on a specific aspect of your work. It is then to write:

The three key messages I want
to give people on this topic are:


The way I would bring this message to
life by giving concrete examples would be:



The way I would bring this message to
life by giving concrete examples would be:



The way I would bring this message to
life by giving concrete examples would be:


Some people translate this approach into action by volunteering to do keynote speeches or give seminars. Setting such a deadline encourages them to clarify what they know intuitively.

Keeping A Personal
Development Journal

Peak performers are committed to constant improvement. One approach they take is to keep a development journal. Looking back over the past week, for example, they describe the following things.

What I Did Well

Three specific things I did well were:




The specific things I can do to follow
these principles more in the future are:




What I Can Do Better And How

Two specific things I can do even
better in the future – and how – are:



Everybody has their own approach to developing their natural talents. If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe how you can continue to develop in the areas where you do things naturally.

Describe the benefits of continuing to develop in these areas – both for yourself and for other people.

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    C is for The Control Factor In Sports

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    There are many models for achieving peak performance. One approach is based on the steps taken by great players and teams in sports.

    Such players often focus on the control factor. They aim to control themselves, their performance and the game.

    They recognise they can only control the controllables, of course, because some things will be beyond their control. They do everything possible, however, to do their best on the day.

    That sounds easy in theory, but how do people actually make it happen? Here is one approach they take to making the best use of their talents.

    Great players start by establishing clarity regarding the strategy for achieving their goals. They do this whether playing individual sports, such as golf or tennis, or team sports.

    Bill Walsh, the legendary coach of the San Francisco 49ers, described this approach in The Score Takes Care of Itself.


    He believed that leaders must develop the right strategy for delivering success. This included developing the right planning for tackling various scenarios.

    The strategy was then translated into standards of performance that people could follow, both on and off the field. Providing they produced positive performances, the score would take of itself. Bill explained:

    The motto of the Boy Scouts, ‘Be prepared,’ became my modus operandi, and to be prepared I had to factor in every contingency: good weather, bad weather, and everything in between.

    You must envision the future deeply and in detail – creatively – so that the unforeseeable becomes foreseeable. Then you write the script for the foreseeable.

    Of course, there’s always something you can’t anticipate, but you strive to greatly reduce the number of those foreseeables.

    Bill followed the 80/20 rule. The 49ers focused on maximising the 80% they could control in a game.

    There may be 20% they couldn’t control, such as a referee’s call, a bad bounce or fortune. Players were expected to practice relentlessly, however, until their execution at the highest level was automatic.

    Bill called this ‘routine perfection’. Delivering these standards on the field vastly increased the team’s chances of success.

    Looking back on your own life, can you recall a time when you clarified the strategy for achieving a specific goal? You then moved into action.

    You were calm, took control and consistently delivered a high level of performance. If appropriate, you also added that touch of creativity. You then kept working hard to produce the desired concrete results.

    If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe when you may have demonstrated some of these qualities.

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    Let’s explore these qualities by considering the following steps taken by peak performers in sports.


    Great players are often passionate and adrenalin driven. When they are in the zone, however, they often show other characteristics.

    They are concentrated and calm. They are centered and rise above the congestion around them.

    Such players demonstrate grace under pressure. They look around, take in the whole scene and focus on the best way forwards.

    There are many ways to make this happen. Don Greene’s work, for example, has helped many people to perform well under pressure.

    Don has worked with people in sports, music and many other fields. Here is an introduction to how he helps musicians to stay calm when performing. You can discover more via the following link.


    Great teams in sport aim to take control of the game. They often have many strong personalities in the team who can be seen as ‘controllers’.

    Such players start by mastering the technique required to control the football, golf ball or the other materials used in their sport. Their ability to control things, however, goes much further. They aim:

    To control their own performance.

    To control their part of the arena.

    To control the game.

    Great teams have controllers that dominate each part of the arena. They aim to set the agenda, steer the strategy and provide the platform for the team to achieve success.


    “My hardest job is to get the team to consistently deliver a high level of performance,” said one soccer manager I met.

    “Getting the right players is the first step. Then it is about me working with them on the field to ensure they deliver the strategy successfully.

    “My coaching career began in the 1980s and was strongly influenced by sports psychology. Players need more then a positive attitude, however, to succeed on the field. They need to translate the approach into action and maintain good habits.

    “My responsibility is to set the strategy. It is then to encourage the players to keep practicing until it becomes second nature. Providing they do this during the games, we will have a good chance of success.

    “The strategy is my call. If I choose the right one – and the players put it into practice properly – then we have a good chance of success.

    “If I choose the wrong strategy, then I need to learn. It is up to me to ensure we have the right strategy carried out by the right players in the right way.”


    Great teams get the right balance between consistency and creativity. They consistently reach 8/10. But they also encourage people to express their talents so that the team reaches 10/10.

    Imagine you are a leader and want to build such a team. One concern you have, however, is that people sometimes neglect the basics on their route to self-expression.

    If you wish, gather people together and invite them do an exercise on this theme. Invite people to do the following things.

    Describe the specific things people can do in a consistent way to deliver positive performances.

    Describe the specific things people can do to, when appropriate, use their creativity to deliver positive performances.

    This exercise can be used with all kinds of teams. During the 1980s, for example, I used it with teams of talented young soccer players.

    Believing they were super stars, the individual players often did their own thing. But success called for them combining their talents as a team.

    When using this exercise with one team, they agreed on the following principles that everybody should follow.

    Consistency. The things we need to do in a consistent
    way to deliver positive performances are to:

    Keep ourselves fit … Arrive on time for training and all meetings … Be positive … Take responsibility … Always give 100% … Follow the team’s agreed strategy for each game.

    Stick to our roles during matches … Encourage each other … Accept the referee’s decisions without dissent … Keep going up to the final whistle.

    Creativity. The things we can do to, when appropriate,
    apply our creativity to deliver positive performances are to:

    Attack in the final third of the field … Deal with dangerous situations in defence … Make decisions about things not covered in the game plan.

    Here is the exercise you can invite people to tackle.

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    Concrete Results

    Different players have different philosophies regarding how they aim to deliver positive results.

    Some players reframe situations as ones where they aim to do their best. They believe that, providing they do this, the score will take care of itself.

    They focus on harnessing their inner Champ. They follow the principles they have pursued previously to deliver their equivalent of championship performances. They also add any other skills required to deliver their goods.

    Such players also manage what Steve Peters called their inner Chimp, any negative self-talk or habits. They build on their Champ, rather than get distracted by their Chimp.

    You can discover more about this approach via the following link.

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    Some players focus exclusively on winning. Whilst this seems obvious, it can also be counter-productive. People can be overcome by neurosis and find their game falls apart.

    Great players often follow the old cliché. They aim to play their own game, rather than play the occasion. They aim to keep doing the right things in the right way.

    There are many ways to make this happen. One approach is to apply lessons from focusing on the control factor in sports.

    Imagine that you want to follow these steps in your own way. If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

    Describe a specific situation in the future where you may want to establish clarity and then focus on calmness, control, consistency, creativity and concrete results.

    Describe the specific things you can do to follow some of these steps in your own way.

    Describe the specific benefits of following those steps and doing your best to achieve the desired results.

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