The Art of Strengths Coaching

D is for Deciding What Your Team Wants To Keep Doing, Start Doing and Stop Doing

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Super teams encourage their people to focus on the key strategies for achieving success. They encourage people to keep doing the right things in the right way to get the right results.

As time goes by, however, people’s energies may become spread across too many different activities. At this point it is important to take stock.

Some activities may still contribute towards achieving the team’s goals, but others may not be needed. The team may also need to start doing new things that lay the ground for future success.

How to make this happen? One approach is to invite people to refocus on the picture of success. It is then to clarify how they can be even more effective. They can do this by focusing on the things they want to keep doing, start doing and stop doing.

Imagine you lead a team. Let’s explore how you can follow these steps in your own way.

People can refocus on
the picture of success

Super teams continually remind people of the story, strategy and the road to success. So gather people together and remind them of the following things.

The What – The specific goals we want to achieve are …

The Why – The specific benefits of achieving the goals are …

The How – The specific strategies we can follow to achieve the goals are …

Different teams use different templates for clarifying their aims. Here is one that focuses on the profits, products and people. You will, however, use your own template.

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If you wish, highlight the specific progress the team has made towards achieving the goals. It can be good to highlight when people have performed brilliantly and the principles they followed to do good work.

You can then move onto the habits you want people to pursue in the future. Make three flip charts with the following headings.

Keep doing: The specific things we want to keep doing are …

Start doing: The specific things we want to start doing are …

Stop doing: The specific things we want to stop doing are …

Give each person a pack of Post-it Notes and invite them to explore the themes mentioned above. If appropriate, they can cover all three topics at the same time.

You can begin by explaining each topic in turn. They can then write their suggestions for each area.

People can focus on what
they want to keep doing

You will explain the various themes in your own way. If appropriate, however, you may want to say something along the following lines.

Great teams maintain good habits. So I would like you to start by listing all the things you believe we should keep doing to achieve success.

These can be the key principles or the specific actions. If you write a principle, however, try to bring it to life by giving a concrete example

If you say ‘Keep giving great customer service,’ for instance, give a specific example of how this can be translated into action.

You can also describe the benefits of continuing to do the things you mention. Write one idea per Post-it, but you can write as many ideas as you wish.

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People can focus on what
they want to start doing

If appropriate, you may want to say something along the following lines when introducing this theme.

Great teams maintain good habits, but they sometimes do things to step up their game. So I would like you to write your ideas regarding what we can start doing.

Describe the things you believe we can start doing to improve our work, provide better customer service, manage our stakeholders, broaden our thinking, develop as a team or whatever.

Dare to be creative in your ideas. If possible, describe the potential benefits of doing these things.

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People can focus on what
they want to stop doing

If appropriate, you may want to say something along the following lines when introducing this theme.

Teams can sometimes get into the habit of doing things that are no longer effective. These may be hangovers from following old processes that no longer bring good returns.

Describe the things you believe we may want to stop doing. There may be meetings we can cut, reporting lines we can shorten, paper work we can ditch or other activities that distract from achieving our prime purpose.

Again, be creative with your ideas. Describe the benefits of stopping doing these things. There may, of course, also be some minuses. If so, describe how we can manage these consequences.

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Imagine that you have explained each of the themes you want people to explore. Give people 15 minutes to write as many Post-it Notes as they wish on each of the topics.

You can then invite each person to go up in turn and put their suggestions on the relevant flip charts. They are also to explain their reasons for each of the ideas.

People can co-ordinate what the team wants
to keep doing, start doing and stop doing

Spend some time discussing the key themes that have emerged. It can then be useful to move on to creating a co-ordination plan for delivering the goods.

Super teams go beyond producing action plans. They have a superb co-ordinator – or an agreed co-ordination process – that ensures the actions actually happen.

The co-ordinator’s role is to ensure that people channel their talents towards achieving the team’s goal. This can be important with knowledge workers who may fall into following their own agendas.

Imagine that you have a superb co-ordinator or have created a good co-ordination process. It will then be time to move onto the action plan. Encourage people:

To clarify the specific things they want to keep doing, start doing and stop doing.

To clarify how these plans can be translated into action.

To clarify when people will present the progress they have made towards making things happen.

Clarity is the starting point for any venture, but co-ordination provides the bridge to producing concrete results. Below is an exercise you can use to ensure people follow up the agreements.

Super teams focus on their agreed key strategies. One approach is to clarify what they can keep, start and stop doing. People can then channel their energies towards achieving success.

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    C is for Being Calm And Clear When Almost Caring Too Much

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    Great workers care deeply about their chosen pursuit. They may feel passionately about encouraging people, playing a sport, healing the planet or whatever.

    People often do their best work, however, when they are calm and controlled. They are then more able to clarify the key strategies for going forwards. Doing the right things in the right way increases the chances of achieving the goals.

    People can sometimes get thrown off course when they almost care too much. Their emotions take over and they fail to deliver the goods. They may become paralysed by empathy, overcome by sorrow, obsessed by winning a prize or whatever.

    Looking at your own life, when have you been calm, clear and able to chart an way effective forward? You demonstrated these qualities, rather than be thrown off-course because you cared too much.

    You may have done this when helping somebody to take responsibility for shaping their life, dealing with a crisis or whatever. What were the benefits of taking this route?

    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 were calm and clear rather than almost cared too much.

    Describe the specific things you did then to be calm and clear.

    Describe the specific things that happened as a result of being calm and clear.

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    Leaders of Accident & Emergency Units, for example, must remain calm. Faced by an onrush of patients after a disaster, they must make decisions based on clear thinking.

    Such decisions makers often focus on clarity, creativity and concrete results. They explore the following themes.

    Clarity – What is actually happening? What are the real results to achieve? What are the short, medium and long-term goals?

    Creativity – What are the possible options for achieving the goals? What are the consequences of each option? What is the route we therefore wish to follow?

    Concrete Results – How can we deliver the required results? What is the specific action plan? What must be delivered by when – and who will do what – on the way towards achieving the desired results?

    Great workers focus on a specific part of the caring curve when making decisions. They care about doing the proper things in the proper way.

    Some people care too little. They are sloppy and fail to do the basics. Some people almost care too much and become distracted by things that stop them performing well.

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    Environmentalists, for example, care deeply about the health of planet. This has both pluses and minuses. Being sensitive means they can get depressed about what is happening. They need to be calm and clear, however, to chart a positive way forwards.

    Matthew Syed, author of Bounce, describes how athletes aim to stay calm at the height of competition. He explained how Sarah Lindsay, the speed skater, achieved this state by maintaining a sense of perspective.

    She spent years focusing fully on reaching the final of her speed skating event in the Winter Olympics. Sarah knew she must perform beyond her previous best to reach this goal. In order to do so, however, she knew it was important to flow and finish.

    Sarah was seen preparing in the locker room before the final qualifying race saying to herself:

    It’s only speed skating. It’s only speed skating. It’s only bloody speed skating.

    She kept repeating the mantra. Sarah went out and performed beyond her previous best to reach the final.

    Looking to the future, can you think of a situation when you may want to be calm and clear? You want to take this route rather than be thrown off-course because you almost care too much.

    You may want to do this when making a transition, dealing with a potential crisis or whatever. 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 when you may want to be calm and clear rather than almost care too much.

    Describe the specific things you can do then to be calm and clear in the situation.

    Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of being calm and clear in the situation.

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