Recently I was certified as a Gallup Strengths Coach. This was especially exciting, as for years I had loved the concept of strengths; but even though I am an accredited coach, I was very much an ‘enthusiastic amateur’ when it came to strengths. My love of learning encouraged me to learn more, and passion for serving others encouraged me to step up and get certified. The coaching course blew me away. Not only were the Gallup facilitators excellent trainers, but their knowledge and experience was impressive. I walked away with my head and heart full, and a community of like minded coaches, all passionate about serving their clients using a strengths based approach. One of the first lines in our workbook that caught my attention was “Start with Talent, Finish with Strengths”. It got me thinking about the work that I and other coaches and consultants do in this space. We’re often asked “what’s wrong?”, “what needs to be fixed?” and encouraged to look at the broken bits. It can be so easy to be drawn in to picking holes (everyone’s a critic, right?), and in my work with clients I have focused on the areas that have been going well. As Chip and Dan Heath say in their book Switch – the ‘bright spots’.
A Structured Approach to Positivity
What the course, and my subsequent coaching experience has highlighted for me is the structure behind my approach. It’s not about ignoring the negatives, but rather systematically identifying talent, and using it as a lever to strengthen the team. There is ALWAYS something a team is doing well. It’s actually harder to find than all the things they’re not doing well. But when you find it, you find the gold; the golden opportunity to increase the team’s performance ten fold. Picking on the bits that are broken gives marginal gains. Finding talent is where the exponential gains are.
How this works in practice. I attend a team stand up. The team asks: “Okay, what did we do wrong?”
My response: “How are these stand ups working for you? Are you getting the results you are after?”
Team: “We are. We feel connected and have a good understanding of what is going on. We think we’re letting ourselves down by not planning well”
Me: “What is it about your stand-ups that work so well?”
Team: “We all turn up on time and listen to each other”
Me: “What if you did the same with planning?”
You see, I could attend a planning session and pick holes, or I could find something that’s working well and help the team identify WHY. Then have them apply that to something that’s not working well. In coaching/Neuro-Linguistic Programming, this is known as Strategies. Start with finding the bright spots. Finish with strengths.
Problems and Ideas to Overcome
Problem: Limited coaching experience. Many coaches have limited experience with teams. They know either a single strategy or very few. So their belief is to apply that one thing over and over again. This limits growth.
Try: Shadowing other coaches. Go to Meetups and learn from others. Don't be afraid to try something you haven't experienced. Treat it as an experiment where you and the team learn together.
Problem: It's easier to 'tell'. Many coaches are pushed to 'give the answer', and their teams can get impatient with more questions.
Try: Persisting. Asking great questions and getting the team to come up with solutions has a more powerful, long-lasting effect.
Problem: Your team is focused on the negative and it's difficult to get them to look at the positive.
Try: Short activities to build the 'positivity muscle'. Go around the room rapid fire and ask everyone to share a word that others' use to describe them positively.
When you think about your Agile team, what are you proud of? Where do you knock it out of the park? Why do you think that is? How could you apply this to an area you're not doing as well at? Take some time to reflect on this, apply this lens, and watch your results increase ten-fold! Need help? For a free strengths strategy session, click here.
Like what you read? Continue the conversation on The Agile Project Manager Facebook page.