OMG, did you wake up today and realize it is December? Where did the year go and what can I still accomplish as the clock counts down to 2018? One of the interesting things about time is that it does not stand still for anyone. If you have goals and plans but then look up and find that time has passed and nothing has changed maybe you should review the reasons you wanted to achieve those goals or plans.
It is natural if you are working towards a massive goal to not see an immediate result. However, you should see massive actions towards the goal and not the same activity you were doing before you started. I am going to give you an exercise you can do with yourself, peers, direct reports or even your children to understand being more effective. If you will answer these for yourself or with an accountability partner you will find that December can be a great month for a reason other than Christmas Day. You will also have a chance to finally make that big move in 2018 that you secretly have wanted and no one knows about. You know the goal you keep to yourself because you do not want others to squash it and make you feel it will not happen? Yeah, that goal.
Here are the questions. Imagine it as we are talking or have someone ask you these to help you through the process. It is important that if you have someone work with you they only ask questions. They are not allowed to give you advice or solve your problems. If you want someone to fix things for you this is not the exercise you need. If that is the case just act like a 39 year old in denial and never have another birthday. Trust me, this is a very powerful tool and can make a great impact for you personally and as a leader an organization. You will also be able to use it to help others.
Question 1, What is on your mind?
You walk into my office and ask to talk with me regarding your goals and obstacles that are concerning you. All I ask is, “what is on your mind?” Answer this to yourself or if working with another person have them ask this and then just listen.
Question 2, And what else?
Now that you gave me the first thing on your mind let’s dig a little and make sure we have everything on the table. Keep repeating this question without feedback other than stating, “I see and what else?” Once you get to the point where there is truly nothing else on your mind then we can move to question 3.
Question 3, What is the real challenge hear for you? Why?
Now that we have everything on the table and we are looking at all of the thoughts in your mind, question 3 will be where we analyze what is the real problem. It is important too not rush this step but also do not second guess yourself. If you have been honest to this point and did not hold back what is on your mind you can now figure out what is the real problem for you with this particular issue.
Question 4, What does success look like for you?
Now we know what is on your mind and which item is the true hang-up. Plus we know what the challenge is for you and I promise it is not what you were telling yourself before you started this exercise. Now define what success looks like. If you cannot picture what success will look like then how will you ever know if you are on the right path or have arrived?
Question 5, What could you do to get there?
This is where I feel most people fall short. When you set large BHAG type goals it can be overwhelming and you have no idea how you would actually reach the goal. Then you do not start because the goal seems so far out of reach. Especially when time had passed and you begin to question if you set the right goal to begin with. What could you do to get there? Ask yourself this question with the thought of today. What can I do today, right now even, that would move me closer to achieving my goal? Focus on what you do have the ability to do and not what you are worried about not knowing yet.
Question 6, How can I help?
You have to let me know or your accountability partner know exactly what you would need to help you stay the course. An example in my life was asking a friend to be my accountability partner to give me the extra commitment to do each day what I had promised myself I would finally do. For me I just needed to have someone else I had promised so I could not break that commitment even if I wanted to back out on myself. Other times I have asked him just to talk something out with me so I could get my thoughts out in the open and figure out a problem I did not understand. Again I want to warn, do not let your accountably partner answer this question, you have to tell them how they can help not them tell you what they will do to help you.
Question 7, What are you committing to?
What are you committing to, is very important and where you need to write it down. Post it everywhere and talk about it often and with everyone. Post it on Facebook, Twitter or run an ad in the paper whatever you have to do to be fully committed. Not like a kamikaze pilot on his 24th mission but truly committed like burning your boat so you cannot retreat.
Question 8, If you are committing to this, what are you giving up?
Look we would all love to be great at everything and always help everyone. In reality, we only have so much capacity and if you want to be great it will require time and focus. If you are going to do a job that requires commitment it will mean something else has to give. It is important that you give up the right things and keep your priorities straight. For me it was getting up early each day and changing what I do. By starting my day earlier I have to go to bed earlier and that takes away my time to just sit, relax and be entertained. If you truly want to achieve your goals you have to give up something.
I hope you will take the time to do this exercise. It has been a blessing in my life and if you want to better understand how these questions work read “The Coaching Habit” by Michael Bungay Stanier.