A lot of my coaching work – especially around careers – is focused on helping people define and change their future direction. Very often this involves lots of assessment activity around preferences, attributes, strengths and values, and creativity exercises to begin creating that exciting future. But what if you already know how you want your future to be and are struggling with making that happen? Maybe you can’t get to action or overcome all the hurdles you see in your way.
If this is you, you probably don’t need me to tell you that unless you change what you are doing nothing is going to change. In fact you’re probably already frustrated at being unable to move forward despite knowing all that typical coaching stuff. This is what I call the Monday Morning Question – having visions and clear goals are all very well, but if you are not equipped to bring it all down to the practical level and know what you will do differently on Monday morning, you won’t move forward.
For many of us, getting stuck in this way happens because we have missed a step between the big picture, future focus, and the small detail, action step. Without that step the gap is too large to navigate. The Monday morning question says “specifically, what will I do differently right now?”
It can be helpful once you have defined the change you are looking to make to break that down further into interim stages. You might adopt a kind of gap analysis approach, for example:
Let’s imagine you think about your performance at work and maybe get some feedback which suggests that you don’t speak up enough or make enough of an impact (A). You decide that you want to change that so that in future, feedback suggests that you clearly and assertively express your views (C).
To make that happen you need to DO something – in fact you need to do a number of things. Firstly you need to understand what your current behaviour is that is creating A – ask yourself, what am I currently doing and not doing? Feedback may help you to do that, as may your own self-knowledge.
Next you need to identify the changes you need to make. You might use a simpleStop Start Continue approach to identify this (i.e. what behaviours should I stop doing, what should I start doing and what should I continue doing?).
Note that we are still up in the thinking cloud at this stage – it’s all good stuff but none of this is action, we have more steps to go.
Now you can move on to defining the specific actions you will take on Monday morning. In this example, let’s imagine that you have decided to contribute more in meetings. That might translate into a specific action to “Make at least two valuable comments at each weekly management meeting”.
Analysing this further you can then see that there are at least two prior steps to add into your action plan – to define what ‘valuable’ means, and to prepare. You can then add a necessary, preceding action, “Prior to each weekly management meeting prepare two questions/contributions/comments I will make that will add value to the meeting”. You now have a couple of actions that are ‘do-able’.
Once you have a list of specific actions you will take, they should be detailed and specific enough to enable you to be perfectly clear as to exactly what you will do and when you will do it. A useful self-coaching question you might ask yourself at this stage is “What might get in the way of me doing this?”.
Recognising and addressing obstacles is a key activity in making change and will often lead to further actions that need to be done first. Obstacles to your progress may be external (e.g. workload or logistics) or internal (e.g. lack of motivation or confidence) . Either may require additional support to overcome, but the principle remains the same: Identify the outcome you are seeking, define what needs to change, and then think about and plan how you will do that. You are then ready to DO IT – and that will be the subject of a later post!
Look forward to Monday mornings!