A Hope-Filled Plan

We make plans all the time.

One of best parts of coaching is helping leaders, organizations, and people make and carry out plans.

Over the years, I have noticed two distinct types of plans.

Plan type one is the safe bet. Rooted in “reality” this plan type is achievable with a little stretch, but when you dig this plan is the result of future fears, doubts, and concerns.

“You gotta be careful, we are not sure what things will be like next year. What if the business takes a downturn? What if this doesn’t work?”

I nicknamed Plan type one, the Hopeless Plan.

The Hopeless Plan starts with a laundry list of what can go wrong and assumes that all prior time not completely focused on this direction has been a complete waste of time, and there may not be enough time to try anything new or risky.

“I am too old, and should have started this a long time ago if I really wanted to do this…”

The Hopeless Plan acts like a constricting funnel of all good, cool, and creative ideas, and severely limits what seems possible.

But we have to give The Hopeless Plan a little credit since it does result in small achievements or progress.

But there is another plan type.

Plan type two acknowledges the present reality, but does not allow the same limitation.

I nicknamed plan type two: A Hope-Filled Plan.

A Hope-Filled Plan acts like an amplifier taking the history, the experience, and current resources,  combining them into a vision of the future that seems larger, possible, and exciting.

A Hope-Filled Plan is risky, interesting, and requires you to keep moving.

A Hope-Filled Plan allows you to dream and see beyond the present circumstances.

Recent examples of A Hope-Filled Plan include:

  • A mid 40’s attorney who dreamed of being a foreign service officer taking the leap to give up a successful practice for uncertainty and overseas travel.
  • A late 30’s language professor who suddenly realized they wanted to become a doctor and is starting med-school.
  • A person in their 50’s packing up and moving to a new city, without a job or a home.
  • A person too old to get back into the military traversing the process and waivers to restart a career they miss and enjoyed in their youth.
  • A 70-year-old builder of organizations taking the lead to build another one (ironically in the same area that was intended to be a retirement destination).

Plans are good.

Plans help you achieve your goals.

But choose your plan type carefully.

A Hope-Filled Plan may be what you really need and deserve.

The Outsider Perspective

Sometimes we gravitate towards people who are similar to us, or have had similar experience.

They have “walked in our shoes” and we assume they understand us, our issues, and our struggles.

This gravitational pull becomes stronger during training or workshops when you ask people to break into small groups. The same industries, positions, and titles want to talk to others with similar positions in similar industries with similar titles.

To disrupt this tendency during a recent day-long workshop on Coaching, we encouraged each person to find someone radically different from their industry, position, or title. These pairs would practice coaching each other through a current struggle or challenge.

After a few awkward moments, the partners found each other and began to coach each other through the framework we provided. We emphasized that the right coaching framework allows you to help others despite not being a subject-matter expert in their field. (The beauty and the risk of interactive training is you get to see first-hand whether or not your ideas and concepts really work. Sometimes you brace yourself for potential failure.)

We were about to see this coaching concept tested with one particular pair that were so radically different (law enforcement and water treatment) that we paid close attention to their progress.

During the debrief, we heard from those being coached, and the practicing coaches.

We waited to hear from our radically different pair.

“You know, I was a little hesitant at first. I thought, how could they know anything about what I do? But it was the Outsider Perspective that made me look at this in a way I never considered.”

The Outsider Perspective isn’t immersed in our world, so they ask hard questions (they don’t know what they are not supposed to ask).

The Outsider Perspective isn’t bound by our perceived limitations, so they offer insight into potential solutions.

The Outsider Perspective is looking at your issue, problem or challenge with a fresh point of view.

The Outsider Perspective can challenge your assumptions and your bias.

The Outsider Perspective may be exactly what we need.

 

I Do It: The lesson from a 3-year old

Meeting new people is great. Meeting this particular group was great because they are new (so you can ask a ton of fun questions and hear new stories) and they are going to be connected with us moving forward.

As I reflect it was more like holding an interview for someone who already got the job. No pressure, just getting to know one another, because the outcome is already decided.

But one member of the group stood out.

The energetic 3-year old.

His grandfather describes him as a constant joy and ever-present “investigator” of his world.

As the father of four, I can appreciate an energetic “investigator.”

What I witnessed was someone who is bold and fearless.

When faced with something new (marking his name on the plastic glass, meeting new people, deciding what food to take from the buffet) he had one motto, one thing that helped him push through any perceived difficulty or lack of experience with this particular task.

He would loudly proclaim “I Do It!” and he would just go attempt whatever task was before him.

No fear or worry.

“I Do It!”

No reflection of whether or not he had the skills needed or the right training.

“I Do It!”

No calling a meeting or scheduling a call.

“I Do It!”

No panicked paralysis pondering if it was going to be perfect.

“I Do It!”

Although each attempt or task was not perfect (the permanent marker on a new shirt serves as proof), the motto and the persistence remained.

As I watched each interaction, each proclamation, and each action I found an interpretation.

“I Do It!” really means “Hey, I am new at some of these things but have ambition and I want to be given the chance to try, fail, try again, and succeed. I may not always get it right, but that is part of learning right? We are all just here trying out things, finding what works for us, and moving on to the next thing. Thanks for giving me some space to give it a shot. I am building confidence and mastery along the way.”

Thanks for the lesson.

When I get stuck, doubt myself, and wonder how to move forward, I will remember those words.

“I Do It!”

A Changed Mind

It started out like any other goal setting session. One person was a little late. When they arrived, there was instant credibility as they entered the room. They took their seat at the head of the table.

Head of the Table.

Introductions. Head of the Table had done just about everything. They were in their mid to late 80s, held prestigious positions, made a difference, and created things. Decades of life and success.

Head of the Table. Decades of Life and Success.

The goal setting and strategic vision session began. Before too long, Head of the Table (before it was time) stated a clear and specific goal that set the stage. The goal was bold, big, and a little disruptive. You could see the goal pass through the group like a wave.

Head of the Table. Decades of Life and Success. Goal shared first, Setting the Stage.

The discussion keep moving and started to flow. There were other voices, other perspectives, other ideas. As the day progressed, there were more voices, more perspectives, more ideas.

Head of the Table. Decades of Life and Success. Goal shared first, Setting the Stage. Other Perspectives, other Ideas.

Then something happened. There was a shift. Head of the Table made another bold move, yet another surprise. Head of the Table announced that after hearing the other perspectives and the other viewpoints, their original idea was not as good, not as applicable, and not what the organization needed. They had a changed mind.

A Changed Mind.

The room energy got an immediate boost. Some of the more timid and less experienced participants (who had introduced the different ideas and perspectives) found their voice. Those voices began to participate with a new-found confidence as they felt able to share their vision of the new, the different, the better.

A Changed Mind. People finding their Voice.

As the day moved towards conclusion, the goals, the vision, and the plan started to take shape. Building a plan was not the exclusive thing built that day. Excitement was building for the new future and direction of the organization.

A Changed Mind. People finding their Voice. Building Excitement for the Future and Direction.

Thank you Head of the Table for leading the way, for staying engaged and active over so many decades, and for demonstrating to all of us the power, and impact of a Changed Mind.

Historian or Futurist?

 

We seem to like history, especially our own history.

Our history was created through a series of events. We get comfortable telling that story. We have told that story many times. We keep telling that story. We like telling that story.

The pain, the struggle, the successes, the joy.

But those things happened in the past, they are not currently happening.

We keep telling that story.

We are the historian. We gather the crowd around us, and take them on the tour. We rehearsed the lines, know when to pause, and draw them in.

But the crowd eventually fades. The story is old. Tickets are unsold.

But there is something else.

Something different and new.

We can become a futurist.

The futurist tells a new story.

The futurist is setting new goals.

The futurist is moving forward.

The futurist understands past events, but not through a distorted lens of over-emphasis or limits.

The futurist embraces today while envisioning something better.

The futurist is creating.

The futurist is risking.

The futurist is living.

We have a choice to make: remain the historian, or become a futurist.

 

 

 

The Spillover of Failure

It was a privilege last week to work with a group of people trying to launch big, scary & creative ideas into the world.

They have ideas.

They want to make a difference.

They brought their big, scary & creative ideas.

We discussed what can get in the way of ideas: their style, organizational resistance and culture, and fear.

We spent some time on fear.

“What are you afraid of?”

The group had many answers, most had to do with the fear of failure.

We pushed them a little more.

“What are you really afraid of? Go a little deeper.”

A new answer emerged, and was met with silence and affirming nods.

“It is not just the fear of failure that is bothering me. What I am really afraid of is the spillover of failure that may cause people to question all of the great things I am already doing through the lens of this failure.”

The spillover of failure.

One failure tainting all the other great things we are doing.

One failure causing others to question us or question our other great work.

How many times does the spillover of failure fear prevent us from launching new ideas?

What big, scary & creative ideas would you bring into this world if the spillover of failure wasn’t in play?

What does it take to create an environment where failure is celebrated instead of feared?

We need your big, scary & creative ideas.

Don’t let the spillover of failure stop you.

Below is a great TED talk with some great reasons why to celebrate failure.

P.S. This is post #299. I wonder what big, scary & creative idea #300 will bring?

The Rockstar Dilemma

The Rockstars: the great performers in your organization.

For a while it was you. Everything connected. Everything was going your way.

You were on top.

You were the one everyone sought out.

You were the first pick to help others, mentor them, and get them up to speed.

You helped develop others.

But things change.

They began to rise.

They started to perform.

Now, they are the ones everyone seeks out.

Now, they are the first pick to help others.

A shift in Rockstar status can be disruptive. The shift can leave you feeling unsure and insecure.

“Is there still a place for me?”

“What will happen if I build and develop others, and I am no longer needed?”

At some point in your career will most likely be faced with the Rockstar Dilemma: When you move from the top performer to another role as others rise up and take their place in the organization.

The Rockstar Dilemma presents us with a choice that usually takes two different paths.

  1. We see our role not only to perform, but to help build capacity in others, and to share what we know to help them succeed.
  2. We see our role to perform as sheer competition, and anyone’s gain is our loss.

Choosing the second path is easy. We just perform, and perform, and move ahead as long as we can.

Choosing the first path is hard. We face the dilemma of performing, while helping others develop and perform, knowing that there is a chance that someday they will surpass us.

There is insecurity in the first path.

There is risk in the first path.

I hear the response every time I introduce the first path of the Rockstar Dilemma.

“But, if I develop them, I will no longer be needed. You are essentially having me work myself out of a job!”

My response is always the same.

“If you are the kind of leader who can build teams who are better than you, and can out perform you, you will never be out of a job. Organizations will pay you a lot more than you are making today to build that kind of a performance culture.”

When faced with the Rockstar Dilemma, let’s pick the right path.