The Art of Strengths Coaching

D is for Defining What You Will Actually Do To Reach Your Desired Goal

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Peak performers focus on what they are actually going to do to reach their desired goal. They move from the concept to the concrete actions. They list the specific actions they will take, move into action and get some quick successes.

Such people build momentum and keep following good habits. They move from the philosophical to the physical. They do what is required – in behavioural terms – to reach their desired destination.

Some people, however, are used to talking in theoretical terms. They may have lots of awareness, but may find it hard to move to application and achievement.

Sometimes it can be hard to discover whether a person knows how to translate the theory to action. This can be particularly difficult, for example, when you are hiring a person.

Imagine that you are interviewing somebody who has applied for a leadership role. The candidate has said all the right things, such as:

I will build an engaged and motivated team in which people deliver success.

This sounds okay, but many people have learned how to pass interviews by using buzzwords. How can you tell whether they will translate these concepts into concrete actions?

One approach is to ask the person to describe what they will actually do to achieve their desired goals? Bearing this in mind, you may say something along the following lines to the candidate.

That sounds excellent, so is it okay to ask you what you will actually do to make these things happen? 

Please accept that these questions are designed to explore how you will translate the ideas into action, rather than to try to catch you out. It is also okay to reflect and take your time when considering the questions. So here goes.

Let’s start with a few questions about clarifying the team’s picture of success. What will you actually do to meet with the key stakeholders – such as your manager – and agree with them on the specific goals the team must deliver?  

Before such a meeting, what will you do to understand the whole organisation’s goals? What will you do to clarify your team’s contribution towards achieving these goals?

Let’s assume that you clarify the team’s aims. What will you do to rate the team’s chances – on a scale 0-10 – of delivering the goals? What will you do to clarify the specific things you can do to increase the chances of success?

What will you then do to prepare for the meeting with your manager? What will you do beforehand to understand the Dos and Don’ts for managing your manager?

What will you do in the meeting to show your manager that you understand the organisation’s strategy? What will you do to reassure them that your team will deliver its part in achieving the organisation’s goals? 

What will you do to show your manager that you will proactively keep them informed about the team’s progress towards achieving the goals? What will you do to show you will deliver some quick successes?”

This sounds a lot but, as you say, the aim will be to ensure that your team delivers success. Later will explore what you will do to build an engaged and motivated team.

Before then, however, we would like to know what you would actually do – in behavioural terms – to make clear contracts with your manager about the team’s picture of success.

Asking such questions may sound tough. Some people may also be taken aback by being asked to describe what they will actually do – in behavioural teams – to work towards achieving their goals.

Given time to reflect, however, some candidates will be able to describe the specific actions they will take. Other individuals may attempt to bluster and give even more buzzwords. If so, you can then ask them the following questions.

You say that will build an engaged and motivated team. What will you actually do to make that happen?

What will you do to prepare for your first meeting with the team members? How will you greet them? What will be the first things you say? What will you do to see if they show signs of being positive and engaged? What will you do to encourage that behaviour?  

What will you do to explain the provisional vision for the team? What will you do to give people a sense of ownership in building the team’s plan? What will you do to explain the professional standards that people must demonstrate to achieve the goals? What will you do to explain the support you will give to people in the team? 

What will you do to discover each team member’s strengths? What will you do to make clear contracts with individuals about their contributions to the team? What will you do to ensure people proactively keep you informed about their progress towards achieving the goals?  

What will you do to encourage the positive people in the team? What will you do to decide whether or not particular people are demonstrating the required professional standards? What will you do to act on those decisions? What will you then do to build a motivated team that delivers the picture of success?

Looking at your own life, can you recall a time when you focused on what you were actually going to do to reach a desired goal? You may have decided to get your body in shape, eat healthier food, encourage another person, climb a mountain, write a book or whatever.

Looking at the example you have given, what did you do to translate your plan into reality? What did you do to start behaving in a certain way and follow daily rituals? What did you physically do?

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 defined what you would actually do to reach your desired goal and then did these things.

Describe the specific things that you did to define what you were actually going to do.

Describe the specific things you then did to actually do these things.

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Peak performers often demonstrate elements of OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Discipline rather than Disorder. They translate their chosen strategy into action and follow good habits to reach their goals. They keep doing the right things in the right way every day.

Such people do this whether they are caring for sick animals, cooking in a prestigious restaurant, training to compete for the Olympic Gold or whatever. An athlete’s action plan, for example, will read like a long list of small, specific actions. They then follow these actions religiously on the way towards achieving their goals.

Clarifying what people will do to
live the values in an organisation

Good organisations aim to live their values, rather than just laminate the values. Bearing this in mind, they spend a lot of time interviewing people when they apply to join the organisation.

Before the interview, the applicants are sent materials that describe the values. These are illustrated with real life stories that show how people in the organisation have translated the values into action.

Such success stories describe the specific things that people actually did to, for example, take responsibility, give great customer service and help other people to succeed.

The candidate is invited to do some homework and then share this at the interview. They are asked to do the following things.

To give a specific example of when they have lived some of these values in the past – this could have been in their personal or professional life.

To give specific examples of how they would try to translate some of these values into action during their first two months in the organisation.

The candidate is given the name of a person in the organisation who they can contact if they need more information before the interview.

The aim is to recruit people who will demonstrate certain ways of behaving, but it also to give the applicants every chance of success. This approach sounds challenging, but it often proves effective.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation when you may want to define what you will actually do to reach a specific goal?

This could be in your personal or professional life. You may want to take care of your health, take the next step in your career, make a challenging transition or whatever.

Looking at your example, what will be your strategy for achieving the goal? How can you translate this strategy into a clear action plan? What can you then do to follow this plan and achieve your picture of success?

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 define what you will actually do to reach your desired goal and then do these things.

Describe the specific things that you can do to define you are actually going to do.  

Describe the specific things you can then do to actually do these things.

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