R is for Rehearsal, Rhythm And Results


There are many ways to do fine work. One approach is to start by clarifying the desired results. It is then to focus on the following steps.


You can rehearse your chosen strategies and also ensure you have the resources required to achieve the results.


You can follow your chosen rhythm and keep doing reality checks on the way towards achieving the results. 


You can keep being relentless – whilst building in time for rest and recovery – on the way towards delivering the results.

Different people take these steps in different ways. Sometimes they take them as individuals and sometimes as teams.

I saw the latter approach in action when running the kick-off workshop for a round-the-world yachting team competing in the BT Global Challenge.

Each crew was made up of people from all walks of life, many with little experience of sailing. The team I worked with had their first meeting in North Wales.

After some short introductions, the skipper asked people to brainstorm the team’s goals. People got excited, saying things like:

We are going to win.

Listening to the presentations, the skipper showed respect for each of the suggestions. After summarising the ideas, he outlined his approach in the following way.

Looking at these, I would suggest the following goals. The top one is my guiding principle as a skipper.

Adding this to some of your ideas, I would suggest the following aims: 

To get everybody around the world and back home safely. 

To enjoy the adventure of a lifetime and develop as people.

To do our best as a crew and keep improving.

The crew accepted the salutary lesson. After some discussion and refinement, they agreed on the real results to achieve.

People clarified the key strategies to follow and how they could use their collective strengths to achieve these aims. They then began practicing translating the strategies into action.

Looking back, can you think of a situation when you took some of these steps? You may have been pursuing a creative project, playing a sport, leading a team or doing another activity.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation when you clarified the results to achieve and then focused on the themes of rehearsal, rhythm and results.

Describe the specific things you did to take these steps.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of taking these steps.

Imagine that you want to take some of these steps to do a particular project in the future. You may want to make a transition, tackle a challenge or achieve a specific goal. Let’s explore how you can use this approach.

Clarifying the
desired results

Great workers start by clarifying the real results they want to achieve. They then translate these into a clear picture of success.

Different people set goals in different ways. The captain in the round-the-world yacht race, for example, said he wanted:

To get everybody around the world and back home safely.

To enjoy the adventure of a lifetime and develop as people.

To do our best as a crew and keep improving.

Some people have another approach to setting goals. They describe the actual words they would like to hear their key stakeholders saying after they have completed the work.

One person who acted as a trusted advisor, for example, wanted their client to be saying the following things after a session. They then did their best to try to achieve these aims.

The Picture Of Success 

The actual words I would like the client
to be saying after the session are these: 

“That was a useful session. I felt at ease and able to explore several important topics.

“The trusted advisor listened to me and clarified the real results I wanted to achieve. They then passed on knowledge in a way that I can use in my daily life and work.  

“I took away many practical tools that I can use to achieve my picture of success.”

You will, of course, have your own approach to setting goals. If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific project you want to do in the future.

Describe the specific results you want to achieve by doing the project.


Great workers rehearse virtually everything they plan to do. They may aim to give a keynote speech, run an Olympic final, facilitate a workshop or whatever.

They start by clarifying the key strategies they can follow to give themselves the greatest chance of success. They then translate these into specific action plans. They also make sure they have the resources required to deliver the goods.

Such workers often put themselves through intensive physical rehearsals. When appropriate, however, they also use mental rehearsal to prepare for events.

The yacht crew spent months practicing their strategies and how to deal with crises that could occur when sailing around the world. Before each session the skipper would say something along on the following lines.

Today we are going to practice the following part of our strategy. The exercise will aim to replicate the conditions we will face during certain parts of the race.

The aims we want to achieve in the exercise are … 

The strategies we will follow to achieve these aims are …

The responsibilities of each team in the crew when working to achieve these aims are …

The morning will be devoted to making sure we know how to execute the drills. The afternoon will be devoted to dealing with potential challenges we may face when executing these drills in high seas.

Bearing in mind what we want to accomplish, can you spend some time in your teams discussing the task.

Meet back here in half an hour and we will answer any questions. It will then be time to practice the task.

Different people rehearse in different ways. Sometimes it is not possible to simulate the actual conditions, so this may lead to using mental rehearsal.

There are many approaches to applying this technique. Here is the classic route taken by many who use mental rehearsal. You can, of course, follow this in your own way.

Imagine that you have done your rehearsal. It is then vital to make sure you have the resources required to deliver the goods. This is the case whether you are sailing around the world, leading a team, tackling a specific challenge or whatever.

Sometimes it is not possible to get all the resources, but you need to have enough to stand a good chance of delivering success. Otherwise you will be choosing to be a victim.

One approach to taking this step is to focus on the results you want to achieve and do the exercise called Success Rating. Bearing in mind the things you can control, this invites you to do the following things.

Describe the present rating you would give regarding the chances of delivering the desired results. Do this on a scale 0 – 10. 

Describe the specific things you can do to maintain or improving the rating.  

These may include getting the right people, the right support and other resources. Do everything you can to boost the rating to 8+/10.

You feel ready to click into action and hit the ground running. There are different ways to make this happen, but some people focus on the following step.


Great workers follow their chosen rhythm when pursuing their strategies. They often demonstrate elements of OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Discipline rather than Disorder. They aim to do the right things in the right way and do their best to achieve the desired results.

Many people follow certain rituals to do consistently good work. Mason Currey describes how some creative people adopt elements of this approach in his book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work.

Here is an excerpt from what Mason says about Maya Angelou. You can discover more via following link.


For many years, Angelou worked in hotel of motel rooms, the more anonymous the better. In 1983 she told an interviewer:

“I keep a hotel room in which I do my work – a tiny, mean room with just a bed, and sometimes, if I can find it, a face basin. I keep a dictionary, a bible, a deck of cards and a bottle of sherry in the room.  

“I try to get there around 7, and I work until 2 in the afternoon. If the work is going badly, I stay until 12.30. If it’s going well, I’ll stay as long as it is going well. It’s lonely, and it’s marvellous.”

Different people choose to follow different rhythms. Some people organise their time so they can look ahead and rehearse when they are going to do next. They then go into their chosen arena and do their best to deliver the desired results.

Great workers also keep doing reality checks. Different people take this step in different ways. Some embody the concept of constant improvement.

There are many ways to take this step. One approach is to build on what is working and also tackle areas for improvement. Looking at your own work, for example, you may want to explore the following themes.

Continuous Improvement

Building On Strengths

The specific things I have done well – or am doing well –
and how I can do more of these things in the future are:




Tackling Areas For Improvement 

The specific things I can do
better in the future – and how – are:




Continuous Improvement – My Action Plan

The specific things I can do to keep building on my
strengths and tackling areas for improvement are: 




Some teams take another approach. Bearing in mind their picture of success and action plan, they flag up the activities that are in the green, amber and red zones. They also identify the actions they can take to improve what is happening in these areas.

One company I worked with had a dedicated room where people constantly updated the progress towards achieving the goal. It had charts that covered the following areas.

The Picture of Success

People could keep referring to the company’s aims that were displayed on one wall. These were grouped in terms of what it wants to achieve under the 3 Ps: profits, products – including customer satisfaction – and people

The other walls had the following charts that described the current state of play regarding various activities.

The Green Zone 

People listed the things that were going well. They also provided concrete suggestions regarding how to maintain or build on these activities.

Great workers capitalise on what is working. If things are going well with a particular customer, for example, they explore how to continue providing great service. This can lead to developing the relationship even further.

The Amber Zone 

People described where there were warning signs. They also provided suggestions regarding how to improve these activities.

Great workers worry about things that are in the amber zone. They are concerned that, unless these issues are addressed, these may quickly slide into the red zone. So they focus on how to move these activities more towards the green zone.

The Red Zone

People listed the things that were going badly. They also gave suggestions regarding how to improve these activities. These could involve making radical improvements or even call for key decisions to be taken.

Great workers think ahead to ensure that, as far as possible, things do not slide into the red zone. Crises do occur, of course, so then it is vital to find positive solutions.

There may be some issues, however, that are continually falling into the red zone. If systems are breaking down, for example, these may well need replacing.

A more challenging issue could be if a particular customer continually makes life difficult. Certainly it is vital to do whatever possible to provide great service. In some instances, however, a customer may prove impossible to please.

They may also prove to be a massive drain on resources. In such cases it may mean deciding to move on from the customer. This can be a difficult but necessary decision.

The Blue Zone

The company also went further and added another area called the blue zone. This was the space for both practical and imaginative ideas.

People listed the specific ideas, suggestions and other things that it might be worth considering to help the team shape a successful future. This led to some of the ideas being implemented and delivering positive results.

Great workers continually look for ways to improve. It can be useful to create different forums for exploring these ideas and then translating some of these into action.

Imagine that you developed a rhythm that enables you to follow the key strategies. You may then focus on the next step.


Great workers pursue their chosen strategies and maintain high professional standards. They frequently do this in a relentless way but also recognise the need to build in time for rest and recovery.

Different workers do this in different ways. Simon Walker was the skipper of Toshiba, another yacht in the round-the-world challenge. Below is an extract from a piece he wrote about how his crew worked together when sailing in the Southern Ocean.

Everybody’s commitment was crucial. Sailing in the depths of the Southern Ocean, for example, it was icy cold, windy, wet and exhausting.

The people who had finished their watch would go below to snatch some sleep.

After 30 minutes spent getting out of soaking kit, they would slide into their mouldy, damp sleeping bag, and it took another 30 minutes to reverse the process.  

People therefore only had 3 hours of the 4-hour ‘off-watch’ available for sleep. The crew always slept on the high side of the yacht – which optimised the balance and made it sail faster.

When we needed to tack – change direction – the ‘off-watch’ crew would get up and take their sleeping bag to the other side.  

Such a change-over might happen 2 or 3 times during their 3 hours rest. Not a single person complained and the entire crew did this day-after-day across the Southern Ocean.  

No leader on Earth could make 13 other exhausted people do this unless they had all bought in into the idea. Everyone was committed.  

Here is some footage from Toshiba. As you will see, they faced somewhat challenging conditions. You can learn more about Simon’s present work on leadership via the following link.


Great workers build in time for rest and recovery. Sometimes during this time they re-centre and rehearse the next thing they plan to do. Going back into their chosen arena, they then do their best to deliver the desired results.

Let’s return to the specific project you want to do in the future. How can you rehearse pursuing your chosen strategies? How can you follow your rhythm and also do reality checks? How can you do your best to achieve the picture of success?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific project you want to do in the future. 

Describe the specific results you want to achieve.

Describe the specific things you can do to go through the stages of focusing on rehearsal, rhythm and results.

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