Imagine you are crossing a raging river with your team. The second section of the bridge collapses and you are stuck on a rock in the middle of the swirling, freezing water. Do you look behind and analyse why you are crossing the river? Or ask why you didn’t examine the safety of the bridge more closely? Or do you look forward and ask “how can we get to the other side?”
BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND
Stephen Covey in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” challenges us to develop the habit to “begin with the end in mind”. In other words, to start by looking forward and saying “this is what I ideally want”.
Looking forward creates a more positive mindset and set of expectations.
All too often, we start with a review of where we are now and (particularly if it is not as good as we’d hoped), we tend to limit our thinking and our expectations of what we can achieve.
In fact, we often spend most of the discussion examining why we are not in the position we’d like to be in. We look behind rather than “beginning with the end in mind”.
ASK “HOW CAN WE?”
Once you have established the outcome you want, retain that forward focus and start to consider the steps required to move towards that outcome.
The best question to ask yourself and those in your team is “how can we?” or “what are some of the steps we must take?”.
Avoid “can we?” or “have we tried this before?” The nature of these questions encourages you and your team to give up before you start!
There will always be people who say you can’t, or it’s been tried before and failed.
By asking “how can we?”, you set the expectation that we will find a way, even if it’s difficult. The mindset is one of accepting that there will be obstacles. That you will pre-empt and avoid these or overcome them, rather than letting these obstacles prevent you from starting or trying.
MODEL THE BEHAVIOUR
Your attitude and language make a huge difference. As a leader, you must model the attitude and behaviour you want to see in your team.
If you want them to have a forward focus, design the future and have a “how can we” attitude, you must model this.
Your team notices what you DO more than what you SAY.
If you ask the right questions, but they overhear you saying “I’m not convinced this is possible” or see doubt reflected in your tone or body language, both your credibility and their commitment will be diminished.
As you plan projects and change programs for this year, challenge yourself to spend 80% of your time looking forward. Focus on where you want to go and how you will get there.
See yourself in the middle of that river looking to the other side. Then determine with your team how to bridge the gap and succeed in your mission to get across.
What key projects or changes are you about to embark on this year? I challenge you to ask yourself these four questions:
- WHERE do we want to be? What is the change we want?
- WHY does this outcome really matter?
- HOW will it impact us – as a team, as a business and as individuals?
- HOW can we get there?