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Change Work December 2006

A Grand Strategy

A few years ago I heard an interview with Steve McDermott, a motivational (and very entertaining) speaker, who was explaining his approach to setting personal goals.  Since then I've come across similar ideas in various formats but I still remember, and use, the version I found first.

I worked through the four steps of the model and was able to come up with a description of what was most important to me in what I had and a clear statement of what I wanted.

I was still in R&D management then and, coincidentally, we were introducing a system of personal development plans to complement performance appraisals. It seemed that many people were finding it difficult to make plans that they could commit to so I started running a series of workshops based on what I'd learned from Steve McDermott. The scope of these was much broader than the individuals' careers within the company - extending to all aspects of their lives.

There were two pleasant surprises in this for me:

1. People were very receptive to the ideas.

2. They were astonished that "the company" should be taking the time and trouble to help them plan their lives!

In retrospect, I'm not sure to what extent "the company" knew it was taking this much trouble!  However, at that moment I was the embodiment of the company for these people and able to shape their impressions.

So, what was this life-changing message?

There are four areas that need to be addressed in planning your life (or indeed, your business).  They are:

Very often these terms are used interchangeably but here they represent quite distinct concepts that we have to consider separately. It's crucial that we have a good understanding of each and also that they are consistent with each other. It's the totality of the construction that constitutes "the plan", not just the specific goals.

I'll split this article into two parts, starting with a discussion of Values and Vision and returning next month to cover Purpose and Goals.

Values

What you value in your life is your foundation - the ground beneath your feet.  The people, places, objects and principles that are of special importance to you.  They come to the fore in two ways:

- to motivate you in advance (you'll put effort into activities that support your values)

- to tell you how you feel about it afterwards (is the outcome consistent with your values?)

They govern how we treat each other and also the mood, or state, we are in - depending on whether we are expressing our values or suppressing them. We'll be uncomfortable or unhappy if we are forced to do things that conflict with our values.

They inform and improve our decision making when we are able to choose what fits them.

We may be unaware of what some of our values are and, when we discover them, we might not like them.

This might seem contradictory because "values", in the everyday sense of the term, are always "good" (or at least ours are!).  However, recall that here we are defining values as "those things that are important to us" and hence they influence our thinking and our behaviour. So, what if I value the praise of other people above all else?  This is not useful in the long run and I'd be better off downgrading this need to be less compelling. (Yes, this can be done - but not within the scope of this article!)

The process for finding your values is straightforward:

When you inspect the resulting map you'll probably find that some of the "payoffs" you identified appear more than once.  You'll probably also see a few significant items that weren't in the original list. You'll know pretty quickly which of these are the most fundamental.  They are your values.

Vision

It's said that, "Everything happens twice:  first as a thought in someone's head."

Nothing happens without the idea.

Your vision is a compelling idea of the future that is able to draw you towards it whenever you think of it. It's about how things will be; what it will be like to be there. It's about success.

I think it's best if your vision is not too specific so that you leave open many different ways of realising it. For example, rather than "being the Chief Executive of ABC plc" it would be more useful to build a vision of "working at CoE level" if it's the general role or the status that actually appeals rather than the specific job. As with values, it's important to ask "what does this get for me?" when building your vision so you don't waste time pursuing aspects of it that don't really matter.

Work on the vision of your success. What does it look / sound / feel like? Really build it up by allowing yourself, now and again, to imagine that you're already there.  Anticipate how good it will feel. If it doesn't feel good then you're on the wrong track and need to find a more compelling future.

It's not fixed for ever.  When you've started the journey you may find more attractive visions and then it's OK to change course.  The important thing is always to have something to be moving towards.

So, that's the first two elements of the life planning model. Next month, when you might be looking for some help with those New Year's Resolutions, I'll cover Purpose and Goals.

In preparation, here's something to think about over Christmas:

"If you're not progressing towards your current goals - or you've completely lost sight of them - it's because they're not challenging enough!"

Have a happy and relaxing Christmas - I'll see you in the New Year.