A Coaching Power Tool Created by Ghaya Al Barwani
(Corporate Coach, OMAN)
Whether you are looking at a business strategy or an individual goal, I found that producing results and executing the strategy or achieving the goal requires focus. Businesses and individuals alike spend so much time interpreting and re-interpreting the strategy or goal that it becomes too obscure to implement or achieve then give up. As an individual, a business executive, a trainer, a consultant and a coach I found that focus helps keep the important things important thus ensuring its achievement.
There are times during the journey when the strategy and goal seem so confused and movement starts heading in tangents. When this happens it is recommended to stop, take a stock of what to focus on, what needs to be achieved and then review the focus and its relevance.
Whether the “focus” is through establishing the goal and its relevance overall, or the “focus” is establishing the coaching agreement and ensuring the session moves in the direction that the client wants to move in; I found that remaining focused helps all those in the journey achieve the desired results.
What is Focused on Thinking?
“Focused” is defined directing a great deal of attention, interest, or activity towards a particular aim. It is the cornerstone of execution and achieving the goal. This comes from defining the goal of defining the key activities to focus on to achieve the goal.
Focus means defining not only the goal, but it also means defining the desired results and benefits of the goal (in terms of how it will look, feel, sound, taste and smell like) and the key focused activities to focus on that will lead to achieving the goal.
What is Obscured Thinking?
On the other hand “obscured” is defined as concealed, kept from being seen and unclear. This obscurity keeps many people from achieving their goals and aspirations. If a person does not know what they want or don’t know the relevance of what they want or if a person cannot decide what to pool their energy into and focus on in the whirlwind of critical and important things to be done then nothing gets done.
Obscured thinking does not only cover not know the goal or how to get there; it also covers being embroiled in a series of beliefs, thoughts and emotions that hamper progress.
Focused vs Obscured:
Research has found that focusing on a limited number of goals help achievement and execution; this is because most people are hardwired to do one thing at a time with excellence. For most people multi-tasking is a fallacy because scientists have that the human brain can give full focus to only a single object at any given moment.
MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller states:
Trying to concentrate on two tasks causes an overload of the brain’s processing capacity… Trying to carry too much, the brain simply slows down.
Professor Clifford Nass of Stanford University states:
Habitual multi-taskers may be sacrificing performance on the primary task. They are suckers for irrelevancy.
Jordan Grafman of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in the USA stated that:
Improving our ability to multitask actually hampers our ability to think deeply and creatively.
Although the research is on multitasking it also applies to goal setting and achievement as is highlighted in the table below:
Number of Goals
2 – 3
4 – 10
11 – 20
Goals Achieved with Excellence
2 – 3
1 – 2
The thinking is that people who try pushing too many goals at once usually wind up doing a mediocre job on all of them. This does not mean ignoring all other important goals, they still remain, it means focusing the attention to the goals that must be achieved with total excellence beyond the priorities of day to day activities and concerns. It is like an air traffic controller, she is aware of all the planes in her radar and focuses her talents, resources and expertise to land one flight at a time safely and with total excellence because if she doesn’t then nothing else she achieves really matters.
Apple has become successful by saying no to good ideas and focusing their energy on one or two great ideas.
All of my goals are Priority No. 1. I can successfully multi-task and work on all my goals at the same time and succeed at five, ten or fifteen important goals. All I need to do is work harder and longer…
Many of my goals are important, but only one or two are wildly important. These are goals that I choose to achieve. My finest efforts can only be given to one or two wildly important goals at a time.
The client will still have several things on their plate that they are focused on; their job, their personal life, their developmental objectives. Focused thinking helps the client, and as a result of the coach, direct the energy and resources on what will make the maximum impact on the client’s life.
In the words of Pogo:
We have met the enemy and he is us.
By maintaining obscured thinking we are dooming ourselves to inactivity and as a result not moving forward.
Focused vs. Obscure in DANCE Coaching Model
I initially designed the DANCE coaching Model based on the Appreciative Inquiry Business Model, the Strengths-based Positive Coaching Model and Transformational Coaching Model. DANCE is an acronym for Define (direction and purpose), Acknowledge (progress made and the strengths), eNvisage(the big dream, what is to be achieved), Create (the planning phase of the journey) and achievE(the activity and delivery stage of the model).
Define – Focused vs. Obscure
I see more than a dozen things in my life that need improving right now. I see several opportunities that I am not taking. I have so many people adding to my goals and priorities every day.
This is what I really, really want to improve my life. Focusing my attention on this will make the greatest impact on my life and propel me to the person I want to be.
Define – Potential Questions to help Focus:
- What is it you really, really want?
- Out of all the things you have identified, what would make the greatest difference to you?
- If all areas of your life remained as they are right now, what is the one area where change would make a difference in your life?
- If a client insists on expanding the goal – ask – What is the relevance of expanding, rather than narrowing your goals?
- If you understand the need to focus, what is standing in your way to actually do it?
- What is important about this goal now? What makes it a priority now?
- What is exciting about this goal? What pulls you toward achieving this goal?
- What difference will working on this goal make in your life? What happiness will it bring to your life (whether now or in the future)?
Acknowledge – Focused vs. Obscure
I don’t know my strengths and accomplishments. I don’t see the relevance of the past in the present situation. I cannot acknowledge my successes; they were too small and irrelevant to count.
These are my key accomplishments and strengths that characterize me and I know how I will use them to help me achieve my goal. I will use them to propel me forward when things get tough and when things are going well.
Acknowledge – Potential Questions to help Focus:
- What are your 3 greatest strengths?
- How do you define success? Tell me about your successes, what did you do to achieve them?
- Tell me about the biggest challenges in your life, how did you overcome them?
- What do you like about yourself? What do you enjoy doing? What do you yearn to do? What are some of the unusual skills you have?
- What are you proud of in your life? What did you do to contribute towards it?
- Relive the experience of being at your best in your life. What were your strengths?
- Once the list of strengths is compiled by the coach and client – have the client hone them down to the key 4 – 5 areas that characterize them at their best.
- How are you using your strengths? How useful are they to you? How can you use them a little more?
- How can you use your strengths in new ways?
- How can you regularly identify 3 good things in your life to add to your acknowledgement bank?
- This does not mean not acknowledging the areas of development. With areas of development:
- What can you stop doing?
- To what extent is this area really relevant for you right now?
- Who else can handle these areas of development so that you can spend less time and energy on them?
- What would be “good enough”?
eNvisage– Focused vs. Obscure
My goal is either limited or not achievable because it is vague with no clear deadline. I have no idea how I will know when I have achieved it and where I stand at any point in time.
E.g. I want to be a better mother. I want to spend more time with my daughter.
E.g. Improve my curiosity with my team
My goal is large and achievable because it is clear and has a finish line. I know when I have completed the goal and where I stand at any point in time.
E.g. I want my daughter to feel loved and cherished by me through taking her out once a week for one on one time starting this week.
E.g. Take 15 minutes a week to talk to team members and ask 1 question about their life (inside and outside work)
eNvisage – Potential Questions to help Focus:
- What is it you actually want to achieve?
- What will the ideal situation and achievement look, feel, sound, taste and smell like?
- What is the gap between your goal and your current situation?
- How will you know that you have achieved what you want to achieve?
- How will you know that you have succeeded?
- How will you know where you are on the journey?
- Where do you want to be? By when? Be as specific as possible. What difference will it make if you achieve what you want to achieve earlier or later?
Create – Focused vs. Obscure
I have so many things that I want to work on; there are several steps and areas that I want to work on to achieve my goal(s)
I know the key focus areas that will lead me to achieve my goal(s).
Create – Potential Questions to help Focus:
- How can you break this goal into more manageable chunks and mini-goals?
- How can you make sure that these mini-goals are self-fulfilling successes?
- What are the key activities that if monitored and focused on will help you achieve your goal? (hone them to 1 or 2 key activities)
- What can you do to keep yourself accountable and keep track of progress? Examples – only if the client is stuck – some clients have:
- Designed a scoreboard of target activities versus actual
- Maintained a chain in their calendar to help them keep track of activities and progress.
- An accountability partner? Who will that be and what will you ask them to do to help you on your journey?
- How often will you review your progress?
- What challenges do you anticipate on the journey and how will you overcome them?
achievE – Focused vs. Obscure
I have no idea what I am going to do. I don’t know what went wrong? I don’t know what to do next.
My commitments and activities don’t seem to be in line with what I want to achieve.
I know what are the one or two most important things I am going to do this week to help me achieve my goals and the plan I have created.
achievE – Potential Questions to help Focus:
- What is the progress made during this past week? What activities have you completed and how have they impacted your progress?
- What successes have you achieved during the past week and what are you going to do to celebrate them?
- What did not work during the past week? What can you do to clear the path in the coming week to make it work?
- What can you do more of/ less of this week to help you in the coming week?
- What are the most important one or two things that you want to focus on this week to achieve your overall goal?
DANCE – Focused vs. Obscure – What next?
The journey is a DANCE with the client and coach moving from obscurity to focus in every session and throughout the journey. At every session and at every turn the coach will ask the client to define the focus of the session and what is really important for the next step of the journey.
Once the initial target is achieved the client can be invited to continue the DANCE with a new focused wildly important goal that will help make the greatest impact in their life going forward. They start focusing on the next plane they want to land in the airfield.