A Coaching Power Tool created by Vanessa Weyland
(Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
The reason most people never reach their goals is that they don’t define them, or ever seriously consider them as believable or achievable. Winners can tell you where they are going, what they plan to do along the way, and who will be sharing the adventure with them. Denis Watley
The devolution of an employee’s workday usually begins when said employee enters “crisis” or “e-mail management” mode. “Putting out fires,” and “dealing with the squeaky wheel” are other euphemisms that one might hear around the workplace. Regardless of what it’s called, the crisis management mode that many employees enter (and never leave) rarely allows for resting, time to think, time to collect one’s thoughts, or for work that would improve the employee’s and organization’s competitive advantage. The click onto the e-mail notification popup is like the dog salivating to Pavlov’s bell…automatic and reactive.
This doesn’t just happen at work; we have other areas in life where the crisis mode has become the norm. A parent might automatically react with dread to seeing the school nurse’s number pop up on Caller ID. A brother may see a mess in the middle of his bedroom floor and automatically blame (and argue with) his younger sibling. A wife may automatically respond to her husband’s terse words by withdrawing from him and/or the family. Though initially created for natural disasters and large-scale crises, this list contains examples of common psychological and physiological responses to crisis:
- Physical symptoms(i.e. nausea, loss of appetite)
- Loss of focus / hyperfocus
- Emotional numbing
The reactive, crisis mode of living is an example of the product of continual tactical thinking. Tactical thinking could be defined as looking for immediate gratification, immediate payoff, or the quick-fix. The tactical response is often automatic or routine, low-level, and task-oriented. A life lived tactically takes on those qualities.
In business, an organizational culture that focuses on the tactical way of thinking or solving problems is doomed to sub-par performance in the marketplace. Managers that are highly task-oriented do not focus on their two most important resources – people and time. Without the focus on people, those managers – often well-paid – spend their time in low-level operations while their people languish and eventually stop innovating and stop taking initiative. Without the focus on time, the manager will work sometimes 12- or 16-hour days. All could be solved with a shift in focus – from tactical thinking to strategic thinking – and a little delegation.
- Consider your management style, or the style of your immediate manager. What is the typical workday like? What activities take up the majority of your time during the workday?
- What is your primary method of communication at work and at home? Are you constantly responding to e-mail and voice messages at work? Do you spend your commute or your family time thinking about your Blackberry or e-mail?
- How much time per day do you take to think about your work – not working, just thinking about improving your processes, outlining goals, or thinking about the upcoming months and years?
- Do you find yourself forgetting important meetings or appointments – especially non-work-related appointments?
In business, strategic thinking involves a significant commitment of organizational resources, funds, or energy. In both individuals and organizations, and “[i]n the absence of a coherent strategy, nonstrategic factors, such as bureaucratic and organizational imperatives, will fill the void to the detriment” of the organization or individual.
There is a study reportedly done at Harvard, in which 3% total of the participants had written goals, 13% total of the participants had goals (written and unwritten), while the rest had no solid goal or strategy. Those participants with goals revisited 10 years later earned an average of 80+ percent more than those without goals. The 3% with written goals outperformed everyone by a significant margin. These participants were able to strategize and design their life and career, rather than reacting to immediate crises and situations.
For those of you that feel there is no time allowed for strategic thinking in the office, there is a business tale of a consultant brought in to evaluate company efficiency. While following the CEO to his office, the consultant witnessed a young man sitting back, arms behind his head, staring out of the window. Once behind the closed door of the CEO’s office, the consultant said, shocked “Didn’t you see that young man out there with his feet up, slacking off? Why wouldn’t you say something to him?” The CEO smiled slightly and replied “The last time I saw him sitting like that he came up with a product that brought in ten million dollars. I’m not going to interrupt his train of thought now.”
Take the time to think about the direction of your business, and allow your workers to do the same (also, question any consultant that would tell you differently).