A Research Paper By Lutfi Bafagih, Development Coach, SAUDI ARABIA
Many clients have brilliant ideas. They see wonderful opportunities for creating something new that their company needs or come up with a creative solution for an intractable problem but fail to bring these ideas to life. Other clients jump from one shiny idea to another because they cannot follow through to the end. In his book, the Focused Creator, Jake Jorgovan (2014) called it the shiny object syndrome.
In this research paper, the researcher investigates the barriers to executing ideas, then presents practical steps that coaches can use to help their clients identify their barriers and overcome these barriers. The process of bringing ideas to life and capitalizing on opportunities is very simple, but many of us fail to follow through with our dreams to the end. We fail to commit to our dreams. This coaching research study contains processes steps successfully used by people who became very successful and achieved extraordinary achievements such as Henry Ford, founder of Ford Company and inventor of the assembly line concept; Willian Wrigley, founder of Wrigley Company; and Wilbur Wright, co-inventor of the first flying machine. We will see that nothing differentiates us from these great people except the belief in an idea and the commitment to action.
Process of Execution Techniques
In this study, the researcher presents historical evidence that successful people follow a similar and specific process to bring a brilliant idea to life. In this study, the researcher refers to this process as the Execution Process. The execution process consists of the following steps:
- Establishing the idea
- Generating traction
- Staying on the path
The following literature review presents solid evidence from various sources that following the execution process will eventually lead to the successful implementation of an idea. Coaches can use the execution process to help their clients create an implementation strategy for any idea. Coaches can also use the execution process to support clients to overcome barriers facing them during the implementation of a project.
Step One: Establishing the Idea
The first step of coaching a client towards a vision is to explore the significance of their vision. Coaches must work with clients to foster the principle of committing to an idea or a vision. A vision is not only hope or a wish. It is taking your future into your hands and being obsessed with achieving it. A vision should dominate your mind. We need to understand that great visions are not the creation of moments and thoughts. A great vision is the result of slow, steady work towards defined goals. We must commit and make time to our vision; it cannot be something on the side that we want to deliver besides your daily routine. It must be your routine; it must be your life and all other things become secondary on the side. Henry Ford once said, “If you don’t make time to work on creating a life you want, you are going to be forced to spend time dealing with a life that you don’t want or like”.
The initial step is to create clarity. In this stage, the coach supports the client to determine where they want to go. McChesney and Covey (2012) stated that humans have limited capacity to handle multiple goals and achieve quality results. Hence, focusing on one matter would reduce attention on another. That is a fact of life, expecting otherwise is counterproductive. That is why making a choice is the first step.
Execution Techniques to Coaching Practice
Clients with many goals and visions end up becoming confused and losing interest in all (McChesney & Covey, 2012). Clients who fail to make a choice end up working on trivial goals. When Steve Jobs came back to Apple, he found the company swimming in 12 different Macintosh products. He threw all products out and kept only 2 products, only one desktop product and one laptop product (Isaacson, 2011). Thus, deciding what not to do is equally important. In his bestselling book, the seven habits of highly effective people, Covey (2004) introduced the time matrix (figure 1).
Any idea we need to make in life is controlled by 2 factors. The first factor is the value the idea will add to us and our community. The second is the resources and time we need to invest to bring the idea to life. Coaches can partner with their clients to explore these two factors using the time matrix.
Quadrant 1: The urgent and important ideas, in other words, are the emergencies in our lives.
- Ideas that put you in a fire-fighting more and you feel you cannot ignore
- ideas are driven by unforeseen situations and a lack of planning
- Ideas that are important a valuable, but you are not prepared
- Ideas that drain your energy
- Ideas that are reactive to circumstance.
Quadrant 2: The not urgent and important ideas, in other words, these are the ideas that will grow you and make you reach your full potential.
- They are the ideas that will achieve your long-term vision
- Ideas that need time and patience and cannot be achieved by pressing time.
- These ideas are easy to be forgotten because they need time and lots of patience.
- These are the ideas that need discipline.
Quadrant 3: The urgent but not important ideas, in other words, these ideas distract us from what is important.
- Ideas that look important but when observed closely are not of high importance (Low value – High link with time)
- ideas are driven by a lack of focus and lack of mission
- Ideas that give you a false sense of security and achievement
- Ideas that do not get you anywhere
Quadrant 4: The not urgent and not important ideas, in other words, these ideas are the ones that will not add any value to use, and investing in such ideas lead to losses.
- ideas that waste time and resources
- Non-value adding ideas
Coaches can couple the time matrix with the ICA coaching competencies to create value for their clients. To evoke clients’ awareness and deepen their insight regarding an idea or a vision, coaches may ask powerful questions around the four quadrants of the time matrix. Partner with the client to discover which of the clients’ ideas creates the most value for the client.
Actively listen to clients to understand their perception of success. Read and notice energy shifts and body language to determine the clients’ perceptions of a valuable idea. Acknowledge the clients’ past successes and link these successes to the time matrix.
The second step of coaching a client towards a vision is to help the client generate traction. Generating tractions starts with understanding the difference between movement and progress is the focus. Movement is to perform a set of actions that consume energy but do not necessarily result in a benefit (Wickman, 2011). Conversely, progress is to perform a set of actions that is focused on a specific direction and results in getting you closer to a specific goal (Wickman, 2011). Figure 2 illustrates the difference.
Warrant Buffet defines energy as a bias to action. Some people tend to take action. These people are like all of us, they think things over, analyze data, the consult others, but their eagerness to action is clear (Cunningham, 1998).
Professional athletes are great examples of people who have a lot of energy and use that energy to create tractions. A marathon champion explained his secret for energy and bias to action say “I only think of the next 15 minutes of my run and never think beyond. When I finish that I think of the next 15 min”. Another great swimmer said, “The only thing that is in my head when I am swimming is the next right stroke, left stroke, and breath”. Many people fail to create traction for their plan because they want to think and calculate the entire plan from start to end. It does not work that way; visions are created by action. Those who want to achieve their vision must take action even if the whole plan is not clear.
Execution Techniques to Coaching Practice
One significant factor to prevent traction is procrastination. Clients tend to procrastinate a avoid taking action for many reasons. A good strategy to support clients to overcome procrastination is to understand it. A simple definition of procrastination is making a slow decision to take action or avoiding deciding to take action. Procrastinators tend to change the course of their actions and abandoned them without seeing evidence contrary to the direction of the decision or action. There is are three common reasons for procrastination:
- When an individual works without a vision. People who do not have a clear goal and a clear definition of success have a difficult time making decisions or taking action on a decision because they do not know what they want.
- When an individual is uncomfortable with uncertainty. Uncertainty is a fact of life in business and everything in life. The world around us is dynamic and is influenced by many factors. People who see to make decisions only when they are certain and have all the information they need, will always procrastinate and fail to make a decision or take action.
- When an individual seeks not to fail rather than seeks to achieve an objective. Mistakes and failures are part of the learning process and are natural to the growth of the human mind and capability. Mistakes and failures are evident. People who seek to avoid mistakes and failure do not make it too far in this world.
Coaches must partner with clients to identify the next immediate step. Ask powerful questions that provide generate options for clients on the possible actions. Use the flip-it strategy to convert trying to commitment, convert delay and procrastination to action, and convert blame on external factors to personal responsibility to act and drive change.
Step Three: Staying on the Path
The third step of coaching a client towards a vision is to help the client figure out ways to stay on the path of the idea or the vision. McChesney and Covey (2012), mention two elements that are necessary to stay on the vision path. The first is accountability towards the idea and the second is keeping track of progress.
Accountability is to hold someone (yourself) responsible for bringing the idea or vision to reality through decisions and action. As indicated by Style (1996) in the concept of “mirrors and windows” people who look outside for excuses for not acting do not hold themselves responsible. On the contrary, people looking in the mirror hold themselves responsible for making things happen regardless of the events surrounding them. The aim of looking inwards for answers is not to deny the existence of external factors that influence our lives and ignore our surroundings and the people we live and interact with. The aim is to empower ourselves with the belief that it is up to us to take responsibility to address the challenges we face and learn from our experiences.
The second factor to consider is keeping track of progress. Imagine the motivation of a person playing football for 90 minutes without keeping the score. Whenever the player looks at the scoreboard she finds a blank screen. We all play differently when we keep score (McChesney & Covey, 2012). When we embark on the journey to achieve an idea, it is essential to create measures that provide feedback on the progress. If your vision is to drop 10 kilograms in 3 months, a good measure of your progress is to get on the scale once a week and measure the weekly drop in your weight. Performance measures are pointless if you do not have a set target. Measuring performance provides feedback on the speed and direction of your movement towards the goal. People make sense of measures against specific targets.
Execution Techniques to Coaching Practice
One effective coaching power tool introduced by ICA is for coaches to work with their clients using the flip-it strategy to convert clients from blaming others to taking responsibility for making decisions and enacting these decisions. As very well-put by Style (1996), the solution lay inside us and not out there. This also goes well with the statement “I did not break it, but I have to fix it”. Coaches can focus the attention of the client on the future by asking powerful questions. Coaches can partner with clients to explore what next steps or decisions.
Coaches must also bring up the second element of staying on the path which is keeping score. Questions like “how would you know that your decision and action will get you closer to your vision” promote clients to think of establishing measures and keeping track of their progress.
Coaching Execution Techniques
Coaches play an important role in supporting clients to meet their goals and achieve their visions. Combined with the ICA coaching competencies, The execution process can become a powerful tool for supporting clients to achieve many great things in life. Many clients have great ideas and visions. Coaches can use their coaching skills to help clients establish ideas, generate tractions, and consistently stay on the path that will get them to their dreams.
Covey, S. R. The 7 habits of highly effective people: Powerful lessons in personal change (25th-anniversary edition.). New York: Simon & Schuster.
Cunningham, L., A. The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Isaacson, W. Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Jorgovan, J. The focused Creator: Learn the Art of Follow through and Achieving your Goals. Squarespace.com.
McChesney, C., Covey, S. The 4 Disciplines of Execution. New York: Free Press.
Wickman, G. Traction: Get a Grip on your Business. Dallas: BenBella Books Inc.
Style, E. Curriculum as Window and Mirror.