In a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory, Wolowitz invents a gadget to add mileage to his FitBit activity tracker. Like a rocking horse, it just keeps on moving but never actually makes any real progress!
Whether it’s at work or at home, most of us long to see progress being made. If you’re watching your son sweep up the leaves outside and you notice that the wind is blowing them back out of the wheelbarrow at pretty much the same rate, you’re probably fed up for him that he’s expending all that energy to no end. If you’re a team leader and you can see that every single member of the team is busy but is no nearer the objective, you’re probably frustrated on their behalf and wondering how you can help.
Maybe it’s time to stop and ask some questions.
What’s actually happening right now?
Asking someone to describe what he perceives to be happening can help highlight what the problem is. If your son only sees himself sweeping up the leaves but the pile never seems to get any smaller, that suggests he hasn’t noticed that they’re being blown out of the wheelbarrow. If it’s a team situation, every team member will have a different perspective on what’s happening – combining those views could help the team identify why they’re working hard but not achieving the end result.
How do we know when we’ve achieved the goal?
Is everyone clear on what problem you’re solving and how you will know when it’s done? If not, we run the risk of working at cross-purposes and even potentially undermining each other, keeping everyone rocking away like rocking horses but never getting anywhere.
What are the mini-goals on the way to the main goal?
One way to stay on track is to set some intermediate goals. If your son’s main goal is to clear the garden of leaves and he has a mini-goal of filling the wheelbarrow once every 5 minutes, he might notice that the wheelbarrow doesn’t seem to be filling up! If your team has intermediate goals of submitting the campaign plan by Friday, reviewing the feedback next Wednesday and finalising the plan by the following Monday, it’s easier to check you’re all on track and correct course if necessary than simply saying ‘we’ll finalise the plan a week on Monday’ and hoping that everyone will do the right thing.
Today’s pebble for your thoughts: does that rocking horse analogy remind you of anything in your work or life? What steps will you take to address that?
Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we could work together?