How to Get Better at Anything – Part 2
The first half of the journey – Part 1. In Part 1 we investigated the first three steps across the chasm that separates you from where you want to be. You can read that article here. Here’s a quick synopsis of what we learned:
1. You must know where you are now. To get better at something implies moving from where you are, which means you have to know precisely where you are relative to where you want to go.
2. Prioritize what’s important to you. Whatever your situation and the circumstances that surround it, there are more important and less important things you can do. Prioritizing helps you identify the most important things that if improved, will make the greatest positive impact on you and your life.
3. Identify the best practices associated with where you want to be. Once you’ve selected the area in which you want to improve, you’ll need to learn all about the best practices associated with that area.
Now that there is much more clarity about where you are and where you want to be, it’s time to determine how to move from here to there:
4. Build a four-quadrant plan. Over the years I’ve found the most effective plans are often the straightforward and practical ones. A planning template is just that, a template that makes it easy to organize the actions you want to or need to take in order to move from where you are to where you want to be. I favor the more/less/stop/start format, though there are others. I ask my clients to create their first draft, and then we refine it together over time.
a. Purpose Statement – this is usually the first item on the plan that gets created. It is a statement of reasons why improving in this specific area is important to you.
b. More quadrant – list the actions/approaches that you need to do more of, selected from the set of best practices associated with your improvement area. This quadrant is often the one with the largest list of actions.
c. Less quadrant – list the actions/approaches that you need to do less of, the habits and approaches that need to be diminished as the More habits replace them.
d. Stop quadrant – list the actions/approaches that you need stop doing. These are easy to identify when you compare your own current practices with the set of best practices in the improvement area.
e. Start quadrant – list the actions/approaches that you need to start doing. Again, easy to identify when you compare your current practices to the improvement area’s best practices.
f. Resources – identify the people and other resources that can help you. Include an accountability partner and/or coach. And the best-practices sources.
5. Execute your plan. Here are several best practices associated with the successful execution of your plan:
a. Daily review. If you’re a morning person, review your plan in the morning. If you’re an evening person, review it late in the day. Either way, be intentional about it and schedule this daily event on your calendar with a notification to remind you.
b. What to look for. It’s unlikely that you had an opportunity to take every action you listed on your plan on any one day. Rather, there were opportunities to do more of, less of, stop doing, and start doing certain actions during the preceding work day. And there will be opportunities to do more of, less of, stop doing, and start doing certain actions during the day ahead. By reviewing the list every day you can choose which actions to take as part of your normal workflow.
c. Reminders. You may be someone who likes to post copies of your action plan on the mirror (and see it morning and night), or somewhere in your car, or at your desk. Multiple impressions of your plan serve both as reminders and a reinforcement to take the actions you listed. So keep your plan visible where you’ll see it.
d. Habits. According to experts it takes 21 days to create new habits. And between 45 and 60 days to replace ineffective habits with effective ones. So your action plan should be in place for at least 60 days for it to help you make permanent changes to improve.
6. Review your plan with a coach or accountability partner. While it is possible to get better at anything without a coach or accountability partner, most people lack the discipline and expert guidance to achieve the high levels of quality and quantity change that a coach or accountability partner will provide. Today, professional coaching is recognized as one of the very best investments organizations can make in their people, and people can make in themselves.
a. Coach or accountability partner? Accountability partners are people you trust to give you honest feedback, and who agree to come along side you to keep you on plan. Coaches typically have bring objectivity, experience, education, practical training, and sometimes certification to your development. The best coaches and accountability partners have practical experience in the areas in your identified improvement areas.
b. Internal or external coach. Internal coaches are typically found in the largest organization while external coaches have their own practices or are part of an organization that offers coaching. Look for a coach with broad experience and record of success in the roles you are in or aspire to.
c. Chemistry, Trust, & Confidentiality. A coaching or accountability relationship will not work unless there is good chemistry between the two of you. And since you’ll be sharing personal and confidential matters make sure this person is someone with a history of trustworthiness and integrity. What do his or her clients say about this?
d. Frequency. Coaches/accountability partners and clients work out a mutually agreeable meeting schedule. I usually meet with new clients every other week for the first few months, and then move our sessions out to every three or four weeks as the situation dictates. Look for a coach to have flexibility in working with your schedule. A coach should be accessible in-between scheduled sessions to take a call, meet, or respond to your email or text.
e. Meeting logistics. Technology has made it possible to meet face-to-face using a virtual meeting, so your coach can be from anywhere. I have coaching clients across ten time zones and distance does not reduce the effectiveness of our meetings.
f. Challenge and stretch. A good coach or accountability partner will challenge you and stretch you. Just like any other type of improvement there will be a little pain…no pain, no gain! Assignments between sessions should be relevant to your job and situation. Good coaches ask tough questions. They are honest in telling you the naked truth, which sometimes you might not want to hear. But stick with it and you’ll emerge all the better.
g. Here are a few recent articles about coaching that you may find helpful: CEO World – Impact on Business: Why You Need an Executive Coach; Society for Human Resource Management – Executive Coaches Ease Leadership Transitions; and European Business Review – Coaching to Close the Gender Gap.
Bottom Line. So there you have it. Six steps that will help you get better at anything. Anything. All it takes is the right approach and a plan to move from here to there.
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