Why is it that your carefully crafted vision board with a picture of you standing with the perfect view from The Pacific Coast Trail and another with smiling faces, chatting and laughing together gathered around the rustic dinner table (under twinkling lights from an overhanging branch in the garden) are left to gather dust only to be discovered years later deep in a drawer (under discarded sweet wrappers, the hoard of paperclips and pens you will never use) when you go in search of yet another cable to charge your phone as someone has moved or nicked your last one?
You pick it out, dust it off and think "Why did I never do that?" and you start to dream all over again.
The same could be said for your career goals, your development or even the company strategy that didn't quite materialise.
So why is it that the best-laid plans don't quite unfold as expected?
Roadblocks preventing you achieving great things.
If you want to achieve anything worthwhile, there will always be barriers or roadblocks along the way. Often, we simplify this and are able to justify our lack of action by blaming circumstances:
"I didn't have enough time."
"Something else more important came along."
"I'm under too much pressure."
The list of justifications drifts on and on.
The same rules apply if you want someone else to do something.
In this busy, hyper-connected world, it is even easier to find excuses. But if we are really honest with ourselves, the excuses might be more like:
"I just had to finish the series on Netflix."
"I got lost scrolling on my Instagram feed."
"I was too tired/ lazy to..."
"I fancied a pint."
Putting plans into action is where the rubber meets the road. But the plan alone is never enough to drive through when the going gets tough. There is a key step that most people miss, and that is creating DESIRE.
Is desire your missing link?
Desire is an incredibly powerful source of energy that can help you overcome even the most tricky situations. When you desire or want to do something or get something (or someone even), you put in the effort to make it happen...sometimes finding the most creative ways to get there. Often, you don't notice any hurdles along the way; you are so committed to your outcome.
So, to help you create the right conditions for ensuring any plan becomes your reality, let me walk you through the steps right now. Sound good?
5 Steps to Make Great Things Happen
Step 1: Write down all your ideas.
Get them from inside your head and commit them to paper/ screen. I do them on Post-it notes, so once I've got them all written up, I can then start to cluster ideas around themes, which makes it more manageable. So, if your goal is to improve team performance, as an example, I would brainstorm all the ways I can do that and write down everything, no matter how silly it might seem at first glance.
Step 2: Think outcome.
Now, start to picture what success would look like/ sound like/ feel like. This helps you get more emotionally connected to your plan, more than the facts alone can ever achieve. Improving team performance is a noble goal, but even at first thought, you can see it will be thwarted by difficulties. Maybe when you are faced with this challenge, you immediately start to picture Jackie who frankly takes the mickey with her time off and is always the last to arrive at a meeting, then hijacks it with oversharing. Or, middle-of-the-road Brian, who never buys a drink but is very happy to ask for a double when you go to the bar. Or even Mabe (who, truth be told, is just a jobsworth and if the phrase "we can't do it like that" could be assigned to anyone, it's Mabe.) Immediately, the sheer size of the task starts to feel impossible before you've even started. BUT STOP with the analysis and start to dream a bit. Imagine the team - even Jackie, Brain and Mabe as star performers - what will it be like then? Can you see the shift, and more importantly, can you feel it?
Really dig in and imagine a better world for doing what you say you want to do. Again, commit this to paper. You can write a story, use bullet points or you could draw a picture or build a collage. (Doing things in a more creative way helps to build your resourcefulness by engaging emotion.)
This is the step that is often forgotten, and it is so crucial because this is the step that creates the desire. So, take a moment to absorb yourself in this. It doesn’t need to take long but we can’t stress just how important it is for building desire.
To give you an example, whenever I’m making plans, I allow just 15 minutes for this. It's all within you; you don’t need to research. You just need to get it out of your head and onto paper in a way that works for you. So enjoy it.
Take a picture of what you have on the page and save it somewhere you can access it often. I have it as a screen saver on my phone for example. Other people have it in a frame on their desk, others have it hard copy in their notebooks… wherever is going to work for you.
Step 3: Break it down into manageable steps.
They say a journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step. So here it’s about deciding what comes first.
This is crucial because you might have developed really compelling plans that you are very excited about but they are so big that when you hit the first hurdle or challenge (which you undoubtedly will), it can knock you off course completely. By breaking it down into small steps, each little step will build your resilience, resourcefulness and confidence.
Step 4: Find yourself an accountability partner.
See this person as a critical friend, as your cheerleader and champion. It can be someone from your department but it doesn’t need to be. Ideally it is someone that doesn’t have a vested interest in your success – they are just doing it to support you. If someone is vested, they can get too emotionally involved in your success or your hiccups along the way. This is a great opportunity to make a further connection that could be of value and help you extend your circle of influence. Some of the best partnerships we have seen are between people at different levels within organisations. Someone who is more experienced can help you navigate complexities, whilst someone more junior can ask innocent questions that shed fresh light.
Once you have secured your partner, spend no more than an hour going through your plans and why you think they are important, allowing them to ask questions, shape and build rigour to your plans.
Step 5: Share your action plan with your own line manager
Please, please, please do this. By doing this, you are taking responsibility for your actions, your are demonstrating your commitment and showing your boss what you stand for. Ask them for support where you think you might need it, and between you agree follow up points so you can share your success and seek additional support where you might need it.
I know what it's like; you're busy, but stop for a minute and think and ask yourself this question:
Is a little bit of preparation worth it if your plans will make great things happen?
By doing these 5 steps, you are not leaving your success to chance. You are taking change and being accountable. Committing and executing action are critical behaviours of a leader at all levels and as you develop this habit, it will become second nature and quicker. You will soon become the go-to person because you have developed a reputation for being trusted to do what you say you’re going to do.
And remember, find fun in it. It doesn’t need to be a chore- it shouldn’t feel like a chore. This is applying a simple structure to get stuff done, and in doing so, you will grow. Your resilience, confidence and influence will grow with you.