Answering the difficult question of when should you try a different tactic versus when should you keep on keepin’ on.
In Jim Collins’ book Good to Great he metaphorically references the flywheel (‘a heavy revolving wheel in a machine that is used to increase the machine’s momentum’). It’s incredibly difficult to move but once it is moving it’s incredibly difficult to stop. So, too, can our actions work when striving to reach our goals. But…
There’s bad news: sometimes it can feel as if nothing is happening in those early, critical stages.
In my five steps to goal achieving (listen to audio here) the fifth step, Review, Re-evaluate, and Redesign, is critical. Doing so allows us to adjust our plan because it’s likely that the way we envisioned is not the way our goals transpire. But…
There’s bad news: we may move on to something else before the seeds we’ve sewn have had a chance to take root.
So, what’s a goal achiever to do?
That same question came out recently as I was working with a client. It can be tough to decipher but from that discussion I outlined five steps that will help you determine your ideal course of action.
- Track and review data
- Lay out your road map
- Make a pro-con list
- Consider past history
- Trust your gut
1. Track and review the data. If you haven’t been tracking, you need to start—immediately—and then give it 30-90 days depending on the goal. Key metrics you may want to include are time based (how long does one activity take ), quantity based (how many X do you need to get Y, and how many Y do you need to get Z). If you know based on your collected data that it takes 10 networking meetings to get one new client (10 hours) and that it takes 150 cold-calls to get one client (five hours). It becomes easier to choose cold-calling over networking even though networking might be more fun. Thusly, if you are deciding whether to keep doing what you are doing versus try something different, if you don’t have that kind of empirical information, you will likely go with what feels better emotionally, and that may not be wisest.
2. Lay out your road map. Laying out your road map includes running through both possible scenarios and the logistics of each. It sounds silly or even redundant but it’s important. Doing so can ferret out obstacles that were glanced over previously. For example, I was considering joining a networking club on Thursday mornings. It happens to be at the same time as one of my company’s group trainings. That was fine, because I don’t teach that particular class. But sometimes I am asked to fill in. Although, not often enough to stay within the 75 percent attendance requirement. But what happens if I get a client from the group? They won’t be able to attend our company’s group training because they have the same meeting! Therefore, it wasn’t a good fit for me, even though I had been considering this group for months and nearly made the investment. It wasn’t until I mapped out my entire process-flow that I saw the serious glitch in pursuing this avenue.
3. Make a pro-con list. I have used this technique many times and it has consistently provided insights. I do a pro-con list for each option because sometimes a pro for one is not necessarily a con for the other. Then you can count the pros and subtract the cons or you can ascribe weighted values to each the pros and the cons. You can try both or do something entirely different. But the idea is to brainstorm all of the little things that maybe don’t mean much as a stand-alone item but seeing a half-dozen on the page starts to highlight a significant difference. Furthermore, qualitative aspects can be included. For example, comparing the networking event and cold-calling I might include “I hate cold-calling” in the cold-calling cons. That way, it gets represented but it’s not the be-all-to-end-all decision-making criteria. Yet, if all other things are equal, I can choose to continue networking.
4. Consider past history. While your goal may have something to do with breaking bad behaviors that aren’t serving you anymore, our history of behaviors can’t be excluded entirely. For example, suppose I am considering whether to adopt a networking strategy but I have never effectively networked and in fact I’ve started and quit a number of times. In this scenario I’m going to have a lot of baggage if I switch to this strategy solely because I don’t want to cold-call anymore. That’s not to say it can’t be done, it’s to say it is an additional obstacle to consider. Furthermore, if I have a history of “strategy hopping”, that should be considered before I forgo any accrued momentum switching what I am currently doing for the proverbial greener grass.
5. Trust your gut. This is last point for a reason—well, a few reasons. For one, you should only trust your gut infallibly if you have enough evidence that your gut has served you well before (as opposed to it having led you to “strategy hop”). Secondly, trusting your gut should be used in conjunction with reviewing the data. Very rarely does a situation go ideally when the gut-instinct completely contradicts the data. You could be the anomaly but this article is about increasing your odds, not winning the goal-achieving lottery. Lastly, your trusting gut is a muscle not unlike your biceps. As you work it, safely, you build it. You wouldn’t go to the gym and curl 150 pounds out of the blue. Train your gut by including him in the decision but not letting his emotions rule the day.
Follow these steps for more clarity on whether you need to take a new route or keep the path. If you are still confused, continue doing what you are doing. The reason being if you cannot come up with enough conviction to move on after working through this process, then it’s likely you are experiencing a bout of temporary frustration with the current path. While I can relate and empathize with that, there are more than a few anecdotes about one’s biggest breakthroughs occurring after the adrenaline rush wears off.
You only need to look at the Good to Great examples or the metaphor of the flywheel to observe this occurrence.