May 5, 2023
By Dave Bushy, PCC
How many great ideas do we hear? And how many strategic plans with noble goals are discussed? What about mission statements that are hung on company walls?
As a corporate leader, I often sat around boardroom tables listening to discussions about critical and timely goals. Well-meaning executives would lay out aspirational statements meant to identify “where” the company should be headed. Others would join in with additional “W” words, including “why,” “what,” “when” and even “who.” All very important.
And yet one question was not as common to surface – too often I would wait in vain to hear someone ask what appeared, at least to me, to be obvious: “How are we going to achieve these goals?”
“How” is nothing short of the biggest challenge leaders face every day. And while it may not be aspirational, inspirational or motivational, it is the vital nitty-gritty work that needs to be done to accomplish the outcomes we desire.
There is the how of business challenges I hear when I consult with companies. When a corporate leader tells me, “We’re going to increase profitability,” I wait for something like, “We just need to increase revenues and reduce expense.” I note, “That might be a good start”, and then I ask, “And how will you begin to accomplish that?” This often triggers reflection and a walk through of the plans of actions and milestones (the military calls it a POA&M) that will be needed. Critical to achieving the outcome!
And then there is the how of interpersonal challenges, like when a client tells me they are going to “improve communication.” I may ask, “What does that mean?” Or I may note: “That sounds like a noble goal –how will you do that?” What can follow is an exploration of the client’s current method of interacting with others. We explore its effectiveness and the component parts of providing information. I carefully listen and ask what others have noted. From there the client can explore new approaches and methods for how they can create a strong personal action plan to support their goals.
Finally, the interpersonal and business challenges individuals and teams face are not mutually exclusive –in fact, they are inextricably linked. We simply cannot achieve results together unless we know “How” to work with each other. In coaching we ask our clients to pay attention to both the “relational” (relationships with others) and the “task” (what we plan to do). In order to meaningfully address the “how” of getting things done we need to first be able to establish important relationships with a strong capability to interact with one another.
next time you begin getting comfortable with the “5 W’s” (who, what, why, when and where), stop and reflect and ask yourself “How?” That’s where the real work begins.
Dave Bushy of Boston Executive Coaches – bostonexecutivecoaches.com – is a an ICF-certified coach who was trained at the Gestalt International Study Center (GISC). He is a former U.S. Army officer and senior airline executive who works with leaders throughout the world.
Image courtesy of Gerd Altmann from Pixabay