January Coaching: What are you really managing?

I’ve a January, year-prepping exercise in journaling for you, one of my favorites in the executive coaching I’ve done for people. We’re still in the 1st week of the new year: Do this before the coming weekend is over and you’ll feel the Ka lā hiki ola goodness, I promise.
[MWA Ref: Ka lā hiki ola means “the dawning of a new day.” It’s the value of newness with hope.]

It’s a favorite exercise because it’s so useful. Writing this down will serve as a great point of reference for you in the coming months, for you can look back at it, remember your better intentions, and screw your head back on correctly if need be. When you’re done, keep it where you normally would review it during your quarterly, monthly, or weekly reviews.

If you don’t like writing and journaling, please keep reading” I’ll address that momentarily. And as a MWA vocabulary reminder: Managing is a verb. You needn’t be a manager-in-title to do this.

Write out your answers to these 3 questions:

1. What are you really managing? — as in right now, as a managing creature of habit. Journal your way to truthful clarity, and notice that I didn’t ask you who you’re managing, for that would simply be writing a list (“myself and my own behavior” goes on the top of that list, but you already knew that, right?) Write about WHAT you are managing, and why you feel you need to be involved in the process. The more detail the better (this project, that assignment, a nagging recurrence with” etc.), for the more you’ll learn about your current habits, and the productivity and accomplishment (versus busywork) you’ve been getting because of those habits.

2. What do you want to be managing instead? — again, not who, but what, just like with the first question, but in the spirit of exploring how you can light a fire under your own energies with more exciting work — work that fascinates and intrigues you. The key word in the question is WANT. Don’t limit yourself; ALL work can morph to being more worthwhile for somebody: Just because a certain job isn’t within your workplace isn’t reason enough that it can’t be. Maybe you’re the person who needs to author it there.

If you suspect these are Ho‘ohana questions, you’re right.

Not enthused about Writing?

I admit that I’ll continually try to convert you — start by simply carrying a small notebook with you and writing stuff down when you’re bored, or when you’re waiting in line somewhere. You’ll be amazed by the ideas you start to capture once your whining is over. I don’t mean to be negative; that’s just the way it usually happens, and private whining can be useful to you too, within reason. Better to be on paper than out loud.

That said (that I’m very stubborn about writing stuff down), very smart guy and Business Strategist Mike Wagner recently reminded me that not everyone is like me” a good half of the world prefers to talk their way to clarity (like Mike) instead of writing their way there. So if that’s you too, go for it. Self-talk is powerful stuff: Muses, Mentors and Self-Talk.

Better yet, do the exercise out loud in a conversation with someone you like and trust — you go first, and then you be a listener and sounding board for them. You know how much I believe in talking story!

The Third Question

Last, and only when you feel the first two answers are info-packed with clues for you… (sleeping on this is a great idea. Go back and read about Wayfinding for your Best Clues if you’re getting impatient).

3. What will you be managing in the near future? — Said another way, What will it take to make your wants happen? I don’t care what your boss, spouse, or anyone else may have planned for you, or even if you already said yes to it (you can change your mind and say no if you have to. Burn your boat.) What do YOU have to do to move from what you described in your answers to the first question, to what you described in the second one?

For me, this is definitely a wayfinding exercise, because in starting with that first question you are confronting your existing habits and being truthful about them. I guess you could say that your answers to the second question are your goals, but in my experience it’s been much more effective for those I’ve coached to think of them as wants; they’re more basic that way, visceral even. Wants are Aloha-instinctive, and more emotion-charged compared to how pragmatic and strategic goal-setting is, and so energies ramp up quicker that way (I hate the SMART acronym. There, I’ve said it. I hate it because it’s boring.)

Where I’ve usually been able to help my execs as their coach is simply to give them permission, and get them to believe their wants are okay. More than okay. Listening to, and acting on those wants is what’s really smart, and you have a brand new year ahead of you… take the leap.

Postscript: If this post title sounds familiar to you, I have written on this “What are you managing?” theme before, but it was a little different, and employed the 5 Whys… use those instead of SMART!