Post from Transformation Tom- Take Action—Hope Won’t Win the Game without a Game Plan: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”
Whether you are moving your business forward or moving yourself forward, you can’t hope for the best and expect it every time. You need to take action and put in the right game plan and preparation to ensure that your hope is given the appropriate direction and momentum. I have heard people who were responsible for multi-million dollar businesses say that they hope the new idea or initiative works. I truly believe in some cases that their fingers were crossed. We can’t predict the outcome of every decision or action we take; however, we can dictate the direction and significantly increase our odds by taking out the unknowns.
I was meeting with one of the people I mentor. It was our second meeting, so we were following up on actions I had asked of her in our last meeting. I asked her to come back with three names of leaders she wanted to emulate and network with. We spent almost an hour discussing the benefits of networking, and how we could work together to gain confidence to pave her own road ahead. During our discussion we talked about networking with people a couple of levels ahead of her. I was excited to see who she had come up with, whether it was someone from across the country or a completely different line of business. She brought in two names of people within one hundred yards of her and a name of a member of her own management team. Although it was not what I had expected, it was the small circle of names she knew.
I realized then that her circle of influence was small, and her networking circle was not much bigger. I also realized that she was accustomed to not taking accountability unless it was specifically asked of her and then followed up with a formal request. We discussed the benefits of taking action immediately and taking responsibility for requests independently. Taking action would contribute to her confidence and success.
Our continued conversation made it clear that she had issues understanding our corporation as a whole. I shared numerous examples of my own inability to understand our particular corporate culture early on and what had been required to be more proactive. I was able to share live examples of when this had worked. She still seemed hesitant. I almost felt as though she “hoped” I would do some of this for her in our mentoring sessions.
I had to change her hopeful mentality to one of action. So, I began to give examples of instances when we hear a request and are not sure whether we should do something about it or not. We discussed the benefits of clarifying and confirming the requests to ensure that the appropriate owner and action comes out of the meeting or interaction. How many times have you run into an old friend and said, “We should get together some time,” and nothing ever comes to fruition? This is the same concept. Action is required for successful execution of a request. Action makes it happen, not hope.
I found one of the potential people she wanted to network with could be seen simply by standing up and looking into the office. The fact that she identified someone to network with—even locally—was a small stretch for her, but a good first step. Another person she identified was two levels up from her, but within the same line of business. She said she had met with him when he was in town a few months before. I was excited that she had growing confidence enough to answer these questions and seek to expand her circle of influence. This was another small win, since I had not expected her to have had any previous contact with him yet. Although the networking meeting was more a circumstance of the situation, she took advantage of the opportunity. She was starting to put the pieces together regarding how advantageous this would be for her growth potential.
Her meeting with the person on the management team put her slightly out of her comfort zone, which was a plus, as it demonstrated to her that she had survived and was building her confidence one step at a time. She mentioned that this individual had said they should get together every couple of months to share ideas and discuss her progress. I was ecstatic and asked when the meeting had taken place. She said that it was about three weeks prior to the meeting we were having. I asked what was holding her back from following up to organize the next meeting with him. She said she did not know; maybe she hoped they could catch up in a couple months. Hope would not move her forward. I know, because I sat back and waited for people to approach me far too many times myself.
People hold back on taking action for many reasons. Sometimes, we just forget. This can be easily resolved if we write it down or set it up immediately. For others, it is pushing beyond their comfort level. Confidence comes with time, after continuing to do something over and over again. I often hear, “I don’t want to bother (insert name here).” If you never ask, you will never know the answer. Finally, there may be a lack of understanding as to the expectations within a corporate culture. Ask questions. Curiosity is only going to broaden your cultural understanding and comfort.
Our mentor conversation continued to what she wanted to gain from the three individuals she’d selected. She mentioned that she had watched the other two people already in close proximity to her over the past month. I asked what she had gained from watching them. It was a difficult question for her, since she hadn’t been sure what she had been looking for. The question was not intended to put her on the spot. The question’s intention was to let her know that she had gleaned a month’s worth of valuable observations. Now, what was she going to do about it? She began to grasp the concept that she needed to take action by either trying some of the things she’d seen herself, or by meeting with these two leaders to get some context to what she’d seen so that she could begin to apply it. In simple terms, her personal growth would accelerate when she took action.
We moved on to the next long-term steps she wanted to take. She stated that she wanted to take the next step up in her area or move to another area. She understood the direction of our conversation and proactively mentioned that she did not have a game plan. She was going to wait until something opened up and she would put in her application and résumé. When I asked if we could review her résumé, she said she hadn’t written one yet. I asked how she planned on submitting it if the opening came up today? She said she would have to scramble. This was another “aha” moment for her, and it was fun for me to watch this learning take place before my eyes. We discussed how I “hoped” someone would have had this conversation with me years before. She immediately began to take her own actions right there in the meeting. She began to outline the beginning of her résumé, she took copious notes, and I know that her future success was now in motion based on her actions.
We must all have a game plan, whether it is for our own career, or to push an initiative over the finish line. If you don’t have a game plan, sit with someone who can help formulate one with you. Finding help and support is taking action.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood
MP3 Downloads of “From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide” are available at Apple iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Emusic, Nokia, Xbox Music, Spotify, Omnifone, Google Music Store, Rdio, Muve Music, Bloom.fm, Slacker Radio, MediaNet, 7digital, 24-7, Rumblefish, and Shazam “From Fear to Success” MP3 on CD Baby