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Coaching Tip: (W+H+W)+W

This is will be a quick coaching tip on a method I use with my clients to bring focus to their actions. This method can be used in almost any application. My approach is to teach broad methodologies and let my clients fill in the details with their unique needs, perspective, and skills. Its use helps focus action on the most important aspects and provides a grounding on the why.

I refer to the method as (W+H+W)+W, (Who+What+How)+Why. It visualizes the thought process we should follow for any activity.

Who do you need to accomplish the action? This could be a technical level action item and be a team or just yourself. It could be a 10-year strategy plan for your department and be Senior VPs. The purpose is that we need to identify the who before anything else. It is also the most important variable in anything we do. The who can mean success or failure. The Action is to list the who by name, role or responsibility.

How are you going to accomplish the action? This is the methodology or approach you plan on taking. It could be the Project Management approach to an initiative or how you plan on coordinating your 10-year plan. The who is critical to determining the how, your approach may change based on who is involved. The Action is to clearly define your approach or methodology, it will help keep you focused and on track.

What are you going to accomplish? You will have an idea as to the what, when you start this activity. Here you define the goals and end results. If this is a technical level action, goals should be clear and very well defined, they won't change much. If you are leading a team the what may (and should) be fuzzy. Think of a dart board, you may define a bullseye but you should be comfortable if the team gets close. The Action is to define what success looks like.

Why is the wildcard and applies to all of the above. You should ask why at every step and clarify the end result. For example, why did you get out of bed and come to work to start the action? This determines your motivation. The same can be asked of your team. executives, any employee. Why are they there, what motivates them at a deep level. Why are you using the methodology to define the how? Will it satisfy the what, will the who be able to utilize it? Why is the what defined as it is? Is there a better way? Sum it all together, why do all the elements work, will they work? The Action is to ask questions, be the 2-year old and ask why, why, why.

This method is meant to be circular. Once you go through all the elements you go through it again to validate your definitions and results. How often and when you revisit depends on the action. I recently coached an executive who took over a division with a debilitating culture. He wanted to change that culture, refocus it and make a positive difference in everyone's lives. He applied this method, making dramatic people changes in the process. He revisited the method every 90 days for the first year. Each time he made some tweaks to the formula and validated his definitions and ask why. After that initial period, he revisited quarterly including his executive team and then finally yearly as an offsite retreat.

The details of how you define and implement the method needs to be unique to you, your skills, and the who that will be part of the equation. There are many tools and techniques you can use at each level to further define the action items.

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