Rockhound: We’re in segment 202, lateral grid 9, site 15H32 – give or take a few yards. Captain American here blew the landing by 26 miles!
Colonel William Sharp: How the hell do you know that?
Rockhound: Because I’m a genius.
Watts: The gauges will not read; they’re all peaked like we’re plugged into some magnetic field
Rockhound: [sarcastically] Well, who on the spaceship wants to know why?
Gruber, Munitions Specialist: By all means.
Rockhound: The reason we were shooting for grid 8 was because thermographics indicated that grid 9 was compressed iron ferrite. Which means you landed us on a goddamn iron plate!
Sometimes, the tactics have to change depending on the circumstances.
Part of the problem with many of the ‘how to’ approaches which circulate is that they’re based on the experience of the person telling us ‘how to’. If I tell you how to do something, if I give you a list of ten or 20 or 30 tactics, then the premise goes that, ‘it worked for me, so it must work for you too’.
Here, take my list and go and execute it. You can’t fail.
The problem is that what worked for me won’t necessarily work for you too. You can do as I say to the letter but sometimes, for whatever reason, it just doesn’t work out. The reasons for this can be multi-faceted but at their core, is the fact that tactics don’t occur in a vacuum but against the landscape of our context and environment.
It’s why in business, defining a strategy which is aligned with our external environment is so important prior to creating a set of tactics to deliver that strategy.
The quote at the start of this piece is from the movie Armageddon, in which Harry Stamper, played by Bruce Willis, and acclaimed as the world’s best deep-sea oil driller, is recruited by NASA to lead a mission to save the earth.
No problem for Bruce.
He establishes his team of rogue misfits with the objective of drilling 800 feet into an asteroid destined for earth. Upon drilling the pilot shaft, a nuclear bomb would then be dropped down into the hole; with the idea being that upon detonation, the asteroid would explode, breaking into two pieces, both of which would avoid earth and certain obliteration.
These unlikely heroes happen to be the finest deep-sea oil drilling team in the world and have refined their skills on the ocean floor. So, the meteor should be no problem.
That is until they miss their landing spot on the meteor and rather than have to drill through the expected and accustomed-to rock, they have to drill through the equivalent of an iron plate. Their normal tactics won’t work.
The point is this.
It’s easy to assume that if you follow a set of tactics that work in one environment, or for one person, that they will equal success for another. Especially if someone tells you to follow the equation of: they worked for me so they will work for you too. However, tactics will only be as successful as the environment and context against which they’re set.
Principles on the other hand are universal.
Tactics constitute a plan and the plan is a result of a series of other principles.
The seven-step coaching model I shared here is based on three principles which will determine the extent to which you make progress towards any goal. Each of the seven steps can be categorised into one of these three areas. And it doesn’t matter about the context or the environment – these three principles must exist.
1. Empowerment and belief
Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.
Norman Vincent Peale, Minister and Author
Fundamentally, you have to believe in what you’re doing. Your self-belief needs to be high. On a scale of 1-10 in needs to be an 8. If it’s not, then ask yourself what you could do to increase it. In the event that you can’t find ways to increase it, then pull the plug.
In addition, you need a strong ‘reason why’. Your why has to be of high enough importance that you’ll keep going even when times are tough. Again, if that doesn’t exist then pull the plug.
2. Influence and support
The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.
Ken Blanchard, Author
Open up. Forget the conventional wisdom which says that you shouldn’t disclose to others what you want for fear they may laugh at or steal your ideas. The first doesn’t matter and the second is highly improbable; both are irrelevant. Open up to those people whose advice you trust, whose ideas you value, and who you think could give you a different perspective or challenge your thinking. Open up without expectation or agenda.
When the time comes, look for ways to involve others – and when you’re ready, do so with expectation and agenda. Look either for those people who can augment or amplify your skill set or those who can bring something which you don’t yet have. Get other people around you who can support you and whom you can leverage.
3. Accountability and action
There is nothing brilliant nor outstanding in my record, except perhaps this one thing: I do the things that I believe ought to be done… and when I make up my mind to do a thing, I act
Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States
At some point then you need to have a plan. And whilst it won’t be bulletproof or account for changes which may need to be made along the way (such as over-shooting your landing zone!) there needs to be at least the basis of a plan which considers what you could possibly do and what you choose to do.
However, no one else is going to hold themselves accountable for the achievement of what you want. Only you can do that. It’s the critical success factor to this whole process and without it, nothing else matters.
Finally, you need to start. Just get going. Understand what is working and what it not, and adjust along the way if needs be.
Regardless of the context or environment, if you follow these three principles then you won’t go too far wrong. And importantly, if you get them right, then the tactics will, to a large extent, become secondary. What you choose to do will be as a consequence of these three principles and will be defined by them, rather than the other way around.
The ‘how to’ approaches which are proclaimed are done so with the absolute best of intentions. But what worked for me won’t necessarily work for you too. Because if you don’t have that inherent belief, if you can’t gather support and if you don’t take accountability, then all the tactics in the world aren’t going to make the difference.