April 30, 2018
A mission-critical principle that is typically not taught in business school or corporate trainings is the idea that how we show up in any given situation (our way of Being) will always impact the outcome of that situation (what we are Doing). As someone who devotes most of her time to helping people become better leaders of themselves and others, I feel so strongly about this concept that I dedicated an entire chapter of my book, The Better Boss Blueprint, to “Keep a ‘To-Be’ List.” I recently had a reader ask me for more detail on how to utilize the “To-Be” list and if I had any specific tools to help sustain and cement its use. Those questions made my day, and I am compelled to share the answers more broadly.
To provide a bit more background using a common situational application, the “To-Be” list is a critical step when preparing for any meeting, conversation, or event in a purposeful way. Ask yourself a few questions in advance:
- What outcome do I want? – Clearly define the results you’re aiming to achieve and/or the actions you want people to take. Perhaps it’s aligning your team on a decision to launch a new product, gaining commitment from a prospect for a follow-up meeting, collecting at least 10 business cards at a networking event, or repairing a rift in a relationship during a difficult conversation. Outcomes will obviously depend on context.
- What impact do I want? – Impact is related to outcome, but it’s quite different. It’s how you want people to feel. “Oh no, not feelings!” you may wince. Alas, as Maya Angelou famously said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” And that, my friends, is what will ultimately compel them to fulfill the outcome you have in mind. Do you want people to come away excited, motivated, and empowered? Do you want people to feel collaborative and creative? Is your intention to build trust and inspire confidence? Be as specific as possible here and notice the variety of tones that are possible.
- How do I need to BE to make that happen?Here is where the “To-Be” list meets outcome/impact planning. Regardless of whether you’re the leader or a participant in the situation, others will pick up and feed off your vibes. Thus, it’s important to show up with your head screwed on the best possible way, i.e. with the way(s) of being that will support you in accomplishing your intended outcome/impact. Will being open-minded and non-judgmental serve you? Enthusiastic yet realistic? Bold and brief? Know your audience and know yourself.
Now for the sustainment tool. I created a mnemonic device to help start my day off on the right track that incorporates a “To-Be” list component. I call it the Daily GAIN™, and I’ve started sharing it with clients. GAIN is a double entendre; it’s an acronym, and the word itself intentionally suggests that there is tangible personal benefit to using the tool. The left-brain, former investment banker side of me loves structure, analysis, and efficiency, so predictably, I even created an Excel spreadsheet to track it. Here’s how it works:
- G = Gratitude– What is something you feel particularly grateful for today? Maybe it’s your kids, a new hire who’s working out well, a fun night out with an old friend you haven’t seen in a while, a professional achievement, a Tough Mudder event you’re looking forward to, a lazy Sunday, finding a great deal on your vacation flights, or a delectable meal. There is always something to be thankful for, big or small, and there’s plentiful research validating that gratitude supports our well-being.
- A = Affirmation– I’m not talking SNL’s cheesy Stuart Smalley type affirmations (“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”). Rather, what is something you know to be true about yourself and want a special reminder of today? How about I am a rock star salesperson; I’m doing the best I can under difficult circumstances; I’m a compelling presenter; I am a loving parent; I’m fully committed to my organization’s mission. Take this opportunity to be your own biggest fan.
- I = Intention – This is your explicit “To-Be” aim for the day. Think about the day that lies ahead and determine what mindset would help you approach the opportunities and challenges of the day most effectively. For some guidance, here are a few I’ve used personally: I will be patient and assume the best; I will be as kind to myself as I am to others; I will be calm under pressure; I will be energized and animated. Think about how you “be” when you’re at your best, and mine those memories for attitudinal intentions that will set you up for success on any given day.
- N = Non-negotiable– Don’t worry, I have not forgotten about us chronic “doers” out there! The final step of the Daily GAIN is to identify a top “To Do” list action you absolutely must take today. For example, I will have that potentially uncomfortable conversation; I will finish that proposal; I will thoughtfully complete at least 3 performance reviews; I will start reading this month’s book club selection; I will make a dentist appointment. Effective people already start their day with some sort of prioritization activity, so this piece should feel like home base.
When you make the Daily GAIN a habit, what you’ll find is that it not only boosts your short and long-term performance, but also fortifies your emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical health.
One last thing to consider: like many tools that are effective individually, there are obvious applications for teams and groups to use GAIN as well. What would it be like to start your next team meeting with a quick collective GAIN? Simply change the “I” to “we.” For example,
- G – We are grateful that our stock price hit a new high.
- A – We are laser-focused on our customers’ experience.
- I – We will be fully present and transparent in this meeting.
- N – We will nail down roles and preliminary timelines for this project.
Dare I say that “GAIN – GAIN” may just be the new “WIN – WIN”!
Want more? Check out Shani’s video about the Daily GAIN: