As an executive coach, management consultant and coauthor of The Toyota Way to Service Excellence: Lean Transformation in Service Organizations, I’m often asked by people, “What can I do differently so that I can _______ ?” You can fill in the blank with whatever you’d like: lead more successfully, coach more effectively, be more creative.
For me, it’s always a joy to have these types of discussions as what I love most is helping people learn to become the best that they can be. So, if you (like so many of us!) want 2017 to be THE year that you really make progress towards fulfilling your dreams and becoming the person you want to be, here is the best advice I can give you.
Yes. Start. Today. Now. Not later or tomorrow. Right now! The Toyota Way to Service Excellence ends with Jeff Liker, my coauthor, and I asking our readers to START, and here’s why:
How many times do you have an amazing idea, whether it’s to improve a process, or solve a work or home problem and then, instead of doing it right away – starting – you think to yourself, “I’ll do it as soon as…as soon as I’ve finished working on this PowerPoint deck…as soon as I’ve finished preparing for this meeting…as soon as I’ve washed the dishes or taken out the trash…the list is endless. Don’t put off starting work on your idea right away. Because, in my experience (and yours as well, I’m sure) ‘as soon as’ NEVER actually comes. And the ideas you have are too precious to lose. So, when you have an idea, START! Now! Before you forget it or get distracted or lose courage or get convinced out of it by well-meaning but misguided people who tell you ‘YOU CAN’T’.
Taichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System tells us that “The wise mend their ways”. That means don’t wait until tomorrow to change what’s not working this morning; change it this afternoon. Think about how many improvement efforts never get off the ground because ‘other things took priority’. Think about how many books never get written, art pieces never created, movements never started because someone waited for later. Your ideas are important and life changing. Don’t wait for later, because if you do, they might never turn into reality. Start now.
Bring your whole self! And your creativity!
How many times do you reject an idea – your very own great idea! – because that little creeping, nagging voice inside your head says, “I can’t possibly do that…I don’t have the training, the skills, the support…and besides, it’s not a very impressive idea or important contribution anyhow…” I bet it’s quite often. I say, “Stop doing that.” Stop focusing on what you can’t do (and all the reasons you’ve made up for why you can’t and why it’s not important) and focus on what you CAN do. Right here, right now, today! If we all do one thing more thing that we CAN (and yes you can…), if we all turned one more idea into a reality, the world would be a much better place.
So, whatever it is that YOU are passionate about, start doing it. The great thing is that we are all passionate about different things. Our world needs that diversity because there are a lot of different things that need improving. If your passion is knitting, knit hats for preemies, or homeless people…if you’re passionate about the environment, grow a garden, make better food choices, turn your thermostat down two degrees…whatever it is, I assure you, you can do it and YOUR EFFORT AND YOUR PASSION COUNTS…We’re all put on earth to fulfill our unique purpose. Every action, and every decision you make counts. We’re all responsible for creating the world we want to live in – and that our children and grandchildren will inherit. Our creativity IS our humanity. So, bring your whole self. Be exactly who you are. The world needs you.
Find a coach to help you be disciplined enough to turn your ideas into reality. It will really help.
A lot of getting something done, especially if you’re learning a new skill, is simply plain old hard work. What I call a ‘slog’. It’s not glamorous and it’s not easy. Like writing and rewriting and then rewriting again because it’s still not what you want to say to readers. It doesn’t matter what it is you’re learning, after the excitement of starting wears off (because it’s going to) you’re going to need someone to help you keep going. To give you encouragement, to keep you honest, to challenge you when you want to give up and remind you that for all things, “What is now easy, was once difficult”, so don’t give up, just keep going. That person is your coach!
As humans, we tend to think if we didn’t get it exactly right the first time, we failed. Let me assure you, you didn’t fail, you just learned something that will help you in your next attempt: whether it’s to stop smoking, write a book or facilitate a training. So when you want to give up, don’t. Keep slogging through. Your coach will help you!
Think your coach needs to be a trained professional? They don’t. Your coach can be a friend, family member of colleague. They just need to be there to share your joy when you are making progress, and make sure you are disciplined enough to keep going through the not so joyful, frustrating, slogging bits, because once you’ve started it’s going to be easy to give us at the first rough patch.
So, my question for you today, then, is what’s stopping your from starting?
Somehow, as human beings we always think we need so much more than we do before we start: need to know more, need to be more, need to have more (money, training, experience). But we don’t. We just need to start – we’ll learn what we need along the way – and gain the confidence that only comes from doing. When I started out, I didn’t go to formal lean training courses, I didn’t have a huge support structure, I simply wanted to make things better for the three hundred customers I was caring for and the other people who I worked with. So I started by reading books and trying things out. And I found some really great coaches along the way too!
So, whatever it is that you want to do, if you want things to be different this year (and I assure you, the world needs – and is waiting for – your particular contribution whatever that may be) the best advice I can give you is to simply START!