Trevor E S Smith | How to get back on track
On a work study programme in Germany, I was assigned to meet with a sales representative in a distant town. I failed to switch trains and missed the appointment.
I went off track. I did not achieve what I had set out to do. It is a situation that was fraught with frustration and embarrassment.
You might have experienced the frustration of having gone off track. What lessons can you learn from my experience?
WHY DID I GO OFF TRACK?
I will examine three things that can cause us to go off track.
1. Failing to pay attention to signposts.
2. Failing to be absolutely clear about what is required.
3. Failing to reach out for help in a timely manner.
1. FAILING TO PAY ATTENTION TO SIGNPOSTS
We go off track when we fail to pay attention to signposts. We need milestones and progress markers that guide us in achieving our objectives. When we ignore those or they are not in place, we can easily go off track.
Constant comparison of where we are and where we ought to be, helps to keep us on track.
One benefit of these reviews is that they help us to identify when we veer off track and what caused it. The answer might not only help us to avoid future derailments, but may give us important insights into how to resolve current problems.
2. FAILING TO BE ABSOLUTELY CLEAR ABOUT WHAT IS REQUIRED
We can learn one critical lesson about communication from how directions are given. Both the speaker and hearer tend to take certain critical things for granted. For example, the rent-a-car agent pulls out a map and gives instructions as to which highway will get you to your destination and where you need to exit the highway. Not mentioned, is how to get out of their parking lot unto the highway.
Costly error and rework can be attributed to this fundamental communications problem of different starting points.
One step towards getting back on track is to get clarity about your current location, the destination, and the process for getting there. Start the conversation where people are!
3. FAILING TO REACH OUT FOR HELP IN A TIMELY MANNER
I did not ask for help. Many problems could be avoided if we would just ask for information.
Why I failed to ask is instructive. The options are the cause of many derailed projects. Overconfidence is one - "I can do this myself". Pride - "I don't want people to think that I can't do this." Or it might be that by not checking on the signposts, I proceeded along the wrong path in blissful ignorance.
Does any of this sound familiar? Too many times we get off track because we opt to go it alone when the timely involvement of a third-party might have made all the difference.
Here are five basic steps for getting back on track:
Step 1: Recognise that you are off track. Have points of reference that make it clear when you go off track.
Step 2: Get access to proper directions. By accessing the correct instructions, you can chart a successful journey.
Step 3: Examine carefully the difference between your location and the destination. This examination will point out what is required to get back on track. What are the challenges and potential solutions? What are the resource implications? How does this impact achieving the original objectives?
Step 4: Keep focused on what getting to the destination means. Although you are off track, you need to avoid getting discouraged and renew your commitment to achieving the objectives.
Step 5: Learn from the experience and put in place measures to prevent a recurrence. Document what went wrong and why, and put in place procedures that will avoid them happening again.
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Trevor E S Smith is a behaviour modification coach with the Success with People Academy home of the 'Certified Behavioural Coach' programme. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org