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Trevor E. S. Smith | Beyond TO DO Lists

Published:Monday | January 8, 2018 | 12:00 AMTrevor E. S. Smith

To-do lists abound in various formats. Even those who do not formally document their plans have a mental picture of what they need to do. Our lives are ordered by what we need to do, but I want to suggest an alternative approach to the fixation on what we need to do. I suggest that there is more to be gained from focusing attention on our being.

If we focus attention on who we ought to be, then what we need to do, will flow from that persona. Your 'being' will drive your 'doing'.


A Case


A leader decides to prepare her team for the new year. She invests a lot of time going over a meeting agenda. She then spends a lot of time fine-tuning each point that she wants to make.

After much revision of the agenda and talking points, she sends out her meeting invitations. The team leader can be commended for her rigorous planning. She has done the right thing. However, there is a missing dimension that could make a huge difference.

- What if she had invested effort in determining how she ought to be in the meeting?

- What is the atmosphere that should be created by how she is in the meeting?

- What are the key traits that she wants to portray in the meeting - persuasion, listening, flexibility, courage, decisiveness, vision?

- Who will she be in the face of pushback from colleagues?

- Who will she be if she encounters a lack of engagement and members drag distractions into the meeting?

These 'being' factors are not usually addressed in to-do planning. Yet, they can have much more influence over results.

Note: The team leader who has clarity as to who she is to be in the meeting, and prepares herself to demonstrate those qualities, is likely to have a great meeting regardless of the agenda.




Let's take it further. The norm is that members of her team will scramble to see what it is that they need to do or should have done going into the meeting. They are focused on 'DOING' considerations. Their participation in the meeting will be greatly influenced by what they perceive they need to do. Some will be distracted by feelings of guilt. Others will raise their level of defensiveness.

A few might actually share the vision that the team leader has for a breakthrough meeting.

- What if the team members focused instead on who they ought to BE in the meeting?

- What if they decided to be open-minded and willing to express their genuine opinions?

- What if others decided to be less defensive and be more open to feedback?

- What if one member recognises the fact that they belabour points and decides to be more concise in their statements?

- What if members who are constantly bickering decide to listen objectively for a change?


The universality of Being


This 'Being' versus 'Doing' approach is not limited to an agenda, and the issues being discussed. No matter what the content, paying attention to fine-tuning the attitudes and mindset will bear fruit.

Indeed, the team leader is not only going to have a great meeting, but there will be spill over positive effects beyond the meeting.

Focus on how you ought to Be and what you need to Do follows.


Missing component


There are numerous ways to get things done. Deloitte surveys point to low levels of employee engagement. So, while organisations are somehow getting things done, there is a missing element.

Paying closer attention to who we ought to be at work and creating the environment in which those personas can be comfortably manifested, is a step in the right direction.


Bottom Line:


Step back from being ruled by To Do lists. Shift focus to who you ought to Be and work to bring that persona to life.

Create an 'I AM' list that defines who you ought to be over the next 90 days. Work at being that person consistently for 90 days and notice the transformation in your life.


Call to Action


Conduct a customised employee satisfaction survey or 360 performance appraisal assessments to better understand the 'Being Factor' in your organisation.

Book to attend the 2018 Exclusive Breakthrough Boot camp: Guided Path to Realising the Next Level of Your Journey with Best-selling author and Fortune 500 Consultant Keri S. Smith (February 16).

- Trevor E. S. Smith and the Success with People Academy team prepare and certify leadership coach/mentors and develop high performing teams. Hire smart with their recruitment solutions. Now enrolling for the January cohort of the ICF/SHRM-Accredited certified behavioural coach programme. Email: