Monday, 12 January 2015

Broken Promises

If you didn’t heed my words before in my blog about New Year’s Resolutions, maybe you’re ready to now.

Did you join a gym, work out a few times and then peter out because it was so hard to get motivated?

Did you swear to do a month-long detox that lasted a week before the scent of chocolate proved too much?

Did you buy an e-cigarette in the hope it would help you wean yourself from nicotine addiction but you found yourself reaching for the pack after four days?

These situations are designed to undermine confidence, make you feel a failure and make it even harder to get going again.

Years ago Robin and I worked with a man named Dan Faucci and he used to use this analogy about how we set goals and the hard time we give ourselves by setting them way too high in the first place. 

He said setting unrealistic goals was like taking up running and on your first day setting out side by side with a clearly experienced and very fit runner who has all the right gear and footwear and then saying, “I’ll race you to the corner.”

Defeat is assured.

He said what you had to do (metaphorically) was to look for the tiniest ant on the ground and again say “I’ll race you to the corner.”

Victory is assured.

So how do you assure victory when you set unrealistic expectations?  The first step is to accept that they are unrealistic.  Once you’ve done that, then you’re ready to lower those expectations. “What?  Lower my expectations?” I hear you cry. 

There is a second step that goes hand in hand with lowering your expectations and this is to raise your stakes.  “Wait a minute,” I can hear you say, “lower my expectations and raise my stakes?  What does that mean?”

So here’s an Impact Factory example.  We run a lot of Presentation Skills courses; as a matter of fact, it’s our most popular workshop both as an Open Course and Tailored.  On nearly every course someone inevitably comes in with a picture of what a good presenter is supposed to look like.  They’ve fashioned their picture on an inspiring public figure or someone they heard who’s given a moving or stirring speech.

And then they want to be able to present just like that fabulous speaker.

Defeat is assured.

At Impact Factory we go right back to basics and our ethos isn’t to encourage people to become someone they aren’t, but instead, and far easier (for them and for us), we encourage people to become more of who they already are.

Let me explain.  Let’s say someone comes in with a regional accent and they say they want to be able to present without the accent.  That’s really hard to do – pretty nigh impossible unless you take a lot of diction lessons and even then, under pressure, that accent will seep out.  Not only that, the person will spend a lot of much needed concentration focusing on the ‘offending’ accent rather than on their actual presentation and connecting with their audience.

Our approach for this presenter is to help them make a feature of their accent – when to even beef it up when making a particularly important point. 

Victory is assured.

Now, this can feel quite risky to do.  It can feel quite exposing and can make the presenter feel vulnerable. This is good – the stakes have been raised but the impossible expectations have been lowered.

This is fundamental to the way we work on all our courses.  We jokingly say we don’t do personality transplants – you can only be who you are and the more genuine you are the more realistic your expectations become.

So take a hint from Impact Factory and from Dan Faucci, start setting and level goals and assure yourself of many victories.





By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

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