Do What It Takes, Not Your Best
An executive coaching client, at the end of a recent coaching session, began to wrap up with a summary of the insights he had gained during our discussion. I asked him to sum up the actions he had identified to put his learnings into practice and get results.
He did fine with recapping his insights. But when he got to defining his actions, he used language that came across as less than committed. My intuition started kicking in, and the “Designing Actions” skill (competency #9 of the International Coach Federation Coaching Core Competencies) flashed in my mind.
I asked questions to uncover his motivation and commitment. Questions like: Is this (or that) action important to you? Will doing this action make a difference? What benefits will you get from this action? On a scale of one-to-ten, how committed are you to making this happen?
Each time, he answered, “Yes,” or “Sure,” followed by “I’ll try” or “I’ll do my best.”
His words “I’ll do my best” triggered memory of a story of an executive whose direct report told her that he was going to do his best on a big project. Her response was: “I don’t want you to do your best. I want you to do what it takes.”
Doing what it takes is a lot different from doing your best.
One is strong, committed, determined. The other is weak, diffident, passive. One leaves no room for failure. The other gives wiggle room to avoid commitment and work.
So I asked my executive client: “I’m glad that you’ll try to do your best. But will you do what it takes?”
He hesitated, then said, “Yes, I’ll give it a go and do my best.”
I asked: “Will that get you the results you want?”
Again, he hesitated. “Well, I’m gonna really try and I think it will work.”
Again, I pushed: “Is there a difference between doing your best and doing what it takes?”
He answered: “Hmmm. I never thought about it that way. I guess doing what it takes means I’m not letting anything get in my way. I’ve really got to kick butt to make it happen.”
Exactly. Doing our best is fine as far as it goes. But if we don’t get the result we want, we have an excuse. After all, we did our best.
Doing what it takes means no excuses. It means we’re all in, no matter what. We’ll do whatever we need to do, work as hard as we need to work, to move forward on our path.
Corporate executives are very smart people. In executive coaching they usually see the leadership behaviors they need to develop or the unhelpful behaviors they need to downplay. From there, identifying the game plan is a matter of brainstorming and strategizing.
After that, however, it’s about whether we’ll truly take it on and do whatever it takes.
As a reflective exercise, think about a goal you’re wanting to achieve. Ask yourself: Are you doing your best to achieve your goal?
Or, are you doing what it takes?