Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Some times big steps are in order. At other times you advance by a whisker. Tough circumstances call for smaller goals.

In Dr. Robert Mauer's book One Small Step Can Change Your Life he writes about a patient of his named Julie who was 30 pounds overweight. She was suffering from depression and fatigue. The doctor did not ask her to "lose 30 pounds." His prescription was much less rigorous. He said, "How about if you march in place in front of the television for one minute every day." It was the kick start she needed. By taking that one step, she got moving again. And once she got moving, she kept moving. And over time, the weight came off.

There is an organizational guru called the Fly Lady, who offers a 5-minute remedy to home cleaning. She suggests setting the alarm for five minutes, and then go into the messiest room in the house and start clearing it. When the timer goes off, you can stop with a clear conscience. What happens, of course, is that most people don't stop. They keep going. Because now they have momentum on their side.

Ken Blanchard gave managers a powerful tool when he wrote the classic One-Minute Manager. Knowing that managers dread giving employees feedback, he proscribed a smaller dose. He gave managers a whisker goal he call "one-minute praisings." Just catch them doing something right and give them an atta-boy. See, that's not that hard! He knew, of course, that once managers start talking to employees about the work that is being done, these conversations are likely to continue, and that's a good thing.

Whisker goals are particularly helpful when the challenge seems monumental. For instance, some folks are looking at overwhelming financial challenges - huge debts and hostile creditors. Financial guru Dave Ramsey speaks about creating a "snowball" by combining small amounts of money that are spent on frivolities like coffee and candy bars (the "snowflakes") to address these creditors. Start with the little things, and let the little things build up.

No comments: