The Power of Being Specific

A recent client complained about feeling pressured at work – he had a team to lead, a demanding manager, and calendar full of meetings. He felt like he was always fighting fires and didn’t have enough time for strategic planning.

When I asked him what a “strategic” day would be like, he used words like reflection, solitude, organization and productivity. I asked him to be more specific and heard “high self-expectations, feeling the weight of leadership and the need for space to think.” I asked for even more specifics: the “height” of the expectation, the “weight” of leadership challenges and the “amount” of space needed to think. The questions helped the client clarify get to the core of issue: his self-expectations were endlessly high, so he had no chance of meeting them.

Once he realized his problem, he created more specific, measurable goals: meeting project goals, seeking weekly feedback from his team, and having one hour set aside each Friday for planning the following week. Not everything was measurable; we also created observable goals: relaxing the shoulders and speaking more deliberately.

By the end of our meeting, my client reported feeling “lighter” once he shifted his focus from vague to specific goals. I saw him take a deep breath and smile.

Alex Yaroslavsky