Let’s do some time travelling to your preferred future, the year 2015.
Suppose you would be transforming intentions into concrete actions the coming months.
We would meet up in 2015 and you would proudly tell me your answers to the following questions:
1) What have you continued doing in 2014 that worked good (enough) before?
2) What have you stopped doing and started doing instead?
3) What were some completely new things you did?
Good luck with taking a number of steps in order for you to say ‘Happy 2015 to me’!
Make sure your steps are small enough, so you can easily adjust them at all times.
I have developed a practical self-coaching tool that you can use if you are stuck with something.
The tool is easy to use too when:
– you want to improve a skill
– you want to smell the scent of progress
– you want to discover a next step
– you want to remember what already works well for you
– you want to get a better view on what does not need to be changed
Feel free to send me an e-mail to email@example.com if you would like to find out how the tool could be working for you, your team and your organisation.
Sometimes you hear yourself wonder what to do next in a given situation:
Should I stay or should I go?
How on earth can I bring my team or even my whole organisation to a higher level?
What to do with someone with whom I want a different relationship?
I’ve tried so much already…
Then you may want to choose the strategy of small steps instead of designing a big action plan or taking extreme measures.
No worries: if a step seems too big to take, make it smaller. Sounds counterintuitive, right? Take a small step that will definitely work out fine, a step that is ‘failure proof’.
Building on that even tiniest of steps, you can find out better what works and what doesn’t. Doing more of what works can create a snowball effect, initiating a series of new steps.
Do take a step: if you truly want things to change, better a small step than no step at all.
Should the step turn out to be ineffective, you can just take another one not using too many resources (i.e. budget, efforts, time, long (e-mail) discussions, group meetings,…).
This is how low risk trial-and-error looks like
1) If something works well, do more of that
2) Stop doing what does not work AND do something else instead
3) Don’t fix what is not broken
Small steps work particularly well in the following settings*:
– when there is a high degree of complexity or unpredictability
– when we are stuck, when we have little energy or when the problem is serious
– when we do not have best practices or a blue print approach
– when there is (expected) resistance
– when we procrastinate
You will not hear me declare that you always need to take small steps for personal, team or organisational growth. Not quite. All depends on the relationship you and the significant others in your eco-system have with the desired change (if you want to know more about this, contact me).
* In part inspired by Coert Visser, co-founder of NOAM
Take 3 minutes to answer these questions for yourself:
What do you want to improve or get better at? What do you want to change? What is your goal?
Suppose that 10 on a scale equals your goal fully accomplished, and 1 the opposite of that (= you made progress towards your goal, but so tiny it’s almost unnoticeable): where are you now on the scale?
What worked well to get you there? What else?
Who contributed for you to come where you are on the scale? Who else? What did they do specifically?
What inspiration does this give you to take a next small step?
When will you be taking it?
Chris Callewaert is a passionate doctoral researcher at Ghent University who works on body odour. From all the media attention it seems that Chris is no less than on his way to conquering the world… I saw him make a very thought provoking TEDxTalk about his research that is changing lives. This is a transcript of an interview I had with him.
Chris, what is your research looking at?
‘The ultimate goal of my research is to improve the odour from the bacteria in your armpits, in clothing you wear and the washing machines you use. That is what you can call the mission statement of my research. My main activities include the characterisation and screening of bacteria associated with the measurement of odor production. We want to be able to understand the ‘bad’ bacteria, which give rise to an unpleasant door. We would like to have the ability to replace them, and add to them a large amount of ‘good’ bacteria.
My research has some really huge challenges. Smell is one of the most difficult human senses to replicate with a machine, if not the hardest. Smell is a subjective experience and can be different from person to person. Hence, we work with an ‘odour panel’, which consists of eight carefully selected and trained specialists. The bacterial community in the armpit has been investigated to a limited extent.
In addition, we went to link the smell with microbiology, which is a huge dose of bioinformatics. Fortunately, I have great colleagues to help with this.’
How does the scientific community react to a research subject like body odor?
‘Body odour is not seen as a disease, that is why there is hardly any research on it. If body odour would be categorized as a pathology, then there would undoubtedly have been more research to date.
Today, the focus is primarily on diseases with a major psychological impact, diseases which are life threatening. People with body odour issues are often stigmatized, bullied or are subtly informed that they do not smell so fresh. Nevertheless, many people do encounter the ill effects of their body odour.
Body odour conditions are anything but the kind of ‘luxury’ conditions where many people go through life without having any difficulties. This is at odds with the prevailing views about body odour.’
What does your research tackle now?
‘After a pilot study with three people, we have moved into the main study phase. Specifically, we will treat 20 people at this stage. Our research team really hopes that the treatment works and that the bad bacteria are expelled.
In addition, we indeed have attracted some media attention and have been in contact with many people who suffer from this condition and want to cooperate in our research, the so called ‘self declared smelly armpits’. By taking samples from them we can already gather a lot more additional information.’
What resources do you have at your disposal?
‘Without my research supervisors, professor Nico Boon and professor Tom Van de Wiele, I would not have been able to pursue my passion. They gave me the opportunity in the first place right after my studies to start with my research. When I missed out on a grant, they helped me obtaining a grant at the next opportunity.
A second example of valuable help is the help of specific people in the department of dermatology who have really played an important role. People like Mireille Van Gele and Jessica Bostoen have been key by giving their input on the research.
Additionally I would also like to express my thanks to professor emeritus Willy Verstraete, who founded our lab and stuck with many people with his passionate way of teaching. I consider him my scientific grandfather. His passion is contagious.’
What else helped?
‘Well, a friend of mine put me in touch with identical twins. I absolutely wanted to take a sample from both of them, as one of the twins had a body smell. I got the opportunity to perform a bacterial transplant from one armpit to the armpit of the other twin. The end result was that the twin with the body odour problem now has significantly less inconvenience with odour problems. With that first success I was able to really crack on and progress the research.’
Are there things you would have done differently?
‘Not really… If I could start over I would definitely work on this research topic again. Some research did not always give the desired results. But that is research. You cannot look back in time: it is inherent in the nature of research that you can rarely make clear and definite predictions.’
You get a considerable amount of media attention. How do you deal with that?
‘It’s true that I have had a lot airplay and appeared on television recently. The written press has interviewed me several times. The important thing for me as a researcher is that there is always a very positive reaction, although the first research results stem from 1 year ago. It is a bonus that many professors show an interest in this and find their way to this research. Until a month ago, I was pulling my hair out and asking myself where I was ever going to find 20 subjects for the research – but as the saying goes ‘the mountain came to speak to Moses’ and it was the other way round. That’s fantastic.’
Finally, is there a message that you want to convey to other researchers?
‘Follow your heart. Do what you enjoy. Find a research subject that really is 200% your thing. You will get the furthest if you are passionate about what you do.’
Chris and I end the interview and we each go our ways. The one driven by increasing beneficial changes to human systems, the other… well, the other too.