How should it look when it’s done?

Have you ever been dis­ap­point­ed when you don’t get the final OK from a client, boss, col­league, or spouse? For many of our jobs and per­son­al com­mit­ments, some­one else typ­i­cal­ly decides if the final prod­uct is good to go, or if it still needs adjust­ments or improve­ments. In oth­er words, you’re not the final green stamp of approval. This can cre­ate frus­tra­tion because you thought you were done . . . only to dis­cov­er you have to go back and redo work that you thought was per­fect. What if I told you that a sim­ple ques­tion could change every­thing?

How should it look when it’s done?

The ques­tion “How should it look when it’s done?” is a way of ask­ing some­one to “paint done for me.” In oth­er words, you’re ask­ing them to clar­i­fy the cri­te­ria that will give you their bless­ing or green light. (If you can get it in writ­ing, even bet­ter.) It’s a way of ask­ing what is their ver­sion of fin­ished and suc­cess­ful? But we don’t always ask this ques­tion.

Too often, we oper­ate with an assump­tion of what it will look like when it’s done for our­selves. And this is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly hap­pen­ing in the mind of your client, spouse, boss, or col­league, too. We don’t take the time to clar­i­fy, define, and get spe­cif­ic on the final out­come. This hap­pens in a split sec­ond with­out much thought or effort — and that’s the prob­lem.

Figuring out what “done” looks like takes a little effort and courage.

Tak­ing time to fig­ure out what done looks like takes a lit­tle effort, and a lit­tle courage. Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty writer David Allen often says you have to think hard­er than you think, but not as hard as you might think. In oth­er words, this think­ing process DOES take effort but not as much effort as your brain thinks. Your brain is exag­ger­at­ing how much time, ener­gy, and thought must be required to clar­i­fy.

It’s eas­i­er in the short term to leave things unclar­i­fied and ambigu­ous. It’s easy to not ask the ques­tion because you don’t want to know the answer. It’s easy not to have to tell your boss that you can’t or aren’t ener­gized to do that thing. It’s easy to com­mit to a dead­line with­out check­ing your cal­en­dar or oth­er com­mit­ments. It’s easy to say yes. It’s easy not to cause a ruckus.
It’s hard to ask a sim­ple ques­tion because cer­tain­ly you have ‘work’ to do. It’s hard to clar­i­fy expec­ta­tions because what if you’re not sure you can pull it off by the pro­posed dead­line and you look incom­pe­tent or worse . . . a fail­ure? It’s hard to stop and think for a sec­ond because most of us are mov­ing so fast, this behav­ior is uncom­mon.

From your own expe­ri­ence you also know that when you leave things a lit­tle grey and unclear, that it nev­er ends well on the oth­er end. You know from your own expe­ri­ence that you have so much more free­dom to fig­ure things out and make adjust­ments BEFORE it’s the final hour.

Ask the simple question and negotiate.

Con­sid­er ask­ing the sim­ple ques­tion “what should this look like when it’s done?”—then step back and what what hap­pens. You may find that clear expec­ta­tions are com­mu­ni­cat­ed. More often than not, you may find that their expec­ta­tions are too much or not pos­si­ble. In this posi­tion (on the front end of a project before the final hour), you have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to nego­ti­ate. You have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­agree. You have the chance to agree on what is real­is­tic for the time need­ed to com­plete the project based on the resources you have.

This last part is the key. In these dis­cus­sions, you are set­ting your­self up for suc­cess, even if you can’t do what is being asked. This is your oppor­tu­ni­ty to say “while I can’t do that, I can do this.” You must be clear and up front with what you can real­is­ti­cal­ly com­mit to based on the oth­er cir­cum­stances and com­mit­ments in your life. Think about your fam­i­ly, your free time, your per­son­al goals. Think about the oth­er “work things” already on your plate that you’ve agreed to. Then talk with your client about what you can agree to accom­plish with full ener­gy.

Variations on the question…

  • What does done look like?
  • Paint done for me” (Bre­nee Brown)
  • What does suc­cess look like?
  • What does wild suc­cess look like?

There will always be opposition

Have you ever encoun­tered some­one who does­n’t agree with your point of view or see things the same way you do? I’m sure you’ve expe­ri­enced the ten­sion that lies when you have an idea but know some­one is going to chal­lenge you. This is what makes the world a beau­ti­ful place, but it can annoy us and stress us out. We can prob­a­bly agree with this state­ment: there will always be some­one who does not approve our work.

So, if it’s true there will always be oppo­si­tion, how then might we adjust our behav­ior?

If it’s true there will always be at least one per­son who does­n’t like what we’re up to, what might we need to con­sid­er in our mind­set and think­ing?

If it’s true all peo­ple will not see things the same way we do, what’s next?

Adjusting our behavior

One of the ways we can deal with oppo­si­tion is to adjust our behav­ior. As humans, we have the abil­i­ty to change the nar­ra­tive, change our think­ing, and see the world dif­fer­ent­ly. Some of this hap­pens in our think­ing pat­terns or in the invis­i­ble world. Some of this hap­pens in the exter­nal or phys­i­cal world. How we behave exists in both of these worlds.

Since there will always be oppo­si­tion, make an agree­ment with your­self that you will not sulk or get dis­cour­aged when you hear some­one who does­n’t like what you said. There will always be peo­ple who don’t get you, and you knew that before­hand! If you did­n’t know that, it’s true, right? We can’t live every moment of our lives in terms of those who oppose us.

Since there will always be oppo­si­tion, change your sur­round­ings. Switch things up. You don’t have to have your desk in that dark cor­ner. Your room does not have to be paint­ed that col­or. Make a sim­ple tweak to your sur­round­ings to help you remem­ber you have the abil­i­ty to change your sur­round­ings. Charles Duhigg illus­trates this in his book Smarter Faster Bet­ter where he describes how mem­bers of the mil­i­tary were giv­en the abil­i­ty to rearrange the fur­ni­ture in their liv­ing quar­ters. This gave each per­son a sense of auton­o­my and a deep­er sense of con­trol. You can do the same.

Since there will always be some­one who does­n’t like your work, decide now that you won’t let that freeze you up. The last thing you should do is freeze up and stop mak­ing stuff. That’s what the oppo­si­tion wants. Decide on the front end that you will cre­ate art. If there are peo­ple who don’t get it, as Seth Godin would say, it was­n’t for them.

Mindset and thinking questions... (Invisible world)

As you think about your inter­nal dia­logue or your invis­i­ble world, you can struc­ture how you want to think about your work.

How much atten­tion are you going to give the oppo­si­tion? Decide before it destroys your day.

How much atten­tion will you give your sup­port team? Know who they are so you can run to them in emer­gen­cies.

What voic­es ulti­mate­ly mat­ter most in your life? Brené Brown sug­gests hav­ing a 1 inch by 1 inch piece of paper with the voic­es that are most encour­ag­ing in your life. It’s small on pur­pose. Let them know they are on your square and keep them close, espe­cial­ly when you feel dis­cour­aged.

What’s next? (Physical world)

If it’s true there WILL be oppo­si­tion, Get to work. What are you wait­ing for?

Stop com­plain­ing. You knew this would­n’t be easy.

Butt in chair. Thanks, Anne Lam­ott

Find out what inspires you — and come back to it when you’re dis­cour­aged. Keep a rainy day file.

Asking “how might we” questions

A pow­er­ful tool to help your lead­er­ship is to ask great ques­tions. Yes, there is such a thing as a bad ques­tion. In school, teach­ers some­times say there’s no such thing as a bad ques­tion. Good advice for young stu­dents. Bad advice for adults. There are many WRONG ques­tions that we can ask that we don’t need to be ask­ing. There are WRONG ques­tions we can ask about our spouse or about how things are in the world. Here’s anoth­er exam­ple of a bad ques­tion:

Zoom example of a BAD question.jpg
No. You suck. Bad ques­tion.

Change your ques­tion, change your focus. 

HOW MIGHT WE...”  questions

How might we...” ques­tions allows the brain to engage in the high­er-lev­el think­ing of the brain instead of oper­at­ing out of the low­er-lev­el “fear” mind­set.

In your per­son­al life ...

  • How might I find ways to get 7–8 hours of sleep each night?
  • How might I find more ener­gy each day?
  • How might I go deep­er in my rela­tion­ships?
  • How might we find more ways to spend time togeth­er?
  • How might we cre­ate a less stress­ful envi­ron­ment in our home?
  • How might we spend less time on screens?

In your role as a leader... 

  • How might we bet­ter serve our cus­tomers and clients?
  • How might we moti­vate and employ­ees and staff?
  • How might we cre­ate a fan­tas­tic expe­ri­ence for every­one?
  • How might we best com­mu­ni­cate this idea?

Start asking these questions today!

The best thing is you don’t have to buy any­thing or learn any­thing else to start using “how might we” ques­tions. 

A pow­er­ful exten­sion is to make sure your whole group or team is ask­ing the same ques­tion togeth­er. Change the ques­tions, change the focus. 

This post was inspired by Jake Knap­p’s book, Sprint 

Who are you learning from?

Here’s a ques­tion for you to con­sid­er: Who are you learn­ing from?

For our roles in our lives, each of us should be able to point to a per­son or group we are learn­ing from. It is excit­ing and hum­bling to think that we are prob­a­bly not the first peo­ple to encounter the issues we are facing—so why not see how oth­ers have dealt with the same stuff?

We live in an incred­i­ble time where there are more free arti­cles (if you like read­ing), pod­casts (if you like lis­ten­ing), and videos (if you like watch­ing) to help us grow. Some­times, you have to take what you learn with a grain of salt, but if it helps you think, then it may be worth it. 

  • Are you seek­ing out new ways how to do stuff? 
  • Are you see­ing what cur­rent trends are work­ing for oth­er lead­ers?
  • Do you have a desire to want to learn new stuff?