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Retrace your Path to Action to its source. Identify specific behaviors

that are out of bounds and take note. When you’ve done your home­

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work, consider the behaviors you noted and make sure the story

you’re telling yourself about these behaviors is important enough for

dialogue. If it is, then Make It Safe and STATE Your Path.



asked, but no more. If they run into a problem, they “YEAH, BUT. ..

lake’ one simple slab at fixing it. But if their efforts

don’t pay ofr, thc’y qllit. ”




The Danger Point

Most people are far more likely to talk about the presence of a

bad behavior than the absence of a good one. When someone

really messes up, leaders and parents alike are compelled to take

action. However, when people simply fail to be excellent, it’s

hard to know what to say.

The Solution

Establish new and higher expectations. Don’t deal with a specific

instance; deal with the overall pattern. If you want someone to

show more initiative, tell him or her. Give specific examples of

when the person ran into a barrier and then backed off after a

single try. Raise the bar and then make it crystal clear what

you’ve done. Jointly brainstorm what the person could have done

to be both more persistent and more creative in coming up with

a solution.

For instance, “I asked you to finish up a task that absolutely

had to be completed before I returned from a trip. You ran into

a problem, tried to get in touch with me, and then simply left a

message with my four-year-old. What could you have done to

track me down on the road?” or “What would it have taken to

create a backup strategy?”

Pay attention to ways you are compensating for someone’s

lack of initiative. Have you made yourself responsible for fol­

lowing up? If so, talk with that person about assuming this

responsibility. Have you asked more than one person to take the

same assignment so you can be sure it will get done? If so, talk

to the person originally assigned about reporting progress to you

early so you only need to put someone else on the job when

there’s a clear need for more resources.

Stop acting out your expectations that others won’t take initia­

tive. Instead, talk your expectations out and come to agreements




that place the responsibility on the team members while giving

you information early enough that you aren’t left high and dry.


IT ISN’T A SINGLE PROBLEM. It’s that I keep having to

talk with people about the same problem. I feel like I u YEA H, BUT…

have to choose between being a nag and putting up

with the problem. Now what?”

The Danger Point

Some crucial conversations go poorly because you’re having the

wrong conversations. You talk to someone who is late for a

meeting for the second time, Then the third. Your blood begins

to boil. Then you bite your lip and give another gentle reminder.

Finally, after your resentment builds up (because you’re telling

yourself an ugly story) , you become violent. You make a sarcas­

tic or cutting comment and then end up looking stupid because

the reaction seems way out of line given the minor offense.

If you continue to return to the original problem (coming in

late) without talking about the new problem (failing to live up to

commitments), you’re stuck in “Groundhog Day.” We talk about

this problem using the Groundhog Day movie metaphor. If you

return to the same initial problem, you’re like Bill Murray in the

movie-you’re forced to relive the same situation over and over

rather than deal with the bigger problem. Nothing ever gets


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