Feeling stuck? Try the ‘Spice Girl’ strategy

This week I was speaking to a close friend about her work situation. There were some tough things going on. Her manager is controlling-yet-distracted, her colleagues are fearfully hoarding information and being uncollaborative; her career in her current firm seems buffeted by forces somewhat beyond her control.

She asked for my advice on what to do. I offered some possibilities, yet each time I raised an idea my friend explained a whole set of other difficulties and complicating factors.

It felt like the conversation was like a puppy with a ball of wool - going in circles and getting progressively more knotted and complicated.

Time to ask the question to slice through all of that.


Spice Girl Strategic Planning

A while back, I asked 60+ outstanding leaders to reveal the most surprising secret to personal effectiveness and results. I highly recommend you read it - it is a veritable treasure trove of insight!

One contributor - David Zinger, host of the 7100+ member Employee Engagement Network - came up with a particularly memorable one. His basic premise: “be a Spice Girl!”

You can read his full quote by visiting the original post, but the more I think about it the more valuable the “Spice Girl question” turns out to be:

“So tell me what you want, what you really really want!”

Clarity = focus; dispersion = overwhelm

Our brains are problem-solving machines. We give our brain a question and it delivers an answer.

As an aside - if you want proof, take any random topic and say out loud “There are 3 things you need to know about this. Firstly…. [let your brain fill in here]. Secondly…. [ditto]. Finally [ditto]”.

You’ll be amazed at what your brain comes up with on the fly! Here’s a question to get you started: “what are the important things when doing pottery?”

We need to be asking our brain to solve important questions. But so often we focus on managing all the madness around us, and don’t stop to ask “what am I really trying to achieve?”

When we don’t ask ourselves that Spice Girl question - “So tell me what you want, what you really really want!” - we have a vague sense of our desired impact and a very weak sense of what to do to achieve it. We find ourselves in overwhelm. In other words, we have a “Smattergy”, I as discussed in a previous article!

But when we do clarify what we really, really want, we can suddenly cut through the confusion and identify what we need to do move forward. We have a strong strategy.

The distinction is best seen by the diagram I used in my previous article:

strategy as a lens

3 questions for Spice Girl strategy

But what if you don’t know what you want, what you really really want? Here are three questions to help process things.

1. Have you given it enough time?

So often we stop for 15 seconds and when we don’t get clarity we get back to Facebook or our preferred distraction of choice!  Yet our brain needs time and space to process our big and complex questions.

I find helpful to walk around the block - get some fresh air and away from screens of all forms - and just take five minutes to give my mind some time to process the question.

2. “What don’t you want?” + “Why Why Why”

Often we are conflicted because we are focusing more on some fear or concern. So focus on that fear and concern and then dig back using “why” until you get to the fundamental desire - or you realise that actually isn’t not an important reason after all. In the first case, you can then work forward to come up with strategies to address that key desire. In the second case, you can cross that concern off your mental map.

An example of this strategy in action (click to open)

3. “What would you love to see happen here?” + “Why Why Why”

The other approach is to take a positive angle and state what you would like to happen, then ask yourself why that is important to you.

An example of this strategy in action (click to open)

Over to you

So... tell me what YOU really, really want!  What is the situation you feel stuck in - and what is the answer this question raises? (Why not leave a comment below and let me know?)

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