Unicorns exist. So, we don't need to do things differently to get the results we'd like.

Unicorns are awesome.  

They capture the imagination of children and adults alike.  They are regal and wise, graceful and strong.  For the sake of imaginations everywhere, I hope someone finds one someday.  However, they are the stuff of fantasy, and because of this I don't pin my hopes and dreams on their discovery.

When I encounter someone who is disappointed in the results she or he is getting, but who doesn't believe things need to be done differently, I wonder if this person is lost in the stuff of fantasy.

We are not getting the results we'd like to see

Let’s imagine for a moment that we’re clear on the results we’d like to see (this is often a problem in and of itself).  We’ve identified real, tangible results we want to achieve.  We are not pulling these out of thin air. However, for whatever reason, these results are not materializing.

At this point, it appears to me that there are some options to consider:

  • Check to see that we have our eyes on attainable results.
  • Make sure we’re clear on what we need to do and who will do it.
  • Determine if we are taking the time to work the plan.
  • Decide that what we've been doing is not working, so it’s time to pivot.

Unicorns, yes unicorns.

Somewhere between all these options is the space where fantasy land may be found. You may have a plan, but have unrealistic expectations. You may be hoping for results, but have no plan to get them.   You may have realistic goals and a plan, but little patience to see the results materialize.  Or, it could be that you believe in unicorns and are deaf to the need to pivot.   

After you’ve determined the plan and the results you'd like to see, you need to work the plan and plans take time to materialize into results.  Yet, there will come a point when working the plan may need to shift to adjusting the plan.  The challenge at that point is to have the clarity to know what to do.  Do you quit? Double-down? Adjust? How would you know?

We don’t see the need to do things any differently

This is where the rubber meets the road.  For example, during a situational assessment of an organization this past summer, it was revealed that certain factions within the organization believed that nothing needed to change to get substantially better results than they were experiencing.

Here are some questions we suggested to that team to aid their discovery of where they were, and how, when, or why they would choose to shift course.   

  • What kinds of results are we getting at the moment?  How satisfied are we with the results?
  • Would anyone say that we are susceptible to changing courses like the wind changes direction?  Should we exhibit more resilience and perseverance?
  • Would anyone in the organization or team disagree with our perspective? How would we weight their perspective if they did?
  • What are the leading indicators that would let us know we are headed toward great results?  How are we tracking these?
  • What are the lagging indicators that would tell us when we are realizing the results? How are we tracking those?
  • How or when would we know that we needed to change course? 

Allow me to suggest that if the answers to these questions are not succinct and clear, it's possible that unicorns abound.  If that's the case, it's time to go unicorn hunting. Working through these questions will flush them out into the open so that you can identify reality and make real progress towards the real results that matter. 

Josh Schuler  is a senior advisor and communications jedi at TREbuchet group. He specializes in helping people ask the substantive questions. 

Josh Schuler is a senior advisor and communications jedi at TREbuchet group. He specializes in helping people ask the substantive questions. 

Happy hunting! 

"Unicorn" by Yosuka Muroya is licensed under CC by 2.0.