Here is a way to create something better. In my coaching, I call it “going out and coming back.” Not very original or creative but it works. The idea is to move into the future, define as much as possible out there and then come back to reality and decide on ways to get to the desired future state. Here is a practical exercise.

Pick a setting. It could be in your personal or professional life. Let’s pretend you choose your overall work life. Using your imagination, what is the ideal? How do others treat you? What do customers say about your organization? What do they say about you? What do they tell their friends? What are people systems like? How is the teamwork? What is the creativity level? How are processes efficient and useful? Let your day-dreaming go and try to make the picture as real as possible in your head. Now, write down the details of your ideal. Be sure to include the typical behaviors when everything that can go wrong does. Be the best “fly on the wall” possible.

Now that you have created a pretend painting in your head, go out and “be” that painting. What?!? You might say, “You don’t know my boss … he’s a real jerk.” Or maybe the paperwork rules are killing us. Or … fill in the blank. The suggestion stands. Go out and be this incredibly, profound, amazing painting. It is easy to blame others (I’ve done my share of it) or make excuses why things are not as good as they could be. Within your circle of influence – not just your job description – start doing those things that will lead to the ideal over time. You may need to do this in many steps if current reality is very different from the future ideal.

Let’s address two possible scenarios with the easier one first.

Scenario #1 – In your imagined ideal, maybe you saw all members of the organization treat each other with respect, regardless of position, time with the company, education and so on. You can immediately start respecting everyone you meet and interact with in the environment. The challenge comes on how to deal with those who do not share your newfound attitude. If you want to influence positive change, you must persist even in spite of blockheads. (Sorry, that wasn’t very respectful.) The test of making positive behavior stick is to do so over time with consistency – especially when it is difficult. Do not be obnoxious about it, just do it consistently. Hint: One of your secret weapons is tasteful humor at key points of stress.

Scenario #2 – As you painted the picture above, you saw no unnecessary red tape in the paperwork war. In most companies, you cannot simply stop following policy or paperwork requirements without explanation. In fact, failing on the administrative side might lead to an early, prolonged vacation and the current re-employment environment is pretty tough. Remember to break the goal into manageable pieces. What small steps do you think could slowly move the setting toward the imagined ideal? Start with the least sacred in the environment and then talk with your supervisor about the process. Make suggested solutions – do not just throw rocks. You are trying to find an ally, not make somebody defensive. Make a genuine case for how this will help the profitability of the company or increase the quality of service to the customers. Hint: Make proposals that move toward your ideal AND help the other person do his or her job better (and look better too).

Next week we will explore potential consequences of your action plan and ways to change the plan to maximize the chances of success.

Copyright 2010 Michael A. Friesen. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Michael Friesen is the owner of Leading Strategies, a firm dedicated to coaching concierge medical groups and other service organizations to build high performance teams ( Mike is a retired military officer, fighter pilot, former CFO, and holds a M.B.A. with Strategic Leadership emphasis. Michael is also the author of "Expected End: What Culture Is, Why It Matters, and How to Improve It." You are invited to follow Leading Strategies on Twitter at @LSTeams.