November 2006

Book review—
Following Through: A Revolutionary New Model for Finishing Whatever You Start, by Steve Levinson and Pete C. Greider. Kensington Books. 1998.

The Big Idea: Your mind contains a thinking part and an instinctual part. The thinking mind can chart the best course of action, but it can’t give you the desire to follow through on that course of action. The instinctual mind, on the other hand, doesn’t give a hoot about your “best course of action.” It reacts to whatever is happening right now. It oils the squeaky wheel. When there is a battle between the thinking mind and the instinctual mind, the instinctual mind wins. Whether or not you “follow through” is decided by the instinctual mind.

If you want to follow the best course of action, you must engineer your environment so that the best course of action becomes the squeaky wheel. When you do that, “Following Through” on your plans (be they marketing plans, diet plans, improve your posture plans, treating coworkers respectfully plans, or meditating every morning plans) just happen.

The key strategic question is “How can I shape the situation, or the way I experience it, to make my intention the squeakiest wheel?” (p. 77)

Useful Strategies: Leading the Horse to Water is one of the strategies set forth by Levinson and Greider. In this strategy, you commit to only the easy part of the process (leading the horse to water). Once the easy part is rolling, the momentum of it can carry you right through the hard part, the part that your instinctual mind wants to run away from.

Let’s say your thinking mind wants you to workout at the gym three mornings per week. You wake up and your instinctual mind says, “No way am I getting out of this cozy bed to experience the pain and boredom of the rowing machine.” The thinking mind doesn’t stand a chance. You stay in bed.

To avoid this problem, tell yourself beforehand that on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, you are going to get dressed in sweats and go to the gym. You are under no obligation to work out, but you will go to the gym. The instinctual mind has nothing to grab a hold of. It has no “pain of the rowing machine” to which to react. So, you get up and go to the gym. And, more times than not you end up working out after all. Sure, your thinking mind can see right through this trick, but the instinctual mind isn’t so analytically gifted.

Spotlighting is another strategy that works in certain situations. This strategy relies on your mind containing some voices that support your intentions. You “spotlight” these voices to make them squeaky.

Levinson and Greider tell of an executive who treated his direct reports unkindly. This was hurting his career and he knew it.

In contrast to his behavior at work, the young executive always connected with his kinder, more nurturing, side when he coached his little league team. When he thought about his baseball players, it triggered his commitment to nurturance and teamwork.

So, with the intention of improving his treatment of other people at work, he filled his office with in-his-face reminders of little league (including baseball memo pads, baseball language in the boilerplate language of regular memos, and a baseball cap). These “cues” called up the “voices” in his mind that made kind treatment a priority. With those voices called up, they became the squeaky wheel and his behavior around the office changed for the benefit of all.

To utilize spotlighting yourself, you must (1) figure out what are the good “voices,” (2) Find or create the cues that call up the good “voices,” and (3) Install the cues where you will be exposed to them.

Quote: "[F]ollow through is more a matter of circumstances than it is a matter of character. How well we follow through, . . . depends less on who we are than it does on the particular thing we intend to do and what’s going on around us." (p. 29)

Overall rating: 5 Stars (out of 5 Stars). This book is a welcome addition to any coach’s bookshelf. (I have used both Leading a Horse to Water and Spotlighting with my clients.) It’s practical, clear, and, illustrated with interesting case histories, fun to read. The ideas presented are at once common sense and innovative. My one reservation, as a teacher of environmental design coaching, is that I wish it went further or, at least, pointed to the many other ways we can avoid struggle and get where we aim to go by manipulating our environments. Maybe, that’s the sequel.

If you or your team need to get more done or have more fun, coaching from Joshua Hornick may help. It usually does. Visit jhcoaching.com or call 413-230-3933 to schedule a complementary, collaborative session.

"I have the right amount of work, far less anxiety, and more joy!" Mary Ellen Shea, Independent labor arbitrator.

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As CoachVille City Director for the Pioneer Valley, Joshua Hornick delivers avant-garde trainings for businesses and organizations on winning.

- Play-Two-Win. How to turn any meaningful endeavor into a game and win it.
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He also offers workshops on leadership, marketing, productivity, and customer service. Joshua Hornick teaches core curriculum at the CoachVille Graduate School of Coaching (CoachVille.com).

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Joshua Hornick is available to present workshops or provide coaching on "leading a horse to water," "spotlighting," and other methods for following through. Please e-mail, alanna@jhcoaching.com.