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Coaching Club: Strategic Thinking & Planning for PAs and EAs

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​It’s that time of year when businesses great and small are starting to write their strategies for the year ahead. When we reflect on the year just gone and begin to plan for the future, setting ourselves targets and really getting to grips with what we want to achieve, we’re able to accomplish so much more.

Being able to think and plan strategically is a skill that everyone can learn. For some of us it’s second nature, but for others it can be a challenge. If that’s you, or you feel you need a refresh, try Edward de Bono’s six thinking hats exercise, to help you start thinking, and planning, strategically.

What’s the problem?

Choose a challenge or habit you are facing right now that is holding you back. On a piece of paper, write down the following:

●     In three words, describe how this challenge or habit makes you feel.

●     What have you done so far to face this problem? What actions have you taken?

When it comes to problem solving or making a decision, there are a few different ways we can approach our thinking. Often referred to as the Father of Lateral Thinking, Edward de Bono, spent his entire career looking at how we can all become more creative thinkers. In 1985, he wrote a book called, ‘Six Thinking Hats’ to demonstrate the types of thinking we undertake and what method works best for different situations.

White Hat

Also known as the ‘detective hat’, this method looks purely at the facts. We put this hat on to strip the situation we’re in, so we can ask ourselves the following questions without being caught up in our own emotions.

●     What do you know to be true?

●     What are the actual facts that inform you about the situation?

Take some time to write down your answers. Don’t think too hard, be objective and right down what you know, not think or perceive, to be true.

Yellow hat

This is the ‘optimistic hat’. What are the positives in the situation? If you can’t see what the positives are right now, what they could be? To do this, move your thinking from your head into your body and make a list of three optimistic or hopeful outcomes from working on this challenge.

Black hat

Now for the ‘judgement hat’. What obstacles are going to, or are, standing in your way? In this particular scenario, what could go wrong? Are there any dangers or difficulties you need to address? Don’t get sucked into the issues, identify what they are and look at what needs to be done to overcome them.

Red hat

This is your ‘feelings, hunches and intuition hat’. What do you feel about the challenge that you’re facing? Are you angry, frustrated, excited? Be honest with yourself and write down all the different emotions that you feel with this problem. When you write out your feelings it helps to break down what you really think about the situation and be able to address any additional issues or feelings that you may not have realised that you’re experiencing.

Green hat

The ‘creative hat’. Start thinking a little outside the box for this one. We give a meaning to every situation we experience, including problems. What other meaning could you give to this challenge? Could this be an opportunity and not a difficulty? Get creative with what you could do with, or in, this situation.

Don’t be afraid to let go of your ego. Give yourself the chance to look at something in a different way, attaching a different story rather than going to your ‘go-to’ or knee jerk reaction.

Blue hat

Last, but not least, the ‘recognition hat’. Start looking at your situation and recognising the following:

●     What are you in control of right now? (You may not think you’re in control of anything right now, but there will be something you’re in control of.)

●     What are you able to do right now? This could be changing your mindset or approach. Maybe you need to talk to someone you’ve been avoiding?

The way you approach and manage your emotions in any situation will dictate how you feel about this problem, and potentially any similar problems in the future. Whatever the situation is, you need to accept that you’re in the situation. Don’t fight it. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t.

Take some time now to look at where you’re at with your situation and compare it to how you felt before doing this exercise. Right now, you’re looking at different ways of thinking which gives you new possibilities, new meanings and alternatives dealing with your problems. You’re not locking yourself into one blinkered point of view.

Breaking your habits and challenging your thinking is difficult, and it takes a lot of courage. Recognise that and congratulate yourself, the majority of people won’t do this, but you did.

Have you enjoyed this exercise? This is just one taste of the personal development exercises we do each week at Coaching Club. If you’d like to join us one week, we’d love to see you there. Sign up to Coaching Club on our website and get a free one month trial, learn some new strategies and become part of an amazing group of supportive, up-lifting women.

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