Reality is, in essence, the way you see the world. It’s the culmination of your experiences that affect how you perform and how you view challenges and your abilities to handle them. Every person will view reality differently because they have a different perspective.
In problem-solving, reality is your perception the things in your environment or situation that could impact your ability to achieve the goal. Reflect on the problem you’re facing, what you’ve tried so far and the results of those efforts, and the obstacles you see in your way.
Because each person involved in a scenario has a different perception of reality, it’s a good exercise to consider how others involved would describe the situation. Try to examine all aspects of the situation to uncover a more comprehensive solution.
In a coaching conversation (especially a tough “Alignment” conversation), it’s important that both parties have a chance to share their reality. Returning to our fairly simple performance goal of “turning reports in on time,” the manager may not see the whole performer’s entire reality. Maybe the performer can’t begin compiling the report until he gets a component from another department, and he doesn’t get it until the day before the report is due. This obstacle may be unknown to the manager. The manager also has their own reality. The employee may see the deadline as arbitrary anyway, but the manager’s perspective may illustrate why the reports need to be punctual.
Reflecting on Reality Improves Performance
Reflecting on reality, particularly the things we’ve attempted in the past, has actually been shown to improve performance and help us make better decisions. In a 2016 study by Harvard Business School, HEC Paris, and the University of North Carolina, showed performance improved by 23-25% in groups that reflected after a learning experience. Reflection through sharing information with a colleague was shown to improve the learning process even more than private reflection.
Begin with a Goal
Only once you’ve established a clear and attainable goal, should you consider the reality. We tend to jump right in to the reality of the situation we’re facing, but it shouldn’t be. Think of your average problem-solving sessions. You start with “here’s what’s going wrong…here’s everything I’ve tried and why it won’t work….and here is who and what is getting in my way.”
In all that venting, you lose focus on your goal. You may feel better in the short term, but you probably haven’t solved the long-term concern. Reflecting on where you’re stuck is often what sparks the process and inspires you to solve the problem, but to really achieve success, first begin by determining or clarifying your goal.
Once you understand your goal, you are in a better frame of mind to reflect on reality.
The Risks of Lingering in Reality
Most problem-solving sessions also spend too much time focused on Reality. It’s the “Oh, woe is me” principle. We are all more comfortable thinking about all the things that could go wrong than we are at optimistically moving through the problem-solving process.
Discuss/think through the relevant realities, and then move quickly into options that might be available to solve the problem.
Examining and reflecting on reality “reveals [the] current situation and makes it possible to develop future action plans.” While it’s important to structure thoughts around reality, it is not “an end in itself, temporarily raising awareness about important issues, but failing to lead to the kind of action steps necessary to enact strategic change.”
Once you’ve fully considered your current reality, you can start to consider your options to solve the problem or make the decision. Click here to read on and learn about the Options phase of the GROW Model.