What’s stopping you?
In my years of managing staff and coaching clients, I have simplified a way to understand the possible underlying issues when a person doesn’t perform a task well. I called it ‘CAWISHDA’: cannot, will not, should not and dare not. Using this checklist with probing questions, we could narrow down the causes underneath the underperformance.
“I cannot do it” gives indications of limiting beliefs, lack of strategies or skills. For example, a person with low qualification thinks that he/she could not be the Managing Director of a company. We can say that the person has a limiting belief and that belief hinders the person from progressing. That’s why it is important for us to frequently review our reasons for not doing something to ensure these reasons are not generated by our limiting beliefs. Of course, some are unable to perform because they lack the skills. For such cases, training or more practice will be relevant.
“I will not do it”, on the other hand, gives indications that the person is unwilling to let go the ‘secondary benefits’ that he/she will lose if the task is done. For example, a smoker doesn’t want to quit smoking because it’s also a way to make new friends or to blend into his/her groups of friends. If we want to motivate this person to perform the task, we need to find out what the person tends to lose when performing this task. We can discuss with the person on solutions to ensure the ‘secondary benefits’ are protected.
“I should not do it” is usually associated with conflicting values that the person has with the task. He/she can do it but refuses to as ‘a matter of principle’ because doing the task sends a wrong message in his/her opinion. A manager refuses to give compliments because ‘compliments make others lazy’ is one such example. He/she can do it but refuses to because it conflicts with his/her belief. Usually, we need to review the personal values that are involved and find out how exactly the task violates his/her values. Usually, when we discuss with the person in details how exactly a task conflicts with his/her values, the person usually will notice that the severity is actually much lower than initially thought.
And for the final group “I dare not do it”, the person knows how to do the task, knows the benefits of doing it, knows it’s the right thing to do, but just does not have the courage to do it. This reason is closely associated with self-confidence and state of mind. A common example would be a person who is desperate in switching career but is not doing it. We could advice the person to take baby steps and in case it is about ‘the leap of faith’, we can discuss backup plans that the person could develop to cushion any potential drawback.
The same CAWISHDA way could be applied to ourselves. When some tasks could not be done, we can ask ourselves the same questions and this exercise will help us identify the underlying issues clearer and therefore could administer the right antidote.