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Making continual improvements (The Invaluable Cycle)

From: Discovering Your Strengths

Video: Making continual improvements (The Invaluable Cycle)

Through years of coaching executives and employees, I've developed a philosophy of improvement that applies to the business as well as the individuals involved. It's a great framework for helping you understand how you can improve consistently over time, and it's also a great tool for self-assessment. I call this the invaluable cycle, and it has three parts. Think of it like a triangle, and the three parts can be represented by the acronym SAM. The letters S-A-M stand for systems, accountability, and motivation.

Making continual improvements (The Invaluable Cycle)

Through years of coaching executives and employees, I've developed a philosophy of improvement that applies to the business as well as the individuals involved. It's a great framework for helping you understand how you can improve consistently over time, and it's also a great tool for self-assessment. I call this the invaluable cycle, and it has three parts. Think of it like a triangle, and the three parts can be represented by the acronym SAM. The letters S-A-M stand for systems, accountability, and motivation.

Look at anyone trying to succeed in what they do, and you'll see the invaluable cycle, or SAM, in action. By systems, we mean a process or pattern of performance. In basketball, for example, there are systems that a player needs to learn in order to improve. A way of passing the ball, a way of making plays, a specific role based on positions on the court; all of these things are part of a system. If the system is documented, it's easier to understand it and make improvements to it.

The second part of the invaluable cycle is accountability. Accountability is personal training and follow-up provided to you by someone else. In my basketball example, accountability is represented by the coach. The coach is the person who watches what the athlete is doing and assesses the player's performance. Just as any good athlete needs a coach to help them improve consistently, you can benefit from someone to help you improve consistently and meet the commitments you've made.

Your manager is the easiest person to turn to, as it is their job to help provide that accountability. Others can also provide accountability as long as they're qualified to provide you with ongoing development and feedback, and they're consistent in their follow-up. The third part of the invaluable cycle is motivation. Motivation, to me, is not a let's get excited speech that gets you energized. Motivation is the reason that you carry within yourself that drives you to want to succeed.

In the basketball example, motivation is the desire that each person on the team has to win the championship, or to be the best they can be. Think about where you want to be in 5 years from now. That answer is your motivation. If you're in a manager role, seek to understand the motivation of each person on your team. When you can help connect what someone wants with what they're doing, it will keep them moving forward.

How can you use the invaluable cycle to assess your ability? We provided a quick and easy Invaluable assessment worksheet to help you do this. You'll simply assign a rating from zero to ten to each of the components: systems, accountability, and motivation. A zero in systems would mean I have no idea what I'm doing or how to do it, while a ten would mean I perfectly understand the systems that relate to my position and follow them consistently.

Next, you'll assess accountability. Zero here would mean I have no accountability to anyone else, and a ten would mean I have a great relationship with a mentor who is holding me accountable. Finally, you will rank motivation. Zero means I see no connection between the job I have right now and what I want in the future, and a ten would mean I see a clear connection between my current job and what I want in the future, and this knowledge pushes me forward every day.

After you've assessed yourself in each of those three areas, you'll have an idea of where you can improve. Choose one action you can take to improve in one of those three areas. Use this simple tool on an ongoing basis. Schedule a time to, once per month, do a quick assessment, just like we did here. Rate yourself from zero to ten on systems, accountability, and motivation, and then choose one action you can take to move forward. The SAM cycle will help you get in the habit of continual improvement in making yourself invaluable.

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Discovering Your Strengths

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Dave Crenshaw
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