Paint Clear Pictures of What is Desired

“Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people.”

~ William Butler Yeats

Paint Clear Pictures of What is Desired

By Peter Jensen

It is common for coaches to tell people what they don’t want them to do, but it’s often difficult for them to articulate what they do want.  This seemingly simple concept – tell people what you want, not what you don’t want is so easy to put into words, but so hard to put into action!  Remember that people can’t do things they can’t imagine.  Once we understand, at the cellular rather than the intellectual level, that imagery truly is the language of performance, everything opens up for us in a different way.  We begin to realize, for example, that we must communicate so that people can create clear pictures in their minds of what we want, if we are going to get them to do what we want.  And when we say “communicate,” we don’t mean just through the words we use, though our choice of words is important.  If we want our people to perform in a particular way but don’t behave that way ourselves, the picture we are creating can get very blurry, no matter how clear our words may be (p. 116)!

From:  Jensen, P. (2012).  The winning factor.  New York: AMACom.

Reprinted with permission from the OSU Leadership Center, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, (614) 292-3114,

Coaching Call To Action

Are you sharing what you want or don’t want when you talk to your team?  Sometimes to be able to articulate what we want, we need to start by taking thinking time on our own to address what we don’t want.  Once we see those conditions, we can then move to defining what we do want.  What is your process for creating imagery for your team?

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