We’re going to compare this phase of the Task Cycle® to something most people know and love:
Soft, creamy, chunky ice cream in any flavor your imagination desires. Think chocolate chip cookie dough, mint chocolate chip, strawberry, moose tracks, triple caramel chunk, rocky road, toffee—and my newest strange discovery, chocolate bacon (I know, bizarre, right?). So visualize your favorite ice cream and hold it in your mind, because we’re going to spend the next few paragraphs enjoying it.
Granted, there are some of us who don’t like the effects that ice cream has on us, i.e. those of us who are lactose intolerant. So for our friends who can’t eat ice cream, imagine this analogy with a nice cone full of sherbet or sorbet. I prefer rainbow sherbet, but you may prefer a nice peach-mango sorbet. It’s up to you.
We are going to explore the idea of Phase V of the Task Cycleâ, which is “Monitoring and Adjusting the Process.” We’ve talked a lot about setting up your development process, and stressed the importance of establishing a strong purpose and setting up a strong foundation. In “ice cream terms,” establishing your purpose was determining your hunger and deciding on your flavor. We’re at an old-fashioned ice cream shop—none of that soft serve stuff. There are many flavors and topping choices, so determining your best combination takes time and careful thought (and possibly some input from a friend!). Your “foundation” is your ice cream cone (my favorite kind is a waffle cone). When you received your cone, both you and the ice cream scooper probably checked to make sure that it was in one piece, and that no chunks were taken out of it. You needed to make sure there was a strong foundation on which to place your ice cream. With no apparent problems, you head out the door and into the outdoors, completely satisfied and ready to munch away.
It is extremely hot outside. Your ice cream begins to slowly melt, and you quickly move to lick around the cone where the melting is fiercest. As you enjoy your ice cream, you must constantly monitor the cone for drips and adjust your hold to attack rogue melts. Suddenly, your friend/mentor (who recommended the treat and helped decide your flavor) points out a problem with your cone—there is a hole in the bottom, and precious ice cream is dripping out of the cone and onto the street (and your new pants).
Luckily, you have only made it one block from the ice cream shop. You quickly head back, hoping for a solution that can save your ice cream. After consulting with the girl behind the counter, she offers an effective tweak to the cone’s structure: she offers you an M&M to place in the bottom of the cone to act as a stopper, preventing ice cream leakage. You adjust your cone by taking off the ice cream, inserting the M&M, and replacing the ice cream on top. After wiping off the several drops of melted ice cream from your pant leg, you are as good as new (even better, because now you have an M&M to look forward to at the end of your cone). Happily, you head off down the street to your next destination with your friend/mentor with time to spare.
This extended metaphor is to explain in simple terms the reason for and importance behind monitoring and adjusting your development process. If we had just ignored the drip in our cone, we would have ended up covered in melted ice cream and we would have lost about half of our sweet treat to our pants. By the time we got to our intended destination, we would look a mess and have to spend time valuable time cleaning the sugary treat off of our pants. And everyone knows that no matter how much friends may deny it to make you feel better, wet spots on your pants do make you look like you wet yourself.
By taking our friend/mentor’s observation seriously, we circumvented a major crisis and avoided personal embarrassment in the process. A small adjustment ensured that we were able to continue to our next destination while enjoying our ice cream cone, now fully functioning.
Apply this to your personal development process. Continually monitor and adjust your hold on your development progress in order to catch any slip-ups or weak areas. Let your mentor or another outside source make observations to help you. Listen to them, and in the case of a foundational error, turn to an expert: an HR professional, a superior, a mentor, a co-worker, or a personal development coach. They will have the experience to tweak your issue in a way you may not have considered. Their help will allow you to stay on track without losing face or valuable time. Remember, this is their job—they’ve probably handled something like this before.
And remember: after all of your hard work when you do achieve your personal development goals, reward yourself with a nice, cold, refreshing cone of ice cream. Get two scoops if you want. We won’t tell anyone.