Breaking Problems Down

Want your clients to get results faster? Make the steps smaller.

This is a meta-skill for great coaches in every field: fitness, business and even spiritual leadership.

There are many reasons clients can’t hit their goals:

  • the goal isn’t clear enough
  • they don’t have time to work on it
  • they don’t know where to start
  • the amount of work required to reach the goal is overwhelming
  • they “don’t have enough time”.
  • they’re not motivated or incentivized
  • they don’t believe they can reach the goal

All of these problems can be overcome by making a goal or task smaller. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Get really clear on the goal. (“Point B”.)
  2. Measure their starting point. (“Point A”.)

3. Measure the distance between the two points.

4. Identify the halfway point.

5. Identify the “halfway to halfway” point.

6. Break the “halfway to halfway” point in half again.

7. Continue to break down the problem until you find the Minimum Effective Task (MET). This is the smallest irreducible step that a client can make–usually right now. This step should take less than 30 minutes to complete, so they can do it within their daily allotted work window.

This is hard to understand in the abstract, so here’s an example:

A client wants to earn $100k NOB from their business. That’s Point B–their goal.

They’re currently making $50k NOB from their business–that’s Point A.

How do we get there? Doubling their net owner benefit is a huge, daunting task. If you assigned “Make 50k more per year!” as their goal, they wouldn’t know where to start.

Breaking the problem down, we see that $75k NOB is the halfway point. That’s still a huge goal, but it seems more likely.

If we break the goal down further, we create the “halfway to halfway” goal of $62,500 NOB. That’s only an increase if $12,500 per year – a modest goal, but still too large to be actionable.

Breaking the goal in half again gets us to $56,250. Doing it one more time brings us to $53,125.

Could you give a client clear action steps to increase their NOB by $3,125 this month? If not, break the goal down further.

If a client is really stuck, you might break the goal down to something as small as $500. Then you can tell them “Here’s how you’ll make an additional $500 this month.”

Then you might give them some small steps to make an extra $500:

1 – hold meetings with your ten best clients;

2 – ask each for a referral;

3 – aim to get two referrals for $250 each.

Great mentors would break that process down even further.

1 – “On Monday, send THIS email to your twenty best clients.”
2 – “On Tuesday, get ten of them scheduled for a 15-minute chat.”

3- “On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, meet with 3-4 clients for 15 minutes each. Follow this script to ask for a referral.”

4 – “On Friday, call the referrals and book THEM for a chat next week.”

5 – “Sign up at least two new clients for your $250 package by the end of next week.”

If you can’t break that goal down into actionable steps, make the goal smaller.

The most important thing isn’t the size of the goal, but progress toward that goal. Hitting tiny goals creates measurable outcomes over time, but it really creates momentum. It beats overwhelm (anyone can copy and paste an email to their 20 best clients) and lets them feel like they’re getting small wins.

Here are some additional tips:

1 – have the client tell YOU what they’re going to do as soon as they get off the call.

2 – there’s no such thing as “too small” – the more a client is stuck, the smaller the steps need to be.

3 – Show the client the whole process, so they can attach their little task to the ultimate goal.

4 – The smaller the goal, the more irresistible it becomes (this has a name – Lowenstein’s Gap Theory.)

5 – Always draw a line back to the overall goal so the client remembers WHY they’re doing the small task.

6 – Have the client reflect on their completed tasks weekly, so they start to feel the momentum.

7 – Ask yourself, “is this a task that can be completed in 30 minutes or less?” That will help you know if you’ve broken the task down enough.

The primary reason people don’t reach their goals? They don’t know how to get started; how to keep moving; and how to stay motivated. Any client should be able to answer the question “What am I going to do TODAY to grow my business?”

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