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Leading in the Whirlwind - Evaluate . . . for precision

Evaluate for precision

You may know the ancient story of David & Goliath, the infamous story of the underdog winning. The story has a giant warrior challenging the enemy to send someone to fight him in a winner takes all battle. Forward steps a courageous young shepherd boy. Realistically, this is madness as size and experience put this young shepherd boy a distinct disadvantage. He has been encouraged to go out with another person’s armour and weaponry but the young lad steps forward with his is small shepherd’s bag, his sling and his limited experience. He is greeted with hollers of derision from his opponent. He stands there. A giant armour-clad man charging towards him. In that short moment, he evaluates. All the strengths, armour and action of the enemy in front of him. All his own strengths, his experiences of fighting lions, tigers and bears (oh my!) to protect his sheep. And he knows, there is one place that he needs to focus on, his one area of weakness . . the small gap below his helmet, on his forehead, above his nose. So, he picks up a stone and fires it straight at the foe’s forehead. The rest is history.

This ancient story is often used to encourage us to face our giants. It is easy to see some key components such as bravery, or maybe the importance of having a passionate purpose that drives you. But we must not neglect a key element of David’s success, the fact that he took that moment to evaluate for precision. He had one moment, one stone and had to get it right

In this blog series, I’m explaining the importance of 4 key elements that can help lead in the real challenge of the whirlwind:

  • Pause . . to anchor yourself

  • Review . . for clarity

  • Evaluate . . for precision

  • Plan . . for success

We see evaluation for precision in many contexts. When we go to the doctors with some symptoms, the doctor asks a series of questions, all of which to help them evaluate the situation and narrow it down. When there is no obvious answer, they will examine you, take bloods, x-rays to help it narrow it down to where the attention and remedy should be focused on. A gardener, arrives at your lawn, he takes some moments to look at the soil, the types of weed, the 3 dogs casually digging holes and evaluates the best way to improve things that will work and not affect your dogs’ health. When you take your car to the mechanic with a ‘bonking noise’, the mechanic will listen, drive and test things to evaluate what is the root of the problem.

As leaders, we need to use evaluation as an important part of leading in the challenge of the everyday whirlwind. If we ignore this, then we risk wasting time and energy in not being effective and the team therefore becoming disillusioned when ‘nothing works’. There is a temptation, in the midst of a whirlwind to think that we cannot afford the time to pause, review and evaluate. It could not be further from the truth. We can’t afford not to. So, how do you go about the evaluation?

Key Questions

It is not rocket science. Sure, we can go deeper and make it more complicated. But in reality, we can evaluate with these simple questions.


  • What is working?

  • What is not?

  • What might be causing this?


  • What strengths do we have to deal with this?

  • What weaknesses do we have?


  • What one thing would have the greatest impact?

Now, if you want more rigour then I have a great ‘problem solving’ review sheet that helps you ask these questions in more detail. It is based around these key strategic problem solving questions:

Do contact me directly at if you would like a copy. Or if you are finding it particularly challenging and would like some coaching to help you evaluate the situation, then please contact me

Evaluation of change

When developing and improving and changing things, it can be hard to work out sometimes what aspect might be causing the problem. I find that Timothy Knoster’s model for complex change very helpful. This acts as a review tool to look at the behaviours that you see in your team.

This grid outlines the behaviours that you might see on the right. Then work your way back to see what might be at the root of the problem. For example, if people seem confused then it is focusing work on the vision that is needed. If people seem anxious, then it is their skills (or their perception of their skills) that might need focusing on.

Evaluation for precision ensures that like an archer, you hit the target. You can’t afford not to . . if you want to hit the target.

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