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Coach’s Diary: Devising a Creative Strategy


Some coloured pencils help Olivia Stefanino's client unlock some creative ideas for a strategic plan.

Faced with the torture of creating a strategic plan as the new head of IT, Mark was feeling more than a little dejected. More comfortable working with computers than report writing, Mark had managed to put off the job for a number of weeks. But with his boss now applying pressure, Mark had little choice but to get writing.

One of the things that was really putting Mark off was that he felt no excitement at the thought of writing the report. He felt that it was merely a paper exercise to keep his boss happy.

He’d booked a session with me, in the hope that I’d ease the process for him.

To his surprise, I opened my desk drawer, pulled out a case of coloured pencils and slid them over to him. I then gave him some paper and suggested that before even thinking about writing the strategy plan, we’d start by doing some drawing.

Mark had given me an odd look – but nevertheless, he’d asked me to explain what I had in mind.

“Well, before we start getting logical, I want you to spend some time being creative. When you draw and use plenty of colour, you tap into your “right” creative brain. Let’s give your imagination a workout!”

“So,” I continued while at the same time putting on some gentle relaxation music and instructing Mark to close his eyes, “I want you to start imagining what your department will look like when its successful. How many people will be working for you, what goals will you be achieving, how much time off will you be taking, who else is involved with your dream?”

After giving him a few minutes to explore his imagination, I invited Mark to open his eyes – and start drawing a picture of how he wanted his life – and his department – to look.

“Really get it into it – and don’t worry about whether you’re good at drawing or not. It’s not about that.” Mark picked up a crayon and tentatively began to sketch out some ideas. Soon, he was attacking the task with more gusto – it was evident that he was really enjoying the process.

When he’d finished, he put down all of the crayons he’d unwittingly been holding onto and looked up at me. “Excellent work,” I smiled. “How do you feel about it all now?”

“Amazingly, I feel really energised,” he replied, as he talked me through his picture. His excitement was palpable – and I suggested that he should write a date on his picture for when he wanted what he saw in his imagination to become a reality.

Of course, we both realised that a roughly drawn picture was unlikely to convince his boss that Mark actually had been the right man for the job. But as Mark was in such a positive and creative state, I suggested that it was now time to tap into his “left brain” logic.

After giving him some more sheets of paper, I invited Mark to start jotting some thoughts down. He started scribbling furiously – and it wasn’t long before he’d completed a draft plan.

Delighted with his progress, Mark gave me a big smile. Knowing that all he needed to do now was to turn his draft into a professional looking document, he left my office with a spring in his step.

Two weeks later: Mark sent me a “thank you” card – together with a handwritten note which said that he was delighted to report that his boss had given his strategic plan a massive thumbs up.

* Olivia Stefanino is a leadership development consultant and executive coach, who works with blue chip organisations, SMEs and individuals. Download your free e-booklet “128 ways to harness your personal power” at


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