This step is the key to EVERYTHING you will do – the quality of the outcome, how long it will last, and how well it will hold up over time. Whether you’re talking about planning a unit of study, developing an organizational plan, or working with your clients and their growth, this is the step that supports everything you’re trying to accomplish. It’s also the step that often gets short-changed or overlooked altogether. So going back to my walkway example, my first step was to completely clean the areas I was going to paint with a stiff scrub brush and TSP. If the concrete isn’t properly prepped, the paint won’t adhere right and all my painting work will be wasted because it won’t last past the first real test of its endurance.
I’m sure you see where I’m going with this. As you start to “prep your ground”, so to speak, you need to make sure your building blocks are up to date and being used effectively. As a teacher, make sure your standards, assessments and activities are appropriate, based on current research, and will be value-added to the overall learning and growth of your students. As a leader, consider what foundational work needs to be in place and firmly established in order to support the next stage of the work. For coaches, our “ground” is people, and this means considering the state of our clients’ foundational skills. Do they have a quality understanding of basic concepts and skills in order to build upon them? What is their level of fitness – literal and figurative? After taking stock of your “ground”, you might decide it’s necessary to spend more time prepping. Although it can feel frustrating to have to linger in this stage, it is vitally important to the quality of the final outcome. It’s really a simple equation: the quality of the base = the quality of the result. Granted, this looks like the unsexy part of the process – and it is – but it’s also the key ingredient to making the magic happen in the end. As a runner, I know all the time and work I put into my base and my overall fitness will allow me to reach whatever personal goals I set for myself later. So it goes with most everything else, as well.
The next part of this step is laying down the new base or framework upon which you’re going to create your new work. It’s providing the clean, solid base that will make the rest of your additions work well together to create the right effect. The final tip for this step – give it time to set up. You don’t need a long time, but enough time to be sure that the new base has adhered properly. In our TLC vernacular, this means buy in. Again, if the new base doesn’t adhere properly, the rest of your work won’t last and ultimately won’t produce anything. Once your foundation is solid, you’re ready for step 3 . . . Jump in!