There are times when most of us run the risk of being swept away into the “crisis of the moment” and disappear into that dark hole that gets described away with that famous comment – “where did they day go?” The usual follow up comment is “I’m beat and I have no idea if I accomplished anything”. For those of you who are not sure what I’m describing and for those of you who don’t want to face up to the reality of the issues, consider if this scenario sounds familiar:
Do you find that during any given week you waste time and money and miss opportunities?
Do you find yourself involved in “fire-fighting” moving from crisis to crisis? Are you very busy, running from task to task and meeting to meeting but still see no progress being made?
Be “The Master” of these distracting challenges; use any of these top 10 tactics:
You need to have a vision (3 years out) for your business or career. Without a specific vision, there is no way that you can set realistic goals to move forward.
Without specific goals, there is no way you can determine what are the most important tasks, you should be working on.
If you’re expert at “fire-fighting”, it’s nothing to be proud of. You may actually be the cause of the flare ups.
Make sure everyone on your team know what they must do; why they do and how to do it
Make sure your team is trained and proficient in their roles.
Set performance expectations; communicate them and then hold them accountable for meeting the standards you have set.
Always have a daily plan, outlining what the top 1 to 3 things are that you must accomplish that day.
Identify what barriers might stop you from achieving your goals for the day. Have ready a contingency plan if you get stalled.
Do you find that nothing gets done, unless you do it? Are you properly delegating or are you just taking on other people’s problems because?
Schedule a 1 hour appointment each week with “yourself”. Put it on your calendar. You need the time to re-group and re-focus on the right things.
Noting more to add – trust me, this “stuff” works. But, you must be committed to work the stuff. You have the tools to regain and maintain control. It only requires your commitment to get started.
Quote – “By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination” – Christopher Columbus
During my 30+ years in the corporate world, one of the most valuable lessons I learned was captured in the statement – “Never chase a skunk because the skunk has fun and you get smelly.”
Now, this will not be that difficult to follow. It’s actually very simple. I guarantee that after you read this your first reaction will be to recall all of the times in the past when you got tricked, fooled or sucked into “chasing the skunk”. The next reaction I want you to have is to be more alert going forward about when you encounter a “skunk” and, no matter how hard the skunk tries, you don’t fall victim to being lured into chasing him. If you can master this habit (and there is no reason why you cannot master it – let me repeat – “there is no reason why you cannot master it”) you will have learned a very important time management lesson; you will be less frustrated and angry (everybody around you, pets included) will like this and you willbe a better a leader. So here goes – a very simple explanation –
The Skunk – a thick headed; very opinionated (and usually wrong) person who attempts to engage you in what they call an “intellectual” discussion; or, the approach I like best – “I would like to get your opinion on something…”. I describe these people as “an answer in search of a question”. They have this uncontrollable need to be heard. I know you know who they are. You’ve met them and I know you have fallen for the “chase”.
The Chase – real simple – you engage in the “intellectual” discussion. Here’s the worst part – you got into this discussion knowing it was wrong. Right? Admit it! And. You are wasting valuable time.
The Fun (for the skunk) – it doesn’t matter how dumb they may be. They are in “fun” heaven because by engaging them you validated every aspect of their position. And, now you think you can win. Even if you are right and punch holes in every aspect of their position, they are dumb to begin with and will never concede a point.
You get Smelly – those around you watching you get “sprayed” with the village idiots intellectual scent will be wondering “why” you ever got involved and might wonder are you more like the skunk.
So here’s what you do –
First, know when you are confronted with a skunk. Their markings are very visible.
Next, be polite but don’t fall for the chase, especially if it’s not that important
Finally, remember these lyrics from the classic Dionne Warwick song – “Walk on By”.
If you can follow those three steps, here’s what you will learn –
First, time management – should be obvious; you will not waste any time in this effort and can concentrate on something more important
Second, frustration and anger levels will not go up and you will be a better person for it. Everyone around you will notice it and be thankful (trust me they will).
Third, leadership – leaders lead by example. One of the points I make in my executive coaching activities is that others will notice how you handled this and will want to pay more attention to someone who knows how to work through the clutter and focus on what’s really important.
The next time you are faced with the decision to “chase a skunk” in an argument or discussion, ask yourself, “Is it really that important”? In most cases, it isn’t and you have avoided a conflict and a waste of your time. You “do” have better things to do.
Self Discipline Is the Cornerstone of How You Manage Yourself
Self discipline is the single most important skill/ habit (after perseverance) that you need to develop to achieve any level of success. It doesn’t matter whether you are a business owner, a CEO or a corporate executive. Self discipline is a key ingredient to whatever you do. George Washington was once quoted as saying, “Nothing is more harmful to the service, than the neglect of discipline, for discipline, more than numbers, gives one army, superiority over another.”
The best definition of self discipline, I believe, was written by the famous biologist, Thomas Huxley (1825 – 1895). He defined self discipline as “doing what you are supposed to do; when you are supposed to do it; even though you may not feel like doing it (at that particular time). Self-discipline involves acting on what you “know” as opposed to how you “feel”at any given time. As a motivational business/keynote speaker, when I talk to my audiences about the critical need to “Be Fearless; Step Up and Play Big“, I explain that the absence of strong self discipline skills is the biggest barrier to their success that they will face.
How important is self discipline? It’s really important! As Stephen R. Covey once wrote, “the undisciplined are slaves to moods, appetites and passions (i.e. their emotions)”. Ever experienced this in your career or in your experience in running your business? Don’t look away or sigh. Admit it, you’ve been there! Did you like it? I doubt it.
Self discipline is the cornerstone of your ability to manage yourself. If you cannot manage yourself then how can you manage – I mean lead – others? Self discipline is a key component of leadership. Some confuse self discipline with time management. Those who are confused on this, mistakenly think that if you improve your time management skill, you will be in better control of your surroundings. Well, they have it backwards! Let me explain. If you cannot first manage yourself, how can you manage time? So, I don’t use the term “time” management” but rather, “you” management. It’s all about what “you” do with the time you have available to you each day. If your self discipline (and perseverance) skills are lacking, you won’t do much with the time you have, other than waste it! Wasting time in a leadership role also means that you are “delegation” challenged.
Self discipline helps you focus on your priorities and control your tasks. As you control tasks, you build more self-discipline. As you build more self-discipline, you build more and better “you” management skills. As your “you” management skills grow, you level of self-confidence develops further. And once this happens, your self-discipline habit grows stronger preparing you for the next challenge. That’s really what life is all about – every time you solve one challenge, you earn the right to a greater one.
Developing self discipline is hard; Courage is Needed
Don’t be fooled; self discipline is often a very difficult habit to develop and sustain. Personal courage is needed to help you push through the barriers you will face to develop your self discipline skill. However, as this skill develops and you begin to achieve small doses of success, the more courage you will have to tackle the bigger challenges waiting ahead for you.
So, with all of this as background, let’s talk about how you can develop and strengthen your self discipline skill set:
Focus on when you should start a task as opposed to when you need to complete it. When you focus on the completion date first, you leave yourself open to procrastination – and missed deadlines as well as missed opportunities.
Start to plan each day, the day before – make your “next day” plan the last thing you do before you go home. By having a daily plan, you give yourself a clearer picture of what needs to be done that day. The clearer the picture, the more likely you will hit your goals for that day.
Have goals: realistic and achievable ones. Why? Goals help you map out your journey. Goals are one of the key ingredients that help us build the resilience and courage to stay focused on what is possible and stake our claim to it.
When creating your daily plan, ask yourself two questions. First, what is the one thing I must get done today? Secondly, what could stand in my way of getting this key task done? By knowing your key task, you have more clarity. By thinking about what obstacle you might face, will give you time to figure out a solution to it or at minimum, a way around it. In addition, this process helps you to “own your goal.”
Start to take on those tasks or challenges, that in the past you would have avoided until the last minute or just completely ignored. These are the challenges that are within your level of ability but do represent a “stretch” to your limits. I don’t want you to leave your comfort zone, but rather start to stretch it. This is where your courage will come in to play.
In addition to these legitimate comfort zone stretchers, start tackling those things that you put off because you might be lazy; you don’t feel like doing it or just don’t like to do it.
It will require hard work and focus.
Above all, you must be persistent and not give up when you experience some failures or setbacks as you begin to stretch and strengthen your self discipline skill set. The risk of giving up is too great to you professionally and personally.
Some equate self discipline with mental toughness. Vince Lombardi, the legendary Green Bay Packers coach, stated – “Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. It’s qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind; you could call it character in action.”
To develop and enhance your level of self discipline demands that you accept the fact that it will require courage, hard work, will power, focus and persistence. But the rewards of being in control of your circumstances and destiny far outweigh the sacrifice. Or, do you like being a victim and enjoy the chaos and feelings of being constantly overwhelmed that come with it?
Well, are you ready to “Be Fearless; Step Up and Play Big”? There is no time like the present to get started. First, get my six video series to show you how to step up your game. Next, contact me to help you develop and implement your plan to create a better future.
Perseverance means never quitting. As a leadership keynote speaker, I try to make this point as many times as I can to my audiences when I talk about these critical success principles. There are many true stories about people who have demonstrated this trait. Thomas Edison inventing the light bulb, or Lance Armstrong fighting cancer and winning the “Tour de France” for the sixth consecutive time. The fact is, they would not allow themselves to give up. They, by their actions, demonstrated that they knew how to “Be Fearless, Step Up and Play Big”. And, the “act” of not giving up has to be practiced and developed into a habit. In addition, the concept of perseverance and never giving up is often surfaced when working with my coaching clients, guiding them through the many challenges they face.
We all have a dream or a goal that we would like to accomplish. Often times the difference between accomplishing the goal or not is how strong your belief is to overcome the obstacles that you will face. Have you ever thought about why some people never reach their personal or business goals? Sometimes there are good reasons that are beyond their control. Often, howver, it is because they lacked perseverance. The fact is, very few people get it right the first time, or the second or even the third time. The difference is that they learn from their past mistakes and adjust their approach going forward. In other, words, they don’t give up. They live with the belief that in life, there are no mistakes, just a variety of learning experiences.
We have all faced challenges throughout our business lives. No challenge is easier or more difficult than another because to the person facing it, it may seem insurmountable. But at that point, as a professional speaker and executive coach, I urge my audiences and clients to reach down and find “their game“, the game they were meant to play when they were born. It is at this crucial time that you will make the decision to face the challenge or to give up. It is always easier to give up. And by doing so, it becomes even easier to quit the next time you have to face another challenge. Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers once said, “Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.” Once you have formed this particular habit, it can be deadly to your career, your business and even your self esteem.
Once you get into the habit of giving up, you start to set lower expectations for your self. When this happens, other people begin to expect less from you also and opportunities pass you by. The end result is, by giving up, you have started to self sabotage yourself. Your success is no longer in your control. Warning! At this point, start getting used to being a victim as opposed to a master of your circumstances. In my role as a motivational business speaker, I spend a great deal of time talking to audiences about the importance of avoiding self sabotage.
Some of the challenges you will face in life or in business will be very hard. However, when they are confronted head-on, they offer the opportunity to strengthen your perseverance habit. So now, you are probably wondering, with all of this knowledge about perseverance and never giving up, what do I do next? That’s a good question, and an equally good starting point. For those of you who are ready to take charge of your destiny and are willing to embrace and implement the changes you will need to make, the second step is to contact me. If you are courageous enough to do this, then you have proven to yourself that you know ”what it takes” to succeed. Is there a better alternative to success? I don’t think so. Be Fearless, Step Up and Play Big!
I read a book a while ago entitled “Road Rules” by Andrew Sherman. The book is great and goes into detail about 12 essential rules for navigating the road of life. Chapter 1 is labeled “Be the Truck and Not the Squirrel”. It outlines the reasons that caused the squirrel to end up as road kill. The question becomes – In your professional or business career are you mimicking the traits of the squirrel that caused his sad (and messy) demise?
Chapter 1 describes three basic facts. First – “trucks are durable, strong,…and build on their momentum as they move closer to their destination (goal)…” The second basic fact is that “squirrels are generally happy to eat acorns and mind their own business until one day they end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and WHAM”. The rest is, sad to say, history. The third fact is that “in today’s unpredictable world and economy, it’s more important than ever to position yourself to be the truck.”
In much of my public speaking, I talk about what people do to set low expectations for themselves, work below their full capabilities and self sabotage their careers or business. In essence, they become the business equivalent of “road kill”. These self made victims lack planning skills. They do not know how to set priorities. They clearly have no self discipline and they have no idea how to set goals or follow them.
So, what should you do? First watch the attached rant. Second go buy the book. Next read it. And finally, try to put to use the valuable information from it to change where you might be standing on the road of business (or life). Or else…well you know – road kill! If you need a firm shove to safety (you know to get started), then you know where to find me. The longer you wait to get to safety, the more likely you will end up (well you know).
Lots of people pride themselves as being expert in dealing with a crisis or being able to “put out fires”. The question is how many of these fires do they actually create due to a lack of a clear and specific vision; goals and planning? They “put out the fire” that they started but how much damage do they cause (and leave behind for others to clean up) in the process? As the saying goes – “show a man (or woman) who excels at putting out fires…and I will show you a pyro-maniac”. What I have also found in my coaching experience is that these folks usually settle for below average results because they are more focused on “putting out their self created fire” and not the impact it has on what they are trying to accomplish or the people they work with. Make no mistake, pyro-maniacs have a devastating effect on their employees.
So, what causes this to occur? Well a couple of things. First, they lack a clear and specific vision. They have no idea where they want to go or how they will get there. Look, running a business or serving in a senior executive role isn’t always clear. But trying to be successful in a “making it up as you go” mode has its very significant challenges, many of which could be avoided with a vision. Your vision is your dream for the future. A business without a vision is directionless. It lacks purpose and heart. It lacks the essential idea from which commitment, growth and the sense of personal achievement emerge. A vision is a clearly-articulated, results-oriented picture of a future you intend to create. It is a dream with direction. So, without a vision you are well positioned to create “fires”.
The next cause of business fires is a lack of clear and specific goals. Yup, goals – specific stuff; not the well intentioned thoughts or things you will get around to doing when you resolve some of the other self-made crises in your life. Based on your vision, write down specific, clear and time-sensitive goals, for which you have a committed desire to achieve. Constantly think about and focus on your vision and goals as they will help drive you and sustain you during the crazy times – you know, those times when you would otherwise easily start a fire!
Last but not least is a lack of clear and specific planning. To avoid being a “fire-starter” you should establish a simple plan that lays out the initial 3-5 steps you need to take toward your top 3 goals. Focus on your top 3 goals and take meaningful, daily action on the initial steps to build momentum towards achieving them. Your plan should breakdown the steps you will take to achieve your goals into daily activities. Your plan should accurately reflect the time you will need to work on your tasks. There is a famous quote that sums it up best “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. The attached “Coach’s Rant” sums it up well. The choice is yours.
Now before you all get mad at me I am not a supporter of any form of animal cruelty. In fact, as I write this post “Riley Rose” our almost 8 month old golden retriever puppy is under my desk having a grand old time with a chewy toy – so use my title as a story to help get a very important point across.
Some often delay making tough and important/critical decisions on a timely basis because we fear the outcome. So, to avoid this “perceived” result, we either make a series of small and less effective decisions or, we take no action hoping the matter will take care of itself. When we do this we actually do more harm because we are prolonging a bad situation and in many cases making it worse. This approach can be a fatal error for a business leader or business owner where success sometimes hangs in the balance of making tough decisions based on not-so-perfect information.
There was an old saying that my former boss would use when we faced an important and (usually tough) unpopular decision – “when you have to cut the tail off of a dog, you go right to the butt (he used the 3 letter version of the dog’s anatomy) and cut it off”. If you try to cut it off a piece at a time (little less effective decisions) all you are doing is making that dog angry (i.e. making the problem worse) and, every time he sees you coming at him with a scissor, he’s going to get angrier. One day that dog is going to strike back at a time when you least expect it.
So when you have a tough decision to make, understand the outcome you want to achieve and take deliberate and focused action. Get the decision behind you so you can focus on moving forward. It sometimes takes bold action to achieve bold results.
Here are some proven steps you can follow when a problem or chaos causes you to make a tough/important/unpopular decision