Don’t Start Unless You Have a Plan to Finish

Starting a new project or task is easy…at least when compared to finishing it. I think the vast majority of people start a project or task with the full intention of finishing it. The problem is that the road to failure is paved with those full intentions. 

You don’t need any intention of finishing what you start if you have a plan to finish it before you start.

Step one in that plan should be a decision. The decision that no matter what, the project or task will be completed. If you’ve begun looking for excuses to delay the completion of something you started do not allow yourself to start anything else until what you’re working on is complete. The longer your list of things “in process” the harder it will be to complete any of them. 

Don’t be afraid of saying NO when someone asks you to start something new. Don’t be worried about saying NO to someone who asks for your help if you already have 12 balls in the air you’re trying to juggle. 

Remember, “NO” is a complete sentence. No explanation should be required.

The plan should include what actions you will take each day to move closer to the completion of your task. Even a huge task can be divided up into doable daily tasks. If you can only afford 15-30 minutes a day towards a task you are still making progress and building momentum towards completion. 

Be sure to block that time in your calendar and neither take or make any excuses for using that time for something else. 

Be sure your first 15-30 minute block of time begins immediately. Not tomorrow, not next week, begin immediately. If you’re not sure what I mean by immediately I mean begin in the second after you have made your plan. 

Add a completion date to your plan. You need to be realistic here. You can’t allow yourself 53 years to complete a task that should take a couple of weeks of focused effort. Put a “drop dead” date on your calendar and complete the task by that date. If you don’t then that task is likely as dead as your chances of success. 

Share your plan and progress with a mentor or an accountability partner. Nothing is more helpful in completing a difficult assignment or task as having someone hold you accountable for the commitment you’ve made to get it done. 

You must know that you have the ability to finish what you start. You can create within you the discipline required to do it. You can have tremendous success in all areas of your life as a result. 

The one question that only you can answer is….will you?

The Best Stress Eliminator, EVER!

For most people the majority of the stress in their lives is self-inflected. We worry about stuff that hasn’t happened and likely never will. We imagine unlikely possibilities over and over until we are convinced they are almost certain to happen.

Nothing eliminates stress and worry better than action. The most effective action you can take to eliminate stress from your life is to make decisions.

Sitting around wondering what to do and when to do it mixes life into a toxic combination of fear, worry and stress. Making a decision and acting on it becomes a powerful elixir of motivating control over your life. 

You may be thinking that if the whole decision making and taking action thing was as easy as I make it sound you would have already done it. Well, I’ll admit that sometimes it’s not so easy but I’ve never seen a time where it wasn’t possible. So I’ll share with you now 7 “mini actions” that by themselves are far easier to do. When done together and in order they lead to nothing less than freedom from that toxic combination.

First resolve to do something about the situation that is causing you the stress. If that seems simplistic it isn’t. Many many people dwell on their problems with the assumption that “there is nothing they can do.” The first little baby step is deciding that you will try something to free yourself from that situation. You MUST know that every situation is temporary, the question is will you control your future or allow circumstances to control it for you.

Next gather information. Some of the information you’ll need to make a good decision will come from self-reflection. What are your strengths, what are your weaknesses. Some of the information will come from outside sources. Books, online research that pertains to your situation and trusted friends. Be sure to talk only to friends and family that care enough about you to be honest and that have your best interests in mind.

The information you collect will likely lead to several possible action steps. Make a list of all the possible alternations. Use your desired outcome to create additional alternatives if none of the alternatives you see take you where you want to go.

Now you’ll need to weigh the alternatives against your desired outcome using your personal values to guide you to choosing the best one. List the alternatives in priority order with the one most likely to help you achieve your goal as number one. Number one will become Plan A but plans don’t always work so you’ll want a Plan B and C. That eliminates the stress of worrying about what happens if Plan A doesn’t work. You’ll know exactly what you will do next.

Choose your alternative. If you can’t decide between two alternatives then flip a coin. If that sounds like a ridiculous way to determine your future then consider this…in the moment that coin is in the air you’ll know exactly which way you hope it falls. You will have made your decision! 

The most important step is acting on your decision. Action defeats stress and worry. Even if the decision turns out to be the wrong decision you will have made progress. Even a little progress, maybe even in the not so right direction, is better than sitting still wallowing in stress. 

Share your decision and plan with people who care about you. Ask them for help with accountability to stick with your plan. Ask them to make sure your action is constant until the stress inducing situation is resolved. 

You do not need stress in your life. Decisions and the actions that follow eliminates stress. Now, stop thinking about this post and DO something.

Leaving Life to Chance

Most people would describe themselves as relatively cautious. They say that they are willing to take some risks but there must be something in return. They say any risks that they do take are considered in advance. Most people are “careful,” or so they say. 

But watch them a while and ask a few, and I mean very few, questions and you’ll discover that they are in fact huge risk takers. They make huge gambles all the time. Taking chances that no truly prudent person would ever consider. 

So how would you describe yourself? Are you a person who makes well considered decisions or are you a Willy Nilly type who mostly throws caution to the wind and takes life as it comes. Asked another way…do you control your life or does your life control you?

You are free to disagree with this but I would submit to you that if you do not have written goals for your life along with a fairly detailed plan for how you will achieve those goals then you DO NOT have control over your life. 

If you’re thinking to yourself that you do have goals but they aren’t written down then you may be kidding yourself. You likely have dreams, aspirations, wants, and hopes but you DO NOT have true goals and the control over your life that comes with them. 

Write down those dreams. Write out a detailed plan that includes how much effort you’re willing to invest to make those dreams come true. Write down the date that effort will begin. Write down how many minutes or hours a day you will invest in turning that dream into an actual goal. Write down the month, day, and year you will achieve that goal. 

If you won’t invest the time to even write down the dream then other people and other events are controlling your life. If you don’t have a plan that turns your dream into a goal those other people and the events that they control will frustrate you even more than you realize.

Don’t leave your life to chance. Stop gambling that the life you want will happen as a result of other people’s plan for their lives. Stop hoping that “everything” will somehow magically turn out fine. Write out your goals and invest the time to plan them into reality. You’ll wake up every morning knowing without a doubt that you are the master of your universe. 

Without goals and plans you might as well be buying lottery tickets. Your chances of controlling those ping pong balls are about as good as your chances of controlling your life. 

Singles and Homers

Let’s say you’re the coach of a baseball or softball team. You have your choice of a player who hits a single 9 out of 10 times at bat. Or, you can choose a slugger who hits a home run 1 out of 15 times at bat. The downside is when the slugger doesn’t hit one out of the park they almost always strike out.

So which would you choose?

I suppose it might depend on whether the home runs came with people on base. But that’s true for the singles hitter too. In fact, it’s far more likely for the singles hitter to have people on base than it is for the home run hitter. That’s simply because the singles hitter collects so many more hits. 

The home runs may be more celebrated but all the singles add up over time. As a leader you may have one superstar performer and your temptation might be to invest the majority of your time with them. But never forget the steady performance of the remainder of your team. 

Their efforts add up over time. Investing time and energy with them could very well turn one of them into your next star performer. 

If you have people in your organization who are not worth investing in then you have people who shouldn’t be in your organization. Don’t forget that. 

Everyone in your organization matters. They all bring some unique value. If you’re an Authentic Leader you will find that value to help them grow so they can help you grow your organization. 

Investing in your people, especially investing your time, is one of the best investments you can make. You can also invest in them by honoring every accomplishment of both your sluggers and singles hitters. Big and small, all accomplishments are worth celebrating. 

People Were People Before They Were Your People

So this is a post that will likely cause me some trouble with the politically correct crowd. That’s because I’m going to rip on, just a little, all the new fancy titles we now see. Chief Inclusion Officer is one that comes to mind. Except some companies have decided “chief” is now offensive so they can’t use that title anymore. 

Companies seem to be in a rush to add titles with the words diversity, inclusion, equality and the like. There are so many “buzz word” titles floating around that I couldn’t possible mention them all. These companies are trying to prove that everyone in their organization is valuable. Which is a worthy thing to do. But I have a question.

Instead of endowing people with fancy titles that say “we care” how about actually caring? How about showing you care for everyone equally instead of saying it again and again?

I have tremendous faith in people’s ability to figure out if the place they work gives a damn about them. Somebody in the company with a progressive sounding job title isn’t going to fool them. 

Which brings me to more traditional sounding titles and departments. Like Human Resources. Or maybe a little more modern sounding Human Asset Management Department. Or my personal least favorite, Human Capital Resource Group. 

The problem with departments or groups with those names is it sets up the mindset that people should be managed like any other piece of capital or asset. I had the unhappy experience about 18 months ago of sitting next to a consultant during a dinner. We struck up a conversation about how their consultancy advises their clients. 

He said that when they recommend downsizing they look at job titles, work responsibilities, cost of “asset,” and how much longer the asset would be of value. They do not recommend the termination of anyone by name, that makes it too personal and may cause the management of the client company to hesitate. 

It’s sort of the same thought process as when a farmer won’t name a pig or a cow that they intend to eat one day. 

The consultant doesn’t really care how a client company thinks of their people, so long as they don’t think of them as people. They are merely assets or capital like a copier or computer. You pay them and you own them. 

But here’s the thing. They ARE people. They have always been people. They will always be people. You may pay them but you don’t own them. 

Businesses that forget that their primary business is the people business will not last. It makes no difference what you see or what you make, you are in the people business. Your people were people long before they were your people. 

It is beyond foolish for you as a leader to expect your people to care for your business or it’s customers when the best you can do is give someone in the company a new-age title that shows how progressive your organization is. People don’t care how progressive the company is when the people running the company don’t demonstrate that the company cares about them. 

When the company shows they care about their people, all their people, equally, they don’t need fancy titles. If the company fails to show they care about their people no amount of fancy titles will convince them otherwise. 

Inclusion, honoring diversity, and treating everyone equally won’t come from titles or committees, it comes from an Authentic Leader demonstrating those values on a daily basis. 

The Reward for Growing People

A good manager can grow a business. Most often they do it with very little help. That’s because the people who work for them are not exactly engaged with helping to grow the business. 

The most likely cause of that lack of engagement is the fact that they are managed rather than led. 

That limits how much and how fast even a great manager can grow their business. While they may have the compliance of those who work for them they do not have their commitment. It’s tough to grow anything with a bunch of merely compliant people. 

Managed people will always create problems for a business, for the customers of the business and especially for the manager. I’d say most of them don’t do it intentionally, it’s an offshoot of their lack of engagement. 

That’s why I tell managers that most of the “people problems” in their organization are caused by them, not the people who seem to be the problem. 

I can say that with a high degree of confidence because when those same people are exposed to Authentic Leadership they engage rather quickly. Sooner rather than later they commit to that leader. 

An Authentic Leader’s potential to grow a business is unlimited. It’s unlimited because they lead their people. They grow their people knowing full well that as their people grow those people will grow the business.

An Authentic Leader invests a portion of their time EVERYDAY to grow their people. They invest of part of themselves in their people and they celebrate the success of the individuals they lead…even over their own success. 

Authentic Leaders invest the time to know and understand their people. They know each person’s unique situation. They know their goals. They know their challenges. Most importantly they know how they can help them achieve their goals and overcome their challenges. 

Each day an Authentic Leader takes intentional action to SHOW their people that they care. They SHOW their people that they come first. They SHOW their people that they understand that every leader’s success is completely dependent upon the success of the people they lead.

Their people commit to the leader because of what the leader does for them. Authentic Leaders seldom deal with attitude issues. They don’t have the tardiness and absenteeism concerns that managers have. They have a much easier time recruiting new employees because the employees they already have do the recruiting for them.

All that because their people are led instead of managed. The rewards of growing people are many. One is knowing that as your people are growing your business you’re making a positive difference in their lives. 

As an Authentic Leader that difference is likely to outlast your time as their leader. That may be the biggest reward of all. 

Profits Before People?

I‘ve had a few interesting discussions of late regarding the subject of generating profits at the expense of an organization’s people. 

So we have a baseline let me say unequivocally that I believe putting profits in front of an organization’s people is incredibly short sighted. You can “get away” with not taking care of your people for the sake of profits in the short-term. But if you’re goal is long-term sustainable profitability you must take care of your people first. 

We have seen a ton of short-term profit driven thinking during the pandemic. As an example, many companies used the pandemic as cover to “eliminate the positions” of older employees. That may have even made some business sense but the savage nature of how they went about it did not. 

Demonstrating without a doubt that you do NOT care about your people doesn’t just affect the people you’ve pushed out the back door. It dramatically affects those left behind as they have been given a preview of their future with the organization. 

One of the clearest examples of the outcome of putting profit before people would be a little company named General Electric. Their leadership team was ruthless in driving continuous year over year profits.  At least until they had so demoralized their workforce that profitability became impossible. 

What companies that put profits above people fail to understand is that their profits come from customers. Customers interact with a company’s people. If the people who work for the company are unhappy it’s virtually impossible for them to make the company’s customers happy. 

Profit first leaders somehow seem to fool themselves into believing that they alone are primarily responsible for their company’s profit. They are not. Let me repeat, they are NOT. 

The other challenge of putting profits before people is that profit first leaders put profits not only before their employees, they put profits before their customers as well. They cut corners on customer service, they cut corners on product quality. They cut corners on caring for their people. Their drive for profits become all consuming right up until the point it consumes the company itself. 

Here’s a simple question. As a leader of a company. Would you rather make one dollar a year for the next 5 years or would you rather make 90 cents a year indefinitely? 

If you do not take care of your people then your people will not take care of the company. That has been proven to be true a million times over. 

The fastest and surest path to long-term sustainable profits is people. Both the people who make and sell your products and the people who buy them. If you ignore and or abuse either one then you may make a buck today but you won’t have two pennies to rub together tomorrow. 

And that my friends is a fact!