Do You Have a Plan for Success?

I’m sometimes asked for my definition of success. I always start the same way, by explaining success is very personal and my definition is likely to be different than the next person’s. But I’m convinced that whatever your personal definition of success happens to be you’ll be more likely to achieve it if you have a solid plan. 

 

To be sure, a plan does not guarantee success, there are other factors in play as well but a plan, a good, well thought-out plan, can take into account many of those factors and provide you with a level of control over seemingly uncontrollable events. 

 

As I’ve seen again and again through the years the single biggest cause of failed plans is that they are never actually put into action. No plan, no matter how good it may be, will succeed if you never take action on it. 

 

While a plan does not guarantee success not taking action on a good plan virtually does guarantee failure or at least much more limited success than you otherwise might have. The bottom line on plans is pretty clear, if your plan is not actionable then it’s not really a good plan.

 

As we near the end of 2017 I’d like to share with you a planning method I’ve used through the years with great success. It is a simple process for developing an actionable plan; be careful however not to make the mistake of thinking that a simple process makes the execution of your plan simple, success is hard work.

 

I also feel the need here to add another caution; we’re talking here about a strong 2018 but don’t let that lull you into thinking 2017 is over, there’s still time to finish strong. No matter what kind of year 2017 has been for you how you finish it absolutely matters. Finish strong!

    

So, first let’s determine what an actionable plan is not: It is not, “I’m going to work harder” or “I’m going to work smarter” or any variation of the same. That is not a plan; it is a dream, a dream that turns into the nightmare of the same old thing.

     

A plan that succeeds has action built into it, the actions are very specific, and the actions have measurable standards that leave no doubt as to whether they have been accomplished. Each individual action has its own deadline, a deadline which is critical because you’ll never find “someday” on a calendar.

    

Here is an 8-Step Planning Process that has been proven time and again to help people achieve success if they are willing to put in the required effort:

1. Develop a clear picture of your current situation – we must know where we are before we can know where we are going

2. Be certain you know your vision of the desired situation – specificity is a key here

3. Develop short, medium and long range goals – it is perfectly okay to adjust your goals as circumstances change and don’t forget, one of the secrets of goal achievement is to break big goals into smaller ones to make the big goal easier to achieve 

4. Develop your program – how will you succeed – what will you sacrifice – remember success is not just about what you will START doing, often what you STOP doing is just as important. Be as specific as you can possibly be in this step

5. Determine the investment you are willing to make (time & money) – the commitment of time is frequently harder to make than a financial commitment

6. Set your Time Table – When will it all happen – just like it says, Time Table, specific dates and times, giving yourself a range of dates is giving yourself the opportunity to delay your success

7. Implement the total plan – no plan is more worthless than the plan never put into action

8. Follow-up – Check back often on how you’re doing – and while you’re checking back find someone that cares about you to hold you accountable to your plan, this is a lot of work and is almost impossible to accomplish alone

     

That’s it, there is your planning process, and before you start telling yourself you can succeed without doing all this “work” let me share something else with you: What you call success today will pale when compared to the success that is possible when you execute a solid plan.

     

Don’t think of your plan as work, think of it is an investment and it is the greatest investment you can make because it is an investment in yourself. You matter, your success matters and if you will commit to a plan you will see results almost immediately. The plan may not always “work” the way you intended but I can promise you the planning always will.

The Limits of Good Mentoring

I’ve been truly blessed throughout my life to have great mentors. I knew they were great mentors because every now and then they would say “I don’t know, you should probably ask someone else.” 

 

I’ve written several times on the importance of having a mentor. No matter your age, your current level of success, your title or your position within your organization, you will do better tomorrow if you have a mentor today. What’s more you’ll be even better off if you have multiple mentors. 

 

Here’s why. 

 

One of the things that make a great mentor is that they know what they don’t know and they didn’t pretend that they know it. 

 

You can have a mentor who is a brilliant business strategist but not so capable with their people skills. You can have a managerial genius as a mentor but that doesn’t mean they are great leadership coaches. 

 

Those “gaps” don’t mean they are a bad mentor. It’s when they attempt to fill those gaps with guesses, rumors, and plain old BS that they become a poor mentor. I suppose there are mentors who do have a vast amount of knowledge across a very wide spectrum of skill sets and situations…..I just haven’t found one.

 

I’d much rather have a mentor, and much much rather be a mentor, who occasionally has the confidence to say “I just don’t know,” and “I don’t want to steer you wrong so I can’t answer that.” 

 

This may sound a bit counterintuitive but if you have a mentor that has an answer for every question and advice for every single situation then it is very likely you don’t have the right mentor for you. 

 

Having more than one mentor helps overcome the limits that all truly good mentors have. When you have multiple mentors you are more likely to have a mentor with deeper experience in the area(s) where you need help. When you have mentors who look at the same situation but view it from different angles you’re provided with a deeper understanding of what you’re dealing with and that makes a successful outcome much more likely.

 

If you don’t have a mentor today then find one today. Find someone who you feel is successful, someone who cares enough about people to share their “library of experience,” and someone who is willing to invest a part of themselves in your success. 


When you find someone with those characteristics then you have found a mentor and when you’ve found a mentor you’re that much closer to finding an even greater level of success.


The Importance of Perseverance

I read in story in the sports section of my local newspaper. The coach of our Division One NCAA Basketball Team was talking about the importance of getting off to a fast start.

 

I read another article on the same page of the same paper about the local NBA team. That coach was talking about the importance of finishing strong. 

 

Is it possible they could both be right? Well, not only is it possible they are right they are in fact absolutely right. 

 

But here’s what’s more important than both starting and finishing strong: finishing period. 

 

Some successful people start strong, some successful people finish strong but the most successful people finish what they start….pretty much always. 

 

I wonder if by chance anyone reading this knows who won the 1968 Olympic Marathon in Mexico. I suppose not but you could always look it up. I have no idea who won either but I do know who came in last….way last. 

 

His name was John Stephen Akhwari, from Tanzania. Not long into the race John Stephen Akhwari got tangled up with some other runners and took a massive fall. He was pretty banged up and no one would have blamed him for quitting on the spot. But he made the decision to continue on. 

 

Long after the first place runner had finished, long after pretty much everyone had left the Olympic Stadium one solitary runner entered the stadium. He was limping badly from a seriously injured leg. He was bleeding from cuts to his arms and head and he was clearly exhausted and in severe distress.

 

The few hundred people left in the stadium realized what was happening and began to cheer this runner on. To the shouts and cheers of those straggler spectators John Steven Akhwari crossed the finish line more than an hour after the race had been won.

 

He was quite the spectacle as the few remaining media in the stadium surrounded him to find out what had happened to him. Most were bewildered as to why he persisted when the race was clearly over. 

 

His answer to their qurstions speaks volumes about the heart and attitude of true champions. He simply said that his country had sent him 5000 miles to the Olympic Marathon not to start the race but had sent him 5000 miles to finish it. 

 

And finish it he did!

 

Do you have what it takes to finish what you started? When faced with unforeseen obstacles can you remember why you started and re-dream the dream of success that motivated you to begin?

 

Can you muster the strength to continue when no one would blame you for quitting? Do you have the courage to overcome your fear of failure and the heart to persist when the voices of doubt whisper quietly “you can’t?”

 

Do you have an attitude of success? An attitude that says it’s not a question of “if” you can finish, it’s only a question of “how” you will finish. 

 

Success in any meaningful area of life requires that you overcome obstacles, many of which you may not have anticipated. That’s why all successful people have at one time or another demonstrated the character trait of perseverance. 

 

You really can’t succeed without it, that’s how important it truly is.

 

Every worthwhile endeavor comes with challenges, some of them seemingly insurmountable. But people with an attitude of success know that quitting is a choice, they also know it’s a choice that can quickly become habit forming. 


So don’t make that choice unless you absolutely have to and if you absolutely absolutely absolutely have to then don’t make it until you have another, better plan to begin again. 

What Do You Mean…Urgent?

ur·gent 

Function: adjective 

1 a : calling for immediate attention : PRESSING <urgent appeals> b : conveying a sense of urgency

2 : urging insistently : IMPORTUNATE

– ur·gent·ly adverb

     

Well, here is the definition from Webster’s.  I think I like the first one, but the second one isn’t too bad either.

     

I guess it really doesn’t really matter which one you prefer as long as you have one of these definitions that you can embrace as your own. 

     

Now when I say embrace I mean EMBRACE!  Really latch on to it and live the meaning of urgent, live it through your words and actions every single day.  I remember attending a Dale Carnegie™ Sales Conference about 25 years ago when one of the presenters was asked about his opinion on the most serious threat facing professional salespeople at the time.  I think his answer applies as much today as it did at the time: a lack of urgency. 

     

He believed, and I agree, that salespeople who go about their business as though a deal could wait another day are doomed to a career filled with limited successes and missed opportunities. 

     

Salespeople who lack a sense of urgency, whether it’s urgency regarding following up on a request for information, urgency to return a phone call, urgency to make that one additional sales call a day and urgency to do the things they know would make a difference, are what I call woulda, coulda, shoulda salespeople.  These are the salespeople who lament the poor business climate and challenging customers that the salespeople with a sense of urgency pursue, maximizing the market and reaping the rewards.

     

Which one are you?  Do you have that sense of urgency?  Or, do you “leave a little business for tomorrow?”  If you’re a woulda, coulda, shoulda salesperson, you had better hope your competition is too!  As of the date of this post there are only 27 or 28 selling days (depends on if you work December 26th) left in 2017. Will you press on with urgency or will you coast into 2018?

     

That’s not a question about your ability, that’s a question about your attitude. Successful people know that a fast start is important but the most successful people know that how well you finish what you started is the real key to continual success. 

Goals are Intended to be Flexible

Did you set goals for 2017? I sure hope so because your chances for a successful 2017 increased ten-fold if you invested time in a serious goal setting process as the year began.

     

But once your goals are set you’re not done. Goals are meant to be flexible, changing as your circumstances change. That means you must review your goals on a regular basis, adjusting some, adding others and maybe even discarding those that no longer fit.

     

Only 25% of 2017 is left to accomplish the goals that you set forth earlier in the year. Now is a great time to conduct a review of your goals. 

 

What’s working and maybe even more importantly, what’s not. Has what’s important to you changed to the point that your goals need to change to stay in sync? Do your goals still seem realistic and obtainable? Are you on pace to achieve the things you hoped for when you set these goals? Are your priorities the same today as they were when you first wrote your goals?

     

These are all questions you should seriously consider asking yourself; even if the year is not going as planned, it’s not too late to make whatever adjustments are required in order to achieve the success you envisioned for 2017. 


Flex your goals for success! That’s how successful people achieve their goals.

Are You a Successbut?

I used to work with a guy who always seemed to be getting in trouble with his wife for working during “non work hours.” 

 

He would sneak into a different room after dinner to check his email only to hear her shout to him, “you’re not working in there are you?” I was always surprised to hear him talk about this because his office was right next to mine and I would hear her call him once in a while, most definitely during work hours. I was tempted to go into his office and say loud enough for her to hear me, “that’s not a personal call is it?” 

 

Apparently she was okay with him using work time for personal stuff but using personal time for anything related to work was strictly forbidden. 

 

I honestly don’t think that type of mindset works anymore. Let’s face it, technology, smart phones in particular, have burred the lines between “work hours” and personal time. I cross them ALL THE TIME. For my personal benefit. 

 

I see nothing wrong with taking a few minutes in the evening to check email and even shoot off a quick answer if need be. That helps me start my next day in the office faster because I don’t have a bunch of email to go through first thing. I’ll admit I’m luckier than some in that I enjoy my work and actually like the people I work with. Even if I didn’t however there would still be the benefit to me of not starting my day under the crush of unanswered email. 

 

I’ll look at my email on the weekend in case anything is going on that I need to see or in case a co-worker has a question I can help with. It seems perfectly normal to me. I also don’t have a problem taking a call from my wife or kids in the middle of a work day…that’s every bit as normal. 

 

But, and some would say this is a pretty big but, there are times when I am totally disconnected from work and my precious smart phone. I’m focused on my personal life, to the exclusion of everything else. 

 

Here’s another but…there are times when I’m totally focused on work. Some of the stuff I do is best done in a distraction free environment. So I create one for myself. 

 

It’s all about balance!

 

I once asked one of my mentors who was perhaps the most successful salesperson who ever lived, how he defined success. His one word answer was balance.

 

He went on to explain that while you could be successful in one area of your life without being successful in others, true success, or complete success, required balance. He believed, and I agree with him, that you are kidding yourself to say you’re a success when any part of your life is less than successful. It’s the type of success I call “successbut.” Its like, “I’m a success at work but…” or “I consider myself a true success except for….” 

 

If you’re a leader who expects your team to be available 24 hours a day everyday then you may have some success in your life but it’s most likely successbut. Your team will care more, they will do more, they will do it better, all of it, if you help them achieve balance in their life. 

 

Authentic Leaders help their people become successful….in all areas of their life. If you only help your people achieve successbut then your missing a key component of Authentic Leadership. 


Don’t miss out, find your own balance and then help your people find theirs too.

Success is no Accident

Success is no accident. Success is the result of hard work, perseverance, help from those around you and a solid plan. The more solid the plan, the better. Developing a plan for success increases your chances of success 100%. Yep, a plan doubles, at least, the likelihood of success. I find that statistic very interesting but here is one even more interesting, or scary depending on your point of view. 80% of people go through life with no actionable plan for success. 80%!

     

I’m pleased that everyone reading this has a real plan for success, one that truly drives their behavior. I must admit however that I am a little suspect that everybody reading this is indeed among that 20%. So let’s see if it’s true.

     

First let’s determine what an actionable plan is not: It is not, “I’m going to work harder” or “I’m going to work smarter” or any variation of the same. That is not a plan; it is a dream, a dream that turns into the nightmare of the same old thing.

     

A plan that succeeds has action built into it, the actions are very specific, and the actions have measurable standards that leave no doubt as to whether they have been accomplished. Each individual action has its own deadline, a deadline which is critical because you’ll never find “someday” on a calendar.

     

Here is an 8-Step Planning Process that has been proven time and again to help people achieve success if they are willing to put the plan into action:

 

1.  Clear picture of current situation – we must know where we are before we can know where we are going

 

2. A clear understanding and vision of the desired situation – specificity is a key here

 

3.  Development of short, medium and long range goals – it is perfectly okay to adjust your goals as circumstances change

 

4. Develop your program – how will you succeed – what will you sacrifice – remember success is not just about what you will START doing, often what you STOP doing is just as important

 

5. The investment you are willing to make (time & money) – the commitment of time is frequently harder to make than a financial commitment

 

6. Time Table – When will it all happen – just like it says, Time Table, specific dates and times, giving yourself a range of dates is giving yourself the opportunity to delay your success

 

7. Implement the total plan – no plan is more worthless than the plan never put into action

 

8. Follow-up – Check back often on how you’re doing – and while you’re checking back find someone that cares about you enough to hold you accountable to your plan, this is a lot of work and is almost impossible to accomplish alone

     

So there is your planning process, and before you start telling yourself you can succeed without doing all this “work” let me tell you something else: What you call success today will pale when compared to the success that is possible when you execute a real plan.

     

Your plan is not work, it is an investment and it is one of the greatest investments you can make because it is an investment in yourself. You matter, your success matters and if you will commit to a plan you will see results almost immediately. 


So, what’s your plan?