Do you have a life career plan? Or are you one of most people that spend more time planning a holiday than you ever spent planning your life or your career?
Can you recall a situation where you were extremely well prepared for something and how it subsequently went breathtakingly well, so as to create an absolutely superb outcome for you? You know, a 10 out of 10 rating? Can you? Great feeling isn’t it, even all this time later?
Now can I ask you to think of your last 5 meetings or presentations or negotiations please? How did they go? How many of them would you say scored a similar 10 out of 10 rating? If it was all or most of them, then this blog isn’t for you. If not, what was the difference, do you think? What part might planning and preparation have played in differentiating these 2 scenarios?
It has been a magnificent day in Melbourne today – the last day of our southern hemisphere winter 2013 with temperatures in the mid 20’s and glorious blue skies after a long, wet and somewhat miserable, albeit mild winter. You can really feel the anticipation of all the energy wanting to burst out in all the blooms as spring starts tomorrow. So many people were outside prettying up their gardens and washing cars and generally preparing for life to be more outside again in the impending spring and then summer.
I can’t help feeling that way about my business as well and am pretty sure that many others are feeling the same, probably with that same hope and expectation of our Federal election next week. For too long we have languished in the aftermath of a hung parliament and almost everyone I talk to can’t wait for a clear result, irrespective who wins, so we can start planning and start investing with some confidence again.
To Plan and Prepare
I have chosen yet again to re-invent myself and my business to keep abreast of and ahead of all the exciting developments in our global marketplace, where new ideas and new thinking, coupled with new (and older) technologies create so many new opportunities…. In doing so I analyzed the thousands of coaching sessions I have done and one of the things that amazed me was how many times the work my clients and I did was around: Planning, be it for new goals or a new role or a new venture or project, and Preparation, be if for an important meeting or presentation or negotiation, and quite often for a performance review (theirs or for their staff). You know, that they engaged the services of an unbiased thinking partner to consider numerous perspectives, to challenge their ideas and their thinking, to practise or role play potential situations or scenarios and to assess so many more options than they might allow themselves to consider by themselves?
And so I want to write about the expectation and the anticipation and the excitement that anything new brings with it; the planning and the thinking and the preparation that precedes any new initiative.
I’m sure you have heard the saying: “failing to plan, is planning to fail”? Well, there is much written about that and the different personalities and how some people are more disposed towards planning whereas others like to “leap in” and have a go and then fine-tune things as they go. Which do you think better describes your preferred mode of operation?
What I have found, is that most people don’t have a plan for their life and most people don’t have a career plan. I am known to suggest that most people I have met spent more time planning their vacation than they had ever spent planning their life or their careers. I know I did. I’ve also said before that most people “fell into their professions or careers”. I know I did. And if you think back over your last 3 roles in your career, how many of them did you “fall into” compared to you having assessed each of them against a bunch of attributes you had set within a career plan you had mapped out for yourself?
It is unthinkable in business today that large scale project investments aren’t accompanied by a detailed plan that maps out resources, dependencies, milestones and contingencies. Yet isn’t it remarkable how often we disregard that when it comes to our career or our lives?
Do you know what I have found in all my decades in business? It isn’t that hard to be “better” than most. Why? Because I have learned that most people don’t make the time – or think they don’t have the time – to prepare themselves adequately. And so they rush into important meetings or presentations or negotiations under prepared and in fact often have to “wing it”, hoping that the others are equally poorly prepared. Would you agree? I found that just having invested in some solid preparation – doing your homework, as they say – often makes all the difference between an average outcome and a superb one.
In my Coping Trilogy I outline some key aspects of such preparation, particularly relating to business meetings and how with preparation we can leverage them to our benefit and no longer allow them to waste so much of our time.
And in my Goals Trilogy I speak about the advantages of setting goals, which in this context is akin to planning, right?
Managing risk has become a massive area of focus in business today. Whether it is about investment risk or project risk or market risk or funding or financial or currency risk, in business we are mitigating risk all the time, aren’t we? Risk is a fundamental component of most decision making; the bigger the risk, the harder the decision, right? It’s hardly surprising that in this context is where we find so much procrastination, because people lack the confidence or the skills to be able to make a good, solid decision. And it’s no surprise that one of the biggest risk mitigation’s is adequate planning and preparation; sufficient time to analyze the options, correct?
Some typical examples
These are some of the more typical examples that I help clients to plan and prepare for all the time:
- Drawing up their life plan
- Drawing up and managing their career plan
- Drawing up a business plan
- Setting and managing goals
- Planning and preparing for specific meeting outcomes
- Planning and preparing for specific presentation outcomes
- Planning and preparing for specific negotiation outcomes
- Planning and preparing for specific performance review outcomes
- Planning and preparing for an interview (as interviewer or as interviewee)
- Planning and preparing for “hitting the ground running” in a new role or new company
- Tailoring a resume
So why do so many fail to plan or prepare?
So we would probably all agree that it is a no-brainer that to have planned and to be prepared is a pre-requisite for an expected good outcome, right? Why is it then that we so often fail to plan or prepare? It can’t just be a personality thing, can it? Surely it also can’t be that we don’t have enough time – that we are too busy? So what is it then?
Coupled with too little time (which is a universal illness in business today), I have found that all too often there is a lack of sufficient discipline to plan enough time into what we do, so that we can prepare adequately. We have discussed recently in Urgency that we sometimes allow the urgent to get in the way of the important. We end up leaving things too late and run out of time.
Sometimes we procrastinate because we don’t like what needs to be done or harbour some fears about our confidence or competence, and some of you may or may not be aware that you unconsciously play out behaviour patterns that actually allow us to sabotage ourselves just to prove a self-fulfilling prophecy about the way we feel about our Self Worth.
I have encountered all of these and so many more typical such causes for lack of planning and preparation and have worked with these with a great number of clients. Why? Because it is so common. Please don’t think that if you were to plead guilty to any of the above that you are on your own. This is very common; and it is actually quite “lick-able”, if you are willing to engage and work with a coach.
Because a coach has no other agenda than your agenda. We are your dedicated and unbiased thinking partner; your running mate; your confidante; your sounding board. But most importantly we are willing to hold up a mirror in front of you; to challenge you and then to hold you accountable so that you do what you know has to be done – whether you are good at it or like it or not. You “just do it”.
So where do you think you fit into this picture? Are you a 10 out of 10 planner and preparer or would you admit to some 3’s and 4’s in your scores?
And if the latter, would you allow that to continue to plague you where you tell yourself that “one day” I’m going to lick this issue once and for all? Or are you going to say “enough is enough” and today I’m going to do something about this?
You do recognize that this is just a choice, don’t you? One that you can make and carry out today.
Seriously, if this has struck a chord with you, let me leave you with 2 questions:
What are you afraid of? What are you (still) waiting for? So when are you going to pick up the phone and engage with a coach – your own coach that will help you through this and to a better you on the other side?
What if you could?
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