Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Focal Points

We received several requests for the transcipt of my comments yesterday on the value of "focus," so we decided to post them here for your convenience.

Our friend, Jason Bernstein at Morgan Keegan, is fond of saying “no one plans to fail, they simply fail to plan.” That’s not just true of financial planning…the theory covers any area of your life.

I was thinking about this over the weekend, talking with guests at a wedding in San Antonio at the Mission Espada…it boils down to one simple word: Focus.

The bride and groom planned that wedding for two years. They had a goal, and they had a plan for achieving it…working extra jobs…doing much of the preparations themselves…creating a special day that was uniquely their own. They had focus, and they never let their eyes wander from their goal.

When you sharpen your focus on accomplishing a task, reaching a goal, or fulfilling a promise, you achieve completion quicker with less wasted time and energy, ready to go to the next item on your list.

Shawn Belding’s e-mail blast on “Winning in the Workplace” begins with a simple question too few of us really ever address effectively: Where you would like to be in your career two years from now? Five years? Ten years?

The truth is that if you don’t have a good answer for those questions, you don’t have a plan, and you have very little control over your career path. And if you think “career planning” is only for people at the top (and why shouldn't you be one of them??)--you’re wrong. If you’re the mailroom supervisor, you’d better have a plan, or you’re going to be delivering mail to the corner office instead of receiving your mail there. I know—I was a mailroom supervisor at one point in my checkered past.

This is the time of year when we all like to look back over the wins and losses of the past ten months, and begin to think about what 2006 has in store for us. This kind of thinking generally crystallizes on New Year’s day, when we resolve to eat less, exercise more, quick smoking and start living the rest of our lives better than we lived the past.

Sadly, most of those resolutions are broken by the end of the first month. That’s not a plan. That’s a cultural tradition.

So you don't want to be CEO. Even if you just want to maintain the status quo, it's a good idea to know how you're going to achieve/maintain it. That’s how successful people to it.

I knew ten years ago I wanted to be a radio station general manager. I knew three years ago that I wanted to take the Business Radio format to the network level. If you can dream it, you can do it…but you’ve also got to have a blue print.

Shawn Belding’s advice has five parts:

1. Set your goal: Figure out what you would really like to be doing. Write it down. Meditate on the words and their meaning. Draw up a job description for yourself: how do you want to spend the productive hours of your life—and how many hours are you willing to devote to that? And is your goal realistic?

My son and my nephew were discussing their dating experiences lately (nil), and one said to the other, "maybe we need to lower our standards to raise our averages." No disrespect intended to future prospects, but the point between the lines is to make sure there's a realistic goal in place.
We can't all be CEO (unless we start our own company); my son and my nephew likely aren't going to be dating the Olson twins. If your goal is unreasonable, reset to something more realistic. But keep your standards!

2. Find a mentor: Find someone who has already achieved a similar goal, and ask them what it takes to get there. You'll find most people quite willing to help out. And in time, be a mentor to others. What goes around, comes around. Bob Hopkins, the publisher of Philanthropy Magazine, is fond of saying you have to give to get. That's also true in the Help Dept. Don't forget those you mentor you...and return the favor when asked.

3. Set a timeline: Set a 'deadline' for achieving your target, then set timelines for all the steps on the way. That’s sound planning. Measure and re-measure, too, to make sure you’re plan is realistic.

The beauty of this is, it’s your plan, you’re the author—it’s your creation, and you have the flexibility to alter it to suit your needs and changing environment. Build-in flexibility so that your dreams aren’t dashed by the first set-back that comes your way---and there will be many.
4. Set the wheels in motion: Take action right away - don't procrastinate!

"Procrastination isn't the problem, it's the solution. So procrastinate now, don’t put it off."
--Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen Generes is a funny lady. A successful lady. Obviously, making sport of a mistake too many coulda-woulda-shoulda people commit each day. And each day that you do that—each day that you play that game, make excuses for not starting (“I’ll have more energy tomorrow…I’ll be better prepared tomorrow…I’ll have more time tomorrow) you steal from yourself one more day’s experiences you could have at the level you desire, instead of expending it where you are now.

Get started, and then…

5. Monitor your progress: Whenever you hit a bump in the road, or are unsure as to a decision, talk to your mentor. There are going to be set backs. Don’t try to bear it all yourself. Share. Delegate. Direct.

Too many people on the way up find themselves on the way out because they werent’ more inclusive of their peers. You’re not the only up-and-commer. Just as you’re following the lead of someone you respect…recognize there are others following the trail you’re blazing. If you’re the mail room supervisor…consider, one of your helpers just might be the right person to fill your shoes, as you move on ward up the ladder.

That’s a truth regardless of your role in your organization.

And remember…while any of us can be replaced…the key is to make that happen at the place and time of our choosing. The best way for you to move up and out is to groom your successor…get’s back to that mentoring thing.

Make that plan. Focus on each aspect of that outline to build your own success.

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