Tuesday, January 22, 2013

High Energy, Limited Focus, Low Success? Is It Time For a Plan?

            High Energy, Limited Focus, Low Success? Is It Time For a Plan?   

Does the lack of focus, poor follow through or procrastination hold you back from “being all that you can be”?  Be like Murray. Learn to develop an authentic action plan that helps fuel greater success. 

I have worked with numerous professionals who typically prefer to set their own pace, priorities and work schedules. These professionals frequently gravitate towards careers that offer flexibility with routine, a high frequency of human interaction, loose structure, daily tasks that provide high energy, variety and  quick rewards from their efforts. It is not surprising to find these professionals  being attracted to careers in sales, financial advising, consulting, independent business ownership, event planning, creative arts, law and entertainment.

These professionals are quite often very bright, uniquely creative and personable. Unfortunately, many of these Rough Riders (Think Teddy Roosevelt and his boys charging up the hill into a hail of bullets with eyes tightly shut) also share traits that inhibit or impede their ability to be as effective and successful as they would hope to be. Some of the traits that may limit their success are:

·        procrastination,
·        poor follow-through
·        low frustration tolerance
·        difficulty prioritizing
·        lack of focus
·        poor organization and communication skills
·        impulsivity
·        easily distracted
·        self-doubt
·        low self-esteem despite significant professional accomplishments
·        anxiety
·        depression

While many of these professionals have some awareness of these traits, they frequently lose sight of how often their performance is negatively affected by them. They have learned to quickly explain away, justify or ignore their stifling tendencies out of self-preservation.

The Saga of Murray the Financial Advisor

I am reminded of a coaching relationship that I have had with an independent financial advisor who I shall call Murray. Murray is a gregarious, well-liked and extremely bright man with an exemplary education and high level of corporate training. He was viewed as a rising star in a number of the arenas in which he worked. He placed high expectations on himself, as did many professionals who knew him. Unfortunately, Murray struggled with a number of the aforementioned traits, which eventually led to his fall from grace in the eyes of his mentors and leaders.

Yes, Murray was bright and gifted, but he was also impulsive, had difficulty staying focused on critical tasks, had poor follow through, struggled with organizational skills, was easily distracted and often found himself bogged down by  procrastination.  For years, Murray had relied on his intellect, charm and ability to bob and weave when cornered. He frequently convinced himself that things were better than reality demonstrated. All too often Murray underperformed and his lofty goals were too often not reached. Murray’s undercurrent of anxiety and self-doubt were stoked each time a goal or opportunity was missed. This pattern was repeated many times over. Years of underachievement eventually led Murray to a critical decision. He had to change!

Murray was more successful when he adhered to a consistent routine.

The decision to change was easy; putting forth consistent effort to make change happen, not so much. Murray struggled with maintaining the structured plan that he developed during our coaching sessions. I truly believe that we are much more likely to adhere to a plan that is ours and I encouraged Murray to create a plan that he believed in and could embrace. Murray had learned to say all of the right things to keep people off balance, but struggled mightily when he faced his soft shoe act with eyes wide open.

Murray was more successful when he adhered to a consistent routine, but had difficulty sustaining organized efforts for more than a few short bursts each week. Murray had great disdain for tedious activities and he looked for opportunities to avoid these burdensome tasks. He would rather focus on the big prize activity and would step away from the structured, organized process that he knew was critical for his success. Murray was trapped in his self-defeating habits and because he worked for himself, he had minimal external and internal controls to help him get back on track.

Murray needed a well devised action plan that he had developed, but he also needed a reason to adhere to the plan and develop new skills to help him do so.

During his coaching sessions Murray was encouraged to review the value of his goals, his efforts and to identify each trigger that led him to deviate from his plan and the negative outcomes that culminated from his distracted activities. Through this review Murray was able to take ownership of his behavior, to track inhibiting patterns and to recommit to his plan to be more effective and consequently more successful.

Know your strengths and own your responsibilities

I focused on helping Murray to maximize his strengths and to develop behavior patterns that would allow him to have more productive outcomes each week. Murray learned to utilize techniques to enhance his focus, time management and follow through. He was encouraged to set blocks of time that allowed him to maximize his ability to sustain his attention and efforts. Building in short breaks and rewards allowed Murray to reset his focus and sustain additional activity.  We addressed the tasks that Murray viewed as tedious, such as calling clients and referral sources to ask for additional business or developing reports and we identified strategies for maximizing his outcomes. 

I reminded Murray to build on small steps that led to larger rewards and to log his efforts to track productive and unproductive activity. Murray had difficulty delaying gratification and needed to reward himself for productive activity and was encouraged to do so. He was also encouraged to set expectations that were within his realm of competence and attainment, as he tended to set grand goals that were too often not reached and which would frustrate him and sabotage future efforts. 

Build your strengths into your action plan

Finally, Murray took the time to pay more attention to his strengths and build those strengths into his action plan. He loved his contact with clients and referral sources, but he had never thought about how he might interact with his clients in a manner that would generate more business. By being more mindful of what he did well Murray was able to do it better, more often and with more passion. Murray’s financial rewards grew the more he embraced and adhered to his routine. What is equally, or even more important, is the boost Murray achieved in his self-esteem and his appreciation for what his true capabilities are.  

Murray spent a great deal of time avoiding and bobbing and weaving around his doubts and fears for eons. Now he spends a great deal of time focused on goals knowing they are within his reach.      

Murray learned to develop and utilize techniques to enhance his focus, time management and follow through. You can too.