This summer, I had the opportunity to share “words of wisdom” with several high school graduates all of whom had plans to attend college this fall.  I simply said to each one, Now you understand how fast four years goes by.”  And each graduate gave me a look that confirmed their deep understanding of exactly what I meant.

This summer also marked “Year 5” of our Transformational Leadership Program ™ (TLP), with the 2016-17 spring session already three months underway and the fall session kicking-off after September 15th As a new TLP year begins and our 2015-16 fall TLP session comes to a close, I’m reminded – once again – just how fast a year flies by.

So far, in the first three months of 2016-17 spring TLP, each participant has been planning and preparing for the hard work required to become better, more inspiring, visible leaders, including:

  • Completing two assessments: (1) the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) for understanding of personality type and preferences, and (2) the Leadership Attributes Evaluation (LAE) which is a 360 degree assessment of 20 key leadership attributes or behaviors
  • Identifying areas in their lives in which they both need and want to get better, such as becoming more “visible” leaders and more consistently engaging day-to-day in business and people development
  • Holding the first of six (6) coaching calls with their assigned “in-firm” and TLP coaches, to develop initial ideas for three (3) TLP goals and a “firm project” all captured in a written recap, and
  • Engaging in a “hands on” two-day onsite workshop in Minneapolis to learn about change management, leadership, project planning, ownership, delegation, goal setting, communication, and dealing with conflict.

Now with the “thinking and planning” phase nearly complete, participants have only nine months to actually do the hard work involved in this challenging personal change process.  Being mindful of how quickly the remaining time will pass, I’m reluctant to mention how the coming nine months also include fall busy season, the holiday season and spring busy season, and who knows what else?

Brought face to face with this powerful reality, I have only one conclusion:  Planning time is over! Today is the day for TLP participants to be working on their goals if they are serious about making meaningful progress and achieving their desired growth and improvement as leaders.

But there is a natural reluctance for most TLP participants to move from planning to doing.  As CPAs, most participants naturally prefer a “think-do-think” approach, preferring to analyze, assess, gather data, get organized, and “polish” their plans before taking action. However, reluctance to leave the planning phase really amounts to procrastination and leads to little or no real progress on goals.

Some famous military leaders had something to say about this.  German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke concluded: “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”  I understand this to mean that no matter how much effort and time goes into the planning process, your plan will need to change when it is applied to the real world.  So build your plan, but be prepared to modify it as you “learn” from putting the plan into action.

U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower stated that, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.”  The time invested in breaking your overall goal or objective into smaller steps and prioritizing those steps is important and valuable, but so is completing the first step immediately because it gets you started and moving forward toward achieving your goals.

Why is there reluctance to leave the “thinking phase” and get started on the “doing” phase?  I can suggest several reasons, including fear of failure, fear of the unknown, overwhelm with the enormity of the work, and dislike of the tasks to be done.  All of these boil down to fear of change, where you clearly understand the need for change but resist taking the steps that will lead to a breakthrough. 

At the TLP on-site workshops, we have developed a term for this.  We call it your “snuggly rut” – an undesirable place you choose to remain because it has strangely become your comfort zone.

With this in mind, I am encouraging those I’m coaching (and myself) to employ a more intuitive, less analytical approach to the goal setting and achieving process.  I suggest this “do-think-do” approach with confidence that most of us already know what steps we can and should be taking right now to start moving forward. 

In the “planning and thinking” phase, brainstorm and list all the steps to achieving your goals that come to mind right away.  Then, identify the first step and do it right away.  Don’t worry about picking the “right” first step – allow yourself to be more intuitive and to trust your instincts. And don’t worry about listing all the steps required – you will “learn as you go” and can modify your plan as new steps are identified.

Need help with procrastination?  Breaking a big goal into smaller tasks will help reduce your sense of overwhelm. Scheduling a key task you don’t like to the first part of the day will help you knock it down.  Trust that by taking the first step and getting started, you will build your confidence and momentum.

We all need to stop thinking that we have “plenty of time” because it’s just not true.  The future always arrives before we expect it and before we are ready. With a renewed sense of urgency, I am writing this reminder to all the high school graduates and TLP participants out there, and to myself and everyone else:  Time Flies:  Don’t Wait to Get Started!

We will continue to help our clients to learn and grow and succeed at life by both setting and achieving their goals. If you have ideas or experiences to share on the process of coaching, please post them so others can benefit.

Best regards,