Within my coaching relationships, there are certain patterns of thinking that I find are most common. It’s definitely the case that leaders of businesses and organizations often know what it is they want to accomplish, but in the process of getting there, they fail to recognize road blocks—many of which they place in front of themselves.
Leaders are so often concerned with avoiding plans that fail—always in search of that silver bullet to instant success—that often they just fail to plan. They undermine their own success by failing to take the time to strategize for the week, the month, the year, and the long-term. As a result, when road blocks appear, they try to ram through them at high speed instead of patiently rerouting. Detours, in this case, are wrongly viewed as a sign of failure instead of a demand to re-adjust efforts in order to reach certain goals.
Of course, clear goals must be set forth in order to plan for them.
So what are you doing when you encounter an obstacle in your path? Here are some tips I share with my clients:
1. Define the obstacle. Only if you allow yourself to be run off the road will your journey toward success come to a quick stop. But if you’re not able to get where you are going, take a look closer at what’s getting in your way. If you are responsible for creating your own obstacles, something about you needs to change to bypass them. In these cases, external causes can’t be blamed, and that’s what can make these a bit more challenging. It’s harder to admit—even without an audience—that you might be the source of your own struggles. Crucial to getting around self-inflicted obstacles if evaluation (or establishment!!) of a plan. Find out what’s working, what’s not working, and make those changes.
2. Research. External obstacles might be toxic relationships, changes to laws that govern your industry, a poor economy, and even the changing demands of your market. Time needs to be set aside each week to work through the details of your business plan so that you aren’t caught off guard by those people and institutions that in one way or another impact your business.
3. Believe in Yourself. While that may sound a bit like pop psychology (of which I am certainly no fan), the reality is if you don’t believe in yourself—your expertise, your product, your value—you won’t give any reason for your potential clients to believe in you either. If insecurity is one of the internal obstacles that hinders your success, take an honest assessment of your skill set and focus for a season on the things that need work. No one knows everything about anything, but you need to know more about your work than your competition. Demonstrating your professional expertise to your market makes a real difference.
4. Keep it Clean. I mean this in more than one respect. Your website, marketing materials, and so forth need not state everything you want people to know, but they do need to communicate your mission clearly and succinctly. If you say much more than that, they’ll tire of reading and move on. Your website homepage should be clean, easy to read, and not overwhelming. By “keep it clean,” I also mean avoiding provocative language/sexual innuendo. No one wants to do business with creepy people, for lack of a better term. Keep it professional because then it’ll be classy and you’ll be perceived as classy, too.
5. Plan but be flexible. No one knows where they’ll be tomorrow let alone 5 years from now. Strategize for optimal success in the near future, but be flexible about 2-5 years from now. Sometimes an obstacle is rigidness to a plan. This is where it gets interesting because if something about your plan isn’t working, it won’t take long to discover what it is. Ignoring what isn’t working is to put greater emphasis on the journey than the destination. If for every 3 steps forward you’re taking 5 steps back, its time to admit there’s something wrong with the plan.