Preparation is one of the key ingredients to success. This is not a new idea - just ask anyone who has lost a bunch of weight and they will say without fail, ‘planning and meal preparation’. So why do we find it so hard to perform the act of preparation? Why do we let ourselves and our performance be underdone because of our lack of preparation? How many times have we walked out of a meeting and thought, ‘that didn’t go well’.
If we know at a very rational, logical, intellectual level that preparation is key, then why don’t we do it?
Lack of time: 'my diary is back to back in meetings, and when I’m not in meetings I have a line of people at my desk asking me questions. My day starts at 5pm, so there is no way I can add planning time.'
True. How about if you considered the ‘prep’ time as part of the meeting time? Because really, that’s all it is - an extension of the work required for the meeting. You’d never cancel on part of the meeting...does it make sense to cancel on the prep?
We prioritise others' needs ahead of our own: 'people come and ask me for help all the time, and I know they need the answer to continue their work.'
In the name of service and helping others, we cancel on ourselves and help others. It’s hard to say no to someone to their face. Ultimately this doesn’t help anyone - all you’re doing is indicating to others that your work is less important than everyone else’s and setting a precedent that you’ll always be available. Know how to say the following 2 phrases as an alternative to ‘no’: 'yes, and’ or ‘yes, but'. For example: ‘Excuse me Alena, can I just ask you a question?’ ‘Yes of course you can, Emma, and I can do it at 3pm this afternoon’. Or, ‘Yes, but I need you to make sure that Neil and Tim’s input is included so that when we review it we have all the information we need.’ Be available to help and ensure that the workload is appropriately distributed.
Our default is to live and prioritise the present and immediate needs, and worry less about the future: ‘I’ll deal with that tomorrow. Right now, I need to put out this fire.'
One of the most powerful things prospective clients say to me is ‘I don’t want to be having this same conversation, sharing the same challenges in 12 months time.' If we always put the important things off until ‘tomorrow’, we will never be in a position to deliver at our best today.
We don’t think we need to, because we don’t ‘see’ others’ doing it: ‘I don’t see my boss doing it, so they probably won’t expect me to.'
What we see, we do. So if we don’t see it, we naturally believe that it doesn’t happen. The thing is, most people aren’t born natural speakers, natural facilitators, natural influencers. And no one knows everything. Preparation is a must and it ALWAYS happens for successful people. I loved the recent photo of Prince Harry preparing for his address in Sydney in front of hundreds of empty seats but for a sole seat taken by his wife. If it’s good enough for royalty, it’s good enough for us.
Schedule preparation time and protect it fiercely. If you don’t, not only are you letting yourself down but you’re also disrespecting the time of the person you are meeting with, because you’re not in top form. Role model the behaviour that you’d expect to see from your people and see the impact on the quality of your conversations, meetings and most importantly, outcomes.
Be the change you wish to see. It doesn’t need to be big. Just prepare for it.
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About Alena: Alena works with leaders and their teams to connect technical and leadership skills so they can deliver to deadline without killing their people. She is a mentor, trainer, facilitator and coach. Contact her today on firstname.lastname@example.org