Have you ever said you would take care of a problem, knowing you weren’t going to do anything about it? Maybe it’s just one customer complaint out of thousands of customers. Does it really matter if you say you will fix it to make the customer happy and then let it drop? Yes it does for several reasons. First, your word is now questionable because you didn’t follow through on it. Secondly, that customer may give your organization a second chance and when they find no change, the word of the entire organization has lost its meaning.
About two weeks after I transferred from one factory to another I was called to address some concerns and questions from our field service representatives. One, Pierre, was really angry with the quality of several products coming out of that factory. Unfortunately, this was the first I heard about it, so all I could do was say I would check into it and find a solution. Pierre basically said my word was worthless because my predecessor had said that for years and nothing had changed. Why should he believe me? Now I’m really on the spot, what can I say as he had been let down more than once by this factory? He was right to be mad. I acknowledged his frustration and gave him my word it would be addressed immediately. He still wasn’t buying it. Fortunately for me there was a rep in room that I had worked with several times to fix problems while I was at the previous factory. I knew Mike had been satisfied more than once with my efforts so I asked him to vouch for me. He did and Pierre gave me a short window to address his concerns. I found the issue that was causing his concern and changed the process to improve the quality. The people performing the process had never heard of the issue; they weren’t thrilled with the change however they were willing to do what was needed to improve the quality of their work. It put the problem to bed once and for all. Our field service folks were much happier with the quality from the factory as were the end customers.
I can’t say for sure why my predecessor never really addressed the cause of the complaints but it really damaged the reputation of the factory with several field service representatives, dealers and end customers. The time it took to address the quality issue was about a week total, investigating the cause, determining the best solution, communicating the change and then monitoring it. Inside of a month it became a non-issue for production. Yet it had festered with our customers for about three years and it took another year for them to really believe we would live up to our word. By promising a fix and not changing anything it cost three years of mistrust and a year of rebuilding for something that took a week to get implemented. That’s a poor investment in time and effort.
Following through on a commitment to a customer or co-worker may take extra time and effort on your part, but it is far less than it takes to fix the damage caused by dropping the ball. Once people feel they cannot trust you to come through for them it will be very difficult to convince them to trust you. People will give you the benefit of the doubt the first time, after that it is based on your past performance. Skipping the follow up means your word is worth less than it was before and you may be bringing down everyone around you in the eyes of the customer.
It seems easy to make the promise and let it drop, however the damage can last years and haunt you and your organization. Take the time to do what you said you would do, it will be less than the time needed to repair your reputation. Develop the habit of being true to your word.
When you look at your long-term goals how do you plan to meet them? Are you one of those folks who have a detailed step-by-step plan to get where you want to go? Are you someone who sets your vision and then figures it will all fall in place as it was meant to be? Or are you somewhere in between? Leaders need to have a balanced approach to making their vision come to life.
Personally, I am somewhere in the middle. I like to have some idea of how I’m going to achieve my goals and yet I like to leave some wiggle room for the unexpected detours that always seem to come along. This gives me flexibility to adapt to new situations and opportunities. I’ve done a lot of adapting over the years and some of the best experiences where unplanned.
I know some great people who have everything planned out and it’s great, until the unexpected happens. When things don’t go according to plan they fall apart, it can show up as anger, panic or complete withdrawal depending on the person. This can be a very rigid approach to life.
As well there are other fantastic folks I know who just go with the flow. They ride along with a general idea of what they want and where they are going but they let things happen. At times these people struggle because life isn’t going in the direction they envisioned. They become confused and sad at the direction their life is taking. This approach can lead people to become perpetual victims.
The approaches to reaching your goals that are at both extreme lead to additional stress as well as dissatisfaction with life and what you’re doing. Neither is healthy in the long run. Life is about finding balance in what you are doing. As a friend recently said he found that balance meant doing less of some things instead of trying to fit more stuff into his life.
If you are more rigid in your approach to life goals cultivate some flexibility and adaptability to the things that life throws your way. You never know, you may find a new path that is exciting and interesting. Sometimes really interesting and fulfilling opportunities appear in unexpected ways and places. If you focus too closely on one path only you will miss these chances. Who knows what might be out there.
If you are more likely to go with the flow cultivate proactivity. Start identifying steps you can take to reach your goals. It’s not necessary to plan every step in detail, look for 3 to 5 things you can do in the near future that would move you forward. Write them down and go do them. You may be surprised by the doors that open in response to your initiative.
Creating the future you want means knowing where you want to go, taking the initiative to get the journey started and being flexible enough to seize new opportunities that arise along the way. This is a balance approach to taking control of your life. Leaders need to develop a vision, get things moving and adjust to circumstances along the way.
Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.
Thomas A. Edison
I learned that we can do anything, but we can’t do everything… at least not at the same time. So think of your priorities not in terms of what activities you do, but when you do them. Timing is everything.
As you start your week and look at all the things that you need to accomplish each day do you feel overwhelmed? It’s easy to get dragged down by all that requires our attention. The key is to get a good handle on what needs to happen and make a plan to get it done. The first step is to identify the important things that must be accomplished this week. Then you have to create space and time to get them done.
To make the most of the time you spend on the important items you must focus clearly on the task at hand. This can be very hard to do in this busy and noisy world. However, there are several steps you can take to help clear the air around you to get things done.
- Know your peak time. When are you most productive? Is it early morning, late morning, or afternoon? Use this time to get the things done that need the most attention and focus.
- Block time on your calendar. Schedule an appointment with yourself to get work done during your peak time. This will allow you time and space to focus your attention on the important tasks.
- Tune out. Close your email, turn off the ringer on your phone, and close any instant messaging programs. This is time to focus so eliminate or minimize distractions.
- Get your energy up. Do something that will raise your energy level. Listen to music that gets you charged up, take a quick walk at a brisk pace, close your eyes and get yourself centered or whatever works for you.
- Just do it. Now that you’ve cleared time and distractions sit down and get to work. Keep your mind on the task at hand and table other thoughts that come wandering in. If needed make a note and get back to work.
- Celebrate completion. Take a minute to relish the feeling of getting it done! Check it off your to-do list and now it’s time to get moving on the next item.
If you start the week with a plan of how and when you will get things done, starting with the important items you will be much more successful in reaching those goals. Know that things may come up that change your plans and force you to reorganize your time. That’s okay. If you have identified the big items to get done you will keep them in your sights and get them done. The smaller, less important tasks will be the ones that move around instead of the important ones. It’s easier to make room for the small tasks than it is the big ones. Start big and work your way down. You will get more done than starting small and working up.
Plan to focus and then work your plan. Have a great and productive week.
If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?
Here are some of the inspiring articles I have read in the past month. I hope you enjoy them as well.
This is the key to time management – to see the value of every moment.
Menachem Mendel Schneerson
“Everything requires time. It is the only truly universal condition. All work takes place in time and uses up time. Yet most people take for granted this unique, irreplaceable, and necessary resource. Nothing else, perhaps, distinguishes effective executives as much as their tender loving care of time.”
Peter F. Drucker
To reach your goals you must focus on them. Focusing involves two unique steps, sight and sharpness. Like using binoculars you must first look in the right direction, get the object in your sights. Next you have to adjust the binoculars so you can see the object clearly. Focusing on your goals requires the same two steps.
First you must know what to look at, what is the goal you want to accomplish. What are your long term and short term goals? What things do you need to do to reach these goals? At this stage it is important to step back and look at where you want to go and what path you want to take to get there. If you want to have a balance in your life between work and family then you will need to create goals around how much you will work or how you will prioritize family involvement. Start with the high level goals such as “Spend more time with my family” and “Work less on weekends”. Now you have an idea of what you will be focusing on, and it’s time to get clear on what that means.
Once you know what your goal looks like you need to sharpen your focus. This goal must be something that you have clearly defined. You know what it is, you know what it looks like, how your life will be different, and how you will feel upon successfully reaching it. This is similar to the idea of adjusting the binoculars to get the image clear in your sights. The more clearly you can describe and visualize the goal and life after reaching it the easier it will be to bring it into focus. This means more than just saying “I will spend with my family”. It means being crystal clear such as “I will be home for dinner with my family at least 4 days each week and I will not work on weekends”. The second version is much more specific and it’s easier to see if you are meeting this goal.
The first step is to identify what is your goal and then you get clear on what it means to you. Taking these two steps will help you take action. You will know where you’re headed and how you are going to get there. It takes vision and clarity to reach your goals so improve your focus by defining your goals and getting clear on what that goal means to you. Once you have these in your sights you can create the action steps needed to reach them. You will be on your way!