Just got back from a workshop in NYC for a large group of executives (145+ attendees). They enjoyed my talk (rating me 4.83 out of a possible 5.0 on my evaluation form), but they REALLY enjoyed the Q&A portion at the end. I thought I'd share the best question and my answer:
"How do we keep moving forward and not get caught up in the day-to-day malaise of emails and meetings?"
I said, "This might sound super-simple and you might know it, but there's a great way to look at each day and measure how you moved the big ball forward. I call it the three business 'pillars of success'."
First, you have to take action — any action, to move FORWARD. Most people are scared to make a decision, pick a direction, or commit to a plan. They get caught in analysis-paralysis and get stuck over analyzing the problem/challenge and not moving forward. Sometimes they are afraid of making the wrong decision or fearful of commitment to a strategy that rubs against the corporate grain.
Solution: Just do it. Pull the trigger. Any action (even the wrong one) is better than no action. Especially if you are ready to go but are ambivalent that you might have forgotten something. Pick up the saw and start sawing.
If you're afraid of screwing up - don't worry. Making a decision and taking action usually isn't a death sentence. You can always stop, correct, and re-engage. Remember — this is the hardest part — pull the trigger and start the process.
Once you take action, you need to push forward and see it through. Don't take a half-step and put your toe in the water — dive in. Push yourself to keep the momentum going. One single action just won't do it — you need to follow it up with consistent and powerful performance to ensure success.
Solution: Make a plan. Segment out all of your activities, tasks, and steps ahead of time. Once you see the big picture and all the discrete elements, it will make whatever you do that much easier and less stressful (and scary).
There will be a bump somewhere in the middle (usually a person) — something or someone to set you off your game. If it happens, expect it, and move around it ASAP to ensure that it doesn't disrupt all of your momentum.
Most people forget about this one. You have to deliver results to produce a successful project, product, or initiative. These are tangible deliverables that not only encourage you to move forward, but allay the fears of management that you're doing the right thing.
Solution: Don't go for the big bang at the end. Plan for and deliver small incremental results that will not only motivate you and your team, but also get the attention of management. Show them that slow and steady positive results win the day — this stops you from over-promising and under-delivering.
That's it. If you consistently look at everything you do with an Action/Performance/Results lens, you'll find you get a lot more important stuff done faster. Leave the emails and meetings to some other poor performer.