04 June 2008

Action Precedes Clarity

This article appeared in my newsletter InSight Issue 35 Published 4 June 2008


I have been coaching for just over four years now. Most of my clients have been executive coaching clients (coaching predominantly for enhanced work-related skills), with a small number being life coaching clients (coaching for increased personal satisfaction in one, or more, whole-of-life areas). 

I have worked with about 90 different people for periods as short as three months and as long as four years (and still going). Most of my client are between 28 and 40 years of age and are already successful in many areas of life. 

In conversations about coaching I am frequently asked:
"What is the difference between a client who achieves significant progress in coaching and one who only makes moderate progress?"

My constant answer is:
"Clients who make the most progress are those who take the insights and learnings from the coaching session and then apply them immediately and consistently."

In other words - they take ACTION.

Critically, these highly successful clients don't know every step of the way forward before they start out, or precisely how to do it or that things are going to turn out 100% as they envisaged or hoped. They take action, in spite of a lack of clarity and fill in the missing pieces as they go along.

In his latest book, Flip (Random House, 2007), Gen Y Thought Leader, Peter Sheahan articulates this better than anyone. He devotes 46 pages of the book to the final chapter: Action Precedes Clarity.

One of the key observations Sheahan makes in this chapter is around our human instinct to wait for the ‘right time', a ‘better time' or for ‘more information' before acting.

"Many people will not act on the grounds that they fear they will regret their action. Most people also operate under the assumption that they will regret their foolish actions taken more than smart actions, not taken. This is, interestingly, false.

Echoing commonsense, psychologist Daniel Gilbert in Stumbling on Happiness says, ‘in the long run, people of every age and in every walk of life seem to regret not having done things more than regret the things they did"  (Flip, page 293) 

Five years ago, determined to move out from being an employee to being self-employed, I made a big investment in a business (or what I thought was a business). It was a lemon.

I lost $300,000 within a year. It was a very, very painful lesson.  It would have been easy to limp, humiliated and broke, back to being an employee again.

I didn't do that. I tried again - I went into a partnership. This venture didn't really work out either and again, I lost money (thousands this time, not hundreds of thousands).

Undeterred, I tried again - completely on my own. Even though things are working out much more successfully this time and the path ahead is much clearer I still find myself practising ‘action precedes clarity' as I grapple with issues with which I don't have complete information or clarity (like writing each weekly issue of InSight!). I keep taking action that seems best at the time and make adjustments as I go.

My first-ever teleseminar last month is another good example. I decided to run this teleseminar without being clear exactly how I would do it, what I would say or whether I would attract enough paying customers ($90 plus GST) to make it worth my while.

I had doubts and wondered whether I might be talking to just one or two people. With so much unknown, was it worth doing? In spite of these concerns, I went ahead and took action and with each step I took the next step became clearer.

The result was 40 registrations and excellent feedback as well as plenty of learnings for next time.

Recruiters often let themselves down with a lack of consistent action due to wanting ‘more clarity' about something. The seven most common areas are:

  1. Attending more training or registering into more courses
    "Will I really learn something helpful?"
     
  2. Making more prospecting calls
    "I haven't done enough research"
     
  3. Calling already registered candidates
    "What will I talk to them about if I don't have a vacant position?"
     
  4. Setting challenging targets for billings, key account growth, new clients etc
    "What if they aren't realistic?"
     
  5. Setting time aside each week to build a top-calibre candidate pipeline
    "Will it really pay off?"
     
  6. Specialising in a specific market niche
    "How will I know it's the right niche?"
     
  7. Sacking unprofitable jobs or clients
    "Are they really unprofitable?"

With an ever-increasing need for quick action to seize opportunities that are opening up, there has never been a more important time to adopt 'action precedes clarity' as your mantra, regardless of the level of ambiguity or uncertainty you are confronted with.

This simple quote sums it up beautifully:

"The only man who makes no mistakes is the man who never does anything."
Theodore Roosevelt
26th US President

What action could you take today?

2 comments:

  1. paul anovick5/6/08 3:43 AM

    Ross, well said, my experience with clients has been the same. Until the individual commits to action nothing will change. Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cheers, Paul. The habit of constant action is critical. Without the habit, over time things slide back to where they were.

    ReplyDelete