I have often heard it said that we don’t plan to fail rather we simply fail to plan. Without a plan, success manages to stay just beyond our grasp and though we chase it, we will never realize it. In my life I have realized that when I have a plan and have developed a set strategy to obtain a goal or complete a task, I am more often than not successful. On the contrary, I have found that when I am rushing and not mindful of the steps necessary to achieve success, things go terribly wrong. Expectations are set improperly or not at all, key steps are missed and I have to go back continuously to fix things, delays become inevitable and frustrations mount.
For many of us, we are often entering into a new arena of opportunity or tackling a facet of our business where we simply don’t have as much experience. Because our limited experience does not grant us the wisdom that we wish we had, it is important to engage those around us who do have the experience and lean heavily upon them. A colleague of mine was sharing how he recently taught his son to ride a bike. He started right in with his son with no training wheels. He told me that after the first day his own feet and arms were sore because of the fact that his son was leaning so heavily on him to avoid crashing. Not surprisingly, the next day the boy had improved and was leaning on his father less, and by the end of the third day his child was up and cycling on his own. It is important to see the lesson for both the father and the son. Had the father not been willing to take the time and support his son over and over again, and had the son not been willing to put forth his personal effort and to trust that his father would be there to support him, the task of learning to ride a bike would still be the boy’s dream instead of his reality. When we take on new adventures, we are certain to scrape our knees and hands. The bike will be wobbly, but when we can trust those who have gone before us and when we are willing to push forward on the pedals of personal effort, it won’t take long until we are riding full steam ahead with the wind in our face.
Without our personal preparation and planning and without the added wisdom and support of teammates, family and colleagues, our ability to execute is increasingly diminished. However, when we have planned and done so together, we have earned the confidence to move forward with boldness and with the full expectation of executing well the task at hand. In so doing we serve our clients and one another along the way. We are able to anticipate more effectively the bumps in the road and we equip each other and our clients with the ability to reach and exceed goals.
When at last we reach the end of a process, whether it went well or not, we often fail to capture the real benefit of what was experienced. We must reflect and memorialize what went well and what didn’t. I picture a balloon being inflated with wisdom through learning moments that would enable us to grow toward success. As the process develops the balloon of growth inflates and as the process comes to a close we all too often let go of the balloon before we tie it. Almost all of what we could have learned to make each of us better the next time escapes quickly and before we know it, we are left with an empty and lifeless shell again. The power of reflection and review as a team is essential to learning quickly and to growing in ways that are continually sustainable. We must take time to look back on the good and the bad. We must be open and honest about our weaknesses as well as our strengths. We must inject our ingenuity and new ideas into the team whether it’s our first day or our third decade. Then and only then will we rise to new heights and truly be successful.