When focus led me astray

I hadn’t taken the time to pull back from the work I’ve been doing to check on how effectively I was navigating toward my goals in the last few months.  Life has been very busy, both professionally and personally. I’d put my head down, my nose to the grindstone, and I focused on the client work piled in front of me.  I was surprised by what I found: in some areas, I was right on track to meet my goals, but in others, I’d slowly drifted far afield.

During my mastermind meeting last week, my colleagues and I discussed the tough balancing act of current work vs. future goals.  It’s easy to let things slide, especially when there’s plenty of current billable work to do.  (Can I get an amen?)  But focusing on the present is a passive and ultimately fruitless way to build a future.  Growth requires relentless determination and focus on meaningful and clearly articulated “stretch” goals.

So I revisited and revised my goals, and then I designed consequences for failing to reach them.  Should I miss, I’ll be making a hefty charitable donation in some colleagues’ names – enough of a donation that I won’t get the warm fuzzies of doing something nice but instead the pain of a real financial hit.  My colleagues all set their own goals and consequences, and when we meet again in February, we’ll see the results.  I’m predicting a huge celebration of remarkable successes.

All of this leads me to ask, how are YOUR goals?  Whether you’d like to accomplish something big by the end of the year (creating and hosting that seminar you’ve been thinking about, perhaps) or whether you’d prefer to think ahead into the first quarter of next year, there’s no time like the present to get clear on what you want to accomplish or to set up some accountability and consequences to get yourself moving.  If you need a guide on effective goal-setting, check out this blog post I wrote in 2008.

Fatal mistakes that doom rainmaking efforts.

Several potential client consultations over the last few weeks have put me in mind of the old story about the tortoise and the hare. We all know the lesson, that slow and steady wins the race, and the same is true in business development – though consistent is a more accurate word here than slow. Jumping into rainmaking activity with a solid, strategic plan is like jumping into the deep end of the pool without knowing how to swim: you may do a few uncoordinated strokes, generating lots of splashing, but you won’t get much of anywhere. In fact, you may get so tired you drown.

The caveat to the slow and steady approach is that waiting until the plan is perfect is just as fatal as not planning at all – and maybe more so. If you refine and rework your plan to the point that it covers all contingencies, sets up a flawless strategy that takes account of every possibility and leaves no opportunities unexplored, you’ll never move from planning to action. The fear of making mistakes or overlooking some favorable condition creates inaction or the disjointed, uncoordinated action that tends to accompany having no plan at all.

The answer? Make a plan. Don’t wait for it to be perfect. Start implementing, and then refine your plan. That’s the process you’ll follow for the rest of your rainmaking career, and it’s the only way to start and finish strong. Want more information? See Chapter Three of The Reluctant Rainmaker: A Guide for Lawyers Who Hate Selling.