Not long after I came to lead the Academy, I started doing two things that I hadn’t really planned to do; two things that have turned into highlights in my weeks. I first started writing this weekly blog, and I also started writing weekly promotional emails for the Academy. I call them promotional, but they don’t always openly try and sell anything. OK, if there is an Academy class on Thursday, there is a Wednesday email that is focused on it. The Monday emails are different. With those, I try to be as generous as possible to give you my thoughts about insurance, good business, helping people, and anything else that comes to mind when it’s time to start writing.
Sometimes, those Monday emails give me an idea for something to write about here. In fact, there are a few of those emails that we might republish to the blog.
Wait. You don’t get my emails? I can help with that. Click here to subscribe and scroll down the page and click the link for Academy of Insurance New Courses and Promos. You’ll normally get two emails per week from me.
Back to my story. A few Mondays ago, I wrote about taking time to STOP and work on what’s coming next. I promised in that email that I would try and write a blog, expanding on the email. That actually turned into this three part series (yes, you’ll have to come back for two more weeks to get the whole thing. You don’t have to thank me.)
WARNING: This one is longer than normal, but worth it. Just keep reading (I hope you hear Dory’s voice…)
I’m sure that you’ve heard this before, but most of us spend so much time working in our businesses that we take precious little time to work on our businesses. I know that happens to me. I get so interested in the different projects that I’m working on that I don’t take the time to look at the numbers and find out what’s going on. The next thing I know, it’s been two months and I’m not sure what happened, but we missed the numbers, or we made the numbers and I can’t explain that, either. I’d like to find someone to blame, but honestly, I have to say that the one to blame is me because I get bogged down in the daily activities and then forget about executing well made plans.
In the end, we have to take time to plan for what’s coming next. I’m not an expert at strategic planning so this isn’t meant to be the be all and end all for that. What we’re after today is a short outline of a process for you to take and add what you need to add to it so that you can work on making a plan. You should use it with a goal setting outline (such as SMART goals) for maximum impact.
We need to STOP and plan for where we want to be in five years, plan for next year, and plan for next quarter. Once we’ve done that, we have a process and an outline ready that we can come back to and see where we are. Guess when we do that? You’re right. It’s a quarterly assessment. Coming back to all the plans quarterly lets us see the truth about where we are. If you’re anything like me, you find it easy to believe the best without knowing the truth. It’s also possible that you believe the worst about your plans without knowing the truth. The quarterly assessment allows you to know the truth before your go gloat or pout about your results.
I keep emphasizing the word STOP. That’s because it’s an acronym for…
It’s also worth paying attention to what you’re planning for. Obviously, the first area that we’re thinking about is your business. You need to plan your business, but in truth, where will your business be if you’re not planning for yourself? You need a process to plan what your life will look like in five years, one year, and next quarter. That should include taking stock of several parts of your life, including your relationships, your health, your personal development, and your spiritual side. We’re here to talk about your business so I’ll leave you to figure out how to STOP for the other areas of your life.
Can we just be honest with each other for a couple of minutes? You and I both know that we really mean to work on planning activities at work. We even go so far as to block time in our calendars and call it planning. On planning morning, what happens? You run late. A key team member calls out so you shuffle their work around. Your most important customer strolls in and wants to talk. The phone rings. The next thing you know, it’s 4 p.m. and not only have you not done any planning but you aren’t really sure that you accomplished anything besides being busy.
That’s why we say that you have to separate. Normal work happens at the office. That’s where the phone and the email are. That’s where someone wants your attention. You need to get away. Depending on the size and complexity of your organization, you may need to take your leadership team away for a couple of days or you might just need to take yourself out of the loop for about a day. If it’s a quarterly check in session, you might just need a couple of hours.
I’ve already mentioned this but separate from the office. Don’t even go near it that day. If you go to the office, you’ll feel the pull of office to do lists. You’ll have questions asked. The conversation always starts at, “do you have just a minute?” That brings the possibility of a long conversation. Those are great for other days, but not when you’re trying to plan and think. Stay away from the office. Many cities have co-work spaces that you can rent for the day. A nice quiet office where no one can find you sounds pretty good right now. It might be as simple as going to a local diner or coffee shop and spending some time there. The key isn’t where you go, but that you get out of the normal flow of your work day.
Before I mention the next thing, I want you to make sure that you have someone available just in case you have a bad reaction to it. Make sure someone knows the number to 911 or where the nearest AED is. Are you ready?
You need to separate from your mobile tether. I’ll wait here while you find oxygen and your heart calms down. That wasn’t so bad was it? Ok, maybe you don’t have to unplug completely, but you do need to create some boundaries while you’re separated from the office. If you carry your mobile phone, you need to let the office know that you aren’t answering phone calls, texts, emails, Skype, Slack, or any other communication. Then you resist the temptation to check in and just trust them to handle everything there.
If you are taking a group off to STOP, everyone has the same rules. No one answers anything from work while you’re away. You can’t get dragged into the details of daily work while you’re trying to plan the next five years. You need to make it one of the few hard and fast rules of the time away. It’s critical not to deal with today when you’re trying to fix tomorrow.
I have one last thought about separating before we move on. Home is always a consideration. You may not let the office know where you are and you may not answer calls, texts, etc. from the office, but it is my view that you always answer the phone if it’s your spouse, your parents, or your children. They should always be able to get to you. I watched the CEO of a company stop a meeting when his wife called him. She always got through. To make taking the leadership team away easier, make it a requirement that they bring their spouses also. It will provide a great get away for them and it will relieve the possibility of putting your leadership team in a position to have to step away to take a call from home. Let me stress again that a call from home is a big deal by its nature that you want your team to take those calls.
I told you it was a little long, but I hope you agree that it was worth it. Next week, we’ll dive into the next STOP (think).
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