“You get what you tolerate.” Dr. Henry Cloud, author of Boundaries. When we are bombarded by the burdens of others, it is hard to say ‘no’ to their needs. And when we tolerate the impositions of others in areas that are not our responsibilities, we become a slave to meeting the needs of other people. When we say ‘yes’ to someone or something that is not our responsibility, then we are saying ‘no’ to someone or something else. Many are controlled by the needs of others and fail to ever get a glimpse of what they have said ‘no’ to.
In a Fast Company article, Why Productive People Have Empty Schedules, Warren Buffett said “You’ve gotta keep control of your time, and you can’t unless you say no. You can’t let people set your agenda in life.” Warren Buffett understood boundaries – the lines where your responsibility begins and where my responsibility ends.
There is one thing you are definitely responsible for – yourself. Our constant ‘giving’ to others is really our lack of confidence in our own value and important place in the world. Children have to be told what their boundaries are. As an adult, knowing your boundaries is about growing up, and saying ‘no.’ Distancing yourself from gossips, needy people, wasted ‘coffee meetings’ and investment advisors who ‘want a new CPA relationship they can refer clients to’ is your responsibility. Grow up and stop letting other people run your calendar and your life.
The Danger of Activity
Our society has come under the false illusion that activity leads to income. That is, if we want income, then we must be busy. “If you’re not working 80 hours per week during tax season, then you are doing something wrong” is false wisdom espoused by the Accounting Professor at the local university.
Our goal is not activity, but value. Activity, though sometimes necessary, leaves no time for thinking, assessment and reflection of what you are doing, why and how you can (and should) be adding more value to the world. So what is valuable? Your brain is valuable. Your thoughts and your presence are valuable. The things you have learned are valuable. You are valuable.
Activity will only keep you in the middle class, and help you make your monthly Camry payment. Thinking and talking will make you rich in wealth and wisdom. Talk to your clients, and ask them to pay you for it. Fight the assumption that activity is the goal. It is sometimes necessary, but activity does not equate to income. Being, doing, and giving valuable things is what produces income.
The Fallacy of Urgency
Everyone is in such a hurry to get a new client, get to the answer or find out what they are passionate about. Hurry, hurry, hurry! Our society is addicted to urgency, and we are being duped by its toxicating missive. There is no strategy in speed. Most things are not urgent, and we often learn the most when we have missed so called opportunities. I believe urgency is a cancer running through the businesses of the clients we serve. As examples of how to run businesses, our firms need to eliminate the fallacy of urgency that clients impose on us, our businesses, our teams, our infrastructure and our profit margins.
Urgency is costly in more than just money. It keeps us from the great lessons that slow, methodical thinking produces over time. Diets, lottery tickets, and TV evangelists are urgency addictions. But as Peter Block says, “urgency for an answer is the problem.”
Slowing down your onboarding, your consulting, your answers, your growth, and your goals will produce new knowledge that is passed up in instancy. Fast is an enemy, and you can begin to change lives when you are experiencing all the things that happen in the measured service to your great clients.
The Potency of Questions
In trying to deal with a certain issue the other day, I asked my business coach, “what do you think I should do?” As is common, his answer was a question – “what do you think you should do?” He knows that the right question is more powerful than the right answer. Why? Two reasons: (1) he probably can’t know the answer because of the intimacy required in the answer, and (2) I probably have the answer inside of me – I just need a skill surgeon to pull it out so I can see it.
People need help bringing out the things they don’t know they know, and you can do this with strategic, probing questions. Read this older Thriveal blog post called Asking Better Questions to learn more about the skill of structuring questions more effectively. Stop using general questioning with your clients. It is lazy, and forces no new thinking on your client. Stop telling people what to do, and start asking questions instead.
The other day, Joey Brannon, CPA, Director of the Thriveal Accelerator, said “When you are in the frame it is almost impossible to see the big picture. That is why top performers (who become top performers by making good decisions) almost always have a coach sitting outside the frame giving them the perspective they need on tough issues like pruning, pricing, and making changes to the team.” As the leader of your firm, and the coach to your clients, you are outside the picture frame that your client can not get out of. You can deliver huge amounts of clarity to your clients with strategic questions. Leverage the potency of questions, and begin changing lives.
The Importance of Failing
In a world where changing fast is possible, and where change is no longer costly, failing has become the new skill for strong leaders in the new economy. Failure is no longer the thing to avoid, but the benediction and blessing of things you know no longer work. What a joy it is to fail!
- Failure is a part of growth for human beings. No failure, no growth.
- Failure is how we improve. We actually get better when we eliminate the things that don’t work.
- Failure will happen. If it is a certainty, why not plan for it by testing, experimenting and rapid prototyping your branding, ideas, new services, prices and website?
- Failure won’t kill you. The sooner you embrace failure, the sooner you will learn it does no permanent damage. And when you are no longer scared of it, a new world of opportunities has opened up to you, your firm and your clients.
Failing also shows you truth. Truth that you are not always right, that you need to slow down, that great things and ideas take work to produce, and that you are in need of a community to become exceptional at your craft.