What happens when you don’t prepare?
Take a minute to think about it—and be honest with yourself.
In my leadership, the results of being unprepared are predictable. Things I hoped wouldn’t happen do happen—and occur with greater frequency than the things I hoped would happen. The reason is simple: being unprepared puts me out of position.
Ask negotiators what happens at the bargaining table when they are out of position. Ask athletes what happens on the field or court when they are out of position. Ask a teacher what happens in the classroom when they are out of position. No matter the arena, when leaders are out of position the results are always the same.
Preparation positions people correctly, and it is often the difference between winning and losing.
A frustrating thing about preparation is that it usually takes much more time than the actual event you prepare for. And the preparation is far less glamorous than the event. Spectacular achievement comes from unspectacular preparation.
I have observed this to be the underlying reason for unpreparedness. As leaders, we have a tendency to avoid the dirty work of preparation and take shortcuts on our way to the finish line. The problem is: there are no shortcuts to success.
Henry Ford observed, “Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success.” While talent wants to jump into action, preparation positions talent to be effective. Talent plus preparation often leads to success. Talent minus preparation often leads to disaster.
John Maxwell often reminds me of his belief that every minute spent in preparation saves ten minutes in execution. In the beginning of my leadership journey, I had a difficult time believing this and an even more difficult time applying it. I’m the guy that doesn’t read the directions on the box when putting together my kid’s toys. But after you feel enough pain from having to start over in the middle of a task because you didn’t prepare well, it becomes believable!
So, how do you prepare? Where does the preparation process begin for you?
Here are 6 questions that I ask myself to be sure I’m prepared for what needs to be accomplished:
- What work is to be done?
- How is it to be done?
- When is it to be done?
- Where is it to be done?
- How fast can it be done?
- What do I need to get it done?
My attitude on preparation began to change when I realized that best can always be improved. I have found that when I ask myself these preparation questions before diving into any task, whatever talent I have for the task is positioned for maximum effect.
Don’t rest on the best; build on the best.
And it all starts with your preparation.