I was kicked out of the Cub Scouts when I was ten years old. I won’t go into the (amazing) story of why, however it involved arrows, clay pigeons, and the requirement of me doing community service. It was awesome and I have no regrets.
I don’t remember much of what I learned in the Cub Scouts: I can probably tie one type of knot, I can make some pretty awesome wooden cars, and you don’t want to be around me with a slingshot. However, the one thing the scouts preach that should be a mantra to us all is this: Be prepared.
When we think of the need to prepare as adults, we generally equate it to highly visible situations: meetings with the board, large conferences and logistical items or significant presentations. But what about our daily events? How often do we get comfortable in our day to day drudgery like staff meetings and e-mails where we fall into a habit of just “winging it?”
“Winging it” is weak.
‘Winging it’ is a theatrical expression which refers to impromptu performances given by actors who had hurriedly learned their lines while waiting in the wings and then received prompts from there. No rehearsal and no preparation. Talented actors could “get by” if need be, however the lack of preparation was generally known by the audience.
We all love to think that we are talented enough to “wing it.” However, if the office is a stage, our ability to be impromptu should be a failsafe; our last-second, necessary action only to be used when the lead actor is unable to perform. By not preparing, we are actually creating more work for everyone involved and hurting our reputation at the same time.
Preparation is the difference between “good enough” and “kick ass”
It’s the difference between having one meeting to solve an issue and having three. There was a joke around the office that when I called a 30 minute meeting it usually took 15-20 minutes. I always prided myself on that. Everyone entered that room with a full agenda and knew the purpose of why we were there. Anything not on the agenda was tabled for another discussion. No meeting ever ended with, “That’s good enough for today – let’s shelve it for another time.” Every meeting ended with direct responsibilities and accomplishment. The comment was usually, “I’m getting time back? Kick ass!”
Preparation will help your reputation.
Time is the most valuable thing for any person because it’s the one thing that can’t be replaced. We are already working long hours – what can you do to help people get more done in that time? The answer is simple: Prepare.
Meetings, and even things as simple as e-mails, require effective preparation. Take the five, ten or fifteen minutes necessary to fully think through the purpose of your meeting or communication. Identify what you are trying to get out of it. Give your audience or team members the focus they need to accomplish items today.
Over time, your reputation and value will increase. Preparation and providing focus will subtly change perception of you. People will learn that your meetings are worth going to; that your e-mails are worth reading. Not only will it make your life easier, it shows respect and builds relationships as well.
How to properly prepare
Ask yourself (and answer) these questions:
- What is the purpose of the meeting (or sales call, or e-mail)?
- What is my primary goal? And if that doesn’t get resolved, what’s the next best thing?
- Who is the audience and what will be their primary concerns or questions?
- What could potentially be brought up that will distract from the end goal? How can I prevent that from taking over?
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