Monthly Archives: October 2011

If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail – 5 Easy Steps for Creating a Daily Plan for Success

Don’t tell me you don’t have time – just plan better

I always hear the same complaints: “I don’t know where to start!”, “I don’t have time for this!”, “I’ve tried it so many times, but my day has only 24 hours!” And so on and so on.

Why is it that so many people use “I don’t have time” as an excuse NOT to do what they are asked to do, or what they want to do? And the worst part is, they get away with it!

On the other hand, it can be so easy to do it differently. You just need structure and discipline. Here are five easy steps to be more relaxed and happy about time constraints:

  1. Write a daily plan and keep it simple – a “to do” list
  2. Make it a habit to end your work day by writing your plan for the next day (don’t waste time planning in the morning)
  3. Attack the most difficult tasks (or the ones you least want to do) first
  4. Track your progress – cross things off the list as they are completed
  5. Start your plan for the next day with any items that weren’t completed from today’s plan

In a nutshell: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!

Your thoughts?

Claudia Irmer is a Results Consultant for Cohen Brown Management (Europe) Ltd.

I Need It Now! Creating a Sense of Urgency


I just got back from my high school reunion. Of course, none of us had aged a bit, and we had a wonderful time talking about kids (and even a few grandkids!). My friend Jennifer brought a copy of the yearbook with her and tucked inside as a bookmark was an old term paper. Her grade was scribbled across the top, and I won’t say what it was (OK, it was a B), but the thing I remember was how we always left those things until the last minute, even though our teachers were always after us to plan ahead.

My job is helping people develop their responsibilities as team leaders, teaching them to create an environment where the team’s work is accomplished efficiently and on time, and I can say that it doesn’t come naturally to most of us. Let’s face it. It’s human nature. We procrastinate—just as much now as we did in high school.

But in business the stakes are higher. We aren’t just getting As and Bs. Now we have to focus on goals – how much, or what, by when? And that means we have to plan ahead. We have to treat each project with the proper urgency.

Set appropriate deadlines. If you sense a lack of urgency in your team, cut the deadlines in half. After all, Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands to fill the time.” Giving people less time to finish a job can mean greater focus, creativity, and urgency.

Keeping those three goals in focus—how much, what, by when—for our teams, and applying the right amount of pressure, will help everyone deal with the details, problems and objections that sometimes feel like they will bury us.

Your teachers would be proud of you.

Your thoughts?

Melissa Marvin is the Performance Results Network Director for Community Banks and Credit Unions at Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc.

Make Meetings Matter

It’s Monday morning. As I sort through my inbox, I realize 15 of my e-mails are meeting invitations that have automatically populated my calendar. While I’m refilling my coffee mug, I hear my computer beep. “Please, not another meeting!” I mumble.

We all dread meetings — whether they are held on the phone, via videoconferencing, in a conference room or at a hotel lounge. Oh, the time wasted listening to others bantering needlessly, digressing annoyingly. For what? To schedule another meeting!

Making meetings matter is an art, a thing of beauty when it’s done right. Why don’t we strive to conduct them as if they are symphonies?

Here’s how:

First, develop a clear, very specific objective for the meeting and announce it in advance.

Know exactly what you want as the outcome. Don’t invite ten people to a meeting to discuss sales goals. Invite them to a meeting to discuss “what actions should be taken to achieve this month’s sales goal”.

Next, ask everyone to come to the meeting with a list of the most powerful actions they can take to accomplish the objective.

Ask one participant to share their ideas.

Yes, you can put someone on the spot because you set a clear expectation. Use a flip chart or note pad to record the ideas.

Continue brainstorming.

Ask other participants to add their ideas. Remind them that it should be an action that has not been previously mentioned.

Reduce the list to the 3–5 most powerful actions by voting.

Ask for a commitment.

In other words, which actions will they personally take, how much will they do, when will they begin and what result will they commit to delivering.

Bottom line

Follow this process and your meetings should run no more than 30 minutes and will end with specific actions to achieve an objective, rather than with the scheduling of more meetings.

Your thoughts?

Cynthia Leverich is Director of Global Business Development for Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc.

Become a Classy Pest

My friend Jayne is the ultimate Classy Pest. Does that sound like a contradiction in terms? You know, if she was a tad more persistent I might say she was obnoxious or annoying but instead she is a charmer. And she’s able to obtain what is needed on a personal and professional level by giving you a little “push”.

There are times in our professional lives when we need to be Jayne, to be the Classy Pest, when we need to push for a response from a client, prospect or co-worker, without crossing the line.

Once you reach the person directly, be prepared with what you want to say. It keeps the conversation focused and can reduce your anxiety, which, as we say at Cohen Brown, “is the price you pay for the unprepared mind and mouth.”

Keep a few tips in mind. Don’t ask “How are you today?” or “Is now a good time?” They will let you know if it is not a good time so don’t give them a chance to back out before you get started.

Catch their attention! Make them think that they will miss an opportunity if they don’t meet with you! What is the benefit to them? Will you make them money? Save them money? Give them money? Protect their money? Maybe provide convenience? Figure it out, and then let them know!

Now, put it in language that sounds like you’re talking to someone you know. Emphasise the key words, and lower your voice when you get to important parts of the conversation. Finally, practice it until you sound conversational! Know it so well that you have the ability to flow with the discussion.

Be candid. What objections might the contact bring up? Which parts might need further explanation? If they seem hesitant, try expressing empathy and use the bandwagon technique. “I understand your concern and some of my other prospects initially had that same concern, but after having a brief conversation with me they found that I was able to save their team an additional two hours per day in processing time. I would love to do the same for you.”

Above all, don’t give up. The Classy Pest will be the individual who ends the conversation with “What day and time is best for our meeting?”

Your thoughts?

Cynthia Whitmer Griffith is a Performance Results Network Results Consultant for Community Banks and Credit Unions at Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc.

Don’t Mention It — Manage It!

My sister has teenagers. Whenever she calls, I know she’ll say at least once, “Why is it that even though I tell my kids to do something a thousand times, they still don’t do it!”

I’ve often heard a similar complaint from managers. ”I’ve held a team meeting,” they’ll say. “I’ve told them what our objectives are and what I want them to do. So, why aren’t they doing it?”

The answer is simple. You can’t just mention what you want them to do. You’ve actually got to manage it!


Set Clear Expectations

Every team member must understand the objective and how they contribute to achieving it on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. For example: Our goal is to achieve a 100 percent customer satisfaction score on every exit survey we get every day.

Involve the Team in Determining How to Achieve the Objective

Involving your team creates engagement, buy-in and ownership. It means they’ll have a vested interest in seeing that their actions achieve the desired outcome.

Gain Specific Commitments to Take Action

Ask every team member the following: What actions will they take? How much action will they take, or how often will they take those actions? When will they begin?

Follow Up

Discuss with team members which actions are working and which ones are not. What challenges exist?

Bottom Line

It’s never enough to mention what you want; you’ve got to manage it.

Your thoughts?

Cynthia Leverich is Director of Global Business Development for Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc.