Become Fully Accountable For Your Success: Expose Your Diversionary Tactics

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By Keith Rosen, MCC - - Have you ever done something that you know is not in your best interest? Have you ever avoided doing something that is in your best interest? In either of these scenarios you were probably able to justify your behavior as well as your line of thinking and most of all; avoid being accountable.

While that may sting a little bit, allow me to introduce to you a new definition for this type of behavior. A diversionary tactic is an action, excuse, or belief you hide behind that justifies your behavior and performance, providing you with the out so you do not have to be accountable for your performance, responsibilities, goals or the situations you put yourself in.

Other examples of diversionary tactics are as follows:

  • An excuse for the behavior you really don't want anymore.
  • An action, a lack of action or a belief that keeps you from being accountable or looking at the real truth in a situation.
  • A persistent or constant complaint.
  • A source of energy. (Even though it may be a negative energy source, human beings tap into any available energy source, even if it causes additional problems, stress, and difficulties.)
  • A justification for doing something you are better off not doing which isn't aligned with your goals and objectives.

Some non-negotiable tasks, activities, and priorities in your life may be obvious, such as your commute, showing up for work, engaging in your favorite hobby or pastime, and spending time with family. However, some may not be so visible, such as prospecting, practicing self-care, one-to-one time with your employees, planning, goal setting, or putting time aside for professional development.

If there are activities you need to engage in that support your lifestyle and will truly determine whether or not you will reach your personal and professional goals, it's essential that you make these tasks non-negotiable rather than optional. Otherwise, you'll find that they have tendency to take a back seat to other activities that may need to get done and have some degree of importance.

You know, the activities or tasks that you may be more comfortable doing (such as cleaning your office, doing paperwork, responding to e-mails, helping other people, compiling data, customer service, working on making your marketing material perfect) but don't significantly move you forward. Instead, they keep you stuck in maintenance mode, allowing you to do just enough to stay afloat.

Then, you may have conversations with yourself that sound like, "That's okay, I was busy today. I'll do that tomorrow." Or, "I just wasn't able to find the time to get to prospecting today." And wouldn't you know it, something else always seems to come up! I don't suppose this has ever happened to you.

This busy work will disguise the truth, creating the illusion that you're working hard, simply because you feel busy. These diversionary tactics enable you to do everything else but the activities that would dramatically accelerate your success.

Just ask any salesperson who has to prospect to build their business. They can justify practically any and every activity that will take them away from prospecting, allowing them to major in the minor activities that act as a diversion to doing what's truly needed to build their business.

If you, “Can't seem to "find the time,” for these activities, I have yet to stumble across time that I just happen to "find." It becomes a never-ending search, an exercise in futility. Consider that these non-negotiable activities that you may be avoiding must become as habitual as waking up in the morning, taking a shower, brushing your teeth, and breathing. These are the activities you do, (hopefully) without a second thought.

Uncover your diversionary tactics. Once you do, you'll then be able to make the choice whether or not to continue to take part in them or the activities that serve you best. To further illustrate the importance of uncovering and eliminating your diversionary tactics, consider the cost you incur by not making certain activities non-negotiable. For example, what does it cost you if you don't prospect; professional satisfaction, selling opportunities, peace of mind, income, your career?

If you're looking for some more examples of diversionary tactics, here they are.

Fear of failure (or Success): "I'm afraid of failure yet I won't take the steps to ensure my success at prospecting. Therefore, if I sit back and do nothing, then I can never fail at anything!"

Perfectionism/'Either Or' Thinking: "Either I create the perfect prospecting system to use or I don't prospect at all. There's no middle ground here. Therefore, I can't cold call just yet because my prospecting system isn't perfect! Once I create the perfect system, then I will begin to prospect." (And when will that be?)

Taking It All On: "I can't delegate these tasks that other people may be able to do because they will never do it as good as I can. Therefore, it's just easier if I do it myself. That's why I never have enough time to prospect." (Great, now you can become an expert in busywork or the activities that aren't the best use of your time or skills, rather than the activities that are going to make you successful.)

Been There, Done That: "The last time I attempted to build my business through prospecting it was a waste of time. Therefore, I know that prospecting won't work for me. (Did you ever consider that it was more about your approach to prospecting that wasn't effective? If you change your approach, you change your results so be careful about learning the wrong lesson.)

Playing It Safe: "Sure I've been prospecting. I mean, I've been targeting my current accounts to see if there are any service issues that need to be handled and whether I can get more business from them. After all, you need to take care of your current customers, right?" (Do you want to survive or thrive? Your choice.)

The Accountability Trap (or lack thereof): This is one of my favorites. The accountability trap is yet another diversionary tactic. I had a client, Tim, who owned a profitable business and was looking to take his company to the next level of success. At the end of our meetings, we would discuss the measurable tasks that Tim would choose to complete by our next meeting.

I noticed, however, that at the end of our meeting, he never took the time to write down the tasks he committed to finishing. So, when we met the following week for our coaching session, I would ask him about the work he said he would have completed. Tim responded by saying, "Oh, I completely forgot!"

I gave him the benefit of the doubt the first time, even the second time this occurred. During our third meeting, the writing was on the wall. Tim's diversionary tactic had been exposed! Since he didn't write things down, he didn't remember what he said he would commit to doing. And because he didn't remember it, he didn't have to be accountable for it.

Not Having A Schedule: Consider for a moment that the absence of a routine frees you from being accountable for doing certain things you may not want to do but have to do in order to reach your goals (customer service, expense reports, prospecting, planning, finding a better career opportunity, getting in better physical shape, etc.). Here's another diversionary tactic. "I'm so busy that I don't have the time to create my routine!" Allow your schedule to hold you accountable for doing what you need to do to create the results and the lifestyle you want. Your routine is where your day starts and where it ends. After all, life works a whole lot easier when you do what you say you are going to do.

'To Do' Lists: If you look at your to do list, do you have a deadline associated with each task? A task without a deadline is yet another diversionary tactic. Writing down a long list of tasks or activities that are not scheduled and have no timelines or completion dates associated with them is another way to avoid being accountable. Since you are keeping the timeline open ended, you don't have to complete them by any specific date.

Everyone Comes Before Me: One of my clients, Mary, was telling me that she blocked out Mondays and Fridays for marketing, professional development, research and new business development activities. When I asked her if she honored this, she paused for a moment and then replied, "No." Mary shared with me the fear she experienced about blocking out two full days, even though she knew that in order for her to build her practice this was a priority.

So, inevitably, a client would call and ask to see her on a Friday or Monday. Rather than honoring the appointment she made with herself, she would set the appointment with the client.

Mary said she had a real hard time saying "No" to her clients. After all, if she said "No" to them, maybe they would go elsewhere, right? Either that, or she felt her clients wouldn't be able to meet with her at another time.

I challenged Mary on this and said, "For the next two weeks, would you be willing to honor the commitment you made to yourself on Mondays and Fridays?" Reluctantly, she said, "Yes."

Not a week went by when Mary called me back to share her success with me. When one of her clients asked to schedule an appointment on Friday, she replied, "Actually, Fridays are the days that I invest in my own professional development so that I can ensure I'm continually providing my clients with the greatest value and the most current options available for them. Is it possible for us to find another day and time that would still work for you and fit into your schedule?"

Low and behold, the client said, "Of course. How does your Tuesday afternoon look?" Mary's client then added, "It's great to hear that you are so disciplined and committed to your clients. Can you teach me how to do that?"

Lesson noted. Either you are going to run your day, or other people and circumstances are going to run you. Honor the commitments you make to others as well as the commitments you make to yourself.

Interrupt-Driven: Do you become easily diverted or distracted by situations, new tasks or people rather than maintain the focus on your goals and initial objective? If so, you probably have a long list of tasks that never gets completed, because you feel that you're always being pulled in a different direction. (And who's responsible for that?) You may also be an adrenaline junkie and love the rush associated with working on overdrive when trying to do it all.

Playing The Victim: "I can't believe I wasn't able to schedule an appointment with Mr. Prospect today! I feel so dejected and frustrated, too frustrated to do anything else productive today." Do you allow one bad experience to snowball and affect the rest of your day? Rather than moving on and forging ahead, this allows you to go into a negative tailspin and destroy the chance of doing anything else productive for the remainder of your day. Another example of playing the victim would sound like, "With the type of manager I have and the lack of support I get, I'm never going to be successful at this job."

While you may find that one or two (or more) of these behaviors describe some of your diversionary tactics, this is actually good news! Hey, I never said that you would actually like bringing this truth to the surface. After all, it takes a lot of courage to admit our foibles. However, now that you have a greater understanding and awareness about them you can do something about it. When you notice yourself falling into this trap, you can make the choice to either continue engaging in your diversionary tactic or make a better choice that will generate the results you really want.

Copyright 2004, Keith Rosen, Coaching Services.

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