Action: The BIG Catalyst For Personal Leadership

Last week we kicked off this series on leadership by beginning with the proposition that to properly lead others we need to begin with ourselves.  Moreover, if we want to lead a successful and growing organization or team, the members of that organization or team must likewise be successful and growing which includes you and me.  But, if we give ourselves a pass on personal growth while expecting it from our teams, we are then committing the leadership sin of “do as I say, not as I do”, which damages our credibility as leaders.  Therefore, to be effective leaders, we need to have an intentional Personal Leadership Growth Plan in place for ourselves.   We then outlined eight pitfalls or gaps that can keep us from establishing such a plan.  We’ll now take a look at one of the next steps in our journey to grow ourselves, lead our organizations and subsequently grow others. Last week I also indicated that our next subject would be Accountability.  However, I jumped the gun.  So, I’ve decided to step back from Accountability for this week and be true to BIG’s KAAIR FormulaKnowledge + ACTION + Accountability = Improved Results.  Therefore, I’m dedicating this week’s subject to Action - The BIG Catalyst for Personal Leadership because without action, your Personal Leadership Growth Plan is nothing more than that; just a plan and plans without action are merely wishes or pipe dreams.  So, let’s take a look at action and some of the pitfalls that we all can experience as we put our plans into ACTION.  We’ll dive into the subject of accountability next week.

Now there are many aspects to action.  I don’t intend for this article to be exhaustive in that respect.  However, I’ve included some critical action elements you may want to consider as you seek to increase in your Personal Leadership:

  • SMART Actions from SMART Goals: I would be remiss if I left out the time tested SMART acronym for action steps since SMART goals should create SMART actions.  For those of us who need a refresher or are new to the SMART acronym, it states that, for goals to be effective, they should be Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.  I believe this applies to actions that come from the goals as well.  For application purposes, let’s take Specific as an example.  Let’s say you have determined that you would like to grow in the area of listening this year (check out John Maxwell’s book “Leadership Gold” Chapter 6 that is entitled “The Best Leaders are Listeners” for some insights on this.).  For this very worthwhile goal you could establish specific actions that would help you improve your listening skills.  As outlined in the book, you could make as a weekly action step to be more attentive to small issues or choose to utilize your intuition more during discussions, or pay closer attention to what is not being said, etc.  The idea here is to take your specific goals from your Personal Leadership Growth Plan and assign specific action items to them.  You can then apply the remaining elements of Measurable, Attainable, and Relevant & Timely in much the same fashion.  When you assign SMART actions to SMART goals you increase the likelihood of implementing them and achieving your goals.
  • Line of Sight to the Plan: This may sound elementary, but your action steps need to be tied directly to your Plan.   I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed people who had great goals but then were engaging in activities that did not have a direct line of sight back to their Personal Leadership Growth Plan.  The result of that is they get down the road a bit and then wonder why they haven’t realized any change or improved results.  Sometimes the most obvious things are neglected.  Make sure you tie your action steps directly to your plan and do them, plain and simple.
  • Focused on and supportive of plan results: Having desired results that drive the plan is what differentiates action steps from mere activities.  Personal Leadership Growth Plans are goal oriented and therefore the action steps that derive from them are focused on and supportive of the desired results. A good way to make sure this is happening is when you devise your action steps, answer this question for each action item:  how does this action support the results I desire that drive my Personal Leadership Growth Plan?  And, when you’re engaging in those actions, make it a point to remember how they support your goals as you reinforce yourself being on the right track.  You can’t go wrong if you focus on and engage in the execution of the action steps that support your Personal Leadership Growth Plan.
  • Time limits and milestones: This is covered under the SMART acronym but because I think the lack of this feature is often a major culprit in dooming many plans before they get any traction, I am singling it out here.  If we don’t put a time limit by which we will take action or include milestones/checkpoints along the way so we can pause and see how we are doing in our actions, we probably won’t take action at all.  Other pressing matters will steal our attention.  We’ll get caught up in the urgent and leave the important (like our personal and professional growth) out in the cold.  We’ll be reacting to our environment instead of being a force in it.  Therefore, we need to make sure those plans don’t sit on a computer somewhere, taking up space on a server or hard drive rather than in our lives.  To ensure our actions actually take place, we need to establish due dates, checkpoints and timelines for them.
  • Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize! If it is location, location, location in real estate, then I think it’s prioritize, prioritize, prioritize in personal leadership.  I heard Albert Einstein once said “the only reason time exists is so everything doesn’t happen all at once.”  Without prioritization of action steps it can seem as if everything is happening at all at once leaving us unsure of what to do next.  That’s why when creating our plans, prioritizing our action steps is so vital.  By predetermining which steps come first and in what order we stand a better chance of putting them into action since that decision would have already been made beforehand and not in the heat of the moment when the world and all of its demands come bearing down on us.  After all, that’s one of the hallmarks of being a great leader:  the ability to prioritize.  If we believe we can prioritize for our team or our organization, we should be able to prioritize for our Personal Leadership growth and the more we exercise the prioritization muscle in our actions, the more developed it will become.  Don’t forget prioritization when taking action.
  • Sense of Urgency & Emotions: Personal Leadership growth must come from a deep desire for change in ourselves so the action steps associated with our growth plan must likewise be tied to that desire.  When taking action, don’t forget the value of your heartfelt desire when you established your action steps.  It can help you later on when you don’t’ feel like taking those steps.  For example, want to create action steps to lose weight?  Consider writing down how you felt about your weight and yourself when you started your plan, how you believe you will feel when you’ve achieve your goal and then refer back to those feelings when you are engaging in your action steps.  Don’t be shy here.  Write it out in rich and vivid detail.  Take pictures.  Do whatever it takes to keep that desire fresh.  It could make the difference between the decision to jump on the treadmill or the sofa!
  • Value, Risks & Tradeoffs: People value different things in life.  Some value having a big home, others want a smaller home but the ability to go on cool vacations.  Some people value expensive cars while others would rather have an inexpensive car but a nice boat (Having owned a boat myself I now tend to favor having a friend with a really nice boat but that’s just me).  So, not only do many things in life involve tradeoffs but they also have relative value depending on the worth a person ascribes to them.  However, there is one thing that I think we all can agree on as being truly priceless because once it is gone, there is no amount of money that can bring it back and that’s time.  As a side note, I recall hearing a story of a person who complained about not having enough time and wanting more and the response to that complaint caught me by surprise.  The retort was we all get all the time there is – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  There simply is no more time to be had or given, so asking for more time is not a worthwhile way to spend our time (isn’t that ironic?).  Well the same can be said about actions relating to our Personal Leadership Growth Plan.  Engaging in the action steps to grow yourself personally will require risks and tradeoffs of this invaluable asset we call time which will take you away from other things that might not necessarily be bad.  In fact, these other things might be very good but not very great.  Thus, there are costs that need to be weighed when mapping out these personal growth action steps which also need to be remembered when actually engaging in them.  Remember why you put yourself on the path you are on and it will help you maintain the actions you need to take to achieve what you have planned.

Of course, like intentions, there are also pitfalls that lay in the path of the actions we endeavor to implement as we seek to grow ourselves.  Again, this is not an exhaustive list by any means but some of the more prevalent ones I have witnessed in my coaching experience.  Aside from the 8 gaps mentioned last week which can also apply to actions, here a few more to consider as you move forward on your Personal Leadership Growth Plan:

  • Productive Procrastination: This gap or pitfall is probably one of the most insidious of them all because when you’re engaging in it you actually feel like you are accomplishing something.  If you are allowing yourself to slip into Productive Procrastination, you are technically moving the ball forward but only by inches or millimeters at best.  The actions from your plan, however, are designed to move it yards, gets you first downs and ultimately a touchdown (an analogy for my fellow football fans).  An example of this pitfall in action is deleting junk email (which admittedly needs to be done and is a good thing) but doing it during your most productive time of the day rather than making sales calls or analyzing data, or whatever it is you do that moves your ball the most.  When this gap or pitfall creeps in, remember the actions from your Personal Leadership Growth Plan and what they mean to you in terms of achieving your goals or what you have determined to be your “touchdown.”  Will deleting that junk email right now when you should be making your next sales call really get you where you need to be?  Beware of Productive Procrastination’s feel good illusion and remember your growth action steps when it rears its ugly head!
  • The Shiny Object Syndrome: This is a phrase I learned from the John Maxwell Team and is akin to productive procrastination.  But, rather than seeming productive, the shiny object is merely more interesting.  It can affect everyone from those just starting out in business to the seasoned CEO of a large corporation.  The Shiny Object Syndrome involves dabbling in other interesting and desirable ideas, tasks or activities that pop up in the midst of implementing our Personal Leadership Growth Plan action steps that, at first blush, seem more appealing than what we originally planned to do.  They’re new, fresh and alluring but designed to take you off track and torpedo your growth and goals.  They are a candy bar and not a healthy and nutritious meal.  Sure you get a momentary good feeling from them but they don’t move you forward toward your goal.  They sideline you, waste your value time (see the above) and undermine your Personal Leadership Growth Plan.  Beware of the Shiny Object Syndrome as you take action in your Personal Leadership.
  • Fatigue: So you’ve created a really cool Personal Leadership Growth Plan.  It contains some very smart action steps and you’re growing yourself as a leader.  You may even be seeing some positive improvements out of the gate.  You’re not quite where you want to be but you can definitely see some results.  And then, reality hits.  Days and weeks get long, deadlines press down and the world (which is not remotely interested in your Personal Growth Plan by the way) pushes against you and you start to feel fatigue.  You will get tired of working on yourself even though it’s in your best interest.  It’s coming.  So what do you do?  Sure, part of the answer lies in your own perseverance and discipline.  A leader needs to be focused and self-disciplined, no questions there.  However, could you use some help?  Sure, and that’s the next bullet point and subject for next week.
  • Lack of Accountability: Again, this is one we’ll address next week.  Suffice it for now to say that actions stand a whole lot better chance of actually taking place when accountability is part of the growth and improved results equation.  Stay tuned for more on that next week.

So, as I wrap up this edition on Personal Leadership, I have to ask you, where are you with regard to action?  Are your goals pretty amazing but your results not so?  Are some of these pitfalls or the ones we discussed last week tripping up you or members of your organization and thus preventing you and them from moving forward as quickly and effectively as you would like?  Check out my website for some information on how BIG Coaching, BIG Training or BIG Mastermind groups could help you and your organization at or drop me a line at  I’d love to hear from you either way.

That’s all for me this week.  I look forward to being with you again next week when we look at one of the most effective safeguards to your Personal Leadership – Accountability (no, I really mean it this time).  Thanks and have a blessed week!