Show Me the Calendar

Remember the movie Jerry Maguire and the phrase "Show me the money"? When people tell me about a goal they have, I ask them to show me their calendar.

A few months ago, a transitioning veteran told me he wanted to be a professional speaker. He felt he could be great motivator and asked my advice on how to get started in the business. I offered a number of ideas and invited him to update me on his progress after a few months. When he e-mailed me again, he said that his new career just wasn't taking off. He had followed through on one or two of my suggestions, and didn't really know why he didn't move on the rest.

I had to wonder: if the guy says he wants to do something, but does little to actually progress toward the goal, why would I want to help him? Why would anyone want to help him if he won't even help himself?

This behavior is not limited to transitioning vets or people who want to become speakers. I see it often. A manager says he wants to be a better leader. He takes notes during my presentation and tells me how he is going to do things differently. When I visit again, months later, nothing has changed. I ask to see his calendar, to find out when he has scheduled these new activities to begin. But they aren't on the calendar. There's no pre-determined date on which the improvements will start. This is the clearest indication anyone can give me that they're not really interested in making a change.

I invited the aspiring speaker I mentioned earlier to come to a presentation some time. I told him I would introduce him to some folks, and help him process everything he heard. He has never taken me up on the offer. Show me the calendar! People say they want to lose weight, but they don't put "go to the gym" on the calendar. Others say they want to spend more time with family but, somehow, something "more important" always comes up.

When I look at your calendars I see bid reviews, project reviews, owner meetings, preventative maintenance and even maybe vacation. What I don't see is the names of people you are going to work with to help them improve. I don't see the detailed steps you need to take to make positive changes happen in your life. If you don't put these things on your calendar then I guarantee they will be displaced by other urgent but not important activities and you will be worse off for it.

Well, not at my house and not if I can help it. There is a standing order at my house with the kids: the minute you hear you may have a field trip at school, I want to know about it. At least, give me a heads-up. My deal with them is, "If you want me to go on the trip and I don't already have work on the calendar for that day, I will commit to you. Your trip becomes my priority." My kids' trip goes on the calendar, and I go on the field trip because I put it on my calendar.

If you want to gain control of your job and your life, then gain control of your calendar. 'Want to do something new, different, or better? Put it on your calendar. I know this sounds simplistic, but it really makes a difference. I would explain just how your brain accepts the written word and supports you in accomplishing scheduled tasks, but I'm heading out for a trip with the kids. How about you?

Wally Adamchik is the President of FireStarter Speaking and Consulting, a national leadership consulting firm based in Raleigh, NC. You can visit the website at www.FirestarterSpeaking.com or e-mail him at wally@beafirestarter.com. His new book is No Yelling (www.noyelling.net) is available online.

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