Putting out fires before they get started.

Photo credit: (c) iStockphoto.com/Nick M. Do

Most of us think a lot!

Unfortunately, it’s not good thinking.

We’re driving to work and we’re thinking.

We summon up the courage to face a new day and we’re immediately bombarded by staff questions and customer interactions that get us thinking about answers to the problems and challenges they hurled our way.

We’re at our desk or working in the field and again we’re thinking and problem-solving as we go through our work day.

We’re headed home from work (whenever that is!) and we’re thinking about what’s left to do and what tomorrow will bring. Maybe we’re dreading the thought of having to do this all over again tomorrow.

Anyway, we head off to bed and we try to sleep but the thoughts come flooding in like water raging over the shores of a swollen river. So, we’re really not sleeping. Maybe we’re waiting for our phone to ring in the middle of the night with another emergency. Or we’re just dreading the thought of starting the process all over again tomorrow.

And so it goes. Only the calendar is changing and little more.

I’m sure you’ve heard the famous Albert Einstein quote: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

It is what we do, isn’t it?

If you want to break the “chain of insanity,” you need to start first by changing the way you think and how you think. Then you can move on to doing something new and better and achieve powerfully better results.

Start by switching from negative thinking to positive thinking. Transition your thinking from being reactive to being proactive.

Yes, I know; it’s easier said than done.

Negative reactive thinking is fostered and nurtured by only focusing on the latest fire you’re dealing with. In this case, you are thinking about  how to put the fire out without investing the time to think proactively and positively on how to keep it from breaking out again.

You’re smart, so why don’t you think in a better way? It’s because you don’t think you have the time, energy or money to fix things once and for all.

The reality is you can’t make a better investment in yourself and your company than choosing to become a positive, proactive thinker and doer. It means removing your emotionally biased thinking that’s been twisted by failed history. Instead, you should choose to think and act based solely on objective evidence. You need to spend time thinking about how to implement the positive changes that move you into the fire-prevention business vs. the fire-fighting business or you will continue to epitomize Einstein’s definition of insanity!

The real trick as a business owner is to figure out what’s causing “fires” in your business in the first place and what it’ll take to stop them from happening again. At the very least, you must find and put in play things that make them break out less often and in a more manageable way.

The Four Keys To Progress

1. Create policies and procedures that attack what happens 80 percent of the time at your company and treat everything else as an exception. This process will begin to reveal the best ways to do your work as well as what is and isn’t working so you can fix it.

Examples of issues that get revealed so they can be handled:

  • Lack of training.

  • Lack of systems.

  • A faulty product.

2. Train your staff on these policies and procedures, and hold them accountable to the written guidelines.

Once people are trained and they demonstrate they know something, all that’s left is to hold them accountable to the steps of discipline. At this point it’s no longer a training issue but a willingness issue.

3. Hold well-run meetings to give the team a voice so you can ensure buy-in from your staff instead of a revolt. They must have a helping hand in shaping and changing policy and procedures whenever a faster, cheaper or better way is discovered.

These aren’t meetings to eat donuts and drink coffee. They should be highly focused on finding problems and being proactive with solutions in a unified and consistent way.

4. Seek to identify the source of a problem and not just the symptom. Tracking in an objective way is crucial if you want to reveal where the bottlenecks really are and what must be done or changed to move ahead.

This is intensive study that creates a plan to be implemented to make your company operate like a Swiss watch.

Change your thinking from looking at just today’s problem to thinking about tomorrow’s problems and how you’re going to commit to the changes needed ahead. And get yourself a good night’s rest.

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