It’s OK to wrestle with yourself as you chart the path to success. The AEC industry needs its performance metrics and monetary goals, but don’t forget about your heart.
Recently I saw a coffee mug in a grocery store with the phrase, “Perform as though you will succeed.” I thought, “Wow! How powerful and courageous.”
It reminded me of the messages in the popular motivational book, You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero. We face a need for courage in almost everything we do in life, from the professional world to personal relationships, family, and even in our leisure time.
In the AEC industry, the idea of success coincides with financial performance, including business development. We are all familiar with metrics that are used in the industry to measure performance. What is spoken about less often is the personal struggle we must wrestle with to perform. Below are a few ideas from my experiences that may aid in that internal struggle:
- Success requires dual decisions, a rational one and an emotional one. The rational decision is the development of a vision and a marketing plan with financial goals based on effective research of the market. The goal requires some stretching, but not too much so that it is unachievable. The emotional decision is a full and deep commitment that one might call the “gut check.” We need to learn to recognize when our subconscious mind says, “I can’t.” Instead of suppressing it we need to bring those subconscious thoughts to light to address them. The emotional decision is more imaginative, like remembering what it was like to be a child, or like the movie Men in Black. We imagine being an alien entering our own body, where everything is new and exciting again. To sustain emotional interest, we must make it fun to pursue the goal. Maintain a work-life balance to renew the spirit.
- We must clearly understand the measurable goal we want to achieve, and get there without micromanaging. For example, a goal could be to achieve $5 million in total revenue in a year, but if the goal also defines the exact client or specific project we expect to win, it becomes too detailed and our success rides on someone else’s decision – not within our control. If the client we want to win goes somewhere else, there is likely a new client just around the corner that will still get us to our goal. To see this idea, imagine the spiritual law of yoga, the Law of Detachment. We visualize where we want to end, but detach from the precise means to get there.
- We must surround ourselves with positive people and thoughts. As the author Sincero states, give the “heave-ho” to “friends” who want to fill us with negative thoughts. Re-affirm our positive capabilities when things go sour, as the sour then becomes only temporary. Do something charitable for other people, and be sincere about it. When we do, people in due time will return good things to us, boosting our emotional level. I strike up sincere and positive conversations with people in check-out lines, or in restaurants with servers, and continue to be amazed at the positive energy that comes through such encounters. People are naturally drawn to and respond to leaders who place faith and hope ahead of fears.
- Do and then adjust. It does not have to be perfect the first time. In total quality management it was called PDCA, or plan-do-check-act. Make a smart plan, do it, then get feedback and adjust to make the plan better. Even though we may make honest “mistakes” along the way, we will achieve our goal quicker than if we are perfectionists who must have the perfect plan before we commit to act. Many of the lessons learned that will improve the plan are only identified when we act.
As a leader in my company, I believe that showing bravery and positivity will bring you and your employees to places you have been trying to reach. See where you go – the sky’s the limit.
Thomas L. Frederick is associate VP, director of water/wastewater practice at Pennoni. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.