In any field, preparation is a key part of success. Years ago, my Dad was a residential painter by trade. One thing he would say was, “a paint job is only as good as the preparation.” As a child, the quote was a mindset shift for me as I thought all there was to painting a house was to slap the paint on. In reality, there were many hours of preparation to first sand, seal, repair, and prime the surface.
The need for preparation is clear anywhere you want to look. For instance, several years ago, I knew an up-and-coming leader. He embraced things like excellence, continuous improvement, leadership and seemed to be a student. As expected, he was promoted several times within the organization and seemed like a refreshing change to candidly address internal problems.
Eventually, this man was promoted to a very senior position where he would have the authority to make sweeping improvements as he desired. He did not make any lasting, positive leadership changes in several years at the helm. What happened? I didn’t realize until later but this individual suffered from a lack of preparation.
The manager had great intent, knew the buzzwords and had participated in several internal, professional, development programs with the rest of us. However, he had not ‘paid the price’ to grow. Said another way, he had not internalized and cultivated the development material. Once in the new position, it was too late to make-up the lost months and years of preparation. The evidence was the lack of positive change in a dysfunctional environment.
It is no more effective to cram for leadership or excellence growth than it is to rush a good paint job. The finished product will tell the honest story. Some times when I hold a seminar, I like to borrow from a colleague to first talk about the type of development attendees. There are bullies, prisoners, tourists and students. Let’s apply this to preparation and see if you recognize anybody.
Bully – This person will not only try to disrupt the education but will work hard to brings others down too. The bully will try a variety of tactics to both disrupt and deprive others of learning … relentlessly. I’ve seen it happen.
In terms of preparation, the bully will knock leadership preparation and actively try to cause others to do the same. This might come in the form of active procrastination or offers to do others things besides growing as a leader. This person may put down any of the normal activities in leadership development such as reading good books, journalling, seeking counsel from respected sources, and so on.
RESULTS: Negative growth
Prisoner – In a training sense, a prisoner is at a class because the boss said so or because it’s the only way to get a promotion or another similar reason. The prisoner is just there to endure the time and move on.
For preparation, don’t expect anything from the prisoner unless ordered. The prisoner is just there … enduring … watching the clock … thinking about other things.
RESULTS: Irritation by all and general deterioration
Tourist – Ah, the happy tourist. Let’s enjoy the sights, take pictures and maybe send a postcard to Grandma. I’ve seen a number of seminar participants who are friendly, polite and even take an occasional note or two. The fact is, the tourist attendee is only slightly interested in the material and will put any book on the shelf (permanently) once the class is over. This attendee probably showed up at the training just to get a day off work.
A tourist in a preparation sense will usually express positive thoughts toward development of one type or another but will probably stop there. Maybe, this tourist will buy a book once in a while or put one on reserve at the library but that’s it.
RESULTS: No forward motion masquerading as happy talk
Student – Any personal development requires active, consistent engagement. A true student does just this. The engaged student is a treat to have in any development course. This person constantly processes the material, asks questions from genuine curiosity and energetically wants to apply the information. Any instructor worth his or her salt will learn from a student.
In preparation, a student is well … a student! This person is constantly learning, curious, and persevering toward excellence. A student does a book report without being asked. The student continues to think about a new concept and how to apply it to family and work. The student enjoys learning.
In a family or organization, persisting in excellence growth will require effort and much, much preparation before the growth is obvious to others. We can all do better (myself included). The question in preparation is not how are you compared to others but how are you doing compared to yourself?
Paint brush and bucket on a ladder – luv is max on Flickr
Classroom group – Improve It on Flickr
Tourist group – Simon Blackley on Flickr
Graduates – bredgur on Flickr