Avoid the Trap of Focusing on What Was Rather Than on What Is


(Click here for the audio version of this article: https://www.thecoughlincompany.com/cc_vol17_5b/)

It’s business planning season.

All of my clients are working on plans for next year. I’m guessing you are too. The temptation is there to take last year’s plan, tweak a few things, fill in the numbers, and hand it in. I’ve actually seen groups do that for 10 consecutive years.

I encourage you not to do that.

Every day brings changes. Industries change, businesses change, employees change, customers change, and markets change.

A long-term key employee leaves the organization. That changes the type of value that can be added to customers. A large client leaves and now you have to adjust. You’ve invested a great deal in improving the value you can deliver to customers, and you need to take that into consideration as you move forward. And on and on.

A Definition of Management

I encourage you to use this definition of management: management is converting resources into results.

That definition implies a few questions for you to consider:

  1. What resources do you have available to you?
  2. Who are you trying to impact?
  3. What results do you want to improve for them?
  4. What results do you want to improve inside of your organization?
  5. What will you do to convert your resources into those desired results?
  6. How will you do those things?

As you sit down to plan for next year, I suggest you take out a sheet of paper and write down very clearly your answers to each of those questions. This is the real work of planning for the next year or two. 


Resources include facilities, technologies, finances, suppliers, and your network of customers, past customers, and prospects. Resources include the values, talents, passions, and character strengths of the individuals in your organization. Resources also include your values, talents, passions, and character strengths. And much, much more.

Take some time to really think about the depth and breadth of your resources. No matter how big or small your organization or your part of the organization is, you still have a LOT of resources available to you.

Who are You Trying to Impact?

Write down the type of person or the type of group you really want to impact over the next 12 months. These could be current customers or prospective customers. It can’t be everyone. It has to be someone.

What results are you trying to improve for them?

Put yourself in their shoes. If you were going to invest in the products/services that your company sells, what would you have to achieve in order to feel good about that investment?

What results are you trying to improve inside of your organization?

Now that you’ve focused on the people and their desired results that are outside of your organization, shift your attention to determining the results you want to improve inside of your organization. Of course there are desired financial results, but it’s more than just that. What do you want the short-term and long-term results to be for your organization?

What will you do to convert your resources into those desired results?

Are there certain things you want to do more of and certain things you want to stop doing? Are there new things you want to start doing in your organization?

As the world around us changes, shouldn’t we consider changing some of our behaviors and activities as well?

Match what you will do with the results you are trying to generate. If there is no connection between what you’re doing and what you’re trying to achieve for customers or your organization, then don’t do it.

How will you do those things?

This last question converts all of your thinking into a doable action plan. How are you going to do the things you said you want to do this year. Who will do them? What will they do? What is their timeline? What are milestone, measurable indicators that will demonstrate that you are making steady progress as an organization toward the achievement of the desired results?


Don’t just adjust a few words and numbers from last year’s plan. Actually think about your answers to the questions based on what is rather than on what was

You are Represented by the Values of the People You Associate With

(Click here for the audio version of this article: https://www.thecoughlincompany.com/cc_vol17_5a/)

There has been a trend lately for famous leaders to say, “I didn’t do anything wrong. That was my ____ who did it.”

We’ve heard:

“I didn’t know there were strippers in the dorm for four years helping with our recruiting. That was my assistant coach’s fault.”

“I didn’t know we paid $100,000 to a high school player to come to our school. That was my other assistant coach’s fault.”

“I didn’t know my college assistant coach allegedly hit his wife. I didn’t know he had sex with a member of our football staff. I didn’t know he took high school coaches with him to a strip joint. That wasn’t me. That was all on him.”

“I didn’t know that I paid a Playboy Model and a porn star over $100,000 each to stay quiet. That was my lawyer who did it.”

Eventually Their Values are What You Become Known For

Any of us can be associated with someone who does something wrong.

However, when it happens three times or more over an extended period of time with multiple people it’s no longer about the other people as much as it is about us. People will start to assume:

  1. We are a terrible judge of character.
  2. We have no credibility because we’re either ignorant or lying.
  3. Or we really do share the same values as those people, and we just keep blaming others for our own values.

What is NOT the Primary Question We Should Ask in Choosing our Associates

When you are hiring a new employee or choosing a new service provider or deciding to work for a new boss, there are questions that should not be your primary question.

Your primary question should NOT be, “Will this person help me make more money?”

Your primary question should NOT be, “Will this person help me win what I want to win?”

Your primary question should NOT be, “Will this person help me get away with doing certain things?”

Your primary question should NOT be, “Will this person improve my career?”

Your primary question should NOT be, “Will this person make me look good to other people?”

The Primary Question When Deciding Who to Associate With

The first question you should ask yourself is, “Will this person’s values represent me in the way that I want to be represented?”

Values are what a person believes to be so important that they drive the person’s behaviors on a consistent basis.

You can get a clear sense of a person’s values by observing his or her behaviors and his or her decisions over a reasonable amount of time. If you are dissatisfied with the person’s values, you can talk about them with the person to see if you can affect them in a positive way. It’s unlikely you will change them, but you can at least try a few times.

Once you’ve determined that the person’s values are not what you want to be associated with, then you need to move on from the relationship. You need to fire the person or walk away from the person. You need to DISASSOCIATE yourself from that person. Do that as soon as you realize the person’s values are not going to change and you don’t want to be known for those values. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

This can be incredibly hard to do, but it is necessary. People find a thousand reasons to stay associated with people who have terrible values. They’ll say, “I don’t want the person to lose his/her job.” “I don’t want to have to find a new job.” And then there’s the ultimate classic, “The person’s values really aren’t THAT bad.” Really? How bad is too bad?

People rationalize with themselves until one day the other person’s values represent them in a very public and very humiliating way. And then the person says, “I should have dissociated myself from that person sooner. I just didn’t realize how bad that person’s values really were at the time.”

Yeah, good one. No one is believing that. You knew, and you didn’t move on for a lot of reasons, but it wasn’t because you didn’t know the person’s values.

Long-term success is largely determined by the values of the people we choose to stay associated with. Choose very, very carefully.