21.01.20

The importance of preparation

Sharpen the axe!

Tom Matthews

I recently attended a negotiation skills training workshop with our team at Pemba. The course was fantastic and covered many of the key aspects of negotiations – it also had practical case studies to enable each participant to put the theory into practice.

Even though we were taught lots of great content, the key takeaway for me was to ensure you spend more time in preparation ahead of a negotiation. Take the time to consider what your objective is, what the other side’s objective might be, what situations you wish to avoid, what concessions you could make, what items are on your wish list, etc.

This got me thinking about how this piece of advice applies to all aspects of work.

The difference between planning and preparation

If you are like me, you spend the first hour or so of the workday planning what you will be doing over the course of the day. For me this usually entails checking my diary to see who I’m meeting with that day and reviewing my to do list.

Sharpen your axe

Planning is good. It lets you know what you will be doing on a given day. However, preparation is even better. Preparation gets you ready to actually do the work.

It was Abraham Lincoln who said: “if I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first six hours sharpening my axe.”  The meaning is that we should all spend more time in preparation.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” – Benjamin Franklin

Unfortunately, most people go through their workdays totally unprepared. And when we are unprepared, we often lose the opportunity and squander the moment.

Adequate preparation is not always fun and many of us do not look forward to doing it. It can often appear to be boring and uninteresting.  However, it can prove to be one of the most valuable skills that you can master in avoiding the build-up of stress and anxiety as deadline dates approach.

Let’s take a look at professional sports

Successful athletes and professional sports teams understand the importance of proper preparation. When they have a big event coming up, they leave no stone unturned in their preparation. They optimise their exercise regime, training methods, nutrition, sleep, strategy, mental toughness, etc. The best sportspeople even ensure that they acclimatise to the weather conditions, altitude and the time difference in the host city.

Whether it be in business or in sport, the team which prepares the most is the one that normally wins.

Preparation is a skill that can be learnt

Preparation is an essential, often neglected, part of life. The good news is preparation is a skill that can be learnt and which, with discipline and experience, improves over time.

Next time you plan to have a meeting, try these techniques so you are not only prepared, but feel confident and calm.

  1. Research who is attending. With all the technology we have, there is no excuse for not knowing who your attendees are. You can easily look up people on LinkedIn, Google and other forms of social media these days. Being able to walk into a meeting room and know some information about each attendee will give you a confidence boost (and a conversation starter).
  2. Determine clear objectives. Don’t leave it to the last minute to determine what the key objectives are for the meeting and afterwards. It’s important to ensure that everyone there knows exactly what is to be discussed and therefore, what results are required afterwards. This will help to keep the meeting running on time and may give the other attendees assurance that you know what is happening.
  3. Have an agenda. In addition to setting clear objectives, it’s also important that there is an agenda to follow for the duration of the meeting. Send the agenda before the meeting so everyone is across what will be discussed. It also gives people an opportunity to add anything else they believe is important.
  4. Plan for the unexpected. Before you go into a meeting, think about potential ‘curve balls’ that you may encounter. I’m not saying you need to be sitting on the edge of your seat but if you’re in a meeting that’s discussing proposals, contracts or finances, for example, it’s worth thinking about some questions that may be asked.
  5. Follow-up actions. I mentioned having clear objectives but it’s also important that after the meeting, key action items are followed up. It’s recommended that follow-up notes are sent within 24 hours of each meeting, so that the topics discussed are still fresh in everyone’s mind.
What next?

Do you want to get prepared for what’s next in your business? Contact us and let’s talk about how we might be able to work together to prepare for what is coming next.

Photo by Jason Abdilla on Unsplash

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