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Posted: January 16, 2014

Best of CoBiz: Do the hardest thing first

...and other rules for life and success

Laurence B. Valant

Adopt the mindset, "I will deliver... every time!"

Delivering what is expected, every time, is the major ingredient of success that results from an unyielding determination that is absolutely within our control to achieve. We have the power to put in place this mindset that will determine:

 How I see myself

 How everyone else sees and evaluates me.

If I determine that I will always meet my obligations, my commitments and my due dates, I will not tolerate any discussions with myself regarding why it is okay to:

 Wait until tomorrow

 Revise the due date

 Provide excuses

Avoiding such discussions is essential for anyone who aspires to success. This is a black-and-white determination: I either deliver every time or I don't. Close does not count.

If a vacuum exists, reach out for authority.

Sometimes we find ourselves in a decision-making vacuum. We have not been given the authority to make certain decisions and no one will provide direction. Such a situation provides the opportunity to reach out for authority to make the decisions required to get a job done.

Reaching out for authority is an old concept which today is expressed as "I prefer to beg for forgiveness rather than ask for permission." Either concept must be tempered by a clear understanding of one's circumstances and the clear possibility that a beheading may be in our future. The person boldly stepping onto the precipice must have the competence and capability to make the sound decisions required.

When the capability to make such decisions exists (and the ground is not too shaky) taking action may make sense. What constitutes shaky ground? Failure to evaluate all possible land mines. An unwillingness to approach management for fear of receiving an unwanted answer. Actions motivated by self promotion.

Bold actions always include risk. A willingness to accept the risk of decision making separates the few brave souls from the vast majority. What further separates these few brave souls is that they tend to be right and therefore live to see another day.

They also tend to get things done.

Do the hardest thing first.

I have learned that the key to getting things done is to always (practically speaking) to complete the hardest things first. When I tackle the hardest tasks first, the rest is like a comfortable ski run downhill.

I make it a rule to start each day very early before the phone begins to ring so that I have quality, uninterrupted time to focus on prioritizing assignments. And, I clear my desk at the end of each day, without fail, and review schedules for those tasks that require more than one day to complete. I do not allow my performance to fall behind schedule and commitments.

Facing tough challenges head on is a key characteristic of the successful, and tells those who observe us that we have the discipline to deliver when others may not. Consistency and reliability result from our discipline in undertaking and completing tough challenges. "You can count me" is the message we send.

Laurence B. Valant is President and CEO of Valant & Co., a Denver-based business performance improvement consultancy that has worked with almost 300 firms to increase their value by billions of dollars. He is co-author of the hot-selling new book, “Make Plan! With Effective Execution” and now, “Lead and Manage!” Valant can be reached at lvalant@valantco.com or at 303-589-3840. If you want more information or would like to order a copy of “Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance,” please visit www.valantco.com.

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