Marketing & Biz

Analyze Your Downfalls, Then Realign For Success—Even When Things Are Good

By Ron Lieback, founder/CEO of ContentMender, productivity hacker and author of “365 to Vision: Modern Writer’s Guide.”

Many of the world’s most popular leadership icons discuss the necessity of remaining 100% optimistic throughout every situation in life. 

As many of you have discovered, this is nearly impossible. Life becomes sour often, becoming sidetracked and faulty due to many reasons: death, lost clients, bad employees, breakups, gaining weight, nervous breakdowns, etc. Many are out of our control.

When these events occur, yes, you should remain optimistic. But only after learning from what you propose went wrong initially — not just thinking the best will happen due to an optimistic mindset. The latter thought process may compound your mistakes, and though the short-term produces high energy, the long-term may suffer. 

The process I’ve found useful is analyzing all situations that led to the downfall — and then realigning.

Take losing a client. You must ask yourself endless questions, and many should be asked before stuff goes wrong.

Could the project management be more focused? Did you or your team actually have a plan before every conference call with the client? Were deadlines missed, and why? Is the client partially at fault? Were the involved parties too afraid to say something earlier? 

In regards to the latter, this happened not once, but twice in my early years of search engine optimization (SEO)-driven content marketing agency ownership. These clients had sloppy web developers or were using out-of-date technical platforms. Although my team provided technical SEO audits with clear actionable deliverables and timelines to complete them, neither client performed these duties. 

My team pushed ahead with all other SEO elements, from creating consistent, frequent and quality content to link acquisition outreach to optimizing user experience/calls to action, but due to a horrible performing platform, not even the best SEO or content could help these clients raise their rankings. 

SEO is a long-term strategy; my agency clearly explains that results aren’t expected for months. And diagnosing technical website issues, and fixing them, must occur ASAP before the other portions of service can truly work. 

When these two clients hit the six-month mark, both had raised their rankings, although not nearly as much as projected. For the first client, I was a bit too harsh and pointed fingers. For the second, I was a bit less harsh but continued to point fingers. 

That’s not a smart way to sustain clients. Both are gone, although one did return two years later. Nowadays, I’ll put clauses in the contract if a company has an in-house developer to implement changes and in-your-face language that’s explained before a proposal is even submitted. In short, clients need to change stuff that’s needed if my team can’t do that work. If not, hire my team.

I was forced to study what went wrong, and take full responsibility — although many issues are not my agency’s fault. Only then was I able to realign so the issue would not happen again with future clients. 

For ultimate success, you must realign when things go wrong. But don’t just flow with optimism and push forward. Take some time and analyze what went wrong, learn from it, then realign your process. 

This also works when you need to realign for positive reasons, such as achieving a goal far earlier than projected. An example would be reaching a two-year revenue vision within a year, or losing 20 pounds a month earlier than expected.

This is not the time to become complacent. 

Complacency drags the mind and slows the pace of progress, hindering your true productive potential for whatever you’re planning to achieve.

Realign and create stronger goals, or “stretch goals,” which should be paired with SMART goals — the ones made famous by GE’s CEO Jack Welch, but which were actually created by the not-so-known George T. Doran, a consultant and former director of corporate planning for Washington Water Power Company who published a paper in 1981 titled “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives.”

SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound.

In Smarter, Faster, Better, Charles Duhigg explains that we need both stretch goals and SMART goals to achieve ultimate productivity.

• Stretch goals: Those that seem out of reach and longer-term; force us to think big while focusing on the big picture.

• SMART goals: Those that help us formulate a plan of action to turn the stretch goal into a reality. 

Duhigg’s text is a must-read for anyone who wants to study productivity habits. He’s a New York Times writer, and his book features multiple storylines in each chapter that help support the topics, including the chapter on goal setting. 

I want to quickly recap “The Goal-Setting Flowchart” found in chapter 4 of the book:

• Stretch goal: run a marathon.

• Specific sub-goal: Run seven miles without stopping.

• Measurable: Run twice around the park, no walking.

• Achievable? Sure, if I run three times a week.

• Realistic? Sure, if I wake up early Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

• Timeline: Run three miles this week, four miles next week, five miles…

The point? When we reach a Stretch goal earlier, it’s time to realign and make an even harder-to-earn stretch goal. 

As Duhigg says: “Come up with a menu of your biggest ambitions. Dream big and stretch. Describe the goals that, at first glance, seem impossible, such as starting a company or running a marathon. Then choose one aim and start breaking it into short-term, concrete steps. Ask yourself: What realistic progress can you make in the next day, week, month?”

This philosophy works in business, especially when things go wrong. Analyze your downfalls and realign. And when things become complacent, realign once again. That’s a true formula for serious success.

Forbes – Entrepreneurs

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