Grant, a doctor of veterinary medicine, told our Leadership Development Lab (LDL):
“When I entered into hospital merger talks with three other veterinarians last Wednesday, I was ready. I had promised the others that I would have a merger activities timeline ready for their review. And I did. I produced a four-page document consisting of four columns per page. In the first column I detailed the many tasks necessary to be completed prior to our merger. The other three columns were left blank, their function to be determined in the discussion with my new partners to be. By consensus we decided that the second column would contain the name of the person assigned to and responsible for each task listed in the first column. The deadline for the task to be completed was put into the third column, and column four will have the actual completion date.
“I had also been asked to have some sketches ready of possible floor plans for our planned addition to the central hospital. My new partners were expecting me to show them penciled drawings. Instead I produced four alternative floor plans which I had created on my CAD computer program, and printed on our laser printer. Everyone at the meeting was astounded at the detail of these early plans. We spent more than an hour going over the plans, making changes and improvements, and dreaming of how our new hospital will operate. No one seemed to expect so much detail and obvious preparation.
“My preparation allowed us to move the course of the meeting in the direction we needed it to go. That’s not to say I dominated the discussion. In fact, I encouraged others to sound out their ideas. When those ideas led away from productive discourse, I was able to bring us back around to the important issues.
“The lesson I learned is that my confidence grows immensely when I visualize ahead of time what is likely to take place in a meeting or discussion and successfully anticipate the needs of my audience. When I am well prepared and plan for all the alternatives, I have options available which I have already considered. I am seldom unsettled by the unexpected. My preparation allows me to lead because I better understand the issues at hand. I learned that preparation is the great secret to confidence and success.
“The action I call you is to take the extra time needed upfront to be fully prepared. Prepare the agenda. Take all the time that is necessary for you to be prepared, to feel confident and in control of the situation.
“The benefit you will gain from your extra upfront effort is you will be in command, and you will consolidate the team for maximum results.”