Brian Moran got his first brush with true leadership in high school, when he worked part-time for the U.S. Postal Service. The job led to a management position in college.
“Back then, that environment was unionized teamsters, but I worked for a coach who was really a coach before anyone talked about it,” explains Moran (pictured), a leadership consultant and co-author of the new book The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks Than Others Do in 12 Months. “It’s easier to keep a 12-week commitment than a lifetime commitment.”
The Intuit Small Business Blog recently chatted with Moran about his intriguing model for how to work smarter, not harder.
ISBB: What inspired you to write this book?
Moran: It’s a funny thing. We wrote it in 12 weeks. We didn’t set out to do it that way, but that’s how it came about. We had been working with clients and having an impact and wanted to get it to more people. I’ve seen so many people struggle to reach their potential, chasing new ideas and looking for better strategies and better ways.
For most people, what’s holding them back is the knowing-doing gap. People know more than they act on: Many are still looking for new ideas when they haven’t even implemented what they already know. For example, 69 percent of Americans are overweight. I don’t think that’s because they don’t know how to get in better shape. They just don’t do it.
What advice do you have for “trimming the fat” in one’s business?
There’s a concept called “periodization,” which we talk about in Chapter 2. It’s an athletic training program that began in Eastern Europe in the 1970s and is still used widely today. It focuses the athlete on one specific skill or discipline at a time for a period of four to six weeks.
In business, people start the year with big goals and annual plans and break them down by quarter. Part of what’s in play is the illusion of lots of time. It’s easy to put things off. That mindset permeates the year. If we’re going to help people perform at their best, we’ve got to get out of that. One can’t take on everything, which is true even in an annual execution cycle, but it’s not as obvious over a year. In 12 weeks, it becomes more obvious. Let’s be great at a few things instead of mediocre at many.
We’ve been able to help entire companies increase their sales by 50 percent in just 12 weeks. The average is 33 percent. It’s like compound interest kicks in at some point. Get rid of the ancillary stuff. We engage in the easy and no-brainer stuff as an avoidance activity. We have to be willing to squeeze it out of our focus and be intentional about what we’re saying “yes” and “no” to. Everybody could improve some area of their life right now without knowing more than they already know.
Name a time when you helped put this model in place for a client.
One manager at the Co-Operators, an insurance company in Canada, read the book and had her staff read it. They identified a number she thought was ridiculous but encouraged them to go for it. In that first 12-week year, they did more in sales than they’d done in nine months.
It starts with people having a very compelling vision of the future. There’s an emotional connection to that future. Corporations sequester themselves and build this vision statement. That’s not what I’m talking about. What are the three or four or five things that, if you did consistently, can help you reach that goal?
In your book, you write about Olympic athlete Michael Phelps performing in the moment.
I guarantee you there were days he didn’t want to get into the pool. But he did, because he had systems and support around him that made it easier for him to get into the pool than to not get into the pool. That’s a concept that, when people hear it, a light bulb goes off. People say Michael Phelps achieved greatness when he won his first gold medal. I argue it happened years before that, in a moment when he decided the things he needed to do.
So many people I’ve worked with have this concept that “I’m going to be great in the future, when my income hits a certain level and my relationships are great.” If you think you’re going to be great next week or next month, guess what? It’s never going to happen. You’re setting yourself up to never be great.
You also write that greatness is in the process of achievement.
Mick White is a client of ours, and he’s become a good friend. He sent me an email on his 36th birthday. On the second day of training, we had asked him to identify an action commitment, something personal.
He wrote, “I simply made a commitment to call my mom daily. At times, it felt like a real burden and a hassle, but looking back, I can tell you it was the highlight of my day and my mom’s day.” On June 9, 2011, his mom died. “Looking back,” he wrote, “we talked 488 times. It’s a great story about how one action can have a profound impact.”