I’m not a huge fan of “shoulds,” but they’re pretty common. In independent consulting they sound like, “I should reach out to more prospects regularly,” and “I should author more thought leadership,” and “I should contribute pithy comments at the end of David’s articles.” Stuff like that.
Some shoulds can be delegated to your assistant or a subcontractor, but what about tasks that require you, personally? It’s tough to delegate a one-on-one conversation, and no one else can update your CRM with information that only exists in your head. Or could they…?
Let’s talk for a moment about the Chasm of Doom.
Good intentions thrive over here, in the present. It’s a dreamy world where independent consultants call prospects every day, write Thank You cards, and ride unicorns over rainbows.
And here, in the middle, is the Chasm of Doom. This is where shoulds live. After intentions are set, but before they’re accomplished.
Accomplishments are here, in the possible future. Consultants who accomplish their intentions are comfortable and confident that their hard work creates happy clients and lucrative pipelines.
The bridge across the Chasm of Doom is built from planks of Willpower and Discipline. Heavy, fragile materials that are constantly in short supply. No wonder we wander deep in the chasm, oppressed by shoulds.
Escape from Doom: Walk the Dog Backwards
Most of us intend to engage in health-building activities, such as outdoor exercise. My neighbor, Steve, for instance walks outside twice a day, which is impressive. I only walk outside when my car reaches a building entrance; less impressive. (Except when the building is my hockey rink; more impressive.)
How has my neighbor crossed the Chasm of Doom from intention to accomplishment? What’s the difference between Steve and me? Our dogs.
My dog stays outside all the time and I don’t take him for walks. He doesn’t seem to mind, but it may be because he’s made of iron and inhabits a comfy spot near the front door.
Steve’s golden retriever, however, lounges inside their house and ventures outside twice a day with his owner to terrorize squirrels. (The dog sits while Steve chases rodents.)
I’ve noticed Steve never misses his twice-daily walks, even when the weather is cold and grim. His discipline and willpower are unshakable. Because, of course, his dog has to go outside twice a day.
The fact is, Steve isn’t terribly disciplined and he’s not really thrilled about always walking his dog. But the dog is demanding a walk. The dog is walking Steve. Or, as I like to say it, he’s walking the dog backwards.
Walking the dog backwards means delegating discipline.
In the consulting world, this means making someone else responsible for dragging you across the Chasm of Doom, sometimes kicking and screaming.
For instance, I always recommend consulting firms have an assistant maintain the CRM system. The job of the assistant is to interview the consultant(s) regularly and update the system.
Consultants aren’t disciplined enough to maintain the CRM on their own, but when the discipline is delegated, their new business development efforts are more consistent and successful.
Every other week, my assistant walks me through every client project and updates the clients’ project portals. Is that a task I could do myself? Yep. Should I update the portal every two weeks? Absolutely. Would I do it if I were left to my own devices? Nope.
On that task (and many others), I’ve walked the dog backwards. I’ve delegated discipline and, as a result, I deliver a better client experience.
Delegating discipline is a simple, yet surprisingly powerful approach to escaping the Chasm of Doom and enjoying the land of accomplishments.
Do you have other ideas for where you could walk the dog backwards in your practice? I’d like to hear them.
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.