Five ways to beat procrastination

Morrissey Goodale outlines five methods to beat procrastination as an AE firm leader

By Morrissey Goodale June 17, 2024
Courtesy: Brett Sayles, CFE Media and Technology

As a captain of industry, you navigate the turbulent waters of business with steely resolve and visionary insight. You’re no stranger to the dance of decision-making and strategic planning. Yet, even the most seasoned among us can find ourselves catching procrastination fever from time to time. Let’s take a look at some of the forms procrastination takes and how to address them in the spirit of getting stuff done sooner rather than later.

1. Strategic planning stalemate

Trust me. I feel your pain on this one. Strategic planning can be a big, thankless undertaking. And there’s no shortage of what could add to your stress, whether it’s the complexity of the decision-making process, the uncertainty of future market conditions, or the potentially significant consequences of your choices. Or you might fret about your firm’s leadership bandwidth and the resource investment you envision is required for a successful strategic planning effort. Either case could easily lead you to delay the process or postpone it altogether. Meanwhile, strategic decision-making stalls as does your firm’s progress toward building long-lasting competitive advantages.

To help you get unstuck, consider implementing a structured decision-making process that involves gathering input from key stakeholders, conducting thorough analyses of available data, and setting clear criteria for evaluating options. By breaking down strategic decisions into manageable steps and relying on data-driven insights, you can mitigate the fear of failure and make more confident decisions. Additionally, to address concerns about committing resources to the effort, simply breaking down the strategic planning process into manageable steps and allocating resources incrementally will go a long way in alleviating your anxiety.

2. Talent acquisition apprehension

As a steward of talent, you understand the paramount importance of recruiting top-tier professionals to drive your firm’s success. However, the procrastination bug may bite when it comes to making critical hiring decisions. To counter the fear of commitment, establish clear hiring criteria and a structured interview process that aligns with your firm’s values and objectives. By defining what success looks like for each role and objectively assessing candidates against these criteria, you can minimize the fear of making the wrong choice and expedite the decision-making process. Additionally, to combat the desire for perfection, prioritize identifying candidates who possess the core skills and competencies needed to excel in the role, while recognizing that no candidate will be a perfect fit. Emphasize the importance of cultural fit and potential for growth, rather than seeking an elusive ideal candidate, to avoid prolonged deliberation and ensure timely hiring decisions. These days, you need to be in constant recruiting mode, always looking for the best athlete on the board, regardless of whether you have “a need.” It’s a rare AE firm, indeed that couldn’t immediately put talent to work in this business environment.

3. Technology trepidation

This particular strain of procrastination seems to be spreading in our industry. One of the main symptoms is a fear of investing in solutions that are perceived as being ahead of your clients’ levels of technological sophistication. This hesitation often stems from the belief that clients aren’t ready for or won’t value technological advancements, leading to a delay in formulating a strategy. If you caught this particular procrastination bug, adopt a proactive approach by engaging with clients to assess their technological needs and readiness. You might uncover untapped opportunities for value-added services. Additionally, leveraging pilot programs or case studies to showcase the benefits of technological solutions to hesitant clients can help demystify perceived barriers, whatever they may be, and facilitate buy-in.

4. Innovation indecision

Innovation is the lifeblood of any truly successful AE firm, yet the journey from concept to implementation can be fraught with procrastination-induced roadblocks. To combat the fear of failure, foster a culture of experimentation and learning within your firm, where team members are encouraged to embrace a mindset of continuous improvement and resilience in the face of setbacks. Create a safe space for sharing ideas and exploring new concepts, where failure is viewed as an opportunity for growth and iteration, rather than a mark of incompetence. By celebrating experimentation and embracing a culture of innovation, you can create an environment where team members feel empowered to take calculated risks and pursue bold ideas with confidence. Additionally, to overcome the desire for perfection, establish clear milestones and success criteria for innovation projects, emphasizing the importance of iteration and feedback in the creative process. Encourage a mindset of progress over perfection, where incremental improvements and rapid prototyping are valued as essential components of the innovation journey, rather than aiming for an unattainable standard of flawlessness.

5. Client-relationship reluctance

Aspiring owners who have largely benefited from your firm’s brand might not yet understand the importance of maintaining regular communication and fostering long-term partnerships, nor fully appreciate the effort it requires. Valuable leads routinely get funneled to them, so why should they feel compelled to leave the nest on their own? You’ll always be around to feed them, after all. But their reliance will certainly result in a reluctance to cultivate their own client connections because they may feel ill-equipped or uncertain about initiating and nurturing these relationships. This delay may lie more at your feet than theirs. Maybe you fear the potential risk of losing control over client interactions or maybe you worry about the time and resources required to mentor and support these leaders in building their own networks—or maybe you wonder, “What if they do it better than me?” But know this: Cultivating a self-sufficient and empowered team is one of the most valuable investments you can make in your firm, so deliberately put your risers first in your mind and let your fears, concerns, and ego take a backseat. Share your knowledge, your network, and your compassion, and it will come back to you tenfold.

Navigating the procrastination pitfalls inherent in leading an AE firm requires a blend of strategic foresight, proactive leadership, and a willingness to embrace change. Overcoming procrastination is not just about checking off tasks on a to-do list; it’s about fostering a culture of proactive decision-making, continuous learning and adaptability.

Morrissey Goodale is a content partner.

Original content can be found at Morrissey Goodale.