Have you ever avoided doing something that is in your best interest? Have you ever done something that you know is not in your best interest? In either of these scenarios you were probably able to justify your behavior and your line of thinking, and avoid being accountable.
While that may sting a little bit, allow me to introduce to you a new definition for this type of behavior. A diversionary tactic is an action, excuse, or belief you hide behind that justifies your behavior and performance, providing you with the out so you do not have to be accountable for your performance, responsibilities, goals, or the situations in which you put yourself.
Other examples of diversionary tactics are as follows:
- An excuse for a behavior you would like to renounce
- An action, a lack of action, or a belief that keeps you from being accountable or looking at the real truth in a situation
- A persistent or constant complaint
- A reliance on a negative source of energy, particularly one that causes additional problems, stress, and difficulties
- A justification for doing something that is against your best interest and that isn’t aligned with your goals or objectives
Some non-negotiable tasks, activities, and priorities in your life may be obvious diversionary tactics: your commute, your favorite hobby or pastime, and time spent with family and friends. However, others are not so visible, such as prospecting, practicing self-care, one-to-one time with your employees, planning, goal setting, or putting time aside for professional development.
If there are activities in which you need to engage to support your lifestyle and which will determine whether or not you reach your personal and professional goals, it’s essential that you make these tasks non-negotiable rather than optional. Otherwise, they will take a back seat to other necessary or important activities, like the non-negotiable diversionary tactics.
However, those activities or tasks that you may be more comfortable doing — such as cleaning your office, doing paperwork, responding to e-mails, helping other people, compiling data, customer service — but don’t significantly move you forward are diversionary tactics to avoid. They keep you stuck in maintenance mode, allowing you to do just enough to stay afloat.
You may make excuses for not completing the imperative tasks, promising yourself that you’ll “do it tomorrow” or prioritizing your diversionary tactics. However, something else will always come up.
This busywork disguises the truth and creates the illusion that you’re working hard, simply because you feel busy. These diversionary tactics enable you to do everything but the activities that would dramatically accelerate your success.
Just ask any salesperson who has to prospect in order to build their business. They can justify practically any and every activity that acts as a diversion to doing what’s truly needed to build their business: prospecting. Diversionary tactics allow you to major in the minor activities.
If you “can’t seem to find the time” for these activities, it becomes a never-ending search, an exercise in futility. Consider that the non-negotiable activities that you avoid must become as habitual as your morning routine. These are the activities you do — ideally — without a second thought.
Uncover your diversionary tactics. Once you do, you’ll be able to decide between them and the activities that serve you best. To further illustrate the importance of uncovering and eliminating your diversionary tactics, consider the cost you incur by not making certain activities non-negotiable. For example, what does it cost you to consistently avoid prospecting: professional satisfaction, selling opportunities, peace of mind, income, your career?
Here are some more examples of diversionary tactics:
Fear of Failure/Fear of Success: “I’m afraid of failure yet I won’t take the steps to ensure my prospecting success. Therefore, if I sit back and do nothing, I can never fail at anything!” One can see how both of these fears hinder all professional progress.
Perfectionism/Either Or Thinking: “Either I create the perfect prospecting system to use or I don’t prospect at all. There’s no middle ground here. Therefore, I can’t cold call just yet because my prospecting system isn’t perfect! Once I create the perfect system, then I will begin to prospect.” The problem with this system is the unfeasibility and impracticality of ever creating a “perfect” anything. To hold out for perfection before moving forward means that you will remain forever stagnant.
Taking It All On: “I can’t delegate these tasks to other (capable) people, because they will never do it as well as I can. Therefore, it’s just easier if I do it myself. This is why I never have enough time to prospect.” In this scenario, you become an expert in busywork or in the other activities that aren’t the best use of your time or skills; you do not participate in the activities to make you successful.
Been There, Done That: “The last time I attempted to build my business through prospecting it was a waste of time. Therefore, I know that prospecting won’t work for me.” However, here you have failed to consider that your approach to prospecting wasn’t effective. If you change your approach, your results will change. Be careful about learning the wrong lesson from missteps.
Playing It Safe: “Sure I’ve been prospecting. I mean, I’ve been targeting my current accounts to see if there are any service issues that need to be handled or whether I can get more business from them. After all, you need to take care of your current customers, right?” Do you want to survive or thrive? It is your choice. By only focusing on the clients that you already have, your business is only surviving.
The Accountability — of lack thereof — Trap: This is one of my favorite diversionary tactics, and I will follow this example more in depth. I had a client, Tim, who owned a profitable business and was looking to take his company to the next level of success. At the end of our meetings, we would discuss the measurable tasks that Tim would choose to complete by our next meeting.
I noticed, however, that at the end of our meeting, he never took the time to write down the tasks that he had committed to finishing. So, when we met the following week for our coaching session, I would ask him about the work he was to have completed. Tim responded by saying, “Oh, I completely forgot!”
I gave him the benefit of the doubt the first time, even the second time, that this occurred. During our third meeting, the writing was on the wall. Tim’s diversionary tactic had been exposed! Since he didn’t write things down, he didn’t remember what he said he would commit to doing. And because he didn’t remember it, he didn’t have to be accountable for it.
Not Having a Schedule: Consider for a moment that the absence of a routine frees you from the accountability or responsibility of certain tasks, things you may not want to do but have to do in order to reach your goals — customer service, expense reports, prospecting, planning, finding better career opportunities, getting in better physical shape, etc. You may believe that you are “too busy to create a routine.” However, it is crucial to your productivity to have a schedule that holds you accountable for completing any necessary duties and creating the results and the lifestyle you want. Your routine is where your day starts and where it ends. After all, life runs a whole lot more smoothly when you do what you say you are going to do.
“To Do” Lists: Look at your “to do” list. Have you included a deadline associated with each task? A task without a deadline is yet another diversionary tactic. Writing down a long list of tasks or activities that are not scheduled and that have no timelines or completion dates associated with them sidesteps personal liability. Because you are keeping the timeline open ended, you don’t have to complete them by any specific date.
Everyone Comes Before Me: One of my clients, Mary, told me that she blocked out Mondays and Fridays for marketing, professional development, research, and new business development activities. When I asked her if she honored this, she paused for a moment and then replied, “No.” Mary shared with me the fear she experienced about blocking out two full days, even though she knew that in order for her to build her practice this was a priority.
Inevitably, a client would call and ask to see her on a Friday or Monday. Rather than honoring the appointment she made with herself, she would set the appointment with the client.
Mary said she had a real hard time saying no to her clients. After all, if she refused them, maybe they would go elsewhere, right? Or she feared her clients wouldn’t be able to meet with her at another time.
I challenged Mary on this: “For the next two weeks, would you be willing to honor the commitment you made to yourself on Mondays and Fridays?” Reluctantly, she agreed.
Not a week went by when Mary didn’t call me to divulge her success. If one of her clients asked to schedule an appointment on Friday, she replied, “Actually, Fridays are the days that I invest in my own professional development so that I can ensure I’m continually providing my clients with the greatest value and the most current options available for them. Is it possible for us to find another day and time that would still work for you and fit into your schedule?”
Lo and behold, the client would concede and they would reschedule for another day. Many of Mary’s clients even commented on her professional discipline and commitment to her clients.
Lesson noted: Either you are going to run your day, or other people and circumstances are going to run you. Honor the commitments you make to others as well as those commitments that you make to yourself.
Interrupt-Driven: If you become easily diverted or distracted by situations, new tasks, or people, you may lose focus on your goals and initial objectives. You may have a long list of tasks that never get completed, because you feel that you’re always being pulled in a different direction. (And who’s responsible for that?) You may also be an adrenaline junkie and love the rush associated with working in overdrive when trying to do it all. It is important to prioritize your duties and maintain concentration so as not to become overwhelmed or erratic.
Playing the Victim: “I can’t believe I wasn’t able to schedule an appointment with Mr. Prospect today! I feel so dejected and frustrated, too frustrated to do anything else productive today.” Do you allow one bad experience to snowball and affect the rest of your day? Rather than moving on and forging ahead, this attitude throws you into a negative tailspin and destroys your chance of doing anything else productive for the remainder of your day. To blame on a manager for a lack of support or point the finger at noisy colleagues are other examples of “playing the victim.”
While you may be disappointed to find that one or two (or more) of these behaviors describe your own diversionary tactics, this is actually good news! After all, it takes a lot of courage to admit our foibles. Moreover, now that you have a greater understanding and awareness of them, you can do something about it. When you notice yourself falling into one of these traps, you can make a better choice that will generate the results you really want.
About Keith Rosen, MCC — The Executive Sales Coach
Keith Rosen is the executive sales coach that top corporations, executives, and sales professionals call first. As an engaging speaker, Master Coach, and well-known author of many books and articles, Keith is one of the foremost authorities on coaching people to achieve positive change in their attitude, behavior, and results. For his work as a pioneer and leader in the coaching profession, Inc. magazine and Fast Company named Keith one of the five most respected and influential executive coaches in the country.
If you’re ready for better results quickly, contact Keith about personal or team coaching and training at 1-888-262-2450 or e-mail email@example.com. Visit Keith Rosen online at Profit Builders and be sure to sign up for his free newsletter The Winners Path.