Leading Edge: Limitless Transformation – Lack of People Skills

Limitless Transformation from Aegis Learning and Tim Schneider

The lack of meaningful people skills is certainly limiting and, in many cases, totally defeating for people. You don’t have to be the life of the party, but you don’t ever want to be the person that everyone avoids either. We occupy this blue marble with 7.89 billion other souls and the ability to interact with and get along with other people is paramount. People skills should also not be dependent on beer count, as everyone gets more charming by drink two.

The defending argument for a lack of people skills always relies on self-identification as either shy or as an introvert. Introvert or not, naturally shy, or not, we all need a minimum baseline of people skills to operate in the working environment and in even small social circles. Shyness and being an introvert are hardwired parts of our personalities, while the use of people skills is a learned behavior that can be embraced by all.
Failure to utilize commonly used people skills will dramatically hamper workplace success and the ability to work effectively with others, regardless of your technical expertise. Rather than being a valued team member, you will be the person everyone avoids. If you desire to move into higher levels of leadership, your people skills become even more important and more magnified and valued by others.

Consider this workplace scenario with significant consequences:

Shawn has been in the fire service for over 30 years and is a technical expert in the field. He is a walking encyclopedia of all things fire and what it means to be a first responder. The problem is that he is also an unapproachable, grumpy, curmudgeon who has not said good morning to anyone since 1994, and that was begrudging. He never asks about anyone and never seems interested in anything but his core work.

Vicky is a relatively new fire officer with only five years of direct experience and has not yet seen it all in her industry, but she is affable, approachable, asks about others, and demonstrates care for others. She has great people skills and is highly likeable.

A captain’s job is opening in the agency and both Shawn and Vicky will be applying. The panel interviewers will focus on the ability to lead the team and create meaningful connections with all the team. They are looking for someone who can rally the team when needed and who will have a positive impact on the morale in the department.

Who gets this job is obvious and this scenario repeats itself hundreds of times a day. People skills are more valued in most workplaces than technical skills.

People skills are also the foundation of relationships with others. I have encountered numerous people who are painfully hard to get to know because of their lack of people skills. Sure, once you get to know them, they are fine humans, but how many people give up trying because there is nothing there in the first two, three, or twenty interactions.

Another scenario to consider with a personal angle:

Two people join a meetup group at the same time. Lawrence is outgoing and loves to greet and talk with people. He has quickly built a reputation as someone they love to have on hikes and group outings.

Cindy goes to the events but doesn’t talk to anyone and when she does it has the tone of someone having a wisdom tooth removed. People try to engage with her, but she provides one-word answers and nothing more.

As the group grows and breaks into several subgroups, who is going to get the ongoing invitations?

Even in a close interpersonal relationship like a marriage, a baseline of people skills is needed for ongoing happiness and relationship success. Relationships fail without a healthy flow of communication, doses of empathy, and a great deal of interest in the other person.

People skills are best defined as those interaction and engagement skills that serve to connect with people. Most are communication based, meaning that communication must flow well, and you must have some great communication skills, and all require a level of discipline to turn them into a habit set. The core communication skill needed in people interaction is listening, real listening, not formulating your response, not letting your mind wander off, not interrupting, but real validated listening with the singular focus on the listening event and nothing else. As your listening skills improve, you’ll be amazed how people begin to migrate to you and value time with you.

Next on the importance triage of communication skills is our tone, how we sound to others. Most people have very little understanding of their own tone and the impact it can have on our other people skills. Visualize two people saying the exact same words, something simple like “thank you”, and a person with a harsh tone makes it sound almost punitive, while someone with a softer and more sincere tone makes the message much more believable and valuable. We craft this narrative about how we sound (our tone) and that narrative is completely removed from reality. How many of you have heard the sound of your own voice? Did you enjoy what you heard? Unless you are a trained voice actor, singer, or just particularly fond of yourself, you probably didn’t enjoy that experience. Solicit some feedback about your tone from some trusted sources and then begin to manage it by doing a few voice exercises for inflection (no one likes monotone) and learning to lower or raise your assertiveness as needed in any conversation.

The final couple of points related to communication involve clarity and richness. Clarity is about delivering messages in a way they are easily understood. There are people that talk in word clouds of language and take turns during a conversation that a Formula One driver could not follow. Reduce your word count and stay on track of the objective of the conversation. Don’t stray and don’t add any language or explanation that is not needed or requested. Communication richness is about the modality in which we communicate. In-person communication is the richest because it contains the words, non-verbal signals, and your tone. Any other form of communication such as telephone or email reduces the richness significantly. In the history of our planet, no one has ever been complimented or acknowledged about her or his people skills because of email. Where feasible, talk face-to-face and if not, schedule a virtual meeting or make a phone call. Take your fingers off the keyboard and thumbs off the phone and make genuine human communication connections.

Beyond communication, the most noted and remembered people skill is about showing interest in others and making other people feel important. This will absolutely ensure that you are remembered and valued in return.

Shameless Plug Moment: In LeadWell-The Ten Competencies of Outstanding Leadership, there is a major section devoted to improving our ability to communicate and connect with others.

Leading Edge: Limitless Transformation – Overcoming People Pleasing

Limitless Transformation from Aegis Learning and Tim Schneider

To move past people pleasing and over-accommodating, begin using the following tactics:

1. Buy Yourself Some Time
Because your automatic answer is always a yes, learn to add some time to your decisions and analyze if you can truly help or assist. Start saying something like “please let me have until the end of the day” or “I will let you know tomorrow morning” for you to be able to see if you can fit the needed time and effort into what you already have going on. You can use this time to check your calendar and task list to ensure that you truly have capacity for another project or volunteer for the event.

2. Use a No Substitute
You struggle with saying no but you can begin using some “no” substitutes. No lite, if you will. Try saying “I’m sorry I can’t” or “Unfortunately, I just don’t have the room for that right now” instead of a hard no. You will also want to develop a tolerance for saying no if someone continues to press or badger you for something that you just don’t have the room for in your current schedule.

3. Create and Share Boundaries
Boundaries are those self-created fences that guard you. They protect your time, emotional energy, and overall capacity for something. We all operate within the boundaries of law and ethics and personal boundaries serve to help you help yourself.

First look at the people that often take advantage of your accommodating nature. Craft a limit for talking with and interacting with them. When they hit the limit, cut off the interactions for a period.

Next create a boundary for the number of things you take on during a week or month. These can be work projects, extra tasks, home projects, or volunteer work. When you hit the limit, stop taking on anything extra until your capacity catches up.

Now the hard part about boundaries. You can set them all you want but until you share them with others, they have absolutely no impact. So yes, you must tell your boss, wife, kids, church friends, dog rescue peeps, whoever, that you have some boundaries and are not going to take on everything for everyone anymore. And be prepared to tell them why.

4. Develop Tolerance for Conflict
People pleasers and over-accommodators must develop a small tolerance level for routine conflicts. This will require that you do some self-management to understand that conflicts are not bad, conflicts do not have to be emotionally charged, and most importantly, conflict is the root of all progress and growth. Without some conflict, or disagreement, we can never innovate or produce continuous improvement. Tell yourself that conflict is not only okay, but it is highly desirable if it is managed at an issue or process level and the people in the conflict effectively manage their emotions during the conflict event.

To assist in the tolerance for conflict, note the objectives for any conflict or disagreement, set a time to discuss it, and stick to your talking points. Stay resilient and do not take the bait of a personalized or emotional response. Stick to your points and stay focused on the issue or process, not the person.

5. Limit Apologies
Apologies are an awesome display of empathy and certainly have value when you have made an error, but people pleasers lead with an apology far too often. Catch and stop yourself when you are about to apologize for bringing up an issue or expressing your needs. Similarly, do not apologize for your opinions on a subject, even if they are contrary to the opinions of others. And certainly, never apologize for needing or wanting to be heard.

6. Improve Relationship Depth
Growing your relationship depth with other people will make it significantly easier to say no or to ask for time to think about something before committing to it. As you get to know people more deeply you will feel more comfortable telling them your needs and articulating your boundaries.

7. It’s Okay to be a Little Selfish
If it’s important to you or you enjoy doing it, then do it without regard for the needs and desires of others. This will not work all the time but sometimes you need to do what is best for you and not the family, coworkers, boss, spouse, or any others. Don’t be so anxious to give away your time with friends, yoga class, or other things of personal enjoyment and make this part of your boundary set.

8. Stop Worrying About What Others Think
People pleasers often do so to curry favor with others. The people that you want in your life, personally and professionally, will like you for who you truly are and not what you do for them. The people that pretend to like you only when you do things for them are not the people you want or need in your life. Think twice, and maybe three times, about how much you worry about what others think about you and if those people really should matter to you. The loss or ill opinion of a person or two that doesn’t like you because you didn’t subordinate everything else you have going on to do their favor, is worth it compared to a healthier and happier you. Be you, boundaries and no responses included, and the right people will stick with you.

9. Challenge How You View Yourself
Closely related to worrying about what other people think about you, you need to challenge how you value yourself. Your value is not about how much you do for others and nor is it how popular you are with others. Your value is deeper than that and not about what you do but rather about who you are, your core person. You are not tick marks on a task list, you are much more than that.

People Pleasing / Over Accommodating Frequency:
Often __________
Occasionally __________
Never __________

People Pleasing / Over Accommodating Impact:
High ____________________
Moderate ____________________
Low ____________________

Leading Edge: Limitless Transformation – People Pleasing / Overly Accommodating

Limitless Transformation from Aegis Learning and Tim Schneider

People pleasing and being overly accommodating is a severe type of self-defeating behavior. This one is not just limiting but it can absolutely cause you, your career, and the people around you harm.

On the surface, people pleasing and accommodating sound great and certainly some people could use some more of it in their lives. Maybe just a little accommodating or pleasing to others. And certainly, I don’t want any of you to become obstinate, objecting, difficult asses because of this. Quite the contrary, you want to be a good person, but not at the cost of your own needs and happiness. That’s what happens to people pleasers and the overly accommodating. They sacrifice their own needs, emotional health, and boundaries to make others happy and ignore their own happiness and well-being.

People pleasers struggle with any form of the word “no”. It just gets stuck in their throat even when they know the answer should be a hard “no”. They agree to just about anything reasonable and will offer help even when they do not have the capacity for any of it. They rarely turn down any request and many times this creates an undue burden on their time and capacity. They will work incredibly hard not to disappoint anyone to whom they have made a commitment to help. People pleasers often report feeling a sense of great burden to take care of the needs of everyone around them, work and at home.

Another sign of people pleasing includes an inability to disagree unless in extremely subtle ways and many times, not at all. People pleasers will acquiesce in conversations even about a subject they are passionate about just to not upset the other person. They can morph from liberal Democrat to conservative Republican based on who they are talking with and the subject at hand. In extreme cases, people pleasers and over-accommodating people take on the personality traits of those that they are around. The chameleon whoever they are around and validate everything that comes out of other people’s mouths, demonstrating an agreement and alignment with that person. In general, people pleasers and over-accommodators will be conflict adverse or conflict avoidant and they will struggle to ask about anything that resembles their own interest. A healthy working environment and a healthy home has conflict that is rooted in issues, managed without emotion, and dealt with in real time. Avoiding conflict does not resolve it but makes it worse later when it has no choice but to boil to the surface.

Avoiding any form of even the most benign conflict and being extremely uncomfortable or upset when someone is mad at you is also a signal that you are a people pleaser. The overly accommodating and people pleaser is very uncomfortable in these types of situations and will then bend their own needs and desires even further to restore peace.

One final symptom of people pleasing is overly validating and overly apologizing. People pleasers will often go out of their way to validate the thoughts, words, and feelings of others, including many times when this is not needed. They can even end up taking on the emotions and feelings of others as well. And equally often they will use leading apologies or apologize for their actions when none is needed. Consider this example:

Steve approaches his leader to talk about a manager opening in the department. Because he is a people pleaser and his boss is a busy woman, Steve starts by saying “Sandy, I’m sorry to bother you but I would like to talk about upcoming manager position”.

Or another example from a home setting:

Shannon has been avoiding talking about her needs with her husband for a long time but has finally worked up the courage to do so. She leads by saying “I’m sorry for bringing this up but…”. She later apologizes again for starting a small conflict.

It is painfully obvious that the key penalty for people pleasing, and overly accommodating behavior is a complete disregard for your own needs. Your needs are not just second, they are non-existent in most interactions because you choose to always put the needs of others first.

Now some of you are going to raise a hand and object that this Mother Teresa-esque type of selflessness is noble and should be encouraged and certainly not discouraged. The needs of others are extremely important and must not be ignored, but we cannot run ourselves dry of emotional and physical energy helping others and not paying attention to our own needs. There also comes a point that when we are not tending to our own needs, we will withdraw and shut down. Your needs are every bit as important as everyone else’s.

Leading Edge: Limitless Transformation – Overcoming Being Extra

Limitless Transformation from Aegis Learning and Tim Schneider

To cure being extra, begin:

1. Be More Direct
Consciously and mindfully use less language especially the language that is unimportant and does not add legitimate value. Pay close attention to the amount of qualifier words you use such as feel, believe, seems, and think. These words distract from any importance and credibility of your message and are unnecessary fillers. Also watch for hyperbole in your communication and avoid expressions like “absolute very best”, “most excellent”, “super-fantastic” and the like. These have no value and again, reduce overall communication credibility.

A more direct communication approach will also be achieved by maintaining the focus on the purpose of your communication. Stick solely to what you are trying to convey and avoid taking the wild left and right-hand turns that become impossible to follow and comprehend. Save your storytelling for the campfire, Uncle Bob’s birthday party, and mentoring your successor.

2. Just Say Thank You
Stop adding your two cents worth when not invited or when that two cents will cause much more devaluation. Validate the work and ideas of others with the simple appreciation of a sincerely delivered “thank you”. Stay away from any suggestions, any redirections of what else they could add or think about, and any reference to how you would have done it. Just thank you. Nothing more and nothing less.

3. Ask Permission
Before you tell the neighbor that she is mowing the grass wrong or tell the certified mechanic how to work on your car, ask permission to provide feedback or guidance. Now if they greenlight your input, share away, but if you detect hesitancy or they say any form of no, keep your commentary to yourself, no matter how helpful it may seem.

Even when coaching team members in a working environment and especially with peer level people, always engage this as a best practice. This also will aid the flow of communication in coaching events and give you guidance on the receptiveness of other people to your suggestions.

Likewise, if you have some ideas or comments on someone else’s ideas or innovation, use this same approach. Never just jump in with a “you should try” statement. Ask first to participate in their creativity.

4. Seek Feedback
As indicated previously, most extra people don’t have a clue that they are being extra or the impact of their “extraness”. To see if you are one of the extra providers, ask people around you. There will be more about seeking feedback in Section III of this book, but simply learn to ask if you are being extra and validate any feedback with the simple thank you described above. You may not always love the feedback, but it is solid gold to your growth and improvement.

5. Limit Emotional Expressions
Emotional expression is necessary and important, but this can be overdone quickly. Limit how much emotionalism you include in all modalities of communication. Does one heart emoticon express love? Do you need to add four of them? Probably not.

6. Take Your Hands Off the Keyboard
You do not need to validate every response that comes to your inbox or in your message folder. Say thank you when needed but stop redundant replies or echoing other people’s replies of a similar, or same nature.

Being Extra Frequency:
Often __________
Occasionally __________
Never __________

Being Extra Impact:
High ____________________
Moderate ____________________
Low ____________________

Leading Edge: Limitless Transformation – Being Extra

Limitless Transformation from Aegis Learning and Tim Schneider

Being Extra

Extra ice cream. Free refills. Extra innings. Upgrades to business class. Yes, please. Every time, every day.

The same with extra kindness, extra nice, extra polite, and extra patient. All valuable extras.

Extra, unnecessary words and explanations, unsolicited advice, suggestions that don’t really add any true value, hyper-emotionalism in interactions, passive-aggressive bragging are all forms of limiting and defeating extras.

But sometimes people become extra and there is no value to their extra-ness, and it serves to rebuff people and push them away. The interesting part of this phenomenon is that people being overly extra rarely know they are doing it and never know the impact of their actions. One of the more important damages to consider is that extra people do not invite future interactions but rather people will tend to avoid them. In any circumstance this can be very limiting and defeating.

I absolutely love the Urban Dictionary’s definition of being extra. They define it as being over the top, excessive, dramatic behavior, and my favorite piece, doing the absolute damn most for no reason. Being extra is going to cover a broad swath of behaviors and habits, many of which are unknown to the doer, but painfully clear to those around them.

Here again, the credit for breaking the ground goes to Marshall Goldsmith and the self-defeating behavior he identified, Adding Value. Dr. Goldsmith uses multiple examples of leaders providing suggestions to team member’s ideas thusly depreciating the value of the idea and sucking the morale out of that team member. This piece of being extra also reduces the likelihood that the team member will ever share another idea. Devastating self-defeat and rarely known to the person doing it.

Some people mask this behavior under the heading of “trying to be helpful” and they truly believe that, but what they don’t see is the impact of those actions on others. Consider a couple of examples:

Terri proudly shares the results of her detailed analysis with her boss Thomas. Thomas acknowledges the good work but then, without taking as much as a pausing breath, proceeds to share with Terri some suggestions on font size, column spacing, and tab colors. None of those items impact the overall value of the analysis and associated reports and most are simply Thomas’ preferences or the way he would have done it.

Terri’s initial reaction of pride in her work is immediately deflated but she says nothing. Thomas thinks he is being helpful.

Or another example:

Kelley delivers a great four-hour training class. She asks her boss Tim how she did, and Tim expresses some praise but follows it immediately with what he would have done or said. Again, with the camouflage of helpfulness, Tim deflates Kelley, and she completely feels deflated.

(Hmmmm. I wonder where this example is from?)

And one final example of extra to consider:

You are seeing Brenda for the first time in a very long time. She gushes to the point of tears about how great it is and how much she loves, loves, loves, and loves even more the interaction and time together. She then follows that up with a series of Facebook Messenger notes reiterating the same. Over-the-top? Absolutely and uncomfortably so.

You can probably provide dozens of examples of these things happening to you and maybe even some in which you did it to another person. This phenomenon is not limited to the working world, we also do it to our kids, also under the guise of being helpful.

There are some other types of being extra to consider as well. Being extra can come in the form of someone who uses way too many words in all interactions. Some people are naturally wordier and more verbose than others but the truly extra take this to an artform. They will absolutely drone a conversation and make it, unintentionally, very one-sided. A simple word count will yield at least a 2 to 1 ratio of words and in some cases, 3 to 1, 4 to 1, or 5 to 1. This happens in person and in email and text exchanges.

Extra people also show themselves in over-the-top emotionalism. They will lavish and heap praise and other mush when simpler, and more concise phrases will have more impact. The extra folk also seem addicted to emoticons to add even more extra. I had the displeasure of having a fringe in law a few years ago that could not write a single sentence and one without the dripping of emotion that would make most soap opera characters uncomfortable. Five thank yous, six loves, four omgs, and three smiley faces would compose her typical Facebook message. Absolutely unreadable and totally credibility destroying. Yes, she was wordier than most, but this was extra beyond wordy. There wasn’t a social media post that didn’t have a response from her withing 3 seconds of posting. Extra squared.

Over-the-top extraness is not limited to the hyperbole of positive situations. People can also be extra when faced with obstacles, challenges, and setbacks. This Chicken Little phenomenon of the sky falling at every minor road bump is a very difficult one to be around. They will tend to highly exaggerate the impact of failure and the impact of things like budget cuts, a new boss showing up, or any other relatively common change.

Being extra also shows up in people that love to show off how smart they are and everything they know. For trivia night at the neighborhood tavern, this is awesome, and this person needs to be on your team. For all other settings, this can create significant disconnects and harm the desire of people to interact with you moving forward. You will hear phrases like “in my previous job”, “based on my experience”, or “my research tells me” that are about to lead into someone about to share way too much extra about how smart they are. No one likes a know-it-all. This type of extra will also show itself with million-dollar vocabulary words, again designed to show intelligence without regard to potential disconnects with others. We know you’re smart, you don’t need to remind us constantly.

Another type of extra is found in people who just can’t help but provide leading explanations. So instead of saying “please move your truck”, they launch into a lengthy diatribe about all the reasons for moving the truck, the lack of prior knowledge of the need to move the truck, and the consequences of not moving the truck. All of that is highly unnecessary and convolutes the needed action of moving the truck. These types of people need to trust that if someone has questions about their directive or inquiry, they will ask. Frontloaded explanations will confuse people greatly and even lose a big chunk of listeners.

If you’ve ever heard someone leading into a conversation with “if you don’t mind me saying”, you’re about to be extra’d in another way. Unsolicited feedback and advice are common forms of being extra. This type of extra can become especially annoying and lead to some damaged relationships and overall avoidance. Please remember, unless you are invited to provide feedback, just don’t.

A final indicator of being extra is the need to always have the final word. They say goodbye, you say goodbye, and then they must add a see you soon. Even in email, you say thank you and you get a note back moments later that says “no, thank you.” Just being extra for extras sake.

Leading Edge: Limitless Transformation – Defeating Procrastination

Limitless Transformation from Aegis Learning and Tim Schneider

To eliminate procrastination, begin (as in now, not next week) to do the following:

1. Set and Adhere to Deadlines
Please refer to the Overthinking Section for more on creating and working with deadlines.

The only additional consideration for procrastinators to is move deadlines forward from the actual deadline. So, if the report is due on Friday, create and document a Wednesday deadline for yourself. If your friend needs to hear about the dinner plans by Monday, create and document a Saturday (the prior one, not the later one) deadline.

2. Create Increments
Because we often work with large tasks and projects, it is often necessary, and extremely helpful for procrastinators, to break them down into smaller incremental pieces. If budget projections are due at the end of the month, break each category like income, payroll, fixed expenses, variable expenses, and miscellaneous items into individual tasks and spread them out weekly. At the end of the month, the sum of the incremental tasks is the budget is done and on time.

Likewise, if you need to clean the garage by the end of the month, separate the elements out like yard equipment, tools, storage items, and attack each weekly until the garage is clean. Eat the elephant one bite at a time.

3. Create Priorities
Procrastinators must learn to devote their time and energy to where it has the highest impact and importance. The first step in creating and adhering to a priority-based system is to inventory what you must do, what you have going on. Often a procrastinator will use a last-in, first-out methodology in dealing with tasks and projects. So, no matter how important or unimportant something is, if it is the first on the stack (or top of the email inbox), it gets the attention. This approach is fatally flawed and will continue with the cycle of missed opportunities.

We always advocate for a simple, but elegant, prioritization system. After you have identified everything you need to do, assign a priority of either one, two, or three. Anything much more complicated than this will end up being more bother than utility. Priority one should be if it impacts a customer or makes or saves money. Priority two is if it is a team member’s need or issue and finally, priority three is anything else of organizational value.

From a personal perspective, priority one would be if it is for your spouse, significant other, or kids. Priority two would be for another family member or friend and priority three would be the general good of the household.

This priority system begs a question about what is not a one, two, or three. This will test both the procrastinators and the perfectionists. So, if it is not categorized as a priority, the short answer is it should get none of your time and attention and should be removed from any inbox or task list. That’s right. Gone. Bye. Kaput. For leaders, they will always have the option of delegating these types of things to others but that should only be done after analysis of legitimate value to someone or the organization. For everyone else, we need to let go and consciously note that we have no regret or second thought about doing them.

Another challenge of a priority system is what to do with those things we like to do but are not high priorities or no priority at all. I enjoy mowing the yard but comparing that to other priorities, it is meaningless especially when I have the option of outsourcing that chore. Simply said, if it is no priority, you have no business devoting time to it, even if you like it.

One, two, three, or no priority and no action. That simple.

The final part of using a prioritization system is using it. That means devoting the plurality of your time and energy to the high priorities (ones) while taking care of the twos and threes as time allows and never in conflict with a higher priority. Never.

4. Develop Risk Tolerance
A shared characteristic of perfectionists and procrastinators is a lack of risk tolerance. This must be developed if you are going to leave the self-defeat of procrastination.

Everyday when you hop on the freeway, you are taking a risk. You risk the behavior and consideration of other drivers. You risk the design quality of the road engineers. You risk a lot. There are those people that are paralyzed by this proposition but most of us willing jump into our cars and make the needed trek.

What separates this risk from others that we face at work or home is the degree of scrutiny from others. When we push a decision or action quickly, we risk the critique from others. When we procrastinate the same decision or action, some of that is mitigated. For people who share overthinking and procrastination, this phenomenon is especially true.

Use a simple little bit of math to help yourself with risk tolerance. Look at what the real chances are of a negative event. And please note that on unknow events, the chances are exactly equal of a positive outcome and a negative outcome.

5. Time and Task Planning
One of the reasons that procrastinators procrastinate or proclaim failure with all tries to stop procrastination is that they have poor time management skills and practices.

To reduce procrastination, you must balance your “to dos” with the available time that you have and avoid dumping everything going on into one giant task list. Consider listing seven tasks needed today and your calendar is packed from the start of the day to the end of the day. You have no chance of accomplishing those and it is discouraging folly to even list them for the day.

A more thoughtful approach and one with a significantly higher chance of success is to spread your tasks out based on available capacity. Look at your calendar and see where you have the capacity and map out your tasks where the time allows. Also avoid a master task list (or honey do list) at all costs. These can become discouraging based on the shear volume of items and so overwhelming to the procrastinator that nothing gets done or even started.

6. Prioritize the Unpleasant
One of the most frequently procrastinated items are those things that are unpleasant or that we don’t want to do. Ugly stuff. That difficult conversation. Reconciling the account that you’ve ignored for three years. Cleaning the hall closet. Whatever your unpleasant is, make it an early priority during the day, absolutely first thing. Using this approach, you are devoting the highest energy you have to a difficult or undesired task and thus getting it done quicker but the greatest benefit is in that it will be out of the way early and pave the way for a great rest of the day.

7. Use the 25 – 5 Rule
This may be more of a productivity enhancer, but it will help procrastinators break up larger projects that they are delaying or otherwise ignoring. Work on a task or project for 25 minutes, take five minutes off to clear your mind, get fresh coffee or whatever. Then shift to another task or project for 25 minutes with the five-minute break repeated and then move back to the first project and repeat until completed. This keeps your mind fresh and gives you a break to avoid the diminishing returns of trying to power through a four-hour project or task. Give this a try and you will be amazed at the spike in productivity and the loss of drag from working on one thing for a long period of time.

Please note that in some cases, procrastination can be caused by underlying psychological problems such as depression or anxiety. If you believe that may be the case, please contact a counselling or therapy professional.

Procrastination Frequency:
Often __________
Occasionally __________
Never __________

Procrastination Impact:

High ____________________
Moderate ____________________
Low ____________________

Leading Edge: Limitless Transformation – Procrastination

Limitless Transformation from Aegis Learning and Tim Schneider


The accepted and classic definition for procrastination is delaying, postponing, or deferring something until later. Later is a word that the procrastinator uses a lot. Later, as in I’ll finish reading this later.

Procrastination is closely related to perfectionism in that it causes missed opportunities both in a working environment and for us personally. The cost of procrastination is missed opportunity. Consider the poor person who had great dreams and plans for the Pear Computer and associated operating system. It was an elegant dream with great design concepts and an even cooler logo (a pear with a bite out of the right side). But rather than jump and act, this soul sat around and worked on other things, overthought the process, and never really got going. Sad, and certainly exaggerated, but it occurs every day.

The classic procrastinator uses a variety of self-created excuses for continued procrastination. The most often cited excuse is a lack of time. This hollow excuse is really about a lack of prioritization (see below) and a lack of commitment to do what is needed.

When faced with a deadline, the procrastinator pushes the envelope all the way to the point of being late and often rushes the deliverable. Quality suffers, and thought is non-existent in this kind of waiting followed by frantic chaos. Without a deadline, the procrastinator will kick something down the road indefinitely until the point the task or project no longer has value.

The busy addiction often afflicts the classic procrastinator. To look at them, they appear to be busy, in some cases overwhelmed by stuff but there is no regard for what they are busy at. It is not nearly enough to be busy or even really, really busy but you must know what the targets and priorities are.

As much as the procrastinator misses opportunities in a working environment, they also miss out in their personal lives as well. Failure to respond to invitations lead to unavailable reservations for dinner. Non-responsiveness leads to future invitations not being extended.

Some causative factors that make people procrastinators include an intolerance for any degree of risk, lack of any type of organizational and time management skills, the inability to distinguish priorities, and a1 fear of being first (yes, that is a real thing and it’s why some people can never be on time to a party or meeting). Sometimes procrastinators come from a long line of procrastinators passing this defeating behavior from generation to generation.

Leading Edge: Limitless Transformation – Conquering Perfectionism

Limitless Transformation from Aegis Learning and Tim Schneider

To cure the perfection behavior, begin to do the following:

1. Reconcile to the Good
This is the most important step for perfectionists to embrace and challenge themselves. Realize that good or great quality, especially if that is defined by your organization, is exactly the stopping point. No additional work is needed from you or others.

2. Diminishing Returns
The perfectionist must also recognize the costs and diminishing returns associated with continuing beyond good or great while pursuing perfection. Does it make sense to spend ten additional hours working on a good spreadsheet when the total value of the additional effort is nominal or stylistic? Does it make sense to work on very good designs for an extra fifty hours when the pricing does not change?

3. Reducing Judgement
Humans are judgmental creatures by our very DNA and composition. Perfectionists have perfected judgementalism and are constantly judging situations and people compared to their standard and vision of perfect. Not only is this grossly unfair but it is unhealthy when it becomes continuous. This action must be taken mindfully and purposefully with a solid intention to reduce negative judgements and to be more generous and appreciative.

4. Say Thank You, And Nothing Else
Actively practice just saying the simple, and sincere, “thank you” when someone provides you something. Don’t criticize, don’t add value to it, don’t even think about how you could have done it better. Just say “thank you”.

This is about acceptance of work and efforts from people where they are at. They are at and not where you think they should be. This is not about accepting substandard or poor quality in any way, shape, or form but it is about acknowledging the good when it meets the needed standard, not your personal standard.

Thank you.

5. Reduce Criticality
Openly and mindfully look for the good in situations, people, and work product. Stop instantly seeing the room for improvement or the flaws. Actively practice seeking out the good that others do and the imperfect good that exists all around us. Note these and keep a journal of those items compared to how many times you see something wrong or something that could be done better. In about ten days you will find the notations and observations of the good taking a more prevalent and dominant role compared to the criticality.

Another target of your criticality is you. As a perfectionist you demand perfection from others and yourself. Reducing criticality needs to start and end with how hard you are on yourself. You are a perfect creation exactly as is, flaws and all. Be more accepting and gentler with yourself especially when you have made a mistake (gasp) or didn’t deliver something with perfect quality. Take it easy on yourself.

Perfectionism Frequency:
Often __________
Occasionally __________
Never __________

Perfectionism Impact:

High ____________________
Moderate ____________________
Low ____________________

Leading Edge: Limitless Transformation – Perfectionism

Limitless Transformation from Aegis Learning and Tim Schneider

Almost as pervasive and frequently seen as overthinking, perfectionism can have severely limiting, if not completely defeating, consequences.

Perfectionism is the pursuit of perfection, and sadly, perfect does not exist in anything touched by mere mortals. To a perfectionist, perfection is attainable with more work, more effort, more time, and just one more look at it.

The pursuit of and delivery of quality is noble and all of us should work to produce quality outcomes, interactions, services, and products. There is no real substitute for quality and quality should be a standard and not a goal. But quality is not without flaws. Perfectionism is the pursuit of a quality without flaws, a totally seamless experience, or the fairytale relationship.

The greatest impact of perfectionism is lost opportunity. When good, or even great, would have carried the day, the wasted time trying to be perfect loses out on the opportunity. That could come in the form of a sale, a hiring decision, or going out to dinner. Perfectionists also are very self-critical when it comes to their own perfection, or lack thereof. This can create significant consequences for needed confidence and self-esteem. Perfectionists also alienate the people around them because others believe they can never meet the standards of a perfectionist.

Perfectionists can also come across as aloof or arrogant to others. This stems from their judging of other people, situations, and places as not being perfect. The mind of the perfectionist creates a standard and nothing and no one will live up to that standard. Smug they are (Yoda voice engaged).

We have a customer that we have worked with extensively, (training, coaching, and some consulting) that produces the most stunning customized homes. They are eye-popping and the designs are groundbreaking, never-before-seen product. Words alone can never do their homes justice. Their good is amazing dream homes. When they meet their design standards, their customers drop their jaws. But the perfectionism rub comes in that some of their design team spends extra time shooting for absolute perfection. On the surface this sounds noble but with each delayed design is delayed construction and delayed closing of the home sale. There is no regard for the commercial reasonableness in this pursuit of perfection and the extra time taken has diminishing returns to the company. Their good is awesome but the pursuit of perfection creates unnecessary delays and costs.

Another customer who is a Chief Financial Officer struggles with some members of her team that will use dozens of hours reconciling accounts with discrepancies under a dollar. They want it to be perfect but fail to see the unreasonableness of the additional expenditure in time chasing perfection.

One other characteristic of perfectionists is the failure to accept mistakes or issues from others. When they see a typo in an email, they stop reading it. They completely dismiss a body of work because of a mistake or two. They assume that everything should have the perfection that they seek to provide.

In any leadership role, working for a perfectionist is highly distressing for team members. Perfectionist leaders do not acknowledge the company standard for any product or deliverable, they utilize how well they would do something as the standard. They will withhold praise and appreciation until someone produces the same quality, or perfection, that they would, even on items that really add no material value (think font size, column width, color scheme). This grossly unfair approach to leadership will destroy the morale in any team and make that leader despised for perfectionism.

Perfectionists also like to “add value”. This is a phrase that Marshall Goldsmith uses in his previously acknowledged work “What Got You Here Will Not Get You There”. Dr. Goldsmith describes a scenario where someone provides an idea, and the other person suggests minor changes and edits that really don’t impact the quality of the idea. They added value for no reason but their own ego and sense of their need to achieve perfection. He goes on to identify the impact this has on the person with the idea and their desire to ever present an idea again.

That same scenario plays out with perfectionists all the time, at home, at work, in social settings. The perfectionist cannot leave a great idea alone without the interjection of added value designed to make it perfect. Unfortunately, what the perfectionist does not understand is the alienation of relationships and disenfranchising this causes.

Leading Edge: Limitless Transformation – Overcoming Overthinking

Limitless Transformation from Aegis Learning and Tim Schneider

To cure the overthinking behavior, begin to do the following:

1. Deadlines
Add deadlines to all your decisions and choices. Set a date and time when you will decide and make sure that deadline aligns with the needs of others. It makes no sense to set a deadline of tomorrow to decide on the dinner location tonight. This discipline of internal deadlines will be very helpful, and you may have to write them down or add them to your task list as a reminder.

2. Proportionality and Scope
Another important strategy for overthinkers is the ability to ascertain the difference between a ten-cent problem and a million-dollar issue. As indicated earlier, overthinkers will often put the same thought and analysis into both. Save your superpower analysis for the big issues and let go of or ignore the inconsequential. This will take significant discipline from the overthinker and a very purposeful and mindful approach to identify issues as either important or unimportant. The key mantra of overthinkers is that everything is important and that must be unwired and removed from conscious thought.

3. Limit the “What Ifs”
Set a self-imposed limit of the number of “what if” scenarios that you will consider, process, and analyze. A great starting point would be three of them. After you have thought through those, it is time to decide and move.

4. Apply Some Probability
Many of the “what ifs” that overthinkers process and lose time with have as much chance of occurring as you purchasing a nice blue raspberry snow cone in the depth of Hades. We have all heard those queries, usually near the end of a meeting, from an overthinker that starts with “have you thought about” followed by the extremely remote event that only the overthinker could imagine. As you think about a “what if” and determine the genuine likelihood of it occurring. Has it happened to you before? Does it happen often? What would have to come together to make it happen? Will Halley’s Comet return prior to this “what if” happening? If the likelihood or probability of occurrence is less than 40% in a reasonable period, move on and make the choice now.

5. Benefits of Action Shift
Using a very purposeful approach, shift your thinking from what could go wrong to the benefits or results of the action. Focus on the benefits, value, and internal satisfaction points that would be generated from a decision or action. Look for the good and not the “what ifs”.

6. Limit Input
A common behavior among overthinkers is to solicit input from others, often many other people. This “shopping for an answer” is designed to minimize the believed risk and validate the “what ifs” discovered by the overthinker. Limit your input to one or two trusted and honest people that will give you a true perspective of the issue and not just what you want to hear.

7. Now is the Perfect Time
The use of a self-imposed and assertively uncomfortable deadline will cure a bit part of this, but it is also necessary to make a shift in mindset. Openly acknowledge that there is no such thing as the perfect time, there is only time and the now. This strategy will reappear a bit later.

Overthinking Frequency:
Often __________
Occasionally __________
Never __________

Overthinking Impact:

High ____________________
Moderate ____________________
Low ____________________