This post has some incredibly compelling research that you can apply this week. And at the bottom, I’m giving you a really cool free resource just to add value to you.
The Knowing/Doing Gap. Last week we saw how dumb and disciplined people are better than smart and lazy. This week: what we can do about it!
One huge answer is specificity. What?! Oh yeah. You’re about to see some really cool research that you will use later in the week. When you “get it,” this is one of the most powerful leadership principles on the planet.
Specificity. Eleven letters... five syllables... and unbelievably powerful when it comes to actual results. Specificity moves new leaders to the front of the class, it turns rising stars into supernovas, and it helps the average project manager get exceptional results. If you are a decent leader who wants to become excellent, this is for you.
In their groundbreaking book The Power of Full Engagement, authors Loehr and Schwartz proved that managing your energy is even more important than managing your time if you want to lead a meaningful and productive life. In the section on precision and specificity, there are four astounding studies that every leader, every pastor, every manager, and every parent should read. Why? The studies tap into a source of personal energy no matter what discipline level you are at! Read on.
In the first study, a group of participants were asked to write a report and turn it in at a certain time. Half of the participants were asked to say exactly when and where they would accomplish the task...
Secondly, a group of ladies who were highly motivated to perform their breast cancer self-examinations was studied. Half of them where asked exactly when and exactly where they would do their exams
Next, a group of non-exercising college students who wanted to get in shape were about to start an exercise program. Half of them were asked exactly when and where they would exercise.
In a final study, one that really tugs on my heart (more later), recovering drug addicts were studied during their withdrawal period—a point of extremely low self-control. These addicts were asked to write a short résumé by 5:00 p.m. on a certain day. Half of them were asked when and where they would complete the task. As you can see, pinpoint specificity was asked of 50% of the participants each time.
The results were astounding. In each instance there was a control group, the 50% of the people who were not asked to pinpoint a time and place to accomplish their task. They went through life just like you and me: we know we have to get something done, but we don’t always get to it.
In the first study (writing a report), 33% of the control group members turned in the report on time—but 75% of those who said when and where they would complete the task were successful!
In the group of ladies, only 53% of the control group did the breast exam, whereas over 95% of those who said when and where they would accomplish the task completed the exam.
The college students who needed exercise? With all other forms of motivation, 39% of them started exercising—but that number went to 91% when the students specified when and where they would complete the task!
WHY THE BIG INCREASE? Here is the “secret.” The participants were able to focus their (little) energy to positively complete a specific task rather than depleting their energy by trying to overcome their laziness or lack of discipline. If you will focus your energy, you’ll have much better results!
Focusing on a specific positive task gets you off your lazy butt! Specificity brings energy and focus so your chances of accomplishing the task are far greater than simply “intending” to do something.
Oh, the drug addicts... this illustration is emotional for me because I’ve seen it lived out. My little sister was a drug addict who was in and out of prison. I’ve seen people reduced to nothing, no self-control, no dignity, no life. It truly breaks my heart. People want to get better, but they just can’t—or so it was thought.
In the study of drug addicts, not one single person in the control group completed the task, not one. However, of the drug addicts that gave a specific time and a specific place, 80% of that group completed the task! Yes, it works even for those with little or no self-control. (And my little sister? She is now a victorious overcomer who is leading a clean and encouraging life. She’s my hero!).
THE BOTTOM LINE: Leader, start with yourself on this one. Pick an area in which you’ve struggled. Write down the exact time and place that you are going to do something. Be specific! Put it on your calendar, set an alarm if you need to. What??? You Forgot??? You missed your deadline? Don’t panic because when you used specificity, missing the deadline will trigger something in your mind: “Oh yeah, I was supposed to do that thing a couple of hours ago—I need to get that done!” And then you will go back and get it done–it’s part of the secret of being very specific.
Business leader, when your team members have an important task, ask them to write down for you the exact time and exact place where they will complete the task. Watch your results soar!
Next week, we’re going after this subject one more time. But I have a free gift for you. Leave a comment below and I will email you a two-page executive book summary of The Power of Full Engagement. If you like that summary, come back and comment on the summary, then ask for the expanded 10-page summary. These are absolutely FREE. Thanks for being a member of the Tribe.
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