This transcript is from Episode 33 of The Savvy Event Planner Podcast
To listen to this podcast, please visit: http://SavvyEventPodcast.com/33
Transcript consists of guest interview only.
Tom: Folks, I'm on the line today with Brian Moran. Brian, I want to thank you for coming on to the show.
Brian: Great to be here with you, Tom. I appreciate it.
Tom: Brian, you're a CEO, a corporate executive, an entrepreneur, a speaker, a consultant, a coach, and you're an author. Would you tell us a little bit about your background and how you became involved in speaking at events?
Brian: I'd be happy to. You know, I started back in college working at UPS and got offered to move into management part-time so I could still continue my college. I was getting a degree in physiology to actually be a strength coach, but I thought, “You know, you never know what will happen.” It turns out that I really enjoyed that and so I switched my degree and my whole career path went around leadership. But that got me into leadership.
Moved to southern Cal, got in with PepsiCo, kind of kept advancing my career. Joined a consulting firm which was a tremendous experience in that I got to work with a lot of different organizations with different cultures all trying to improve performance. So in fact the company I was with was one of the pioneers in understanding the impact culture has on performance. So, you know, I really had this whole background in corporate America, ultimately advancing to a Vice President of Sales with a billion dollar group in my early 30's.
Then I decided, you know I had always had this bug to be an entrepreneur, so I went out on my own and started a company in health services that I still own today, and involves strategically nothing day to day. Then started doing consulting with some local groups and found out that that's really what I love, because it gives me exposure to a lot of different folks, a lot of different organizations.
That's really what we've been doing here at the 12 week year for, I don't know, the past 15 years or so. Working with organizations and individuals on just how to improve performance. How to really tap in to what you're capable of. So how I got into speaking was really just the work I was doing with individuals and with organizations. I ended up doing a number of…everything from half day to full day to two day boot camps, as we called them, and then started doing keynotes. To the point today where a lot of what I do are keynotes, half days, and full days. It's all around our New York Times bestselling book called, “The 12 Week Year”. So that's the concept that I speak about, and that we train on.
Tom: Now, why the 12 week year?
Brian: Great question. So here's what happened. We were working with our clients on what it takes to perform at your best. Fairly early on we realized that the tendency is to think that it's some new idea, some new strategy, some new whizbang that I don't know about. What we notice is that everybody we worked with had great ideas. That wasn't what was keeping most people from experiencing what they're capable of. It was a lack of execution. So we started focusing on, “What does it take to execute well? What does it take to implement?”
Our belief and our experience is that that's really the difference maker. It's not enough to know. The marketplace only rewards those things that get implemented. So you can be really smart. You can have great knowledge. You can have great ideas as well. They're worthless unless they get implemented, and it's true in our personal lives as well. So we started working with what it takes to implement effectively. We were getting good results but we still didn't feel like we were getting what our clients were capable of.
We came across this concept, an athletic training process, called periodization. Periodization was born in the '70s in eastern Europe, designed to create breakthrough performance for athletes, still widely used today in a lot of sports. My business partner Mike Lennington and I saw that and we said, “You know, that has applicability for what we're doing.” At it's core it's a fundamental shift in the way people think and the way they act. So in athletics what periodization does is it focuses on one particular skill or discipline for a period of time. Four to six weeks, and like, creates greater capacity in that. So we began to work with that. It didn't quite fit that way in business or in a personal life but as we adapted it, what it warped into was the 12 week year.
The key to the 12 week year is this. We worked with folks in an annual environment, right? You set annual goals and annual plans, and break them down quarterly and monthly and weekly. There's still this notion that, you know, that there's lots of time. So in January, December looks a long way off. Tom, everybody right now is fired up. They're going to have their best year ever. We're going to get to the end of January, and most people are going to be behind. They're going to be behind plan, but none of them are going to be worried. Why is that? Well, because the thinking says, “I have plenty of time to catch up.”
That mindset permeates the year, and so our actions are driven by that mindset. We realize that if we could get out of that mindset somehow to get people to act with more urgency on the things that matter most, act more timely on it, that the impact would be profound. That's where the 12 week year was born. Twelve weeks is a long enough time really to make profound progress, and yet near enough where you don't lose sight of that deadline. Because if you think about it, people behave very differently in November and December than they do in July and August.
They act with much more urgency, sometimes totally stressed out, but there's this urgency to get it over the finish line by the end of December. So what's so magical about December? At one level, that's an arbitrary deadline, but it's the fact that that line is pretty hard in the sand. So for our clients, they treat every 12 weeks that way. Every 12 weeks is a hard line in the sand. There aren't 4 of those in a year. That's back to annualized thinking. The 12 weeks is the year, followed by the next 12 weeks and the next 12 weeks.
So what it allows people to do is focus in on what we call “the critical few”. What are the things that really matter most, and let's focus on those, and really move the needle in 12 weeks. At the end of those 12 weeks, stop the world and assess. Take a look at what worked, what didn't work, where are we at, what's happening in the marketplace, and then lock and load and go again. So it's a much more dynamic process that creates more energy, has people more focused, and you progress much more rapidly.
Tom: So at the end of every 12 weeks, you're definitely doing some metrics on this to see where you're moving to?
Brian: Yeah, you're doing that every week, right? You're managing the process as you go. So one of the keys to being effective is you not only have to track lead and lag indicators, and your listeners are probably familiar with those. But, you know, some of the results measures. But the most important measure you have is a measure of your execution, because I would argue that we control our actions, not our outcomes. We desire our outcomes. You know, we influence them, but we control the actions.
So the most powerful measure people have, and they're not even aware of it, is an execution measure, “Did I do the things I said I needed to do in order to accomplish the things I said I wanted to accomplish? The outcomes that I'm after?” So with the 12 week year, you're measuring not only the result, but most importantly you're measuring your execution. It's the combination of those two measures that tells the story week by week, so you're making adjustments all through the 12 weeks, but certainly at the end of the 12 weeks there's this hard stop where we're going to do a deeper assessment and look at, you know, what worked and what didn't.
Tom: Well, one of the articles that I read on you in Inc. Magazine you had a quote where you said, “If I'm not getting the result I need it's because either the plan is flawed or the execution is flawed, and 65% of the time it's the execution. Nevertheless most people go and look for a new plan because that's easier.” Tell us about that, in your studies. How did you come across that? And give us some background on that.
Brian: Yeah, that's great. In fact, I'd argue now that it's probably almost 90% of the time. The breakdown is in the execution. Again, it's not that people don't know what to do. If you look at diet and the fitness industry, it's a $70 billion industry, and yet 63% of Americans are overweight or obese. Do you really think it's because there's not enough information out there? Or that people lack the basic knowledge to be in better shape? It's not. The gap is not the knowing gap, it's the doing gap. It's closing that gap between what I know and what I actually do. So most of the time the breakdown is not in the plan, it's in the execution.
Yet, what people want to do is they want to tinker with the plan, because it's easier, right? I'm avoiding doing the stuff I need to do, so what do I want to do? I want to come up with different stuff to do. That's the challenge. I mean, I think the biggest challenge to accomplishing what we're capable of is you have to overcome this notion that we're wired for comfort. That we tend to lean towards things that are comfortable and familiar. Which is fine, right? We have our routines and everything, but if you're trying to take your performance to another level, or you're trying to accomplish something in any area of your life that you haven't accomplished before, it's not going to be comfortable.
Because you're going to have to do things differently and do different things. Every time you do that, you know, there's some uncertainty that comes with that. There's some discomfort. There's some anxiety. But that's the only way to get to the next level. If you think about it, Tom, if you want something you don't currently have, you're going to have to do something you're not currently doing. So getting over that notion that, “I lean towards what's comfortable in the moment,” right? On a Tuesday afternoon, I choose what I've always done, or what's more familiar versus doing the actions that are in the plan that are going to drive the result I'm after.
Tom: Now in your keynote, you share five success disciplines. Would you mind sharing a few of those with our audience?
Brian: Sure. These are really the fundamentals of high performance. I didn't invent them, I just packaged them. It starts with vision. If you don't have a clear, compelling vision of where you want to go, then everything else doesn't matter. Because you're not building a life by design. You're not building a career by design. You're doing it by chance. And everybody talks about vision, but people gloss over it like it's fluff and it's not. It's the starting point of all high performance, because it's the first place we engage our thinking about what's possible for us. It's also the first place where we limit what we're capable of. So having a compelling vision…Tom, we don't start with business, we start with your life with the 12 week year.
What do you want your life to look like 5 years from today, and by the way, what would great look like? Not good, but great. God willing, you're going to be here. Let's make it great. Then we look at your career or your business and say, you know, “What do you need to do there to align and enable that life vision?” So there's a strong connection Monday through Friday what I'm doing and the life I want to live, because that makes it easier then for me to step out and do those things. Do those things that are different, and the things that I haven't done before. So without that compelling vision it's really difficult to take new ground. That's the why, right? That's the burning desire.
The second discipline is once I'm clear with errors is building a plan. Now everyone plans, but most people don't execute. One of the primary breakdowns is in the planning process. So, most plans have too much in them. People are overwhelmed. They're diffused. Partly because they're trying to plan for a year. The other thing that's wrong with most plans is their conceptual or directional, they're not tactical. What I mean by that…some concepts might be like “cross-sell”, or “referrals”, or things like that. You can't execute that, right?
We've got to get down to where the…what we call “tactics”, which are statements that describe actions that I can take. Ask for referrals two times per day. So I get very clear on that. Again, what we're looking for there is the critical few. Both at the goal level and at the tactic level, you'll hear us talk a lot about less is more, because there's a physical capacity we have to how much we can execute on. So really looking for narrowing that down. Focusing it down to a couple of goals, and then the critical few tactics. The least amount of tactics in order to accomplish the goal. So we've got vision, planning…but you know, Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan until they get hit in the mouth,” so a plan is not enough.
Process control is that third discipline. That's just our term for tools and events that help you work the plan. So let me give you an example. Michael Phelps…forget about his recent newsworthy events. Think about Michael as a swimmer. It's pretty tough to argue with, right? The most decorated Olympian ever, but I can promise you there were days he didn't feel like training or didn't feel like getting into the pool, and yet he did.
He did to a large extent because he had processes around him that made it easier for him to get in the pool than not get in the pool. That's process control, and there are a number of components to that that we don't have time to get into. But just know that you need more than just personal discipline, because some days your disciplined, and some days you're not. The more you can create process and tools to lean on, the more consistent your performance will be.
Then there's measurement. We've already touched on that a little bit, right? It's the anchor of reality. It's where we go out to the physical universe and get feedback on our actions. Are the actions we're taking producing what we thought they would? We talked about lead and lag indicators, but again the most important measure is really that measure of your execution, because that's what we can control. In fact, I would argue that that's the greatest predictor of your future.
If you want to predict the future, look to your daily actions. Think about that. If you want to know what your health is going to be like three years from today, look to your daily actions. If you want to know what your marriage or relationships are going to be like three years from today, look to your daily actions. You want to know what your career or your income is going to be like three years from today, look to your daily actions. That measurement is the most powerful lead indicator that we have.
So we've got vision, planning, process control, score keeping. The final discipline is time use. Everything happens in the context of time, and being intentional about what I say yes to, and what I say no to. It's interesting because in our trainings I'll ask people, “What's the first thing you need to know in order to be effective with your time?” Tom, you might say…
Tom: Well I have to know where I'm spending my time.
Brian: Yeah, but that's not the first thing. I get answers from, “how much time we have”, which we all have the same amount, to what you just said. The reality is the first thing you need to know is, “What do you want to make happen?” That's the vision. The next thing you need to know is what matters most. That's the plan. Then comes, okay where am I spending my time and how do I align more of my time with the plan.
So we use a system called time blocking, which takes back control of the day, but you can see there's some sequencing to these other disciplines and how you begin to get a sense of how interdependent they are, right? If you don't have a vision, then like I said, you're not living a life by design. You're not building a career by design. You're doing it by chance. If you have a vision, but you lack a tactical plan that's focused, then you've got a pipe dream really. If you've got a vision and a plan, but you don't have process control, now you're going to have a lot of inconsistency and a lot of frustration, because some days you're going to execute, and some you're not. If we've got those but we lack measurement, right? There's no way to know it's working. There's no game time adjustments.
Again, if all those 4 are in play but we're not intentional about what we say yes to and what we say no to, then the day ends up working us. So it's really about taking those things and…people know that stuff, okay? They apparently know that, but there's a difference between knowing it and really applying it. But taking it and applying it as a system is where it's really powerful.
Tom: That was incredible stuff. That was absolutely incredible. A lot of people do get excited when they listen to somebody motivate them, and then they drop the ball. Are there any tips you have to help them stay with a plan?
Brian: I mean, yeah. It's tough to do that, right? Part of it is, “be prepared to stumble.” Don't be surprised when you drop the ball. Don't be surprised when you stumble when you either don't do the stuff in the plan, or didn't even look at the plan, right? As soon as you recognize it, just come back to it. Get back on, you know? I think sometimes we're so worried about being perfect, and it's not about being perfect.
In fact the 12 week year is designed, if you take those disciplines and you apply them in the context of every 12 weeks is a year, what it allows us to do is put our best plan together. And by the way, Tom. There is no perfect plan. So forget that. Put our best plan together. Go out in the marketplace and succeed or fail as fast as we can, and then take that feedback and tighten it up. Again, the first thing that has to happen is we've got to execute the plan. Again, you don't have to be perfect.
We've seen with the 12 week year with tens of thousands of users is that if you're averaging somewhere 80, 85% on a weekly basis in terms of your execution, in most cases you're going to accomplish the 12 week goals. So what happens to a lot of folks is they set these annual goals, or even sometimes six month goals or whatever it is, but they're taking some action and because the results aren't immediate we abandon it. That's also where that weekly execution score can be motivational, because I know I can have a high degree of confidence that, “Look, the things I'm doing now are going to pay great dividends in the future.”
We talk about a principle which is more character based. This concept of greatness in the moment. That's this notion that life is lived in the moment. Really, what we have is right now. One minute ago is a memory. One minute from now is not here. Ultimately that is where greatness is created. Yet I think for most folks they think, “If I'm ever going to be great it's sometime in the future,” right? When the results come online. When the fact of the matter is either you're great in the moment or you're not. Either way, that's going to be reflected in your future.
So as you begin to understand that, then the power of the moment becomes so much more profound, and I can act with confidence on the things in my plan knowing that I'm great in the moment, and the results will come online. I just need to be patient with that. But the results are always lagged, and so what happens is, you know, I start my exercise program or I start dieting or whatever. And it's difficult. It's uncomfortable because I'm changing what I used to do. Now the results aren't coming quick enough, so I bail. That's where the 12 week year helps you stay in the game until the results come online.
Tom: Now, Brian, I'm going to take you in a slightly different direction and we're going to come back around, so bear with me on this. You're a speaker and you've attended a lot of different events, and since our audience is event planners, what I'd like to do is ask you if there's an event that you spoke at that stands out in your mind. If there is, can you tell us a little bit about it and why it was so special?
Brian: You know, Tom, it's an interesting question. I have a lot of them that stand out. I mean, I really…I'm really passionate about that, and so the ones that stand out most are where the audience really engages. Here's what I mean by that. In order to get better in any area, you have to have a desire for that. If you don't want to get better, there isn't anything anybody can do. I mean, I can stand up there and spend weeks with you, but if you don't want to get better, there's nothing I can do. There's nothing anybody can do. So the more the audience is connected to a desire to improve in some area of their life, the more powerful the event is for them and for me.
Tom: If somebody's planning an event, how do they determine that the audience is going to be engaged with you? I mean, that may sound kind of like a weird question, but that's what I'm trying to get at.
Brian: Yeah, there's always a percentage of the audience that is…you're never going to get 100% of the people that are wanting to get better. I mean, I'll ask a question, “How many people want to get better in some area of their life?” I'm always surprised that only about 70, 75% of the hands go up. Because I think, “What's going on with the rest of those folks?” You know, I am blessed and I walk in gratitude every day. I mean, I have a great family. I love what I do. I make great money. All of that stuff. But I'm still looking to get better. I'm still looking to have a bigger impact. So the folks that don't raise their hand kind of baffle me, but there's always a percentage of the group that are interested.
It depends on the organization, the culture of the organization, the roles people are in, and that type of stuff. But I've never had an audience where, you know, that 70% of them were not interested. If that makes any sense. It's always the majority have some interest in getting better. I think the value I bring to a group like that is most of those conferences, there's people sharing great ideas. They're sharing best practices, and new strategies, and new approaches, and everything else.
What I bring to that event is I bring the ability to talk to them about, “Okay, you've got all this great stuff. Let's talk about how you implement it.” Because what happens for most folks is they leave those events and nothing really changes, and I would argue the measure of an event isn't what happens at the event, it's what happens after the event. Do people do anything with all the information you share? That's the real value I bring that's pretty unique in the marketplace.
Tom: Love that answer. Now, Brian, also there's some events that stand out for other reasons. Maybe as a, “Dear gosh, I wish I hadn't even walked out on this stage or come to this event,” you know? What are those event horror stories? I think anybody who has ever been to an event has one. Could you just share, and again we don't want to point fingers or say names, but just share, has there any been an event you've been to where something wasn't right? And what advice would you give to an event planner to avoid that?
Brian: Yeah, I've been to all kinds of them. Some of them the physical location is…I've been in events where there's, you know, buckets in the room because it's leaking. But you just make do, you know? The worst events for me as a speaker are events where people are told they have to be there, and they don't want to be there. So that's a really tough event. The better events are recognition events and events where there are celebrations and so it's part celebration and part equipping people to have an even better year this year.
Those are the events that work really well, but the disastrous events are events where the organization wasn't well done on the front end, right? Speakers are going over their time. This is the stuff that I know drives event planners mad, right? People go over their time or the equipment's not working. That type of stuff or facility issues. The heat doesn't work. The air conditioning doesn't work, that kind of stuff. But even in those events if you've got the right group of people, you know, they'll rally together to kind of overcome that and not let that become an obstacle.
Tom: I love that. You know, I'm just thinking, I'm going to add that to my bucket list. Make sure you carry a bucket. Leaking ceiling, that…
Brian: [Inaudible 00″24:29] big old trash can in the middle of the room. Drip, drip, drip. It's like, okay!
Tom: I'm going to come around now to talking about your book. I wanted to ask you, if there was one action plan or one bit of advice you could give our listeners where they could take that and put it into action today, what would you advise?
Brian: So there's actually a simple three step process. One is just to spend some time on your vision, right? Think about…don't take that lightly. Think about what do you want your life to look like? And then how does your business or career or your job enable that? So there's that emotional connection. That's what you're looking for. Here's what I encourage people to do, is really pursue what's in their heart. If the stuff you're writing down doesn't make you a little bit uncomfortable, you're not stretched enough.
There's probably some stuff deep down inside that you're a little bit hesitant to claim because you're not sure you can get there. That's the stuff I'm after, right? Because you're never going to know what you're capable of until you stake a claim. Then let's bring that near term. Set a 12 week goal that represents progress against that, and build out a tactical plan. Again, less is more, critical few. And then on a weekly basis, focus in on executing that plan, and measure your execution. So on a weekly basis we don't want to create a new plan every week, we just want to in a sense create a weekly plan based on the 12 week plan. So my weekly plan just contains items from the 12 week plan that are due this week.
Now, Tom, that's not going to be everything I do on my job, but by default that's the most important stuff. I would argue that everything else is secondary, because if I get that stuff done this week and I do that for the next 12 weeks, I'm going to be where I want to be at the end of 12 weeks which is living my vision. So very simple process. In fact, we have a…if you don't mind, we have a getting started course that's at 12weekyear.com. That's the number 12, 12weekyear.com/gettingstarted. And you'll get three separate e-mails a couple of days apart. The first one will help you build out that vision in that first 12 week plan. The next one will talk to you about process control and measurement. Then the third one is that time blocking system. That's a free course just to help you get started. Again, 12weekyear.com/gettingstarted.
But they're just simple steps. Start with the vision though. Don't skip that step. It's not fluff. It's really the basis of everything. It's the why. Then build out that tactical plan and don't worry about it being perfect, and then start to execute it. Watch what gets in the way, and take a few minutes every week to assess, “How well did I do on my plan from an execution standpoint?” If you can, calculate the score. If you had ten things on there and you got five done you got 50%. Don't get hung up on…you know, in academia 50% is loser. Just know that there's an opportunity for you to execute better. If you start to get into that 80, 85% range, you can have a high degree of confidence that in most cases you're going to accomplish those goals.
Tom: Great advice. Brian, if somebody is interested in learning more about your other training, and your speaking in case they are possibly planning an event where they need to motivate their team to achieve higher goals and to get more done, how do they reach out to you?
Brian: Yeah, the best way…our website is brianpmoran.com. Or you could e-mail us. The best way is probably to e-mail my assistant Jen, firstname.lastname@example.org. The website is a resource, and you can contact us through that or you can go directly to Jen.
Tom: Excellent, and we will have all those links in the show notes. Brian, I really do appreciate you taking the time to talk to me today. I know that you inspired me a lot, and I'm going to go start working on my plan. Going to go get your book and start reading it right away. Thank you again so much for talking with us.
Brian: You're very welcome. I hope it makes a difference for everyone, and I just encourage everyone to have a great 12 week year.
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