"Spend the bulk of your time on the critical inch…. When you do what's truly necessary and important, the rest seems to fall into place." – Richard Carlson, "Don't Worry, Make Money"

His life was wrecked. Everything seemed to be going downhill fast. His marriage was ending. His project team was stalled. He had recently "spoken out" in a large meeting and people were saying he was an arrogant bully. His email inbox had more than 300 messages, unread and unanswered. He was missing meetings. He had gained 30 pounds and his doctor was talking about new medication. Each night, he went home exhausted, looking at unpaid bills, a messy house, dirty clothes and a lawn that needed mowing. He was depressed and paralyzed by fear.

Getting started isn't easy. When I came into this coaching situation, it was hard to know where to start. We made a list of all the life changes that might help. It all seemed overwhelming. It was clear that to save his job, he needed to take action fast. With a steady income, the bills, the home, the lawn and his personal life could be handled.

To begin, focus on a central theme. Working together, we chose the concept of integrity – completing tasks, projects and commitments on time, completely, to a high standard. Integrity is taking care of the "critical inch," the thing that provides a good impression, a good relationship, a job well done. Integrity is a standard you can apply to any activity with great results. AND, it is a standard you will never meet with perfection. That's OK; it's the standard that brings your performance to a new level. By choosing a theme, he was able to unify all his efforts. He was striving for integrity at work and at home.

Clean up the stuff. We began in his cluttered office. We set up new files and cleared away a year's worth of paper. We designed a new way for him to capture information and keep notes. The project information went into project files; general information is kept, by date, in a ledger. We created ONE calendar of appointments, business and personal. We eliminated all the notes and scraps of paper and brought information all together in one place. The clean office and organized files gave him a sense of control and power. He started showing up at meetings, on time, prepared to contribute.

Creating responsiveness. His loss of power at work could also be traced to that over-flowing inbox. By ignoring emails, he was sending the message that he was drowning in responsibilities. He had been excluded from important decisions because he had made himself unavailable. One Saturday, he spent six hours organizing the emails. Old ones were read and deleted. He set up electronic folders for the important ones. He cleared out the in-box and set a new standard: responding to emails within 24 hours, preferably within the same day. He set a standard of no more than 100 emails in his in-box at any one time. When he couldn't respond with an answer, he decided to write back immediately and promise when a response would be coming. He now copies himself on "promise emails" and flags each one for follow-up.

Setting limits and structure. His personal life needed attention and staying at work 10 or 12 hours wasn't helping. Together, we set a limit of a nine-hour workday. He promised to work hard during that time, and then leave the office. Once home, he promised himself two hours of "personal business" time, following by an evening of relaxation. Soon, the bills were paid, the clothes were clean and the lawn was mowed. He had a friend come over to help him clear away the clutter. He hired a housekeeper to deep clean, and set up a bi-monthly schedule he could afford. He began making small home improvements and getting the house ready to sell. He started responding to his estranged wife and working with the attorneys. Integrity at home helped him sleep better and feel better. Soon, his diet improved and he even found time to exercise.

Transformation: Just 14 months later, he is transformed. Everyone at work has noticed his new haircut and sharper clothes. He walks with a new confidence, and speaks with clarity and focus. The divorce is final. The house has been sold and he has moved into a condo where he trades yard work for personal time. He plans weekend trips and outings with friends. He is well on the way to losing that 30 pounds, and even his doctor is impressed with his health changes. He has successfully led several important projects, saving his company millions. His reputation at work is at an all-time high. He has gained the notice of management. All these changes began with a commitment to integrity.

What do you need to work on? Take a look and see where your life needs improvement. Set a standard for yourself and decide to achieve it. Put integrity into your life by doing little things with purpose and completeness. When you keep promises to yourself, you can easily keep promises to others. Putting your life in order will increase your power and set you apart as a STAR Performer. It all begins with a small commitment to bring integrity to your life.


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Catherine Jewell works with service firms to teach professionals how to sell and to coach STAR Performance. The services of her company include workshops, strategic retreats, consulting, and coaching for business development teams. She is the author of "STAR Performance." To learn more, visit www.CatherineJewell.com, call 800-829-5648 or e-mail her at cj@CatherineJewell.com