How I Do It: Tony Jeary

UPDATED: May 11, 2024
PUBLISHED: March 3, 2009

There are three enemies of speed and results— absence of clarity, lack of focus and poor execution, says presentation strategist Tony Jeary. In his latest book, Strategic Acceleration: Succeed at the Speed of Life, Jeary shows how to overcome these obstacles with the ability to communicate vision and translate vision into action. A top coach to CEOs, Jeary shares his insights with SUCCESS.

Q: Why is establishing clarity so important to getting ahead in life and business?

When you have an authentic vision, things happen. If you have no vision, there is nothing to tie your objectives to and nothing to measure your progress or performance. When you have clarity about your vision, you discover yourself being pulled toward it, and all you have to do is follow the connecting opportunities that carry you along. The pulling effect of an authentic vision allows you to make connections faster. You can identify and pursue opportunities faster. The results you achieve will be superior, and they will come faster than you may have thought possible. To find clarity, ask yourself the following: What do you really want? Why do you want it? What is your overarching objective, the thing you desire the most, and why is it so important to you? If you can articulate your vision, you have taken the first step toward developing clarity.

Q: What are some signs indicating a lack of clarity?

People who don’t believe they can do what they have to do. For example, when sports teams enter a championship game, a team that does not believe it can win will not win. In the same way, people must believe they can execute a vision, or they will not be able to do it. When you don’t believe you can do what you have to do, it means you don’t believe in yourself or your vision. This means you don’t have clarity about what you really want.

People who use planning to avoid action. Preparation and planning are important, but excessive preparation is nothing more than procrastination. It is only when you start doing what you need to do that you can begin to produce results. If you procrastinate, it means you are fearful of failure and may not be confident in your ability to succeed.

People who quit too easily or give up in the face of adversity. It is always easy to quit, and too many people prefer quitting to the discomfort they experience when the going gets tough. The reason is simple: Adversity is painful. When you quit in the face of adversity, it means you are deficient in the mental substance it takes to persevere and overcome. Clarity is the missing ingredient.

Q: How can people learn to become more focused?

Focus is not something that comes naturally for most people. It’s a skill that must be learned, polished and practiced. Focus is a thinking skill acquired as a result of mental discipline. To develop mental discipline concerning focus, you need to treat it the same way you would acquire any other skill. Since distraction is the opposite of focus, your ability to focus is directly related to how well you’re able to consistently avoid and eliminate distractions. Become aware of your need to improve your focus, and make a conscious decision to invest the time to improve your skills with practice and training. Become acutely aware of distractions and avoid them. Be more intimately aware of the activities—tied to your life’s vision—for which you need to allocate most of your time and effort. Your ability to achieve objectives within established time frames will greatly increase as your skills of focus increase. And with fewer distractions, you will be able to get more done because you will have achieved more effective use of your time.

Q: Say my vision is established and my focus is steadily improving, what’s the next step to accelerate toward achieving my vision?

Clarity and focus together form the basis of execution. Though all three are important, the most significant is execution because execution is about doing. Clarity and focus provide a road map and form the basis for doing what you need to do, but execution is about actually doing it, and this is where you will spend the bulk of your time.

Regardless of your role or vision, you then need others’ assistance and cooperation to be successful, and your ability to persuade has a lot to do with others’ willingness not only to assist you, but also to exceed expectations. When you can persuade others to exceed expectations, you take execution to a higher level and really move the results needle. The most successful people can effectively convince and persuade other people to take action on their behalf. They do it by knowing what they want to say and how they want to say it. Then they can say it in a way that impacts others and spurs them to take action.

Q: What’s the greatest obstacle people face in turning their vision into reality?

One habit that has more impact on delaying results than anything else is procrastination. We are all guilty of procrastination to some extent. There are two kinds:

Positive procrastination—This is when you legitimately need some mental percolation time to gather your thoughts and get clear on what you need to do. Negative procrastination—This is based on some pretty fl imsy excuses to avoid doing something, which will ultimately affect your results in negative ways.

Procrastination is a bad habit that greatly restricts results and effectiveness, but it can be controlled. The first step is to identify the reasons behind it, then make the commitment to move toward production, the opposite of procrastination. Production is the completion of tasks and projects in reduced time frames, and it is greatly accelerated by the concept of Production Before Perfection (PBP). Rather than waiting for every aspect of a project to come into perfect, linear alignment, PBP allows you to manage the aspects in parallel, adjust the project as you progress and reach greater results.

Q: What’s one of the most important traits I can develop to accelerate my progress?

The willingness to change plays a huge role in your ability to succeed. Voluntary change, which does not require anyone to push you or mandate that you do new things, is the kind of change you should seek. To enable smooth, low-stress change, you need to become aware of what you can and should change.

Here's a change audit to follow: What opportunities and choices present themselves to you daily? What causes you to feel stressed or rushed? What are the fi ve most important actions you can take to bring value to your business or personal life? What are five actions you can either delegate or spend less time on? If you spent less time on the actions in No. 4 and focused more on the actions in No. 3, what would that mean to your effectiveness?

Remember, you need to know what you want to do, why you want to do it and how you will do it. You need to know the benefit of doing it and the negative payoff for not doing it. Acquiring clarity and increasing effectiveness will accelerate your success.

Tony Jeary is an author, executive coach and presentation strategist. Jeary has published more than three dozen books about making presentations and strategic effectiveness. He coaches the world's top executives from companies such as Wal-Mart, Ford, New York Life and Texaco.