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Coaches Diary: Putting it Off


This week Olivia Stefanino gets to the root of a client's procrastination.

Simon admitted that he had a major problem with procrastination, and since his father had died of a heart attack nearly a year ago, the problem had become much worse.

Frowning and fiddling nervously with his pen, Simon went on to tell me that he felt increasing pressure at work - and that meeting deadlines was getting harder and harder.

His immediate boss was also beginning to question Simon’s effectiveness, which was adding further to the pressure that he was experiencing. Afraid of losing his job, Simon knew he needed to remedy the situation – and fast – but he was unsure of what to do for the best.

It was time for some soul-searching questions, Simon and I agreed. Recognising that the problem was deeper than mere time management, I first asked Simon why he thought he was on his company’s payroll.

After replying that his role was to win new clients for his company, I asked how much of Simon’s time was actually dedicated to this activity. He quickly told me how he spent a lot of time making to-do lists, sourcing databases and writing sales letters.

Unable to look me in the eye, Simon continued with his litany of activities and when he paused for breath, I gently asked him how much time he spent in direct contact with potential clients.

The answer failed to surprise either of us. Smiling sheepishly, Simon was forced to admit that he was making himself as busy as he could in order to avoid having to spend time conversing with potential customers.

And yet, I pointed out – it was only direct contact with potential clients that would generate new business. And of course, it was Simon’s ability to win new business that had got him his job in the first place!

Faced with the truth, Simon acknowledged that he had lost his confidence. Wiping a tear from his right eye, he told me that things had never been the same for him after his father had died.

“We were very close – and I had a great deal of respect for him,” Simon told me. “My father was the best salesman that I have ever known – and yet the demands of his job gave him a heart attack.”

Further questioning revealed that Simon’s father had also suffered from a congenital heart problem – the most likely cause of his early death. However, in Simon’s sub-conscious mind, an erroneous belief had been created which confused sales success with ill health – and even death!

Clearly, Simon’s sub-conscious mind was doing all it could to prevent him from making those all-important sales calls, in the belief that this would keep him alive. As Simon began to recognise his thought patterns, he started to see the cause of his procrastination problems.

Together we did some visualisation work that enabled Simon to come to terms with his father’s death. He even imagined the advice that his father would give him in his current situation.

With the visualisation exercise completed, Simon wrote down all the advice that his father had spoken to him in his imagination. Reading it through, Simon made the commitment to himself that he would make direct contact with potential clients for at least three hours each day – and that this would be his priority. Only when he had completed this activity could he move on to other, more administrative tasks.

Relieved at having discovered the source of his procrastination, Simon knew that he was fast on the road to becoming his old successful self again.

* Olivia Stefanino is a leadership development consultant and executive coach. For more information on Olivia's work and to download your free e-booklet “128 ways to harness your personal power”, visit


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