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I Was Spinning Plates and Didn’t Even Know It

An extract from the XTL Journals

I’ll never forget the time in my life when I thought I was flying high, I had so many projects going on, it really felt like I was getting ahead, but in actual fact I was just spinning plates. I was going from one project to the next to the next to the next and by that time the first one had slowed down and I had to race back to it to give it some attention just to keep it spinning. In truth, I was doing nothing well and at the time I was so busy I didn’t even notice. I never had time to just sit, do nothing and assess. With my lack of time came lack of attention to detail and the small important things I skimmed over or missed, started to cause me trouble.

The problem was, I was on a treadmill I couldn’t get off and with the missing systems and the right or enough people in place, one by one thing’s started to crumble.

And crumble they did. I had to sell off properties, close businesses and after that, I was still in debt with not a single asset to my name. I was also so busy spinning plates that I missed the fact the wool was being pulled over my eyes by a partner in one of the businesses. I was too busy, too trusting and too naive to notice the numbers were not adding up and all of a sudden close to a million dollars had been wasted or lost. So, with no assets and over $900,000 in debt, I had to come up with a plan.

Moral of the story, multi-tasking is a myth. Slow down to speed up.

Yes, people multitask all the time and in these times you have to, but multi-tasking does not get the job done as efficiently and thoroughly as it could, had it been the only task concentrated on.

There are always exceptions to the rule and companies like GE for example have complex systems to be able to do multiple things right. GE narrowed its vision to only invest time into businesses that over time could become #1 or #2 in the world in their field and by eliminating businesses that would not meet these criteria enabled them to keep focus on their core vision. They didn’t try to implement all of this at once; they followed a plan where every person knew their job and their focus. Their plan enabled them to get it right before moving onto the next plate.

New research has recently come out about goals and achieving them.

A survey was done with people that have 2 to 3 goals, 4 to 8 goals and 9 to 20 goals.

Very interestingly on average, the people that had 2 to 3 goals succeeded in achieving what they had set out to, the people that had 4 to 8 goals achieved 1 to 2 goals and those that had 9 to 20, achieved none. This very clearly shows what can happen when trying to do many things at once.

Intense Focus –

You might think I’m different or Richard Branson does it so why can’t I. That may be so, but what systems and resources do they have in place, how long have they been operating and what team do they have behind them.

In my plan to get out of debt, I eliminated everything in my life bar one working goal and my family responsibilities/home life and the difference was amazing. In truth, it took a while to get down to one goal as with all the crap I was going through as there were many roadblocks to remove first. With only one goal as the focus, for the first time in a long time I could see clearly and results and ideas that were not possible before came easily and fast. I also felt more focused and had a renewed energy I had not had for a long time…

Strong Leadership–

Leaders tend to focus on one of the 4 areas below…

  • People
  • Vision
  • Process
  • Investment

Focus on the People

This type of leader focuses on making sure that the right people are in the right place in the business to match their capabilities. This leader would be very hands on in the hiring process for all team leaders. It would be the leader’s priority to make sure the skills of the people matched their key responsibilities and that an organisational fit was evident.

The people leader’s thinking is as follows: If you find and place great people into the right position in the organization, give them the required tools and take advantage of their strengths, they can achieve great things. When the people plate is spinning well, it will create an atmosphere where individuals on their own will spin the plates for you. When this happens, all you have to do is get out of their way and monitor their progress.

Focus on the Vision

This type of leader invests a large amount of time ensuring the vision and mission is right. Communicating that vision and making sure that the rest of the team understands it and gets behind it is the leader’s next highest priority.

If the leader can get the whole team behind the vision, the team will become focused and then the business will start to move in that direction. Once the team knows the vision, they will automatically move towards the plates that are the most important.

Focus on the Process

This type of leader loves to plan and invests a great deal of time on the process. They are constantly analysing how things work within the organisation and are always looking towards automation, eliminating waste and Kaizen. (The Japanese word for constant improvement) They are big fans of charts and data.

A well-oiled efficient process keeps the plates spinning all on their own. Of course you need people who have been trained by a process to follow the process and to recognise potential problems.

Focus on the Investment

This type of leader  would ensure that the right resources were invested in the right projects. They would focus on how and where the money was being spent and what returns on investment they would make.

The leader focuses on determining which are the best plates to spin. The example above where GE identified the wobbly plates and instead of trying to spin all the plates, the decision was made to focus on those businesses that had the potential to become #1 or #2 in the world was made. The rest were let go or sold. The leader then puts enough resources behind those projects to ensure that they get done.


The leader is there to ensure the correct plates are spinning.

Like it or not, in a one man band, a small business or large organisation, you are the leader and you have to wear many hats. So rather than your focus being spread too thin, pick a plate to really focus on and stick to it. By using efficient time management and leverage or in other words, doing what you are good at so that the strength of your plate spinning effortlessly allows you to use the services of other people to ensure success. This freedom will then allow the leaders to be true leaders, rather than just plate breakers.

Leaders that are spread too thin will end up being effective at very little or nothing at all. When a leader focuses on one aspect of the business, be it the people, the vision, the investment or the process factor, that one particular factor gets done very well. The leader’s next priority is to make sure the initial effectiveness spreads to out to all other areas of the business. Leaders and entrepreneurs are often confronted with a variety of tasks and responsibilities and at times it can feel like you are just spinning plates. You are madly moving from crisis to crisis just trying to keep your head above water. The time for strategic planning seems like a distant dream with all of your time and energy being spent just keeping the plates spinning.

It doesn’t need to be that way. Please think about the information above to look at how to stop being a plate spinner and how to become a true leader. Start focusing on your strengths to plan for a more profitable and rewarding future.

We are eager to hear about you.

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Yours in Life,


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