Having clarity of your personal purpose is a foundation to having strong self-awareness. Being clear about who you are and who you aren’t gives you the confidence you need to make hard decisions. But, unfortunately we are not all very clear about our purpose.
I don’t care how old you are, you likely have moments of “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up,” every once in a while. You have to reach a special level of enlightenment to not question yourself everyone once in a while.
I’m not trying to get you to Buddha under the Bodhi tree level of enlightenment, but I do what you to be confident enough in our purpose that you can make decisions – possibly life changing decisions – with confidence.
I also believe that your purpose changes over time. When you are early in your career, you are focused on establishing your career. As you start a family, your focus shifts, and as you near retirement, your focus shifts again. So, it isn’t necessarily a one-and-done situation. If you haven’t thought through your purpose recently, it may be time to take another look at it.
So, as you are thinking about your purpose, think about:
If you make decisions from a place where your purpose is the foundation, you can be certain that you will do it with confidence. And, when you operate with a sense of confidence and from a foundation of purpose, you will be more successful in your career.
This week, I want to focus on helping you think in a new way about achieving your longer-term goals. We all get so caught up in our daily lives that sometimes it can seem impossible to make any meaningful progress toward longer term goals. These longer term goals are usually important, but not urgent which makes them easy to deprioritize when you are facing a weeks’ worth of meetings, problems, and deadlines.
What you need to learn how to do is to be able to separate the urgency of the day-job from the importance of the longer-term goal. You need a way to keep your eye on the ball while keeping your head above water each day. There is a combination of very tactical activities that can help you achieve that, and that is what I want to cover today.
Know what your goal is
First, let’s assume you are already clear about what your important goal is. This is something you want to accomplish that is outside of your day job. For our purposes today, we will use an example from my job.
We had a process of forecasting revenue that was monthly and prepared by our finance department. The process was: about halfway through the month, the finance department would prepare a spreadsheet that forecasts revenue for the current quarter and the next quarter. They would send it to me and I would review and correct it. Typically, about 25% of the forecast was wrong and I would have to compare line-by-line to find problems, make notes and updates, and then send it back to finance. Then, finance would have to make the updates based on my notes and put together the final presentation for our leadership team.
This process was stressful and frustrating for several reasons. First, I am closer to the business than finance and have a better understanding of the forecast than they do. This is why there were so many corrections. Second, the time between when the 1st draft was sent to me and when the forecast had to be presented was usually about 2 days which meant there was always a crunch time to turn around my corrections to finance. And third, looking at the forecast once per month was not frequent enough to allow us to make adjustments when we needed to in order to make our numbers.
So, my goal was to improve this process. I wanted to reduce the stress of the process and be able to be more proactive about taking action in order to meet our quarterly targets.
But, because of my day job, it seemed like something that would be hard to accomplish.
So, we’ve got our goal.
Identify the levers that influence the goal
The first tool is to think about what things influence the goal. Think about levers that you can pull that if they change, they will impact the bigger goal. These are called lead measures.
For example, if you want to lose 20 pounds, the levers you can pull are eating fewer calories and exercising more. If you know each day that you ate fewer calories and exercised more, then you can be certain you will achieve your goal of losing weight. If you take your focus off the end goal and put it on the levers – or the lead measures – you can achieve your goal even within the constraints of daily life.
For my goal, in order to be able to be more proactive about achieving a quarterly target, I knew we needed to get to the point where we knew where we stood each week.
For me, the lever became a weekly scorecard that told us if we were on track for the quarterly target.
That seems simple enough, but the reality is that I’m already working 10 hours a day and not getting everything done. Adding a weekly report to my schedule was an overwhelming thought. It would be very easy to have ignored it and just let the current process continue.
Make 1% Progress
Tool number 2 is to think in terms of 1% progress toward your goal. What is 1 small step you can take this week to make progress toward your goal? If you can take 1 step in the right direction this week, you’ve made progress toward your goal.
A lot of times, we set a goal and feel like we’ve got to make huge progress toward it or else we aren’t successful. Then, because our day job doesn’t stop, we can’t get to our goal and then we feel like a failure. Too often, we have unrealistic expectations about changing our daily life in order to accomplish this new goal. Your daily life isn’t going away. In order to accomplish an important goal, you need to come up with a plan that will allow you to make progress in spite of your daily life.
So, think in terms of 1%. What is something you can do this week that will progress you toward your goal? It should be something related to your lead measure. You already know that the lead measure is a lever that will influence the outcome of your goal. So, if you are going to make incremental progress, it definitely needs to be something related to that lever.
For our weight loss example, it might be to eat 1 vegetable each day. It may seem like an insignificant step toward losing 20 pounds, but it is directly linked to weight loss and moves you toward your goal.
For my goal of getting to a proactive forecast, using a weekly scorecard, it meant setting up a set of reports that would feed into the scorecard. So, my original 1% goal or that 1st week was literally to just think about what the scorecard would look like. I had to have a clear picture of the scorecard in order to identify the reports I would need.
Week #1: draw a picture of the scorecard.
Week #2: identify what reports I need in order to fill in the scorecard.
Week #3: pick 1 report and create it.
Week #4: pick a second report and create it.
You get the picture.
Time Block for your 1%
Tool #3 is something we’ve covered in a previous episode – time blocking. If we acknowledge up front that you are going to have to achieve these goals in spite of your daily life, then you need to start to build in time to your daily life for these 1% activities.
Parkinson’s Law says that work expands to fill the time available. And its true. Your daily life is going to take up all of your time. So, you need to block off time on your calendar to ensure you can take your 1% step in the right direction.
Time blocking is the practice of scheduling a meeting on your calendar with yourself to accomplish an important task.
If you know what your goal is and you know the levers you can pull to get you there and you know what your next step is to get you 1% closer to your goal – then the only thing left is to find the time to do it.
So, block time on your calendar each week to take your 1%.
And, then, the hardest part of all – honor the time. Without a doubt, you will have something urgent from your day job that will want to take that slot on your calendar. But, if the goal was important enough to set in the first place, it is important enough to honor the slot you reserved to focus on it. Put the slot on your calendar for 6 months. If you achieve the goal sooner – great. You can always unblock your calendar once you’ve achieved the goal.
So, let me end by telling you that it took a little over 6 months to achieve my goal. I could have easily accomplished it in much less time if it wasn’t for my pesky day job! But, that just wasn’t going to change. So, although it took 6 months to get there – I got there! Our new weekly scorecard is now part of my day job, but there is recognition across the organization that it is a far better process than the old process. And, it is a lot less stressful for me.
Do you have a 1:1 meeting with your manager? If not, why not? If you do, do you feel like you are getting value out of it?
Sadly, I think many 1:1 meetings are less effective than they could be. I think that many people – both managers and employees – don’t have a clear idea about the purpose of the meeting. And, because of this, its hard to make them effective. Let’s start with a discussion of what a 1:1 meeting is. It is a meeting where you and your manager met on a regular basis. The idea is that this is a recurring touchpoint between just the 2 of you. The reason 1:1s are important is because managers have multiple direct reports, so they need the opportunity to spend time with each one on a regular basis. If they don’t have something on their calendar, it would be easy for weeks, months, or even quarters to pass by without any meaningful conversation between the two of you. The demands of day-to-day work, special projects, fighting fires will all consume a work day about it can easily lead to a lack of time for something that is important, but not urgent.
1:1 meetings are important for a lot of reasons:
So, 1:1 meetings are really important. But, they are in no way urgent. As a result, they can easily be put on the back burner. Rescheduled or worse, cancelled altogether. It is something you need to be aware of. Where many employees go wrong is to assume it is the manager’s responsibility to manage the 1:1. It is just a much your responsibility. Your relationship with your manager is very important for your career. Whether they are a good manager or no is not something you are going to be able to control. But, what you can control is your ability to meet 1:1 with your manager. With a bad manager, it might take more persistence, but it is within your control.
If you don’t currently have a 1:1 with you manager, you are going to take the bull by the horns and schedule one.
Now, let’s turn to the topic of what makes an effective 1:1. A 1:1 is a time to step outside of the day-to-day hustle and bustle. It is a time to check in about the bigger picture. To align on priorities, direction, and vision. In some cases, it is a dedicated time for addressing questions that you’ve saved up during the week. Many people treat it as a status meeting. Of course, your particular situation is going to dictate the content or agenda for your 1:1. It is hard for me to give any specific agenda that would work for everybody.
There are some things you can think about that will help you ensure that your 1:1 is giving you the benefits you deserve.
In episode 9, we talked about preparing for your annual review. You should be preparing for it monthly by documenting each month what you accomplished. This process helps you with your 1:1 also. You can refer to this list when meeting with your manager to highlight what you’ve done since your last meeting.
4. Think about your career development. What coaching do you need? Do you know what skills your manager thinks you should develop? Does your manager know what your long term career objective is? Are you at the point in your job where it is time to be talking about what’s next for you? Some portion of your 1:1 agenda should focus on this longer-term career development topic in whatever form makes sense for you in your current situation.
5. You may want to build time into your agenda for addressing current issues you are having that you need your manager’s help solving. This could mean helping to remove a roadblock, giving you a steer in the right direction, being a sounding board to talk through the issues with, or giving you the answer you need. You may or may not have current issues that need to be addressed, but if your manager’s time is hard to come by, using your 1:1 to get what you need might be a good option. So, those are some of the things you should consider when you are planning your 1:1 agenda. If you get our newsletter, you’ll get a guide this week that will help you think through this process and come up with an agenda. If not, you can sign up for our newsletter here and you’ll get access to our full back catalog of guides.
One thing to note about the agenda. You may not cover all of these topics each time. For example, it may make sense to only talk about career development topics each third time. Or, you may not talk about status as a regular agenda item, but some specific situation causes you to add it to the agenda for your next 1:1.
What I’m hoping you take away from this episode is that it is important for you to establish a 1:1 with your manager. If your manager hasn’t taken responsibility for it, then you should do so yourself. There are 2 people in the 1:1, and you are one of them. So, the responsibility is yours to make sure that you have this important mechanism in place to keep an open dialogue with your manager.
You are probably familiar with the saying “the glass is half full.” Just like people are either cat people or dog people, I think people are either glass half full or glass half empty people. One means you have a tendency toward seeing the positive and the other means you have a tendency toward seeing the negative.
Well, it turns out that goals are the same way. Goals can be classified as Promotion or Prevention.
Promotion goals are all about what you can achieve. They are about what you’d ideally like to accomplish and how you can maximize your gains. Promotion goals are the glass half full goals. “I’m going to finish writing that novel” is a promotion goal.
Prevention goals, on the other hand, are about safety or obligation. They are the things you feel you ought to do in order to minimize loss and avoid pain. Prevention goals are the glass half empty goals. “I really need to start looking for a job because I heard layoffs may be coming” is a prevention goal.
Understanding the type of goal is helpful because there are different strategies and motivators that you should use depending on which type of goal it is.
There is a concept called Expectancy Value Theory. It says that people are motivated to do something as a function of 1.) how likely they are to be successful (this is the expectancy part), and 2.) how much they think they will benefit (this is the value part).
For promotion goals, the Expectancy Value Theory is generally driven by how likely you think you will be to succeed. Because promotion goals are achievement or accomplishment driven, it makes sense that you are going to give more consideration to your chances of success. When you complete a promotion goal, you feel a rush of success. A promotion goal makes you smile from ear to ear.
For prevention goals, you are on the other end of the Expectancy Value spectrum. Because prevention goals are more about minimizing loss or avoiding pain, you focus a lot less on the expectancy part of the equation. How likely to are to succeed has less impact because the alternative – doing nothing and suffering the expected loss – is the motivation. Whereas promotion goals result in a feeling of accomplishment, prevention goals result in a feeling of relief.
So, take a look at the goals you are currently pursing and think about them with this new filter. Is there something different you might do to accomplish them now that you know which kind of goal they are?
If you want to dive deeper, listen to our episode on Making Sense of Your Goals
Strategy is something that is traditionally left to the C-Suite or other executives. This is a podcast for those who are early in their career or are not interested in leadership positions, so you may think that strategy isn’t important for you to understand. But – you are the CEO of your career, so you do need to understand it. And, one of the things that you should think about is whether or not your company has a strategy that will make it viable in the long run.
What I want to do in this episode is give you another criterion to consider about whether the job you have or are looking at taking in the future is a good fit for you – it is called the inflection point.
The inflection point is a point in the future where the fundamentals of the business are going to change.
Meaning, everything the current business is built on becomes obsolete and a whole new set of rules apply.
A good strategy will
You want to work for a company that gets this.
In addition, you, as an employee, should be able to recognize and accept change that may come if your company is in the middle of executing a strategy to change the fundamentals of the business. Prepare yourself for changes that may come by assessing:
We all have times when we get into a funk – something in our life isn’t where we want it to be – our job, our marriage, or community involvement. When the funk is about your job, we sometimes call it the Sunday Night Blues.
So, how do you get out of the funk? The goal is to become unstuck.
Step 1: Recognize that you are feeling stuck
Getting stuck usually happens little by little, and you don’t always recognize that you are feeling stuck.
Step 2: Focus on the objective of getting unstuck
Tell yourself that getting unstuck is possible. Say it out loud. It helps with your mindset.
Step 3: Figure out what is causing you to be stuck
You may need to dig deep. The reason may not be obvious at first.
Step 4: Take Action
Use your unconscious mind to help you solve the problem.
Don’t wait until you know the answer to start moving in the right direction.
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We all have a list of goals longer than the amount of time we have to be able to accomplish them. This can be overwhelming and even discouraging.
In this episode, we are going to cover 4 tips that can help you make sense of your goals.
Someday Maybe List
A list of all of the ideas that you have but that you can’t get to immediately.
· Keep one list for work and a separate one for the rest of your life. When you change jobs, the one for your work can just be tossed.
· At least once per year, review the list to remove anything that you’ve already accomplished or that isn’t relevant anymore. In addition, determine if there is anything on the Someday/Maybe List that should be moved to your current projects list.
Get Clear About Your Priorities
Create a North Start List. What are the areas of your life that you must fulfill?
· Family obligations
· Work obligations
· Community obligations
· Personal obligations
Every goal you undertake needs to tie back to your North Start List.
Review Episode 1: North Star List
Understand What Type of Goal it is
“Why” Goals: Goals where you need motivation to keep you moving toward your goal
· Longer term
· Future oriented
For example: I want to lose weight so that I have more energy to play with the grandkids.
“What” Goals: Goals that are more concrete, difficult, or complex
· Detail oriented
· Shorter in duration
· Happening in the near future
For example: I am going to eat 3 vegetables today.
Know When to Give Up
Finding the balance between persistence and knowing when to give up is not easy. Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself to help you determine if you’ve reached the point where it may make sense to give up on a goal:
1. Is it a good use of your time? Given the limited amount of we all have, is this something that you should continue to invest your time in?
2. Is it costing you too much? Money, relationships, or some other opportunity cost. When you got into this goal, did you realize how much it would cost you? If you had know, would you have made the same decision to pursue the goal?
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Words matter. The language you use matters. It impacts your mindset. It gives you a definition of yourself that can become limiting.
Have you ever noticed the different ways that waiters introduce themselves to you?
“I’m Rachel, and I’ll be your server tonight.”
“I’m Rachel, and I’ll be taking care of you tonight.”
A subtle difference, but one communicates that my responsibility is to serve you your food and the other communicates that my responsibility is to take care of you – completely.
Have you ever said, or heard someone say ‘I’m bad at math”? What does that tell you? Do they know that it takes 4 quarters to make a dollar? Do they know calculus? For most of us, knowing calculus isn’t important or necessary for our daily lives. So -if you don’t need to know calculus and you don’t know calculus, then why would you say you are bad at math?
Become aware of the words you use. How do they impact your mindset? What do they communicate to others about you? Are they serving you well?
At some point in every career, we reach a point where we are good at what we do, and it doesn’t really challenge us anymore. And, at different points in your career, you may be good at certain things and still learning others.
A lot of people fall into the trap of not actively managing this process. It is important to be conscientious of where you have mastered your role and where you still have room to grow.
Understanding where you are in your overall career growth will help you plan a way forward. You can start by understanding what Todd Henry calls the aspiration gap.
Aspiration Gap: The difference between the work that you want to create and the work that you are capable of creating at this moment.
Look for an area where, if you learned a new skill, you could take your career to the next level. This will help you focus in on objectives that make sense for your career at your particular point in your career.
By thinking about where your skills, interests, and strengths can be improved to take your career to the next level, you are giving your career its own unique flavor. Nobody else is going to do your job exactly the same way you do.
Take stock of your current job and where you want to be. What can you do to move yourself toward your goal?
Our worksheet for this week contains a list of questions to help you think through this. If you’d like to receive, it, sign up for our newsletter.
It is a natural cycle to want to improve yourself. The question is—when do you reach the point where you’ve stopped learning and you need to become a freshman again?
When you are an expert—you don’t get a day off.
When you are a freshman:
· You can ask questions that an expert wouldn’t ask for fear of looking stupid
· You can take risks that would look like career suicide for an expert
· You can try things and not worry about failure— because for a freshman, it is about learning
· Use the phrase “I’m no expert here...”
· Use the phrase “Let’s try this and see if it works...”
For your current job or area of expertise:
How can you look at it with a fresh set of eyes?
What experiment can you do to see if it improves your job?
Outside of your current job:
What is something you don’t know much about that you could learn more about?
I teach people how to thrive at work. Let's connect on LinkedIn
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