goals

Are Your Goals Making You Sore or Helping You Soar?

Remember back in January when you had that new year motivation and fresh start attitude? You had all of this pent up passion for making something change this year. You had the idea that something was going to be different this year from your previous rut.

Once you identified the “what” you wanted to change, your next step was to set some goals for yourself. For most of us, we set goals for working in the office, traveling, or maybe even working out at the gym.

Do you remember your goals from the beginning of the year? Do you remember where you posted them? Are they still posted in legible form or has the Post-It Note you wrote them on started to curl around the edges with its spotlight position on the refrigerator now covered by last month's grocery list?

Have you made any progress on the goals you set?

You might even have named your goal: BHOG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), Key Results Area, Performance Management Objective, Personal Development Plan, or some other colloquial term that you or your organization or discipline uses.

It is now July, and it is time to go back and check in on what was important to you at the beginning of the year. Ask yourself, "Have I accomplished my goals or did I get off track?”

It can be quite common for people to not to want to review the goals the set earlier in the year, especially if they know they have not made the progress they hoped. The feeling of discouragement can become overwhelming when we see a lack of progress and know we aren't where we had hoped to be by now when the goal was originally set.

Stay In the Game

Discouragement can be devastating when it comes to goals. In my experience, it can be one of the hardest obstacles to overcome.

The goal had meaning and significance to you 6 months ago, so it's time to start asking yourself some questions as to why you are not making progress. You HAVE NOT failed! You have likely learned a lot in 6 months about the goal and your progress if you just stop and think about it.

An analogy came to me the other day that may have some application.

In January, you set your goal. Let's say you wanted to exercise three days a week for an hour. Think of this goal as getting on an airplane. You are all buckled in your seat and ready for take-off. You know the goal. It is written down and it actually feels comfortable.

The plane starts down the runway, shakes, and surges as it gains speed. All of a sudden, it is February. You likely have taken a couple of steps toward goal attainment. You are gaining speed and you can feel the inertia of the plane starting to lift off. In regard to your goal, maybe you called around to see what gym would best fit your needs. You went out and bought new exercise clothes and maybe some shoes. The feeling and speed of the change feels good.

Then comes March. The plane reaches 30,000 feet, the seat belt sign comes off, the plane levels out. And the exercise doldrums set in. You no longer feel the rush of take-off. You no longer can sense the speed of the plane. This is when goal attainment becomes difficult. When it feels like you are not making any progress at all.

The Feeling Is Not Real

The interesting thing to me is the lie our emotions give us in this context. While the positive “dopamine” feeling of starting may be gone, the important thing to realize is that the plane is still going 450 miles an hour even when you can’t feel it. You are still moving. You are still experiencing progress. Even though Q2 is gone and we have said goodbye to April, May, and June, YOU are still flying. Realize your plane is in the air. You have not crashed. YOU HAVE NOT FAILED!

Instead of assuming that you are way off track and that you've already failed, step back and look at your goal objectively. Think about when you set your goals — were they SMART goals?

Most likely you've heard this acronym, and even used them when setting goals, but it is helpful to use to check up on your goals or even get back on track.

  • Was it Specific? When getting specific with your goal, don't just consider what your goal is, but why and how you want to achieve it. Perhaps you want to work on developing young leaders. Your why might be because your want to prepare them for more responsibility in the future and your how will be through professional development workshops or one-on-one mentoring sessions.

  • Was it Measurable? Are you able to see where you are right now and where you'll end up? If you are not able to track the progress of obtaining the goal along the way, you'll have a hard time seeing if you succeeded in the end or stay motivated along the way.

  • Was it Achievable and Realistic? I feel the A and R in our acronym go hand in hand in some ways. When you figure out your goal, how to do it, and when to accomplish it by, you have to think about the parameters and circumstances that you are working in that will make it possible. This isn't to discourage you from setting the goal, but rather encourage you to think about how you will make sure you complete the goal, and ensure that it's not completely out of reach or asking too much from your team. At this point, something may have come up in the last 6 months that have changed your circumstance and deterred your goal. That's okay. Life happens. Instead of seeing it as a failure or no longer attainable, just think about what changes need to be made to your goal, the plan, or the timeline. Don't be tempted to start from scratch, instead, make less work for yourself by simply re-evaluating and tweaking what's already in progress and steer it back on track.

  • Was it Time-bound? Some of you may have set goals that you've already completed, others might feel the pressure of the time ticking away. Use the time as positive pressure to get the work done, not to stress you out. If you feel constrained, give yourself a break and allow yourself more time. If it's a project with a deadline, reach out to your team or manager and see how you can work together to get it completed. Also, consider how you are using your time and what could be distracting you from focusing on your goal. What limits do you need to implement personally to give yourself time and focus to achieve this goal?

Most importantly, remember the why behind your goal and the reasons that motivated you to set the goal in the first place. Visualize what it will look like for you and your team when that goal is accomplished. Write this down and keep it somewhere you'll see it and can read it often. (Perhaps avoid the refrigerator this time!)

Keep yourself in the air and land that goal safely on the ground.

Homework

Take a look at the goal you set at the beginning of the year. Grab a coach, mentor, or trusted advisor and share with them your SMART goal. Listen to any advice they have for you. Be encouraged by the progress you have made (even if it feels like you are flying in circles). Decide with your support system what steps you need to take to land your plane safely. Set up another meeting with them in September for a progress check and December for a celebration of your achievement.

How to Use Child's Play to Find Giftedness in Your Leadership

No matter what reason we were hired to coach, one topic that most of us in executive coaching will hear clients bring up is vocation.

As clients go through some of the deep work that coaching often entails, they start to question the choices they have made that landed them in their current careers. When I ask leaders how they came to be in their current job I often hear things like:

  • It was my next logical step for promotion.
  • My boss thought it would be good for me to get experience in this area.
  • There was an opening, I interviewed, and here I am!
  • I always had an interest in ____________. (fill in the blank…science, math, the arts, dance, music)

Because my role as a coach is to help people explore the choices they have made and the choices they see in front of them, I rarely offer advice about what clients should do. I am asked all the time, "If you were me, what would you do?" Most of the time I say, “I am not you. I have not had your experiences. I don’t have your skills. I don’t have your unique giftedness. So I can’t tell you what to do."

About a month ago that exact scenario happened.  ”Scott, if you were me, what would you do?" was the question posed. I did my little duck-and-weave maneuver described above and helped the client think through options they saw in front of them, as well as presented some other options that may not have naturally occurred in the conversation, and all was well. This is how it usually goes. Then, the session ends and the client goes on to make decisions and from time to time they keep me posted along the way.

As I finished my time with that client, I spent some time reflecting. This is something I do a lot after a coaching session. I like to think about things like:

  • What kind of energy did the client show up with?
  • What words did they use?
  • Where did the conversation lead?
  • What issues were brought to the surface?
  • Did we get closer to achieving whatever goal has been set?
  • What was my energy?
  • What words, stories, analogies did I use?
  • If I was the client, would I have valued the time I spent with me?

While in this reflective mood I remembered the client asking what I would do if faced with their vocational choice. I thought a lot about what I said and the words I chose...and then the thought hit me: I wonder if the client understood what I meant by pointing out their unique giftedness? I am sure he understood that I meant that he had unique experiences and skills, but unique giftedness is a term many may be unfamiliar with. In fact, it is a term I use often and even I wasn’t sure I knew exactly what I meant!

So I did what comes naturally to me, I started studying.

Unique Giftedness

As it turns out, the idea behind unique giftedness has been explored in some detail over the last decade or more by career counselors and those interested in vocation. Its genesis and thesis are derived from what is known as depth psychology. Clinical psychologists use depth psychology to explore the unconscious mind. By paying attention to things like dreams, slips-of-the-tongue, sarcastic humor, spontaneous humor, and meaningful coincidences, clinical psychologists are able to chart an exploration of the unconscious mind.

Depth psychologists probe areas of the mind looking to help their patients unlock the unconscious or discover things that have been trampled over and subdued from the past. While most people thinking about vocation don’t need to explore any repressed memories, career counselors have starting using some depth psychology techniques to help those they work with explore their giftedness. It turns out that as we progress through life some of us may find ourselves in a job or career that has us scratching our heads wondering, “how in the world did I get here?"

Using this vocational depth psychology approach, people are encouraged to explore career, not from their credentials, their job title, or any organizational function they are attached to, but instead explore vocation by asking the question “What are my leading gifts and abilities?”

While there are several techniques I found for uncovering answers to this question, the one I found most intriguing is called The Childhood Autobiography. It is a simple exercise where you write your own biography of what it was like for you growing up as a kid. Then you search for things within your autobiography that point to what you really loved as a child. These first loves and interests are the sparks for your unique giftedness.

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Childhood Autobiography

I was really fascinated by this idea of childhood autobiography and how it could link me to unique giftedness, so I thought I would give it a try.

Here are the questions I used to help me write mine, and here is a link to my childhood autobiography if you are interested. (it's only a page or so, but I did find it very informative in exploring my unique giftedness.

  • What are the earliest memories you have from your childhood?
  • How did you spend your time as a kid?
  • What kinds of things brought you pleasure?
  • Are there things you tried to avoid?
  • What kind of people did you really enjoy being around?
  • What kind of people annoyed you?

My next step was to read through my childhood autobiography to see if I could pick up any unique giftedness.

Any you know what… I did!

I found out that my vocation really isn’t about skills, talents, or even intellect.  My big discovery was that it does not matter what vocation I choose if I am able to have fun and be curious. I could be happy and find fulfillment in many vocations.

Homework

Why not create your own Childhood Autobiography? You can use my questions above to explore this for yourself. If you do learn anything fun in this process, drop me a line. I would love to hear about any impact this little exercise had on you.

Do You Make These Mistakes in Leadership?

I was having a conversation with a really close friend the other day. This person is a high-level leader who has a lot of autonomy in his role. He can make many decisions that can affect many lives. His board of directors gives him a lot of latitude to direct the vision and mission of his organization. His team loves working with him.

He knows leadership. He not only articulates this in the way he speaks, but I can see the actions of his life. He is:

  • Self-aware and others-aware.He knows his strengths and weaknesses, and is not afraid to admit when he doesn't know something. He is keenly aware of how others are presenting themselves.
  • Communicates vision. He repeats the vision for his organization over and over and over. I mean, if you are part of his group and cannot articulate what the organization is about, then you must be trying not to understand. You might not like it, You might not agree with it, But there is one thing for sure…You HAVE HEARD IT!
  • Displays cognitive and emotional intelligence. He is smart enough to be in his role and knows when his emotions are in play and how to manage them.
  • Balances task and relationship. He realizes that leadership is about both Leaders have followers and they need to work together to create the organization's vision.
  • Understands positives and negatives of culture. He knows that culture has both cool stuff about it and warts, and that is all just part of the cultural paradox.
  • Change Matters. He moves his team forward because he knows if he stands still, they become irrelevant. He is keenly aware of dynamics of change like conflict, stress, and speed.
  • Strategic and systematic thinker. He has a strong ability to know what the root issue is that needs to be addressed. He listens compassionately to all concerns and can keep his team focused on what the whole organization needs.
  • Spiritually connected. He interacts with people showing both grace and mercy at appropriate times and has a strong moral compass.

He both knows leadership and acts as a leader. As you can tell, I am a fan. I am not in any way saying he is perfect, just that when it comes to leadership he really gets the core essence.

The Conversation

Our dialogue was actually quite short. Neither of us had much time that day, but the conversation was about something very important to both of us. We both are members of an organization that is struggling. Its current leadership has been in place for a few years.

Leading this organization is in no way easy. What is easy is to sit back (like I am doing) and be critical.

My intention is not to be negative or critical but to turn some of our observations of this organization into a learning moment for all of us.

Here are 5 leadership mistakes we quickly identified. Perhaps you could use this list as a reflection of where you are in your own leadership.

The Mistakes

  • Personal Agenda. The leader has become emotionally attached to his initial vision and doesn’t seem to be allowing himself the capacity to learn.
  • Incremental Change. The leadership team has gotten into the weeds of the change that is needed. They are too focused on the tactics of making the change happen rather than staying strategic and delegating. This is causing the change to be micromanaged and blame is starting to occur.
  • Spirit of Defensiveness. When strategy gets questions and an answer is given confidently. When people want more depth, the same answers are given only louder and with more extraversion. This behavior is turf-protection rather than a spirit of openness and curiosity.
  • Vision possibility. While the vision for the organization is inspirational, it is one that is hard to relate to the practical. While inspiration carries with it emotion and cultural comfort, a vision has to do more than give a feeling of eating “Momma’s meatloaf and mashed potatoes." George Bernard Shaw gets attributed with one of my favorite vision quotes that makes the distinction between inspiration and possibility: “you see things; and you say, ‘why'. But I dream things that never were; and say 'why not!’.”
  • Lack of personal awareness. Perhaps the biggest issue is that many people tell this leader he is great all the time. I think he has started to believe it. While I am sure he feels some pressure in the role, my concern for him is that he is falling prey to the invulnerability fallacy.
  • The invulnerability fallacy. Because he has risen to the top, and many in the organization were excited he took the role, nothing can go wrong for him.

Self-Check

It is good for all of us to get really honest with ourselves from time to time. If you are sitting there telling yourself, “Well none of this happens to me so I am doing well," then perhaps you are suffering from the fallacy of thinking that you are all-knowing. I think as leaders we need to constantly be challenging ourselves across a number of leadership domains.

I think as leaders we need to constantly be challenging ourselves across a number of leadership domains. This is one of the reasons that coaching is so important. Every leader needs to have a voice who will speak truth to them. Who can help them see things that are not obvious. It is very difficult for someone who is internal to the organization and wants to stay, to deliver meaningful, long-term feedback. Once in awhile, someone will speak one word of truth, but very few will have the intestinal fortitude to continue on. This is one of the real values that coaching can bring. Hopefully, you are working with a coach, and this coach is providing you the challenge you need in your leadership life.

Every leader needs someone in their life who will keep them honest and humble, who doesn’t have much to lose in delivering bad news, a trusted voice who can lead the leader out of the wilderness, someone you can put your faith in because you know they have your best interest in mind.

Homework:

I have given you 8 positive leadership dimensions and 5 things that can go wrong in leadership. Do a reflective assessment of your own leadership. Not that these two lists are in any way definitive, but use them to think, reflect, and assess what your leadership looks like. Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.