Posts Tagged ‘success factors’

Stay on track with your New Year’s Resolution! Three questions to ask yourself daily

January 15, 2012

Whether or not you set yourself some challenges at the start of the year, it’s all too easy to lose the plot when it comes to your goals, and get side-tracked by STUFF that happens in day-to-day life.

I’ve challenged myself this year to ask myself these three questions at the end of every single day, and I’d like to invite you to do the same.

 

Question 1: “Have I acted with courage and zeal?”

The question here is the attitude with which you’ve approached the day: have you forged ahead and done things that needed to be done, even if you were a little bit afraid of doing so … or have you allowed fear to prevent you from doing something? Have you adopted a “get on with it NOW” mindset … or have your procrastinated and put off doing a task until you “get around to it”? Have you acted with a positive and enthusiastic outlook, or trudged through the day as if your goal was forced labour?

Consider the impact that a positive approach has … compared with the sorry alternative.

 

Question 2: “Have I sown the seeds of tomorrow, today?”

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and success can take time, depending on the goals that you’ve set for yourself. Have you done something today that has sown the seeds of your tomorrow, and that has moved you in some way closer to your goal? Success often comes through consistently doing the small things, rather than waiting for the right moment to make a one-off gargantuan effort.

Ultimately, you reap what you sow … so what’s it been today?

 

Question 3: “Have I retained balance?”

Whatever you’ve done and achieved today, have you done so without compromising your values and character and without infringing the rights of others? Have you maintained your sense of ‘self’ and well-being?

If you have freaked out for some reason (it happens to everyone all too often) it’s worth reflecting on the day and thinking about the precise point at which you started to ‘lose it’, and what triggered that emotion, so that if the situation arises again you can either try to stop it … or if that’s not possible, recognise the need to develop some coping strategies to keep you grounded.

At the end of the day, success isn’t success if along the way you lose sight of yourself and your values.

 

If you ask yourself these questions frequently, it doesn’t matter too much if you go off track for a day or so: you can catch up quickly.

If you DON’T ask yourself challenging questions and hold yourself to account … or you only do so once in a blue moon … then you’ll have MUCH further to catch up if you’ve slipped off the track. And you might not catch up at all.

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The BIGGEST short cut to success secret that NONE of the push-button-system gurus want you to know!

October 13, 2011

This week’s blog is inspired by … well, I can’t say who. Someone I know who’s looking for that push-button income generator that will deliver maximum results with minimum effort.

It’s a stark reality that we live in a world where we expect, and demand, instant results. Crumbs, if my PC takes a few seconds longer than usual to download something, I tend to get cheesed off. This impatience has spread into almost every area of life: instant access to information … speedy weight loss … pop-up tents … furniture that you can assemble yourself in a matter of minutes … drive through eateries … fast-track queues at Disneyland – the list goes on.

And millions of people have a thirst for quick success. For reaping what they haven’t sown, for enjoying a lifestyle that they haven’t worked for … for sneaking in at the head of the queue without having had the tedious wait.

There is one BIG SECRET to achieving quick success that you’re not likely to find unless you look really hard. And it’s this. THE BIGGEST short cut to success is recognising that there ARE no short cuts to success.

Yep – it’s that simple. So simple, in fact, that it’s part of the school crest at my son’s Primary School, where the motto is ‘Success Through Effort’.

If you’re looking of a fast-track, corner-cutting route to success, your best bet is to wise up to the fact that you’re chasing a rainbow and that true and lasting success takes 3 key things: investment, effort and perseverance.

Success takes investment:

This doesn’t always have to mean shelling out your hard earned cash – it could well mean investment in other areas: your time, your effort, your skills, your knowledge, and certain of your resources.

If your goal is worth achieving, how much are you willing to invest? How much are you willing to sacrifice to get there?

Make no mistake. People who currently enjoy a lifestyle to which you may aspire (and have achieved this legally) have worked hard to get there, or, where there’s inherited wealth, to stay there.

Success takes effort:

Lazy people, I’d venture to suggest, do not become successful.  Success requires you to get off your butt, and not expect someone else to do the legwork for you.

In the words of Gary Player: “the harder I work, the luckier I get”

Enough said, really.

Success takes perseverance:

You sow the seed, you tend the seed – watering it and keeping it clear of weeds – and in time it grows. You prune it and feed it. When it’s ready, you harvest the fruit.

You don’t stick an apple seed in the ground one day and expect to be harvesting a bumper crop of Braeburns the next.

The journey to success often means managing your own expectations as to how long it will take, and developing the resilience to overcome obstacles – both tangible and psychological – that might threaten to hold you back.

Take the short cut to success:  stop faffing about looking for quick fixes that don’t exist. Prepare yourself to invest in your goal, make an effort, and stick to it for as long as it takes.

I hope my friend reads this, but somehow I don’t think he will. He’s too busy scouring the internet for a get-rich-quick scheme …

7 Leadership skills that EVERYONE should develop – Number 4: Encourage Learning

July 9, 2011

If you ever get to a stage in your career when you think “I’ve arrived”, you stop learning … and it’s obviously important that leaders at all levels don’t do this. Perhaps more to the point, it’s crucial that leaders act as ROLE MODELS for learning and development, in order to embed it throughout the organisation.

Cynics amongst you might think “Well she would say that –she’s in training and development!”  and I guess there’s an element of truth in that: but I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t believe passionately that it’s important, both to individuals and to businesses.

Here are three things to do with learning that I believe that leaders could do better– whatever size of business they’re in.

1) Elevate the status of learning

I’ve written before about whether people approach training to build a person and their skills (i.e. in a positive and proactive sense) or whether they use it to fix problems (i.e. in a remedial, reactive sense).

If training and development are seen as remedial measures, people are less likely to be motivated to learn – either on training courses OR, more importantly, in their own time and in terms of their own personal development. Almost across the board, that whole personal development area is a huge learning opportunity that companies are missing.

As a leader, making it obvious that you yourself are on a learning journey, passing on some of the things you’ve learned and referencing books, courses, online resources and so on will help raise the importance of ongoing learning within the company.

Put bluntly, if you and your people aren’t learning, they’re remaining in ignorance … and that’s not going to bring you a commercial edge.

 2) Condone the enjoyment of learning

Learning is serious business … but it doesn’t have to be a mirthless drudge of lectures, powerpoint presentations and manuals the size of building blocks.

Years of research in both the training and development and education sectors point to the fact that the brain absorbs information (i.e. learns)  through the five senses, amongst other factors, and that by far the most people learn best through auditory, visual AND haptic means.

I was working for an organisation a few years back which approved a very interactive, innovative series of workshops for junior staff, but insisted that senior managers at the same organisation needed a more ‘serious’ approach.

They seemed to somehow be suggesting that once you  get a  ‘senior manager’ plaque on the door, you suddenly lose your sense of humour and personality and more to the point, lose your ability to learn by any other means than didactic instruction.  This of course, contradicts both academic and medical research … to say nothing of common sense. Do senior managers enjoy boring training courses any more than the rest of us?! I doubt it!

Of COURSE content needs to be tailored to the level of the participant group. Delivery methods, though, need to be as engaging as possible in order to be interesting and relevant to learners.

It should be remembered that people learn more when they are relaxed and enjoying themselves. And there’s no age or management limit to that.

 3) Support the implementation of learning

So! Someone comes back from a training course, full of ideas, keen to test out some of their new found skills! What happens next:

a) Hurray! The company already has a learning system in place, and with the full support of their managers and colleagues they successfully build confidence in implementing their new skills until they become habit, modelling positive behaviours and practices in the process.

b) They have a stab at some of the techniques from the course that they’re more comfortable with, stash the course manual in a drawer somewhere, and remember to tick that training course off on their performance management checklist.

c) They try one of their new techniques and their manager /colleague jibes “Oh, well we can see that YOU’VE been on the training course!” leaving them somewhat crestfallen and reluctant to try to implement anything else they’ve learned.

Clearly individual leaders can have an impact on the level and extent to which they provide an environment where learning and trying new skills is the norm, and where practice is monitored and encouraged, and many already do this.

It can be easier, though to assume that people will come back from a training course or other learning intervention and just ‘get on with it’, without recognising how the environment can affect the extent to which this is done.

Leaders who continue to learn inspire others in the organisation to do the same. Leaders who recognise when other people are learning and coach and encourage them to persevere in implementing their newskills are taking HUGE steps to develop a learning culture.

And why bother? In the words of the Chinese proverb  “Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back”.

And who wants their own career, their department or their company to do that?

7 Critical Leadership Skills that EVERYONE Should Develop

June 8, 2011

I’ve been privileged and fortunate to work over the years with a large number of people who are either in positions of leadership, who aspire to leadership, or who have had leadership ‘thrust upon them’ and want to develop their skills.

Through observing and working with them, I’ve recognised that there are certain leadership skills that the good ones simply can’t do without.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing them with you…so here we go with the first one!

LEADERSHIP SKILL #1: LISTENING

Just a quick thing, friends: I’m focussing here specifically on Listening and Leadership – if you’d like to develop your personal listening skills (identifying the mistakes that EVERYBODY makes, and learning how you can avoid them! ) then please have a look at the free download which will be at the Yara website at http://www.yaraconsulting.com within the next few days.

At the risk of stating the obvious, listening is a CRUCIAL skill for leaders to develop. Why? Well, first of all, why not? You don’t seriously think you have all the answers without input from others do you?!

More to the point, listening to people does two important things: it makes the speaker(s) feel valued and understood, both of which contribute to motivation, and indeed to further contribution from that individual or group. Nothing shuts down ideas, input and motivation quicker that people feeling ignored.

Listening also provides you with an insight and perspective that you wouldn’t otherwise have…and for leaders, I can’t overstate how vital this is.

Good leaders listen, and listen to the right people. Learning to do it and learning to do it well is a valuable skill which cannot be neglected.

Listening strategically

By listening strategically, I mean considering carefully to whom or what leaders are listening. Listening in the right direction can potentially have a profound impact on decision making and organisational direction.

There will of course be the usual things that leaders listen to: market factors, shareholders, regulators customers etc etc. However, there are a few other directions in which leaders should turn in order to listen strategically – and some issue of which they must beware.

Beware ‘Groupthink’: listening to the same circle of opinions and the same peer group is limiting. It just is.

If everyone’s in a similar position or has a similar mindset, is listening to each other, where is the challenge coming from exactly? Where’s the raw, external perspective? Where’s the often needed boot up the backside?

Take the blinkers off and get out more, and listen in different directions. Fresh perspective is vital for innovation and growth.

Beware forgetting where you came from: I love those fly-on-the-wall documentaries where the Chief Executive goes back to the factory floor, the call centre, the supermarket checkout or wherever.

They invariably learn a massive amount about their people by observing what they do, listening to them, and living their day to day experiences. Perhaps more to the point in terms of STRATEGIC listening, they gather ideas and customer insight that frequently translates into policy and/or new business.

Don’t just listen up and listen out….listen down as well.

Beware the ticking clock: the world is probably moving faster than many companies can keep up with it. Fads can become trends which become major market forces with frightening speed (take Facebook and social networking as a clear case in point.)

Times are changing so fast, it’s an absolutely necessity to keep an ear to the ground, and I’d venture to suggest that using both formal and informal channels is the only way to maintain a true grasp of what’s going on.

Market research yes. Internal reports, yes. But don’t underestimate the value of taking a few minutes to listen and observe what customers are saying to your front line staff. Listen to what’s going on in other areas of your customers lives. Listen out for apparently random connections in other sectors that could give you a commercial edge.

If you don’t have time for that sort of thing, MAKE time…and then honestly evaluate the return on investment of that time spent vs the information it yielded.

The mistake of thinking you don’t have to listen

For whatever reason, many leaders often appear to feel that they don’t have to listen.

Some undoubtedly feel the pressure of senior management to provide the answers. And some, frankly, seem to think that they have it figured out, have made it, and don’t have to listen any more.

If you’ve ever heard yourself say:

‘People expect us to give them the answers because we’re their leaders’.

‘I’m better informed than most’

‘I don’t have time to gather everyone’s opinions – it would just muddy the waters’

‘I know what I need to do: listening to other people could just derail me’

‘We asked them last year – there’s no point going back to them now…’

‘I’m the leader, it’s my prerogative’ …then watch out.

Leaders can rest assured that the QUICKEST WAY to destroy innovation and ideas, de-motivate people, create cynicism amongst staff and customers alike and undermine corporate and brand values is by either NOT listening to people (both internally and externally)…or by pretending to listen to them and then ignoring what they’ve said.

The bottom line is that genuinely listening – and in more directions than you currently are – will earn you respect, motivate your people (and therefore increase productivity and morale) increase customer understanding and therefore retention, and can lead to profitable ideas and innovations being recognised, captured and implemented.

Establishing forums for listening

There’s no point paying lip service to this sort of ‘strategic listening’: you have to DO something to make it happen.

At a broad brush level, it’s about creating a culture where listening is part of leadership, and where staff feel like active contributors whose ideas and opinions are valued, and this HAS to be role modelled from the very top, otherwise it’s just not going to happen. It’s also about creating and encouraging opportunities to listen in different directions, gathering best practice and ideas from other sectors and areas, ACTUALLY listening to customers, and trying something different…as opposed to just analysing statistics.

Mix it up. Get a fresh perspective. Do something different. Learn from it. Develop yourself. And grow your organisation.

Watch out next week for Critical Leadership Skill #2 – Self Awareness.

Goal Setting Success Factor # 5 – Maintaining momentum and developing resilience

April 18, 2011

 Well, here we are at the final part of Yara’s Goal Setting Mini Series. Hundreds of you have read the series (thank you to you all!) and I’m shortly going to be formatting the series as an e-book, which will be downloadable FREE from the Yara website at http://www.yaraconsulting.com

Anyway, let’s get on with it!

A critical part of achieving your goals is the ability to maintain momentum and motivation, and to build resilience in the face of challenges.

Here are 5 key factors that will make a difference to your ability to keep going until you’ve achieved your goals.

1. Retain focus

Last year, a group of friends and I climbed Goat Fell, the mountain on the Isle of Arran, just off the coast of the West of Scotland. Living in Ayrshire, we can see the top of this mountain every day from the mainland … as long as it’s not cloudy.

We took the ferry across to the island … at which point our goal was no longer the romantic, cloud-swathed view on the horizon … it was much nearer, and looked a lot bigger, steeper and rockier close up than it did from across the water. Some goals can be like that: scarier up close.

If you don’t have a strong reason for carrying on, you probably won’t.

As we started to climb, it was a case of watching the ground close to our feet to make sure we didn’t stumble over rocks and vegetation. However, we stopped often to look at the top of the mountain, and to check that we were on the right path. If we HADN’T checked where we were against our destination, we might have been so focussed on the ground beneath our feet that we could have wandered into the ferns, left the path and got a bit lost.

Whilst you’re working away on the tasks you need to undertake to get to your goals, look up to ensure that you’re still heading in the right direction … and that the goal hasn’t moved. Re-align wherever necessary, and keep moving forward.

2. Enjoy your journey

On that climb up Goat Fell, though, we didn’t tromp relentlessly straight to the top of the mountain. At various points we stopped for breath, looked back at the view, and marvelled at how far we’d come.

As you continue your way, it is VITAL that you pause from time to time, and allow yourself to reflect on your journey so far, on what you have learned, how you might need to re-align yourself on your way to the top, and to take from your past experience things that will carry you forward.

It’s also important, having achieved some of the ‘sub-goals’ along your way, to take the time to congratulate yourself on the fact that you are taking positive and deliberate strides in the right direction.

Depending on the goal that you’ve set yourself, you might be working towards it for some time … so even though you might have to undertake some tasks that aren’t your favourite thing (tax returns spring to mind), make sure your overall journey is one that you are happy to be on.

3. Know what derails you …

Self-awareness is a key area that comes into play here (about which, more in my series next month on 7 Leadership Skills EVERYONE must develop!)

Think back on your past experience, and consider carefully the times when you had been enthusiastically working towards a goal, and something or someone had thrown you off course. What WAS that something or someone?

Frequent responses to this are:

· Other people’s negativity

· Lack of confidence that you can (or deserve to) achieve

 · Frustration that things aren’t moving quickly enough

· Insurmountable barriers

Thinking about the things that have derailed you in the past, consider further:

 · If you gave up on something, how strong was your reason why in the first place? Is this really the right goal for you? (Think about this VERY carefully – no excuses!)

 · Were your fears based on fact … or your assumptions? How will you overcome them?

· How far are you prepared to let other people’s negative comments or actions put you off your goal? How will you limit their impact?

· How will you build your confidence and overcome your reservations?

· If you really do come up against a barrier that you cannot overcome, consider carefully the reasons why you had been working towards this goal. It will almost certainly be possible to find an alternative goal that fulfils the same need.

It’s crucial also that you recognise the signs of when you are starting to slump, and bring these from the subconscious to the conscious. If you can catch them early on, you can take action to turn yourself around and get back on track. Do you start talking to yourself in a negative way? Do little things really annoy you? Do you find yourself snapping at other drivers on the road, or at your kids? Do you find yourself faffing around and doing anything BUT the tasks required to meet your goal?

Learn also to pinpoint the causes of these … and take steps to avoid or limit them. This might mean thinking about your conversations with friends and family: if they pull you down when you talk about your goals, steer the conversation onto something else. I’ve known a few people who were so negative that I just started to try to avoid them altogether!

Bear in mind also, that your darkest hour is 60 minutes long…it’s not for ever, so take heart.

4 … and how to motivate yourself

So what motivates you? What cheers you up when you’re feeling low? Make a list and keep it to hand.

As soon as you feel your motivation levels drop, don’t wallow or try to soldier on regardless – refer to your list (if you need to) and DO SOMETHING to pick yourself up: go for a run, play the piano, play with your kids, walk the dog, phone a friend – or whatever.

It’s important that, while you are in a positive frame of mind, you begin to develop strategies to help you through tough times. When you’re IN the tough times, you might not be in the frame of mind to be able to help yourself.

A significant amount of academic research has been done on the impact of music on motivation and mood. Choose some motivating and uplifting pieces of music and have a playlist on your iPod: My favourites include Labi Siffre’s ‘Something Inside So Strong’, the ‘Indiana Jones’ theme tune and Van Halen’s ‘Jump!’.

Pick whatever gives you a lift, and put your playlist together when you are in a positive frame of mind.

At times when you’re feeling flat, discipline yourself to focus on past times when you have achieved something, or been particularly successful. Doing so will awaken similar positive feelings to the ones you felt at the time.

Some of this might take a bit of effort: often we quite like having a bit of a moan or wallowing in self pity (I’ve been there, just the same as everyone else!). It’s important though, that you refocus to a positive frame of mind quickly, and keep going.

5. Look after yourself

This might sound really obvious, but no one wants to get to their goal a burnt-out wreck working 18 hours a day on the verge of a breakdown. What kind of success is that?! For goodness’ sake look after yourself.

Stress is one of the biggest causes of work-related ill-health. Take time out to reflect on what you’re doing, what you’ve learned so far and where you’re going. Make sure you take time to relax

 “But Anna,” I hear you say, “I‘m so busy that I don’t have time to relax!”. Make time. Your health is important.

If you’re NOT looking after yourself, you’re not functioning as effectively as you might, and you’re not doing anyone any favours – least of all yourself.

AND FINALLY … When you have reached your goal, and are rewarding yourself and allow yourself to celebrate your success, remember to ‘put something back’. Donate to a charity. Mentor, coach or just help someone. Volunteer for something. Why? Because it’s a good thing to do … and sometimes that’s reason enough.

Goal Setting Success Factor # 4 – Plan it and DO something!

April 9, 2011

Actually managing your goals… and managing yourself to achieve those goals is likely to take a bit of time and a bit of self discipline. Yes, it would be great if we could just daydream, visualise and focus on our future and it would all magically fall into place, but actually, we need to get off our butts and DO something in order for anything to happen at all.

If you’ve given consideration to my Goal Setting Success Factors 1 – 3, you’ll already have a strong reason why you want to achieve your goals, and you’ll have a clear understanding of the skills you have and the skills that you need to do it. 

These are very strong foundations as you consider what exactly you’re going to need to DO in order to achieve your goals.

Here are my top 5 tips and factors to consider as you start to take action towards your goals.
 
Tip # 1 – be prepared to be patient
We live in an instant, push-button, get-it-now society. EVERYTHING happens fast – hey, if we’re kept for more than 2 minutes in the queue at MacDonalds we start to get fidgety and cross.

Achieving your goals is not like selecting a chocolate bar in a vending machine, putting in your money, pressing a button and ‘voila!’ there it is.  If your goal is really what you want, it’s worth making a bit of effort.

In his book Principle Centred Leadership, Steven Covey talks about the ‘law of the farm’. You plant something, you tend it, and in its season it’ll bear fruit. You DON’T plant a seed and expect to find a tree there the next day.

Challenge yourself to take action towards your goals. Don’t lose heart if it doesn’t happen for you overnight, though: remember that perseverance is part of achievement.
 
Tip# 2 – learn how to plan

It’s important that you plan how you’re going to approach your goal – even if you’re naturally a bit disorganised (like me) it’s important that you do this, and don’t just dive on in… and potentially miss out something vital.

First, you’ll need to break your goal down into smaller chunks (the ‘journey of the thousand miles beginning with the first step’, as it were). To define these smaller ‘sub-goals’, it’s usually easier to work backwards from your main goal than to try to guess at what the first step should be.

For example, if your goal is to be a published author, what else will you need to consider on your way to that goal? Is  your work formatted in a way that editors want? Have you had it proof read? Will you need to find a literary agent? How will you approach and promote yourself to publishers?

From here, you might say that one of your sub-goals is to find a literary agent. So now, you need to consider how you might do that. Perhaps the one of the first tasks you need to get your teeth into is researching literary agents, and working out how to make your pitch.

When you’ve decided what these smaller steps will be, you need to turn them into SMART goals… yes, THIS is where that whole SMART thing comes into its own, and not before!

·         The goal needs to be Specific (e.g. “I need to find a literary agent in the USA, who deals with children’s authors)
·         It needs to be measurable (e.g. “I only need the one agent, thanks… but I might need another one if I want to be published in Europe”)
·         Aligned with your overall goal (“Is getting an agent aligned with my goal of getting published? Yep”)
·         Realistic (“It’s a challenge, but can I do it?”)
·         Time bound (“WHEN will I do this?”)

That last one – Time Bound – is the biggest challenge.  If you don’t have some sort of timescale, there’s a danger that nothing will actually get done, so push yourself to set some deadlines.
 
Tip # 3 – be prepared to be focused
If your goals are worth it, they deserve to be kept in focus. Broadly speaking, stick to your plan, and work fairly methodically through it.

Don’t work slavishly through it, though – remember that the journey is, for many people, as important as the destination.

Opportunities that you hadn’t considered might present themselves along your way, and it’s important that you’re able to make the most of these. However… beware of ‘bright shiny objects’ that might appear to be opportunities, but can actually be distractions, taking you away from your main goal.

When these things present themselves, weigh up carefully whether or not they are actually helping your towards your goal (in which case, make the most of them) or whether they are taking you away from your goal… in which case, leave them alone.

When I started out in training and development, I was offered a PR contract (something I used to do in the past). The fee would have been good, and I’d have been able to do the job, and at first it seemed like easy money. However, my goal was to build my training and development business! How was doing someone else’s PR going to help towards that goal? It wasn’t! I politely withdrew from the contract.

The strange thing was, while I was briefly working on that PR job, I felt really uneasy and frustrated because I wasn’t working on my own goals. Sometimes, there’s a lot to be said for listening to your gut: if it feels wrong, it probably is.
 
Tip # 4 – learn to prioritise and do the right things
Once you’ve broken your goals down into sub-goals, you’ll begin to arrive at something that looks like a to-do list.
Just a quick question – how do you prioritise the tasks on your list? Really??

Most people will head straight for the tasks that they like doing, that are quick to finish, that someone else has told them they ought to do, etc., etc. Prioritising in this haphazard way, though, can lead to the sort of day when you’ve been busy for hours… but achieved nothing.

According to Steven Covey (and I’d agree!) the only two factors on which we should prioritise are the urgency and the importance of the task.  I have a to-do list that’s split into four sections:

A. Urgent and important
B. Important, but not urgent
C. Urgent but not important
D. Not urgent and not important

The A section containts things that I really need to get done this week. If I don’t do them, I’m going to set my ‘goal plan’ back.

The B section is for longer-term projects: writing an e-book, developing a new training course, that sort of thing. They’re important, but I don’t need to do them right now. I DO, though, break these into sub-goals, which are on my A list… I don’t want that vital B list to drift on and not get done because I’m fire-fighting in the A section!

The C tasks are less important to ME, but might be important to someone else. In the UK, we had to fill out a census recently: if we didn’t complete it on time, we risked a £1000 fine!  Things on your C list can be time wasters if you spend too long on them. If they are urgent, get them over with and move on as quickly as you can.

The D section contains tasks that really don’t matter. I might want to download a few MP3 clips, for example, or buy a couple of things on Ebay. The question is… should these things be on my to-do list at all? In some cases (like my purchases here) I still want to do them BUT I’m not going to waste time on these tasks when the A and B tasks are waiting in my in-tray.

Give this a try – my productivity increased significantly when I split up my to-do list like this.  Another thing worth doing is getting hold of Brian Tracy’s book ‘Eat That Frog’ , which is great on making the most of your time.

Whatever you do, don’t fall into this trap “In absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivia”.
 
Tip #5 – just get on with it!
Many people, sadly, will get as far as Goal Setting Success Factor #3 and stop. Why? Because it’s fun to daydream about our successful futures, to think about building our confidence and making an impact, and to think about the skills that we have… skills that could take us to the top.

When it comes to taking action, however, many people bottle out. PLEASE don’t let that be you. Take your aspirations, dreams and goals, your skills and your growing confidence and TAKE ACTION.

About 500 years BC, the founder of Buddhism wrote “There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth… not going all the way, and not starting.”

Step out bravely. Do something.  Just make a start.

Goal Setting Success Factor # 3: Develop an Enquiring Mind

April 5, 2011

Achieving your goal is going to involve you building on your existing strengths, learning new skills and growing in new directions. If it doesn’t, you’ve probably set your sights too low.

This might mean many things: maybe it’s a question of developing your confidence; perhaps you have all the skills you need to achieve your goal … your problem is developing the self discipline to apply yourself, plan your route forward and get on with it! For someone else, wanting to achieve a lifetime’s ambition of running a marathon, say, it could be the challenge of doing MORE – pushing oneself to run further and further each week until the goal is reached.

Organisations need to also bear in mind that strategies for growth MUST involve developing individuals across the organisation and giving them a strong reason ‘why’ (our Goal Setting Success Factor #1) … but that’s a subject for another post.

So – what do you need to learn? And how? Here are 5 key areas:

1. Develop a positive mindset to learning, as part of your journey.

This is vital. As you journey towards your goal, you’ll constantly discover new things that need to be learned, new skills, behaviours and attitudes that need to be acquired. Learning is positive. It is the road to development and growth. It is NOT a remedial measure to correct some sort of personal defect.

It’s absolutely CRITICAL that you develop this attitude towards learning – otherwise you could fall into the trap of being overwhelmed by what you think you DON’T know, rather than actively looking to learn and develop the skills you NEED.

Remember – we never stop learning. Even experts in their field continue to learn, develop and grow.

2. Don’t be modest – consider what you’re good at.

Take stock of yourself – what are your strengths? What do you enjoy doing and what are you good at? There will be plenty of things that spring to mind immediately, but you may need to ask trusted friends for their thoughts too, as they might have recognised some strengths in you that you weren’t aware of.

There WILL be skills which you think of as ordinary and ‘anyone-can-do’ which are in fact unique to you. Find out what these are. Consider how you might leverage them to achieve your goal.

3. ‘Mind the gap’: identify your gaps in knowledge, and areas for development and growth.

This is often easier said than done, and it’s ESSENTIAL (I can’t stress that enough) that you do this in a positive frame of mind and as a step forward towards your goals.

What do you need to learn in order to achieve your goals? Again, some of these things will be fairly straightforward to identify – if I’m going to be a successful photographer, I need to not only be good at taking pictures, but know how to promote and sell my work, how to manage my finances and so on.

Be aware, though, of areas of ‘unconscious incompetence’ – things that you don’t know you don’t know. There are things you can do to try to tease some of these out, but there will always be ‘Doh!’ moments when you become aware of one of these.

Be thankful that this ‘gap’ is now known to you – don’t waste time kicking yourself about not having realised it before.

4. Learn how to learn – a crucial life skill.

Let’s face it – you could waste a fortune on training courses, coaching sessions, internet information products and so on (somewhat ironic that, as a trainer and coach, I’m telling you that).

Once you’ve identified gaps in your knowledge, you’ll need to give some thought as to how you might address these. In terms of thought processes, try to remain positive and ‘solution focused’, i.e. say to yourself, “I’m going to improve my marketing skills” and NOT “I’m rubbish at marketing, so I have to get better.”

Think laterally: who do you know that you could ask? What connections can you make from other industries / walks of life? Where can you find free information?

Consider also – at what point do you leverage the skills of others, and use THEM to fill in your gaps (hiring a book-keeper, for example, or getting someone else to build your website)?

5. Face your fears: in the words of Mr T, “Quit your jibber jabber – get some nuts!”

Learning new things inevitably means pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. Just grasp the nettle and get on with it: don’t make excuses or try to talk yourself out of trying something new.

Susan Jeffers’ book ‘Feel the fear and Do It Anyway’ is a classic on this point. At the risk of sounding clichéd … JUST DO IT! And don’t worry if it doesn’t work out perfectly first time – it’s all part of the learning experience.

So there we are – five key aspects of learning and honing the skills you need to achieve your goals. Take a positive approach to learning. Boldly assess your own abilities, and the areas in which you need to develop (some of which may already be strengths).

Be creative in how you learn. Don’t be afraid to try something new, and do something different. Learn. Grow. Fly.

Goal setting – why SMART goals are not enough

March 21, 2011

Let’s face it: most people don’t bother to set goals unless they have to as part of a business process of some sort. If you DO set goals…congratulations…you’re one of a very select few.

People who DO set goals are probably aware of making those goals ‘SMART’, that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant (to values, organisational goals, etc.) and Time bound. Without these parameters to propel you into action, ‘goals’ are likely to remain as daydreams or aspirations.

SMART thinking around your goals is valuable…however, it doesn’t go far enough.

There are five key factors which, if understood and implemented will MASSIVELY increase your chances of achieving your goals. Here’s the first one…

1. Understanding why: knowing the goals and motivations behind your goals

So you’ve set your goal, and you want to be the next Chief Executive of Global Incorporated. Why?

 It’s important that you ask yourself this question and understand the motivations behind whatever goal you have set yourself.

There are two reasons for this: the first is that you need to have a strong reason WHY you’re doing this so that, when times get tough, you can focus on this and keep moving forward, safe in the knowledge that you have a purpose. “I’m going to show that person who wrote me off as a kid!” can be a strong motivator, as can commitments to family and causes, or the desire to leave some sort of legacy or make a difference. What is it for you?

Secondly, understanding the ‘WHY’ will help you to realign your goals if you’re prevented from achieving them for some reason.

Years ago, I thought I wanted to be an air stewardess. The fact that my dad had had a long and successful career as cabin crew and travelled the world undoubtedly influenced this. There were two significant drawbacks: 1) I tend to get travel sick on long haul flights and b) I didn’t get past the interview stage.

Having fallen at this first hurdle, I had to consider the options: to find a mentor, attend training courses and re-apply until I achieved my goal of securing a job as airline cabin crew (and then face a career of vomiting uncontrollably on flights of more than 6 hours or so)…or evaluate carefully WHY I was looking at that job in the first place.

Taking the latter path, I realised that what I REALLY wanted was to be able to travel, see new places, meet new people, experience new cultures and so on.

My career as a trainer and coach has taken me all over Europe and beyond and I’ve been privileged to meet and work with people from a wide variety of cultures and countries. Do I ever look back with regret that I didn’t make it to cabin crew. Absolutely not!

Look closely at your own long-term goal. Why are you doing this? Really…why??

Watch out for my next blog post: Goal Setting success factor number 2 – Self Awareness.

Old Habits…and New Trainers

July 7, 2010

My new trainers arrived earlier this week! Woohoo! Maybe they’ll help me run a bit faster!  Remarking on how bright they looked, I’d hardly noticed that my old trainers were really looking distinctly skanky.

It did take me several days before I actually went running in my new trainers. I kept them nicely wrapped in paper in their box, and looked at them when I walked past from time to time, just to make sure they were still there for when I needed them, and hadn’t been tidied away.  Why? Well, it was raining and I didn’t want to ruin the new ones right away. Also, there was the possibilty that the new shoes might hurt a bit, and I didn’t want to discover that 5 miles away from the house and have to limp all the way back.

After almost a week, on a  suitably sunny morning, I pulled on my  new trainers and headed out for a run. Guess what. They were really rather uncomfortable, and to be honest, didn’t feel as good as the old ones.

I have a choice. Do I get back into my old trainers and keep going until they fall apart….or  persevere with the new – and better quality  – ones until I get used to them?

So. Enough of my smelly trainers. The point is (as if I need spell it out)..

How comfortable are we with our old habits, whether or not they’re working for us?

What excuses do we find for NOT putting new habits and things we’ve learned into practice right away?

How useful are those new trainers if we’re not DOING anything with them?

Do you have new trainers still wrapped in paper in a cupboard somewhere that you’ve not even tried yet?  GET ‘EM OUT AND START RUNNING!

Who are you? (who-oo who-oo!)

June 27, 2010

I’ve always hated it when someone says to me ‘”tell me about yourself” – something which usually happens in an interview context when the interviewer hasn’t prepared properly, or has no idea how to conduct a thorough, behavioural interview. Tell you about myself in the context of what? Work? Personality? My life of travel, adventure and intrigue ??

Actually, it’s one of the most irrelevent questions there could possibly be. And here’s why.

You are not who you tell me you are, you are who you prove  yourself to be.

You’ve heard the maxim ‘actions speak louder than words’ and even the bible says “by their fruits shall you know them”.  It’s one of those age old rules…that many of us seem to forget.  

There are two sides of the coin here: if you feel the need to tell new aquaintances as much as you can about yourself in order to make a favourable impression, ask yourself  ‘why’. Are you really the person you are telling everyone about? Why do you feel the need to tell everyone…is it in case they don’t believe you??   I’ve met some lovely people who seem to strive to be liked in this way, little realising that there’s no need. Just being themselves is more than enough.

On the other side of the coin,  I’ve been majorly caught out by people who have professed to be one thing… and turned out to be quite the reverse. I have to take a share of the blame here: I was far too eager to listen to who they told me they were rather than looking at how they conducted themselves.  This approach has cost me a lot of money, time, and emotion.

So a word to the wise – look for actions not words:  if someone tells you they are a good listener, make sure they don’t keep interrupting everyone else. If someone tells you how generous they are – watch them give. If someone tells you all about their abilities – wait and see how they apply them. In this way, to paraphrase another ‘Who’ song, you’re less likely to get fooled again.