Say What You Mean: Why You Need to Communicate with Intention

Communications can be fraught with complication. Perceptions are deeply personal, and culture can change the meaning of words and phrases to the speaker or listener. Individual vocabulary varies from person to person, so more important is the context in which a communication style is presented. Consider the response you might have when you witness an athletics coach scream at a poorly performing team or player. Now, consider how different you would perceive that style if it were a parent playing in the park with their adolescent. Instances of poor management communication are not rare. It’s part of basic leadership development to hone communication skills to maximize employee success.

Unfortunately, leaders in the corporate world can fail to recognize that leadership communication in one context may not be appropriate in a different one. This can often be attributed to two things. The first is very basic: general leadership communications training does not differentiate (nor should it) between leading in a corporate environment and leading in, for example, an entrepreneurial environment. The second is habituation: our language and communications styles are formed not only by our conscious decisions to use certain words but also, over time, the unconscious processes that allow us to speak quickly, seemingly without thinking. Generally, this is exactly how it’s supposed to work. But words have meaning, and we choose them for specific reasons. When your work environment changes, so should your communications style.

Case Study

My client, we’ll call her Jane, was a senior VP at a global pharmaceuticals firm. Over the course of 20 years she advanced in her leadership career to her final position. This advancement was, in part, successful because of her specific manner of communication, at which she excelled. However, the structure of many corporate environments also means there is a specific hierarchy that, overtly or covertly, is reinforced from leader to subordinate. Overtly it’s pretty clear in terms of how work is delegated, who provides feedback, appraisals, and the like. Covertly it’s reinforced through language, i.e specific choice of words.

Jane left the corporate world and is currently the president of a start up, but she spoke to people as if she were still a corporate leader. This had a somewhat chilling effect at times. Jane’s corporate language, the choice of words that reinforced her position, were causing her partners to become defensive and stiff. This was not how she wanted to motivate them, but it never occurred to her that it was because of her choice of words. After all, for 20 years no issues had ever been raised on this.

What Jane Says

When Jane spoke to people and wanted to motivate them to come up with new ideas or when she wanted to offer an idea for consideration, she would say, “Why wouldn’t you just do…” or, “Why don’t you…” If you’re in the corporate sector, this statement might make a lot of sense. The questions are reaffirming of one’s position in the hierarchy. To ask a question in these words does a number of things with the person on the other end. First, it puts them on the defensive a bit. As a leader, this might be necessary. If a subordinate is on the defensive, you have the advantage to put forth your own ideas or requirements in such a way that the listener now has to defend why he or she wouldn’t do what you say. In addition, the listener, now in a defensive position, is focused on past behavior/reasons/excuses, leaving him or her wide open for you to insert your recommendation with little to no resistance.

For Jane, this language worked before but is having the opposite effect in the start-up environment for three reasons:

1. Forward thinking ideas must be nurtured. Having business partners on the defensive is not an engaging environment. It’s stifling and can make people hesitant to share new ideas… and new ideas are the life’s blood of any start up.

2. Disagreement is necessary. Being open and sharing ideas or working through them is how success happens. Sure, Jane has great ideas of her own but some of the best ideas are the one’s that are made in collaboration at this start up. In addition, her language put other’s off to her ideas regardless of how great they were.

3. Jane doesn’t really care why someone did or didn’t do something. The reality is, Jane was using language she was habituated to. She was not being intentional. It was an unconscious style unrelated to what she was really interested in. Jane didn’t care why or why not. What she really wanted was to share her thoughts so a great idea could be developed and implemented.

Jane’s Success

The question I had for Jane was, “What are you really asking?” It was clear that she was not interested in the hierarchical mechanisms that were once part of her daily life. Nor was she particularly interested in the underlying motivations of other people’s behaviors. Her intention was to nurture ideas and relationships. She needed her language to be in alignment with her intention.

Together, we crafted a more intentional communication style. Jane had to practice at first but became skilled at sharing ideas and asking the right questions: “Have you thought about…” or, “I have a suggestion around what you said.” Just a few words made a big impact.

Jane cares deeply about the people she works with and wants everyone to be engaged. Small modifications to her communication style isn’t just about creating an environment where everyone can thrive. It’s also about using intentional language. Jane wasn’t being intentional and she was asking questions for which she did not care for the answer. A minor change made a huge difference in getting results.

Dolores DeGiacomo is president of Power Up! Consulting, she focuses on success behaviors and helping people get out of their own way. She is the co-author of the upcoming book The Ultimate Career Pocket Guide.

This article was originally published on Huffington Post.

Yes You Can… But Can You Afford To?

“I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” Remember that line from the old Popeye cartoons? Wimpy always wanted a burger but never had the money to pay. As an entrepreneur you’ve probably had a few Wimpy moments of your own. I know I have.

Building a business from scratch often means hoping others will extend some good will or credit (or a hamburger) to you. It’s not unusual to reciprocate with a bit of your expertise at no cost to them. A barter situation, if you will, but a temporary one. Many coaches, consultants, and other business development experts offer their services for free or low cost while establishing themselves as well. Others may volunteer a few hours of their expertise to a non-profit or other struggling business. These are fairly commonplace behaviors. There is an entire philosophy of behavior dedicated to the idea that “Givers get.” I subscribe to this philosophy as do most people I know. However, if giving is all you do then you don’t really have a sustainable business. The question becomes; when do you stop giving it away for free?

I was recently challenged with this situation. A trusted and valued colleague requested my expertise. We agreed to a fee. I began the process then went back to this individual to confirm the fee and pay schedule. Regrettably, I was informed that there was currently no money available. However, I was asked to continue in the hopes that the product I develop might be sold and I would then be paid for the delivery of the program I created. Quite the conundrum. Do I damage the relationship I’ve built over these past few years and say no and discontinue the work? Do I continue developing this needed training program since I’d already said yes and begun? I had to seriously consider these questions and a few others before I made my decision.

1) What will saying “yes” cost me?

By cost I’m referring to your time and potential earnings. If you’re busy doing something for free you are using valuable time that could be spent building relationships that could lead to paying clients. However, by saying yes you may be developing critical experience that will aid you in building your business and reputation. Before you say “yes” it is essential that you understand the current financial impact of working for free and whether you can truly afford to do so.

2) What will saying “no” cost me?

Depending on who is doing the asking you want to consider whether or not damage may be done to the relationship by saying no? Anyone who is in business knows how difficult it is to succeed. Asking you to work for free might be a win for them but a sacrifice for you. By the same token they ought to be clear on your needs, as a business owner, and that you might not be able to afford to give so freely. Saying no is acceptable. If it damages the relationship then it was most likely a one sided relationship to begin with, one that would benefit you very little. The thing to consider is whether “no” is the only choice. If the project is of value to you then creative problem solving and scheduling could be the optimal choice.

3) Did I already commit to this project?

This can be tricky. Finances change and if your finances change to a degree such that you can no longer meet the commitment then be honest about it. Working under the stress over lost finances may impact the quality of the work you provide which could sabotage the relationship anyhow. However, if the project isn’t time sensitive you may be able to delay it until your finances improve. Of course, this may be a bit further down the road than acceptable. In that case you might be obliged to make a referral to another expert. Regardless of which road you go down, transparency is vital.

Understanding your value and getting paid accordingly is the goal of any entrepreneur, or professional. Of course, there will be times where you give your services away, whether by volunteer (a tax write off, favor, etc.) or for promotional purposes. But if you’re a people pleaser you may have more difficulty with asking to be paid for something or have difficulty simply saying no. But as any business or career grows it’s important to recognize that compensation should grow as well. If you subscribe to the “Givers get” philosophy then it’s imperative that you map out the ways in which you are able to give in order to get and ultimately survive.

Dolores DeGiacomo is leadership and development consultant. Dolores focuses on helping professionals master success oriented behavior patterns. She works in corporate environments as well as with individuals and entrepreneurs.

This article was originally published on Forbes.com

Framing the Year-End Conversation at Work

It’s that time of year again… appraisals, evaluations, bonuses, raises. You know what you want. You know you’ve worked hard, but this is a tricky topic. Lean in? Wait for Karma? (please don’t). There is a lot of advice out there. Unfortunately, the one thing most of these advice givers forget to tell you is that most of the time, the person on the receiving end of your professional hopes and dreams already has their mind made up.

Does that mean you shouldn’t bother stating your case for advancement or recognition? Of course not. You absolutely should. I will always advocate for open perseverance. However, within the conversation, shifts and modifications must be made. Framing the discussion to the person you are speaking to, not just the fact the individual is your boss, but toward more personal characteristics, is essential.

Here are just a few tips:

Know your audience. You want to get some advancement in your career. Your boss has his or her ideas about what is important in that regard. You may disagree over what that is, but starting at a place of agreement (genuine or not) and guiding the conversation toward your desired outcome can nudge your boss and even create a slow momentum. Over the course of a few more conversation you can move your boss closer to your ideas while validating his.

Know your strengths. Over the course of the last year you’ve succeeded by using your talents. Can you describe what they are in the context of achievements? This can be challenging. Most of what you do to succeed is part action and part strategy (intellect). Breaking it down into something more concrete can feel flat and scripted. However, this in itself is an important skill. FYI, just calling yourself passionate or a hard worker can be the kiss of death. Knowing and describing the real skills, soft skills and technical skills, that you use is paramount.

Be prepared for the conversation. Practice what you want to say. Expect the conversation to go differently. These two points seem to contradict one another. But, in fact, that’s the point of practicing. No conversation goes exactly as you want it to but if you have your main points down you can address them, no matter what direction the conversation takes. I’m a strong proponent of role playing conversations. Ask your friends or coworkers to “play” a few different attitudes. You want to learn to navigate them all.

Be accountable. If you haven’t achieved all of your objectives over the course of the year know what part you played in that. Sure, people get in the way and throw up obstacles. That’s what people do, consciously or unconsciously. If you fall back on the “oh, this didn’t happen because of X,” and it’s not about what you could have done differently, you’re going to make a very different impression than the one you intend to. When obstacles show up, be honest. State in clear language, “I didn’t navigate that situation successfully.” You might be able to negotiate some additional employee development opportunities as well.

Be crystal-clear on what you actually want to achieve in the coming year. This really is a difficult conversation for a lot of people. That said, you don’t have to have your entire future mapped out for this conversation to take place. But knowing one or two things with absolute certainty is the key, mainly because you don’t have all day and neither does your boss. You want her to walk away with just a little something to chew on that can get the ball rolling. When I work with individuals on creating achievable goals the conversation usually starts like this:

Me: what are you trying to achieve?

Client: Well, I… um… I’m not really sure.

Me: OK, do you want a promotion? More responsibilities? More money?

Client: Oh, um, more money, of course, and I definitely want to do more with my career.

Me: OK…. now we’re getting somewhere.

It takes a little prodding and poking, but eventually the goals are defined.

On a final note, depending on the kind of leadership you have and the availability of your boss (is he in the same location, travel a lot, that kind of stuff) make sure to create a follow up before you complete the conversation. In other words, once you’ve completed the appraisal, discussed your achievements and your goals, set the next meeting. It makes no difference if your boss is the kind of person who cancels at the last minute. This conversation is about sending the message that you’re serious and ought to be taken seriously. So have your calendar handy and send a confirmation email prior to your next meeting.

You’ll be off to a great start for 2015.

Dolores DeGiacomo, M.A. is a leadership development consultant focusing on emerging leaders and career transitions. Dolores is the creator the of the Power Up! program designed to accelerate success.

You Don’t Have To Blow Up Your Career To Be Heard.

I’m jumping on the bandwagon of Talia Jane, the young professional who, for all intents and purposes, just sabotaged her career and/or future prospects. This post includes some of the more egregious aspects of her letter to Yelp! CEO Jeremy Stoppelman as well as information on where she went wrong.

Talia Jane wrote an open letter on Medium.com where she outlines all her disappointments and frustrations that she experiences while also working for Yelp. I feel her pain, we probably all do, we’ve all been there. At the ripe old age of 25 she isn’t having the career she expected (here is where I hold back on the sarcasm).  Of course she is a young lady just starting out in the world of professional work. She has big plans and made some choices, including moving to a prohibitively expensive apartment to be closer to her dad. She has every right to want to live near her father, naturally, I can’t judge that.

She makes some valid points, too. For example she points out that her exceptional de-escalation skills are going unappreciated and unrecognized. The reality is, companies either do right or not by their employees and employees either like it or not, stay or not. What happens next can be a variety of things and requires carefully planned strategy and execution. She rightly points out that turnover at the lower levels is quite high, likely because of this lack of appreciation. Those of us in the consulting world recognize that a small amount invested in training goes a lot further than the cost of high turnover. In addition, recognition goes a long way in building loyalty, employee engagement, and overall success. I would venture to guess this lack of appreciation (perceived or real) is part of what made her choose not to address these problems with her superiors, even though her chosen method had a more final impact. She’s been fired from Yelp! and it’s unlikely anything that could have been changed will be changed now.

Another major problem with her letter, she failed to distinguish what was her responsibility and what is Yelp’s. She points to all the struggles other coworkers have, aside from just herself, in managing expenses, etc. Well, welcome to adulthood. This section of her letter does not get me all teary eyed. In fact, I sat there reading this with incredulity. Who starts a GoFundMe page to pay the rent when they have a job? Did the apartment burn down? No. Did the person get robbed and lose everything? Was their identity stolen and their bank account wiped out? No. Essentially, we’re talking about young people starting out in the world ill prepared for the requirements and refusing to shift course while insisting that publicly venting frustrations to the CEO will somehow correct the problem of the decisions they’ve made. This is not a good demonstration of adulthood or professionalism; something Talia clearly wants to achieve and should be able to, at some point, with proper planning and strategy.

Here’s the whopper though. She failed to recognize that just putting in time (whether one year or ten years) is not what gets you promoted to any position. She mistakenly believed this was somehow the fault or responsibility of the CEO. She took no steps, professionally, to be heard or  be seen by important decision makers. Instead she wrote a letter, chock full of ideas, directly to the CEO of Eat24. When it went ignored she offered the CEO of Yelp! – her employer – the opportunity to repurpose the suggestions. YIKES!

She also claims that she is already using Twitter to do some of the things she wanted to do at Yelp. However, if she’s already using Twitter to do the things she wants to do, she could either highlight that fact to her superiors or, stop doing it.  After all, why would they pay her for something she’s doing for free? That’s business, that’s how it works. For her part, she failed to understand what it means to leverage her talents. If her Twitter feed was really good (I have no reason to believe it isn’t) she completely blew an opportunity to use it to her advantage. I hope she at least learned something from this experience in particular.

Finally, very typical of a 25 year old (of any generation) is understanding what choices she has.  The open letter goes on to point out all the trials and tribulations she faces on a daily basis. Not one of these things is the responsibility of Jeremy Stoppelman. Every one of them was the result of a choice she made, that she could change at any time. I chalk this one up to maturity and lack of self awareness/emotional intelligence.

I could go on (and in fact have) that the generation of “everyone gets a trophy just for showing up” did nothing to the teach that generation that you have to actually perform on the job if you want to go anywhere in your career. But I have no evidence that she experienced those kinds of unearned rewards in her young life. I can say she certainly has no insight into career development or career management. Regardless of the fact that she was an English major -something others have pointed to as a reason for her problems, i.e. it didn’t prepare her for a corporate career among other critiques – most of her complaints, while valid, were hers alone to manage and remedy in a professional manner and unrelated to her formal education. Instead, she chose to throw, what appears to this established professional, a tantrum on the internet, where millions of people can see it, in order to shame her CEO over general standard business practices and somehow link them to her choices and outcomes based on those choices. Had this been something more serious, such as an office culture problem, racism or sexism, or criminal behavior ignored or gone unchecked, then she might have a lot more people on her side.

For now, she’s an internet hero to those who would love nothing more than to hold other’s accountable for their poor decisions, but certainly not to those who would hire her and pay her. She’s set herself back a little professionally, I believe. Nothing she can’t overcome, particularly because she’s young.

But let this be a cautionary tale of what not to do when you are not just new to a job but new to your career. If the organization doesn’t recognize your good work, and doesn’t offer the opportunity to discuss your future, it’s time to start planning your exit – not suicide by internet. That said, I hope Medium.com hires her for a permanent and paid gig. Although her letter was a disaster in terms of her professional opportunities with Yelp! it also highlighted her exceptional writing skills. Now all Talia needs is some actual professional development.

Dolores DeGiacomo is the founder of Power Up! Consulting. Dolores focuses on helping professionals master success oriented behavior patterns. She speaks at events, works in corporate environments as well as with individuals and entrepreneurs. Dolores is also the co-author of the upcoming book “The Ultimate #Career Pocket Guide” (April 2016).

Are you a micromanager? How to tell.

Micromanaging! Nobody likes it and most micromanagers don’t even know they’re doing it. When they are aware of it they tend to rationalize it: an important project, a problem employee, etc.

The reality is there are few reasons to micromanage, and it is meant to be done in the short term. Some micromanagers simply need to learn a new style. Perhaps you are new to the job or concerned about making the best impression but taking all the wrong steps. Other micromanagers miss the signs completely. For example, if you’ve fired or replaced employees and still find you still find yourself hovering, you might be a micromanager.

There will always be a moment or a project that has you on edge. A good leader is forgiven for momentary obsessiveness. A micromanager, on the other hand, just gets deeper and deeper into trouble. Employees know when they’re being micromanaged and the effect is low morale and high stress. The micromanager, on the other hand, may not recognize their own micromanaging but can become equally stressed as productivity and quality decreases, reinforcing (to the micromanager) that even more oversight is necessary.

There are ways to determine if you are a micromanager:

You are highly focused on process and steps. The micromanager rarely recognizes that individuals may have their own style. Worse, the work is completed to everyone’s satisfaction but you fixate on the steps followed or not followed. This is an innovation killer.

You dictate instead of delegate. When a micromanager needs to assign some work she goes to great lengths to explain every detail including the verbiage to be used. This is infantilizing and strips the employee of any opportunity to use their own voice and stand out professionally.

You hover and review… and hover and review. You expect to review every action the employee takes. You “check in” or read a report at every step rather than at intervals. At each step of the review you provide superfluous critique that reinforces a rigid process instead of providing useful guidance to help your employee learn and grow.

You are bothered when your employees don’t approach a project exactly the way you would. Acts of individuality or creativity make you see ways you’d do it differently, and why your way is the right way. You’re even more disturbed if the employee modifies or skips an unnecessary step.

Interrupting the process or admonishing employees will only alienate them. Worse, it creates a belief that no matter what your team does, it’s never enough or right.

Case study: A micromanager at a medium sized regional hospital. This manager couldn’t understand why her employees kept quitting on her. She was fairly busy and hired only capable and well qualified employees. What she could never grasp was that her micromanaging was so suffocating that none of her employees could stick around more than a few months.

When she asked for project or consumer updates, a simple “It’s going well,” or ” We’re moving along. I may need some guidance down the road,” would not suffice. She required an entire recitation of all engagements, point by point, word for word. Then she would comment on all of the points, necessary or not. She would hover while her employees wrote up reports or filled out documentation then snatch it from the employee to read and comment on it. Regardless of how well it all went, there was always a critique when any employee showed initiative or didn’t use her specific verbal script.

This manager was also fixated on following steps. When an employee covered all the steps required but did them out of order this manager became visibly agitated and would kindly recommend following the steps in the order in which they were written (not necessary in most instances). There was never any animosity in these interactions but at no point was she able to provide valuable guidance that would enhance her employees career or future prospects. So stuck was she on process and rules that she was unable to recognize outstanding completed work, nor was she able to accept when an employee went the extra mile to ensure quality patient services. In one instance an employee was kindly reminded that it wasn’t his job when he did something that was not spelled out in a written request. This reminder came in the form of the micromanager sitting at his desk with the “rule book” opened and the manager reading aloud that section of the employees responsibilities. This employee was not sticking around much longer and it was precisely in that moment that he made the decision.

All of this oversight also extended the managers workday by one to two hours. The micromanager, of course, was completely clueless. This is the curse of micromanaging and it has an overall negative impact on the manager, the results, and the employee.

Management courses are a great start and to change some of these behaviors. Identifying the core belief system and modifying it can help create long term authentic change. Self awareness is the first step. The healthcare manager had zero self awareness. Unfortunately, she also refused to listen to constructive criticism, and instead, took umbrage with any feedback directly addressing her style and its impact. By all accounts, she’s still cycling through employees every few months and completely baffled as to why.

 

 

 

This article also appears on Huffington Post

When doing what you love doesn’t pay.

We’ve all heard the expression “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” – True. But sometimes it also means you’ll never earn a nickel, either. What a horrible thought, but it happens. So, if what you love isn’t going to help you put food on the table and keep a roof over your head, then what? This is a complicated question. Most people are in the careers they chose in an industry they wanted to be in. The vast majority of stress caused by work is often due to leadership or interpersonal conflicts. These have simpler solutions (lots of books and articles exist on this topic) than for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are literally doing what they love in a multi-faceted way. This is true of your local shop owner, business consultant, accountant, personal trainer, the list goes on. We all know someone who is an entrepreneur, doing what he or she loves, and who is struggling. This is not always due to the economy, which does play some role. No, the bigger problem often comes from not being able change perspectives or adapt.

Rigidity, in this context, is in not adapting. Rigidity can be very destructive. Sure there are many successful entrepreneurs that kept it moving forward but flexibility is how it happened. Never compromising on the original idea but being flexible enough to find success where it is. I’m reminded of two stories. One was a client the other just an old friend, both had their own businesses. Both needed to adapt. One did.

The Rigid:

One the most important elements to finding success as an entrepreneur or business owner is being clear on what you cannot do.

Many years ago I had friend and neighbor, we’ll call him “Carmine”. Carmine was a roofer and did other home improvement work. He did this as side jobs most often, but from time to time, when he found himself out of work, this became his full time employment. One day Carmine decided it was high time he made it a legal business and career. So, Carmine, along with a family member, got a contracting license. He’d been in the business quite a long time so he had plenty of contacts to ensure he always had jobs. So far, so good.

Carmine, unfortunately, didn’t have a clue as to how to run a business administratively. He received offers from other family members and friends to help him out. I offered, as a friend, to help write his business plan to secure a small loan to cushion his expenses. He refused. He insisted he knew what he was doing. He did, to an extent. He knew how to make the right connections, close a deal, get tools and equipment, hire day labor, and complete a job. He believed that’s all he needed to know.

The Adaptable:

This client first and foremost had the sense to recognize that something in her business model needed to change. She was reasonably successful but would go through long dry periods with no or low cost clients. As a known photographer it seemed odd that her amazing talents were not in more demand. But that really wasn’t the problem. Let’s call my client “Martha” (she has not agreed to be profiled by name at this time).

Martha can photograph anything and tell stories with the images in amazing ways. Martha loved photographing families in natural environments – at the park, at home, at functions – as well a posed images. She could do the same for weddings. She often did photographs for two local news outlets and commercial photography as well. All by word of mouth. Yet somehow, her business was drying up. She did all the things she was “told” to do by other professionals. She blogged, she joined (costly) networking groups, she asked for referrals. Nothing seemed to be having an impact anymore. What was going on? Martha needed a serious diagnostic of her business.

What really happened:

Carmine’s story ends sadly. He refused help in managing his business and made the fatal mistake of hiring a friend to do a job with him. That friend cost him the whole job, he had to fix the problems and rework the job on his own dime. It was his undoing. He never wrote a business plan for a loan and so had no cushion. A few years later Carmine had a serious accident that resulted in a permanent disability. He has not worked since.

Martha’s story has a much brighter ending. Martha and I worked together to take a good hard look at her business model and marketing. Martha desperately wanted to do what she loved which was photographing families. But the world of family photography has changed and so Martha had to as well.  She was spread too thin anyhow and was all over the map. You were never quite sure what Martha was all about.  Since she’s always worked commercially the best choice for her business was to scale back her efforts and focus on commercial work.  We looked at her ROI with regard to paid networking and other groups and events and came up with a solution for that as well. She modified her website and sent a few emails to update her followers.  She immediately booked several gigs.  In addition, her commercial clients also wanted to hire her for personal events, family photographs, and the like. Things were looking up for Martha.

Martha was flexible and adapted to the realities of her business and the market. She still does what she loves, gets regular contracts, and gets paid for it.

Do what you love? Absolutely. But sometimes that means adapting to also do what you’re good at (and leaving the rest to someone else).

This article was originally published on Forbes.com

3 steps to goal attainment

Goal setting, goal clarification, goal oriented behaviors…I focus a lot on goals. I mean, everything we do is goal directed. If a person has no goal directed behaviors we worry about them. There are a few schools of thought on goals and how to achieve them. I came across a systems approach in an article the other day. It kind of reminded me of Taylorism but I don’t want to be too critical here, I’m sure the writer had some motivation for coming up with it. That said, systems are an important piece of achieving just about anything. You have to have a process, an outline, to make it happen (I have the Power Up!™ process that I use with some of my clients). However, without a clear goal you can’t develop a winning system or process. The goal comes first, no matter what.

Think about it this way. You’re preparing to host Thanksgiving dinner for ten people. Your goal is to ensure that you have it all complete by 5:00pm. You know you need turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and veggies. You need a system to put this all together or you’ll end up with an undercooked turkey and overcooked everything else. Ultimately your goal is a fully prepared delicious meal. What is the point of a system if there is no goal? You wouldn’t be preparing this meal if you hadn’t already invited all the attendees. Otherwise your system, and all the energy you put into it, is for naught. Conversely, this is a pretty big project and it requires some methodology to pull it off. So, you need be mindful of the goal to make the whole thing work.

This is how goal attainment works. In fact, without a clear goal how can you even put a system into place? Everyone is working toward something. But when you start to develop an assembly line thought process or you work like an automaton, you lose sight of your goal and you can start feeling very unfulfilled. There is more than a decade of research that has found that happiness and well being are tied directly to having goals (not necessarily reaching them, but having them and working toward them).

When I coach a new client the first thing we discuss is the goal. After all, that’s what they’re paying me for; to help them identify the behaviors or attitudes they need to engage in to reach a goal. It’s pretty straightforward. The difficulty is getting clarity. Everyone has said, at one time or another, something like this “I’m not sure what I want, I just know this is not it.”

In these situations, there are three things to think about when you need to clarify a goal.

1) What am I missing?

This is an important question. In your career it may be financial or be related to work satisfaction, a sense of appreciation, or direction in your career. The missing component can be caused by a poor manager, company downsizing, a lack of development or education on your part. I am a proponent of achievement oriented vocabulary so once you decide what you’re missing it’s a good idea to restate it in achievement oriented language.

2) What am I hoping to achieve?

Once you figure out what you’re missing and you have restated it into something achievable (get a promotion, move career forward) then you can hone in on what exactly you want to achieve. For example, in step 1 once you realize your career is not moving in the direction you want it to, you restate that you want your career to progress in X manner. It’s vague but that’s OK, that was just the beginning. It’s at this step that you decide on what you are hoping to achieve and you can add that to the statement. “I want my career to move forward with more responsibility and higher level positions. I will earn a certificate in X so I can begin to apply to the position I really want.”

3) How do I make this happen?

This is where things get exciting. This is also where most coaching takes place. It’s here where a system or process is important. But you can’t develop or engage in the system until you’ve identified what you’re missing and what you hope to achieve. It’s after the goal is identified that the thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors that one needs to succeed are developed more fully. This is the place where you practice your skills, change your perceptions, do something different or new. This is what I call an Action Step. Once you start to act toward achieving the goal, there should be no stopping you.

Now that you have your goals set, “Make it so” – Captain Jean Luc Picard.