Renew Your Resolutions

As the New Year loses its “newness,” our goals and visions that were set at the end of last year seem to fade from the forefront of our action plans. The busyness of life begins to overtake our commitment to excellence.  As many as 36% of Americans have abandoned their resolutions by the end of the first month of the year.

As leaders, we intuitively follow some variation of Deming’s “Plan-Do-Check-Act” cycle for managing processes. This iterative cycle ensures that we achieve what we set out to do and also allows for modifying our plan for greater excellence in the next cycle.  We also set goals for our organization at the beginning of a business year and check whether we achieved our goals at the end of the year.  Successful leaders have learned that having a great plan alone is not enough to ensure excellence in our organization. A great organization needs to stay on track by regularly measuring progress against stated goals and making course corrections throughout the year when necessary.

While we often do a great job on setting and achieving organizational and process or task goals, one area that leaders often overlook is their own personal development goals. At the beginning of the year, fresh planners are purchased, personal goals are set, but then life happens and almost half of Americans have abandoned their New Year’s resolutions by the middle of the year. While this data is reflective of a general population and not specifically leaders, it is a good reminder to check on the progress of your personal goals and make a course correction if necessary.

Recheck, Smart Guy…

It’s March and it is time to take out your New Year’s Resolutions (or even dust them off) and take a look at them. It is time to see where you are in progressing on your goals. If you haven’t set your personal goals yet, it is never too late.  Just as any other goals that you set, your goals should be S-M-A-R-T, meaning:

Specific – You should have a particular goal in mind. If your goal is not specific, you will not be able to come up with the action steps to get you there.

Measurable – Goals should always be able to be measured. There is a huge difference between “I want to complete Six Sigma Green Belt Training this year” and “I would like to learn some ways to have my department be more efficient.” In the first instance, you will know when you have arrived. In the second example, it is hard to say whether or when you have achieved your goal.

Achievable – Stretch goals are great, but if they can not reasonably be achieved, they become demotivational.

Relevant – Make sure that you are aiming at the right target. If your goal is to gain operational efficiency but you work in research, you are heading for disappointment if you reach your goal and disillusionment if you do not.

Time Bound – Every good goal should have a time frame associated with it.  “I will network with three new people every week” is more effective than “I should really expand my business network this year.”

Notice that each of these examples was action oriented. The best goals for your organization involve action.  It is no different when you set personal goals.

Are you ready to take action to improve your skill set? Have you forgotten yourself when setting your annual goals this year? Do you have a goal in the back of your mind that you know you should tackle? Today is a great day to set and begin to achieve your goals.

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Steve Nolan is a business leader at a Financial Services firm in Windsor, CT.  You can follow him on Twitter at
http://www.twitter.com/spnolan or connect with him on LinkedIn.  He enjoys helping other leaders to be better than they are today and still struggles with keeping his focus on the journey but he is getting better all the time. He loves to network and welcomes your ideas on how to become a better leader.

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It’s Not All About You. Really!

As I coach aspiring leaders, one common theme that comes up often is an inordinate self-focus when looking at development.

“How do I become a better leader?”

“How do I get to the next level?”

“How do I gain the respect of my team and colleagues?”

While these are all great questions to consider, these questions are indicative that the aspiring leader has confused the journey with the destination.

As it says in the opening line of Rick Warren’s mega-hit book The Purpose Driven Life: “It’s not about you.”

Becoming a great leader is in many ways like finding happiness.  You can never “find” joy or happiness in isolation.  You are happy and have joy because you are doing or enjoying something. Joy and happiness are byproducts of enjoying the things in life that you love.

Likewise, one can not say that they have arrived at greatness in leadership in isolation.  The greatness is in making contributions to the organization and to the people that you serve as a leader.  You can not say that you are a proficient leader just when you have a set of competencies.  The greatness is when those skills and competencies are put into action to serve others. Anything else is self-focused and doesn’t increase one’s level of influence with others.

Perspective

When looking at leaders through the lens of how they are portrayed in books and in the media, it may seem that many leaders are born with greatness and that the greatness that they possess jumps from them to the task or organization that they are affiliated with.  I would agree that leaders who are seasoned bring the skills and experience of their past successes and failures to make an organization better.  It is in the leading that they become better though.  If they cease to lead, they cease to be better and their “greatness” fades.

I challenge you as a leader to review your perspective and focus on making the journey your priority.  By having a great journey, you will find your destination is in sight.

So when you grow as a leader or as you develop the leaders in the organization, where is your focus?  Are you looking to grow from an internally focused perspective?  Is your career development path all about you?  Or are you outwardly focused on things greater than self? How would your followers comment on your focus and priorities?

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Steve Nolan is a business leader at a Financial Services firm in Windsor, CT.  You can follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/spnolan.  He enjoys helping other leaders to be better than they are today and still struggles with keeping his focus on the journey but he is getting better all the time.

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Help! I Need Somebody

Many of us are  familiar with these familiar lyrics from The Beatles.  They evoke memories of a time when we may not have needed anybody to necessarily help us. But now that we are older, we are oftentimes somehow in need of help to get grounded again.

The Beatles meant these words as a reflection on their lives to date in general terms. But I believe that there is a lesson from which we can all learn if we reflect upon our leadership journey:

We all need some help.

There is certainly some truth in these words when applying them to our growth as leaders.  At some point in our early careers, we were care free and more agile.  If we had some modicum of natural talent, our careers seemed to take off without any assistance.  Now that we are a little older, and hopefully a little wiser, it seems that we may have less confidence that things will always go our way and we are in need of help.

Let me challenge you to think about this in reverse.

As experienced leaders, we have the tools and experience to help those who are newer to leadership.  Those that are newer and are riding on their natural talents truly need our help.   Also watch for those around you who may have plateaued in their careers as leaders.  Do you have ideas that you can share with them to empower them to be more successful?

When I first left business school, I felt that I should have all the knowledge that I needed to be a success but deep down I knew that I really didn’t have all of the tools that I would need to reach my full potential.  Some of what I was missing I learned through caring leaders who took the time to teach me and many other things I learned the hard way.

When we take the time to mentor newer leaders, it makes us stronger leaders ourselves.  It is often said that when we teach that we have our greatest learning.

One of my favorite quotes from Zig Ziglar is “You can get anything in life you want if you help enough people get what they want.”

There is great truth in this quote.  We don’t help others in order to gain but when we help others, it is a natural consequence that you will prosper in what you do.

So is there really wisdom that we can gain from The Beatles?

If we look at the professional career of this iconic rock group when they were still together, we can see that in their early career, they would not have gotten their start without the enthusiastic advocacy of manager Brian Epstein.  Later in their careers, when they were established, they needed further help and sought the guidance of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  Their first choice of adviser propelled them to stardom.  Their latter choice showed that even when they had reached an amazing level of success, they still intrinsically knew that they still needed help and guidance.

No matter what stage of our career you are in, recognize that you do need help.  If you are an experienced leader, also recognize that you can be a source of help to those who have less experience.  Take that time to make an investment in the future of your organization by mentoring those who need it.  Your investment will make your organization better and will make you a better leader as a result.

To whom are you reaching out and seeking their help for personal and professional growth? How are you modeling a spirit of continued optimism toward personal growth for the younger generation that you lead? How are you translating that optimism and active curiosity into helping others? I would love to hear what you are doing. Please share!

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Steve Nolan is a leader in customer service and operations at a top financial services company. He can be reached at spnolan@yahoo.com

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