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Never stop managing when it comes to your career

Most middle managers place great importance on career management. They read the latest books, view the newest webcasts, and even participate in career management seminars. But based on over 35 years of experience, I’m sorry to say that much of these efforts don’t bear the expected fruits as professional development goals for managers should. Why? It’s simple: one size does not fit all.

 

Instead, to really get ahead, middle managers must practice career management that is both personalized and active. Without these two key ingredients, it will become clear right away that cookie-cutter versions of career management will lead you to nowhere as far as professional development goals for managers are concerned. But you might be thinking that with so many career management programs out there promising success, there must be one that merits a try. My answer to this is the following: try to understand why standard programs won’t work.

 

1.    Your life is going to change.

When you graduated sometime in your twenties and got your first “real job”, you probably had a pretty clear idea of where you wanted to go. But along came a significant other. Or maybe children. Or possibly an elderly parent needing your attention. By the time you hit your 30s, you realized that the plan you’d set out for yourself in your mid-20s was probably not going to play out the way you’d imagined. So then that first plan went out the window. When you hit your 40’s, values other than your career path mostly likely came into play, such as work/life balance, spirituality, and other interests. Once again, wherever you thought you’d be in your career when you were in your twenties has once again taken a detour. My point here is not that you must stick to your original career path. Quite the opposite is true. You have to acknowledge that your personal circumstances have certainly changed - and that you have to actively modify your career management plan to accommodate life’s detours.

 

2.    There’s no “right” rate of advancement.

Off the shelf career management literature and programs will have you believe that if by a certain age you haven’t made it to the C-level, your career is kaput. They’ll urge you to move up the hierarchy every X number of years, so as not to miss the ultimate pie in the sky. In reality, even attempting to make such exact plans is useless. I’m sure you’ve been around long enough to observe yourself or others and to realize that:

We all have a pace that’s just right for us at a given time.

We’re all going to encounter opportunities that might influence how we manage our career.

We know there are positions out there that are worth staying in for just a bit more time in order to gain expertise needed for the next step up.

 

So don’t start setting promotion dates in your calendar just yet. Be aware of the three points above so that you advance according to your personal career circumstances.

 

3.    Business is going to evolve.

Colleges today are struggling to predict the skills first year students are going to need once they join the workforce in four years. So is it really realistic that the career path you plan at any point is going to be relevant in just a few years’ time? I can’t guarantee much about your professional future, but there’s one thing I’m sure of: your profession will change. It might be because your interests evolve. Or maybe it’ll be due to a key technological development. Or perhaps, as you develop, you’ll become more open to new directions. My point here is that whether it’s your decision - or the industry’s - change will be part of your career. So my advice to you is to actively manage your career according to the business environment you’re currently in - always keeping your ear to the ground.  

 

The examples I gave in the three categories above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding that career management is anything but standard. Instead, career management that is both personalized and active - taking into account your life, optimal rate of advancement, and a dynamic business environment - will lead you towards the coveted corner office.

 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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Why are you afraid to make a career change?

Originally posted on the Noomii Career Blog.

 

You’ve finally decided to make a career change and you’re looking forward to better times, an admirable example of the career goals of a manager. But before you make the actual change, I’d like you to consider what might be motivating your decision. In my 35 years of experience, I’ve identified 5 factors that might lead someone to seek greener career pastures as part of their:

 

1.    Underachievement: You know that you could be accomplishing much bigger and better things and you feel you’d be able to do so in a new job.

2.    Boredom: You’re tired of the same job and nothing seems to challenge you anymore, so a new job will hopefully allow you to grow.

3.    Feeling stuck: You can’t seem to get promoted, no matter what you do, so it’s time to let others see your talents.

4.    Lack of success: Failure seems to chase you from job to job, so maybe this time, it won’t catch up.

5.    Increased self-awareness: You know deep down inside that this career isn’t right for you, so you think something else out there might be a better fit.

6.    Any combination of 1-5.

 

Most managers who want to change their job can’t really put their finger on why. They just want out. Therefore, it’s not surprising that many become paralyzed with fear as they consider the pretty scary consequences of making a bad move. Now fear isn’t the worst thing. After all, it keeps us from doing really stupid things like peering over the edge of a cliff, not a good example of career goals of a manager. But on the other hand, fear shouldn’t prevent us from improving our career. The secret here is to know how to control fear instead of letting it control us.

 

When you’re controlled by fear, you’re unable to really express why you want to make a career change. You just know that you’re in distress and that you have to get out of your present situation. In this case, fear of any of the factors listed above will keep you in an inescapable loop and you’ll never move on.

 

On the other hand, when you control fear, you know what the exact reasons are for your career change. Granted, the fear is still there and that’s good (remember the cliff). However, because you know exactly why you want to make the change and where you want to be heading, you’re willing to face and deal with the scary parts as well.

 

So the important lesson here is that before you even consider a career change, you must do some introspection and determine exactly why you want this change and what you are aiming to gain from it. For example, try answering these questions about your next job:

 

1.    What aspects of the job do you see yourself enjoying? For example, in marketing, it might be strategizing.

2.    Taking (1) into account, what do you see as the reason for the enjoyment? For example, do you like analyzing data?

3.    What aspects of the job do you see yourself enjoying less? For example, it might be meetings with clients.

4.    Taking (3) into account, what do you see as the reason for enjoying them less? For example, do you have a fear of public speaking?

 

Using these questions as a guide, you’ll understand the true advantages and disadvantages of making a career change. So while the fear factors above are still very much there, you’ll be better informed - and equipped - to handle them better.

 

When deciding to make a career change, don’t let fear take over. Instead, spend some time really understanding what you want out of the change. You’ll see that you’re making the right decision for the right reasons.

 

Good luck!

 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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If you want to get promoted, never imitate anyone

Those of you out there who’ve read my posts know that I’m a big believer in tapping into what I like to call your “hidden” potential - and all of us have plenty of that. Discovering and harnessing your own potential is the fastest track to career success - much faster than trying to imitate a role model - no matter how successful they are.  But that doesn’t mean that understanding how a successful person got to where they are shouldn’t be part of your corporate development career path. So here, I want to differentiate between imitating a role model and analyzing someone else’s path to success.

 

When you imitate a role model, your do so because you want to be as similar as possible to that person so that you, too, can be as successful as they are. But beware. By doing this, you’re essentially “forcing” a certain way of life upon yourself. Think of an actor who’s casted to portray a famous historical figure. That actor spends tremendous amounts of time and energy analyzing the way the figure walked, talked, ate, etc.

 

It’s the same when trying to imitate a role model in a bid to improve your corporate development career path. Like the actor, you’ll spend all of your energy adopting the behaviors of someone else. But meanwhile, you’re smudging out who you are as well. When this method fails (it will), you’ll attribute it to not having followed the role model closely enough. Needless to say, this is an incorrect assumption.

 

Instead, consider the following:

 

We’re not actors on a stage. We can’t really erase who we are and take on another persona - not for any significant amount of time, anyway.

 

In most cases, we’re either going to end up barely passing for the other person or not passing at all - and suffering all of the related consequences.

 

Conclusion: imitating a role model is not the way to go. It will only lead to frustration.

 

But you’re probably thinking: there are so many successful people out there, isn’t there some way to learn from them? And my simple answer is this: absolutely. It starts similarly to the scenario above. You choose a successful person whom you think you could learn from. But this time, you’re not going to imitate them. Instead, your job is to discover what has led them to their success and furthermore, to understand which of these success factors you can put into practice yourself. So instead of forcing a model on yourself, you’re doing a bit of analysis and then adopting certain principles for your own career success. I’ll illustrate what I mean.

 

Let’s say you admire a successful CEO, let’s call her Ruth. Your job is to find out what has led to Ruth to her success. For example, Ruth, on her way up the career ladder, worked for three different companies. You might think that this is a success factor, as it allowed Ruth to become familiar with different aspects of the industry. Next, ask yourself if this is something you’d be able to do. Perhaps you’ve already worked at two companies and could possibly work at one more.

 

Another good thing about Ruth is that at her current company, she ensured to make a vertical move at least every three years. You see this, too, as important, as it gives a clear message to the company that you’re aiming high. Would this be possible for you? Perhaps three years is a little too fast for you - maybe four years would do?

 

I’ll give you one more example. Not only has Ruth moved vertically every three years, she’s moved horizontally as well. She’s worked in marketing, sales, and operations, which, as far as you see, is the way to do things for someone who’d like to be the CEO one day. You could take this principle - horizontal movement - and apply it to yourself. You might decide that sales might be unnecessary and replace it with finance, as this would reflect your particular strengths better.  

 

As I hope you’ve noticed, I haven’t suggested that you imitate Ruth’s career path. Instead, I have proposed what I like to call a “backbone analysis” of a successful figure and tried to show you what vertebrae might be applicable for your particular strengths - so that you can harness your own potential.

 

So, yes, you can certainly learn from the many success stories out there - not by imitating them - but by doing a backbone analysis - and then forming your own plan of action.

 

Good luck!

 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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How to find out what plans your boss has in store for you

Originally posted on the Noomii Career Blog.

 

How often have you wanted to crawl inside the head of your boss to find out what they’re really thinking about you? More time than not, right? That’s the answer that most middle managers give on career development survey questions - especially those who are serious about managing their career. There are usually two questions that go through a middle manager’s mind when trying to find out what their boss thinks:

 

1.    What plans does my boss have in store for me?

2.    What does my boss really think about me?

 

In this post, I’ll concentrate on the first question. (Look out for my thoughts on the second question in a future post.)

 

So just why is it so important to know what plans your boss has in store for you? Well, for a middle manager whose eyes are aimed at the next rung on the corporate ladder, getting stuck in a middle management position is the last thing you want. But unfortunately, what happens to many middle managers is that they get so bogged down working on the tasks at hand that they forget to look up to see if they’re actually heading upwards. It’s these managers who get caught by surprise when they’re overlooked for promotion over and over again. So how do you make sure you’re don’t get surprised? It’s by finding out the answer to one of the most popular career development survey questions: What plans does my boss have in store for me? Here are three ways to find out:

 

1.    Just ask.

 

Yes, it’s as simple as that. Here are a couple of questions to get you started:

 

If I wanted to advance to a new position, what would you think?

If I were to apply for a promotion, would you support me?

 

While this is the most straightforward way to ask for your boss’s position, it’s not necessarily going to yield the most honest answer. So instead of taking your boss’s answer at complete face value, use it instead as a barometer to check the general climate. But to get a more accurate answer, you’ll have to do a bit of analysis. I’ll explain in my next two points.


 

2. Match or mix?

 

The general principle here is to understand if there’s a match or mix between what your boss says and what they do. For example, when your boss showers you or others with praise, are there any actions to validate this praise, such as a promotion or even some added responsibility? Or does it all just evaporate into hot air? If it’s the second situation, then there’s a definite mismatch between what your boss says and what they do. This is bad news for you, because it means you can’t count on what your boss says. Here’s another scenario. When you ask your boss about their plans for you, are you given a direct answer - something you can count on? Or are you given the runaround, either by diverting your question to another issue or by being supplied with a vague, lifeless response? Notice that in the second case, your boss doesn’t obligate themselves to any action that would back up their answer to your question. So when might you be able to count on what your boss says? That’s my next point below.

 

3. It’s just between us.

 

One way of trying to measure your boss’s sincerity is by noticing where they make their statements with regard to your future. For example, if, during a one-to-one meeting, your boss declares that your performance is worthy of a promotion, don’t rush to the car showroom just yet. Instead, acknowledge that many bosses use such platitudes to squeeze a bit more motivation out of their employees. After all, they didn’t say that you’re getting a promotion. If, however, this kind of declaration is made at a Friday end of the week toast in front of the whole team, then your chances of promotion are probably higher. In this case, everyone’s heard your boss use the word “promotion” with your name in the same sentence. Of course, none of this is science and I’ve seen both cases go both ways. Nevertheless, it’s generally a good rule of thumb that people know they’re more liable for what they say in public than what they say behind closed doors.

 

Heads up

 

As you can see, none of these methods is foolproof. However, I hope they help remind you to look around you from time to time so as not to miss any opportunities to climb the next run on the corporate ladder.


 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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What's the best way to work on your weaknesses?

In my last post, I talked about the dangers of over developing your strengths. As I wrote, too much of a good thing can actually overturn  promotion opportunities and sabotage career advancement solutions.

This week, I want to address the flip side - overdoing attempts to improve on weaknesses. I’ll admit, conventional wisdom says that there’s always room for improvement, but my caveat is that there’s a limit, even when it comes to career advancement solutions.

 

For example, let’s say you’re faced with a boss who says you’re too much of an introvert at work. In fact, they tell you that to get promoted, you have to achieve a certain level of assertiveness.

 

As an ambitious middle manager, you’ll take this advice seriously and will do some serious thinking about improving your assertiveness. First, you’ll assess your current assertiveness level - maybe a 2 or 3 out of 10. And then you’ll think about what your boss wants - probably a 9 or 10.

 

The next step would be to think about how to improve your assertiveness. A self-help book? A mentor? A course? So you decide on the best way for you and you take the bull by the horns. At this point, most managers are confident that if they work hard, whatever path they choose, they’ll reach a 9. After all, this isn’t the first time they’ve met a challenge.

 

But, sadly, and I really mean sadly, my 35 years of experience show that the 9 will most likely never come along. Sure, a hard-working manager might achieve a 6 or a 7, but 9 isn’t going to happen. You’re still an introvert.

 

Before you balk at my claim, stay with me. You’re probably thinking of examples in which people have made dramatic changes. I can think of a few as well. But most of us simply cannot completely change a character trait - even with hard work.


Why not? It’s because we’re all assembled differently. Each of us is equipped with a unique mix of talents that come into play in our own special way. That’s what makes teamwork so fruitful, for example.

 

So anyone who thinks they can somehow eradicate parts of their talent mix is heading for big time disappointment. Sure, we can always strive to improve ourselves, but our basic talent mix will always remain in tact.

 

So what about that promotion?

 

Let’s return to our scenario above. Rather than trying to erase your introvertedness, try to concentrate on damage control.

 

For instance, if you’re quiet at meetings, you might be giving the impression that you’re not fully involved with the issue at hand. You know this isn’t true, but your introvertedness is unfortunately speaking for you.

 

In this case, you’d have to develop certain behaviors that could help you seem more engaged at meetings. For example, if you know the subject of the meeting, prepare a short opinion statement about it to present. Or decide before that meeting that you’ll relate to the ideas of at least two coworkers. Following such game plans at meetings and other high stakes activities will put your introvertedness in the back seat - and your talents at the driver’s wheel.

 

So whether you’ve been asked to be more assertive, sensitive, expressive, or any other characteristic, your job is to find the specific behaviors that can be changed in highly visible situations and then to work on them - but never under the delusion that you’ll change your personality.

 

Good luck!

 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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What’s the best management course to take?

Everywhere we look, we see management courses on nearly every topic imaginable along our corporate development career path - and as someone who’s dedicated to developing managers, I can attest that there’s a lot of great stuff out there.

 

For any manager, professional courses can be be divided into two approaches: those that focus on broadening your strengths and those that help you develop your weaknesses. If you’re looking to advance in your corporate development career path, it’s important to decide which approach is better for you.

 

With the first approach, you decide on something you’re very good at and then try to become excellent at it. Sounds great, right? Not only do you get to immerse yourself in something you probably like, you also come out even better at it. For example, let’s say you’re a master at rapid decision making - a key skill in today’s dynamic business world. In fact, you might even owe your current position to this important ability. Naturally, you’d think that to get further promotions, it would be crucial to further perfect your decision making. But there’s a problem with this logic - and here I’ll quote Voltaire: “Better is the enemy of good.”

 

“Too much of a good thing…”

 

I’ll illustrate Voltaire’s wisdom with my famous cake example. We all know that the more sugar you add to a cake recipe, the sweeter the cake. But can a cake be too sweet? You bet. Just double the amount of sugar in any cake recipe and you’ll get something so sickly sweet that it’s nearly inedible. From this simple example, we learn that too much of a good thing, even a management skill, can be ruinous. In our example, being “too good” at decision making could lead to making rapid conclusions that result in detrimental consequences. So ironically, over training some of our management muscles could eventually turn what were once strengths into weaknesses.

 

Now back to our cake. How can we still get a delicious cake without ruining it with too much sugar? By changing some of the other ingredients. For example, the bakers among us know that if a cake’s not sweet enough, we reduce the salt, thus allowing for the sugar to express its full sweetness.

 

And it’s the same with our management competencies. We want to balance out one competency with others so as to arrive at a purposeful managerial approach. For example, in terms of decisionmaking, rather than measuring effectiveness according to speed, consider other factors such as how many others you involve in the decision. Involving others creates commitment to a decision. And creating commitment is a key skill for senior managers. Involving others, of course, might be something new to you and require practice. But on the upside, the quality of your decision will be much better than if you’d made it alone.  

 

So I hope you see what I’m getting at when it comes to self-development. Rather than remaining in your comfort zone, seek undeveloped pastures so that you can become a more well rounded manager. Working on something you haven’t always excelled at will earn you the recognition of others and pave the way for your next promotion.


 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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Looking to manage your career? Put those tips aside.

In our quest to find the “right” way to manage our career, the real question we’re trying to answer is:  How can I make sure my career plays out the way I want it to?

 

In today’s dynamic business environment, everyone’s grappling with this question as one of the major factors affecting career development. Just have a look at all of the management books and courses out there - all offering their one and only solution for career success. But I’m sorry to say that based on my 35 years of experience in helping managers fulfill their career potential, the one and only solution simply doesn’t exist.

 

I can speak from the experience of all of those well-meaning managers who’ve tried out all of what’s out there. The road to career success is a lot more complicated than following the one and only solution, unfortunately misperceived as one of the factors affecting career development.

 

Let’s take an example. Many of us were taught the golden rule that to communicate sincerity, you need to make direct eye contact with the person you’re speaking with. If you don’t, you seem shifty and dishonest.

 

Is this really true for all situations? What happens if you’re dealing with someone who’s shy? Introverted? From a culture where eye contact is considered aggressive? What about people who don’t like being put on the spot? What effect would following this golden rule have in these situations? You guessed it: major failure.

 

My point in bringing up this simple example is that to succeed in managing your career, you can’t follow a one size fits all way of doing things. Why? Because we’re all different. In fact, the only thing we all have in common is that we’re human beings.

 

But today’s world fails to acknowledge our individuality. Instead, feeding on our hunger for instant solutions, we’re told that anything can be solved with a quick fix that’s suitable for anyone in any situation. Though this seems very appealing, it doesn’t really address our problems because solutions really cannot and do not work that way. If they did, then the current exponential growth in managerial books, courses, etc. would’ve led to more managers achieving their career ambitions. Instead, the opposite has occurred. The reason is that well-meaning managers are being fed career advice that just doesn’t fit them individually. And when they fail to follow this ill-fitting advice, they don’t blame the fit, they blame themselves. And then a vicious cycle ensues - bad advice leading to the inability to carry it out, resulting in failure after failure. And then the dejected manager laments, usually with one of these statements (or possibly a combination):

 

I’ve done everything, but I guess I’m just unlucky.

I’ve tried everything, but it’s just not in the cards for me.

I’ve followed all of the advice, but I guess I’m just not promotion material.

 

As you can clearly see, the common denominator here is that the manager felt as if they’d really done everything possible to achieve their career goal, yet to no avail. This misconception has resulted in creating a population of talented managers who live out the rest of their lives in misery - one of the great tragedies of our time.

 

I won’t make any promises like the career management marketers, but I will tell you one thing:

 

The definition of “giving it your all” is making the kind of effort needed by you as an individual.

 

So if you want to advance in your career, it’s surely possible, but it is absolutely essential that you first know not only what steps are right for you but also how you as an individual should carry them out. This means discovering your own path towards career success without:

 

1. cookie-cutter tips;

2. emulating someone else;

3. giving up on who you are.

 

In future posts, I’ll be helping you discover your own unique path to career success.

 

If you have any questions in the meantime, please get in touch.


 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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About to get fired? What to do when the writing’s on the wall.

Originally posted on the Noomii Career Blog.

 

There are certain experiences we can all do without in our career, and getting fired probably takes the cake. So recognizing the signs of an impending pink slip is definitely something you should know about. Throughout my 35 years of experience of thinking about how to measure success at work, I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying careers that are just about to go south. They’ve all got one thing in common: the writing’s always on the wall.  

 

What’s surprising is that in so many cases, it’s the bosses themselves who actually write on the wall - sometimes even in bold, capital letters. This is generally done to allow their subordinates to plan their own escape route, unscathed from the embarrassment of being fired.

 

Writing on the wall in this case usually comes under two main themes: shutting you out and reducing your footprint, which are two indicators of how to measure success at work.

 

Shutting you out might include a reduction in:

 

involving you in new ventures;

informing you of upcoming events;

asking your opinion;

inviting you to meetings;

planning future projects.

 

Reducing your footprint might include:

 

taking away responsibility from you;

not implementing your decisions;

praising you less;

avoiding you in general.

 

Some or any of these behaviors are telltale signs that the writing’s indeed on the wall - and that you should look into it.

But just as this is as clear as day to you and me, it’s always shocking to me how many managers refuse to read the writing on the wall. Not only will they ignore the writing, but they’ll also often put a spin on it, dismissing it with thoughts, such as:

 

“I’m probably just imaging this.”

“My boss is all worked up this week.”

“My boss and I have been experiencing a sort of rough patch recently.”

 

...or any other possible excuse.

 

When we dismiss the writing on the wall, not only do we fail at preparing ourselves for the inevitable, we also end up emotionally demolished once we’re actually fired.

 

This kind of scenario usually plays out not because we haven’t recognized the writing on the wall, but due to our natural tendency to deny bad news. Now denial isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it has many advantages, such as helping us survive challenging times. But when the writing's on the wall, denial can lead us down a slippery slope to misery. So I think you’ll agree that facing an impending pink slip with denial is not the way to go. Instead, you need to take control. Here’s what you should do:

 

When you begin to detect any signs of writing on the wall for a period of time that makes you start to feel uncomfortable, share this feeling with a co-worker, friend, or significant other - someone not directly involved. Run the signs by them and ask them what they think. Pay attention to any differences there might be between their interpretation and yours. Once you’ve identified any differences, try your best to view these signs through their eyes.

 

If you’re lucky, perhaps you’re just overreacting to a specific incident and everything’s fine. But if indeed the writing's on the wall, you must immediately acknowledge it so that you can remain in control of your own career. Your goal at this point is to prevent unnecessary heartache as you carefully calculate your next move.

 

Remember that though getting fired is probably the worst thing that’ll occur in your career, it happens every day. With the right pre-planning, you’ll find yourself up on your feet again, ready to take on your next challenge.

 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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2 Steps to Sticking to Your New Year's Resolutions

The New Year’s festivities have come and gone and many of us have returned to work with renewed excitement and optimism for the new year - great for getting started on those New Year’s Resolutions.

 

But it’ll take more than just good vibes to keep you going throughout the year. One way of knowing how to measure success at work and towards your next promotion is through one magic word: STEP

 

Of course by STEP, I mean step-by-step. Consider which of these scenarios will work out for the long term:

 

1.    You decide to go running every morning, so you wake up the next morning and begin your new daily routine.

 

2.    You decide to go running every morning, so as a first step, you begin with twice a week, eventually increasing to three times a week and so on.

 

I don’t know which scenario you chose, but here are some really interesting numbers about a past experiment in which respondents were asked this question before they attempted to meet their long term goals.

 

On the whole, 60% of respondents chose scenario 1, while the other 40% chose scenario 2. This isn’t really surprising, as most of us approach new challenges imbued with optimism.

 

But here’s the really interesting part:

 

Of the respondents who chose scenario 1, less than 10% were able to meet their own goals, while of those who chose scenario 2, this number was over 90%. Talk about the power of outlook on achieving goals!

 

So let’s place our bets on the goal achievers (and not just the optimists) and meet your goals for the new year with STEP.

 

State your Goals.

This isn’t about your vision or general direction. This is about clearly expressing what you want - as specifically as possible. A good example might be: I want to be promoted to regional sales manager between September and November of the upcoming year. Fleshing out your goal in this way increases your commitment.

 

Talk your talk.

Once you’ve written out your goal, talk it out. Read it to yourself at least twice a day - treat it like your personal mantra. This will keep you waking up and going to bed with your goal, so that no matter what distracts you during the day, you’ll always come back to what’s most important.

 

Estimate the time to complete milestones.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your goals be accomplished in a day. When you stated your goals, you gave yourself an overall timeframe for completion. Now, you have to break up your goal into smaller milestones, estimating the amount of time it’ll take to meet them. An example of a milestone might be: I’ll hold a meeting with my immediate supervisor by the end of February. Estimating the time for completion will help you meet the milestones on the way to your ultimate goal. It worked for Jane - and will work for you.

 

Peg your progress.

Keep track of your progress, noting any gaps between what you’ve planned and what you’ve achieved - making any necessary adjustments along the way. By pegging your progress, you renew your commitment to your goal, ensuring its accomplishment.

 

So join the people who know how to achieve goals. Follow the STEP process in the new year and make your career dreams come true.

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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Every middle manager needs a dream sponsor

The beginning of January always seems to bring with it our hopes and dreams for the new year. Often, the career goals of a manager cause us to reflect on what we didn’t get to accomplish the previous year. Sure, some of these shortcomings were beyond our control, but in general, we probably could’ve done a better job at staying on track.

 

What commonly happens is that we begin the new year full of optimism and energy, both of which tend to wane as the year marches on. And towards the end, we find ourselves wondering why we failed to meet our goals:

 

1. Perhaps we were too optimistic.

2. Maybe we just ran into bad luck this year.

3. The conditions probably weren’t right.

 

Sure, one or more of these reasons might explain some of the gap between what you’d planned and the career goals of a manager that you actually accomplished. But we can’t attribute them to everything we didn’t get done.

 

In fact, based on my 35 years of experience, the gap between what we’d wanted and what actually got done isn’t the fault of the stars. It’s usually due to a lack of careful planning.

 

Without planning, a dream remains a dream. But with planning, a dream is broken down into specific steps that can be managed.

 

Managing the steps towards your dream

 

One of the best ways to keep you on track towards accomplishing your dreams is finding a “dream sponsor.” We know that sponsors are used in many recovery frameworks to help people get better. Getting help from a sponsor makes sense. When we promise something to just ourselves, we often break these promises with any minor excuse. But when we promise something to someone else, a dream sponsor, we tend to stick to our commitment, lest we let them down. What’s more, a dream sponsor can also support us when things aren’t easy - giving us the encouragement we need to carry on.

 

So as you begin thinking about your goals for the new year, the first step to consider is finding a dream sponsor. This person doesn’t have to fit any profile, just someone whom you trust and who can relate to your specific goals.

 

Here are some practical principles for managing a dream sponsor relationship:

 

1. Agree on times when you’ll report your progress towards your goals.

2. Reach out when you feel as if you’ve gotten off track.

3. Report on all of your successes - no matter how small.

 

If you follow these faithfully, you’ll find yourself this time next year having accomplished much more than you had in the past.

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I know that some of you might be thinking that you don’t want to burden someone else with your issues. After all, everyone has goals and most of us are struggling to accomplish them. But the truth is that it’s not as much of a burden as you might think. Your dream sponsor’s main job is to be there - the hard work is still up to you.

 

Good luck and let me know how it’s working for you as you begin the new year.

 

And always remember:


Great managers are made. Not born.

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