Setting “no” goals

epicfailIf you looked at the title of this post for more than .5 seconds, than you might be thinking to yourself “wait a minute. I thought you said at the beginning of this month that you hated the ‘no goal’ philosophy.” If that thought entered your head, you would be correct. I absolutely despise the ‘no goal’ philosophy. I despise it like I despise waiting in long airport security lines with my shoes in one hand and holding up my pants with the other… like I despise sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the highway in the middle of summer dripping and it’s only 7:45am… like I despise abusive bosses, nasty coworkers and poor behaving relatives. So what am I talking about with this post? I’m talking about setting “no” goals, not “no goals.” In other words, what are you going to stop doing this year and / or say “no” to in order to achieve what you have set out to achieve?

Managing the noise

One of the most common themes I’ve heard over the last several years is the increase in all of the “noise” that surrounds us every day. From new initiatives and evolving strategies to increased workloads, the noise for all of us is intense. Simply put, if you are going to achieve the new goals you added to your plate, you have no choice but to remove something else (unless, of course, you have plenty of free time, but my guess is that your plate overfloweth).

What to say “No” to

As you are thinking about what you should say “no” to, consider the following thought-starter categories. They have helped me (and many of my clients) a time or two.

  • Not Part of Your Role / Responsibilities – There is nothing easier than to say “yes” when asked to do something. However, if you took an inventory of what’s on your plate, do you have things you are doing that are not part of your role or responsibilities? If so, consider removing some or all from your plate. For example, maybe you are doing one of your direct report’s jobs for him or her. Or perhaps you’ve gotten sucked into to doing your boss’ job for him / her. Either way, it’s all about knowing what is your stuff and what isn’t.
  • Less Than Your Hourly Rate – A slight offshoot of the “role / responsibilities” category, this category is about asking yourself the following question every time something is tossed your way “Given I make X per hour, should I be the one doing this?” My favorite example comes from a CEO and business owner several years ago. As he described to me all he did in a given week, my ears perked up when he described his Friday routine. Turns out he was driving to Costco, buying candy bars and stocking the vending machine. That is one expensive vending machine attendant that company has employed, let me tell ya.
  • Inconsistent with Your Brand – Perhaps you could argue that the thing(s) you are doing are within your job and you are adequately paid to be doing them, but are they consistent with the brand you are trying to promote? In other words, are you doing things that may point you down the wrong direction of your career because you are being labeled as the person that does that? PowerPoint is my version of this evil trap. I am pretty good at PowerPoint (I was once called a “PowerPoint princess” but that is another story). And while it might be necessary, I have found that when I have worked on teams, I would quickly become the PowerPoint “guy.” Accurate, but not how I wanted to be known. I had to reposition myself and so I would either not take on the role of driving PowerPoint or I would offer to do it as the lead presenter. How ‘bout you? Are you doing something that is branding you inaccurately?
  • resolutionsThings Slowly Killing YouAre you doing things that are killing you? Dramatic I know, but are you? Are you trying to squeeze in extra work in a day by sacrificing your exercise or your sleep (less than 7 hours consistently is dangerous)? Are you eating poorly in an effort to save more time? Are you smoking or drinking daily in an effort to manage stress or simply to relax? You’re not gonna get anywhere dead… unless of course, you become a workplace zombie.

Setting Your “No” Goal(s)

Hopefully you are feeling sufficiently uncomfortable (I’m all about uncomfortable) and ready to set your “no” goal(s). Remember, you don’t need to say “no” to everything I laid out above. Just pick one. Once you’ve got it, the challenge then is getting enough courage to do it. One final thought, great leaders set “no” goals. They are clear on what isn’t a good use of their time and they either delegate the activity, outsource the activity (as a geeky consultant friend of mine once told me… he “outsources” his lawn), or they flat out say “no” (for help saying “no”, here you go).

Get your “no” goals in hand and get started clearing your plate. You’re gonna need the space.

As Willy Wonka so eloquently put it, there is “so much time and so little to see. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it.”  What a poet…



Setting the right relationship goals

fakepeopleEvery year I pick out one relationship that I want to improve. Sometimes it’s a work relationship. Other times it’s a relationship with a family member. Regardless, I set a specific relationship goal for the year. Some years I look back at the end of the year and say to myself, “Sweet. Things with X have definitely gotten better. Well done ‘B’ (that’s what I call myself. Feel free to call me that… or anything you like. I won’t be offended). ‘B,’ you are a rock star (I’m all about positive affirmation).” Other years, the conversation isn’t quite so positive “What was holding you back? All you had to do was ask out X to lunch / dinner a little more often, call them a little more frequently, etc… Suck it up. Get going you slacker…” The point isn’t my crazy self talk (although it is probably entertaining to hear… After all, I’m a big fan of “healthy delusional thinking”). The point is that I have a relationship goal every year. Without, there is no way to gauge progress with the relationships in my life I want to nurture and grow.

Do you have a relationship goal?

You are not escaping this post without defining the one relationship you want to improve this year. That simple. Take a deep breath, steel yourself and get thinking. To help you, consider the following categories:

The Grumpy Boss – Maybe you wish your relationship with your boss was a bit better… or perhaps a lot better. What I can tell you is sitting back and waiting for it to change “ain’t gonna happen.” I can also tell you that the strategy of hiding out waiting for it to get better also won’t do the trick, particularly if they have a bad misperception of your. Remember, in absence of communication, people will always assume the worst. It’s only going to get better if you do something about it.

The Nasty Coworker – If you’ve got a coworker that’s picking on you and making you the target of office politics, issues, and complaints, the burden is on you to turn that dynamic around. Think back to middle school. Trying to ignore it (as much this is professed as the right solution) rarely works. It only heightens their efforts. Ignoring people trying to get a reaction does NOT get them to go away. It simply invites them to turn up the volume. If you’ve got this dilemma, you’re gonna need to do something about it.

yelling bossThe Difficult Customer – Similar the nasty coworker, this person can throw wrenches and blame your way at a moment’s notice. Different from the difficult coworker, this person can make or break your success and reputation virtually overnight. There are few people leaders listen to more than key customers. If you’ve got a difficult one you want to nurture, make it a priority for this year.

The Wayward Relative / Friend – Here’s a little twist on the relationship goal. Perhaps as work and life have gone into hyperdrive, you’ve lost touch with a relative or friend from years gone by. You haven’t seen the cousin you used to build forts with for years. Do they still like to build forts? You haven’t talked to your college roommate in so long, you still remember him / her in Birkenstocks. Can you still buy Birkenstocks? Should someone from this category be on your list?

The Significant Other (or someone else living in your house) – This category doesn’t need much description. It’s self explanatory. If you’ve got someone who currently lives under the same roof as you (or you would like them to be) and things aren’t “rock solid,” I promise you that the only cure to that dilemma is investing time, energy and love. Hiding and hoping won’t cut it. Make this the top of your list (This category even trumps “The Boss.” After all, I don’t think you want your boss crashing on your couch).

What are you going to do and when are you gonna do it?

To take this on, write down 3 things you could be doing more of to improve the relationship. This could be things like:

  • More frequent proactive compliments of the other person
  • More frequent phone calls, voicemails and overall communication
  • Taking them to lunch and other forms of appreciation to recognize / thank them
  • Date nights (probably not a good idea if this is your boss…)
  • Surprising gifts and other efforts to show thoughtfulness and their importance to you
  • Etc…

Finally, ask yourself “so when am I gonna do this?” Put it on your calendar (yes, even schedule an Outlook reminder if you have to). Goals without a plan are dreams. I think I read that somewhere. Anywho, it’s true so wrap a plan around it to make it work.

Got your relationship? Got your plan? If the answers are “yes,” you are free to go. Get working and I look forward to you telling yourself that you are a “rock star” at the end of the year. Though I highly recommend that you wear your blue tooth when you say it so others think you are on the phone. Just sayin’…


Setting the right work goals

wonderingSetting the right work-related goals is critical for keeping you moving forward and avoiding getting “stuck” in the wrong role, company or occupation. The challenge is that one size does not fit all. There are a myriad of combinations that may work for you. To that end, I’m gonna tell you what works (and has worked) for me and for others.  Consider this your menu to sample from as you move into the next year.  You’ll see, I’ve definitely got my “specials of the day.”

The Forest

cannonAs it relates to work and career goals, most of us fall short when it comes to possessing a long-term vision of where we see ourselves professionally. We get caught up in the trees and lose sight of the forest. As a result, we end up wandering in the workplace woods for a very long-time. If we aren’t careful, we become pricing specialists for the tire industry. Consider the following exercise to overcome the forest dilemma:

Step 1: Gaze into my crystal ball and look out 5 years into the future (or 10 years if you are ambitious)

Step 2: My crystal ball only shows perfect. Describe what perfect looks like for you. What would your perfect life look like? Consider things like: where you would live, what your job would be, what your family situation would look like, etc…

Step 3: Forgive yourself. Inevitably, there will be questions you don’t have answers to. Don’t beat yourself up. Work with what you know. If you know you want to live next to the ocean but you don’t’ know what your job would be, no sweat. That little piece of information is still extremely valuable… particularly if you currently live in Omaha.

Step 4: Given where you see yourself down the road (5 or 10 years), track back to this year and ask yourself: what do I need to get done this year to set myself up well to move toward my long-term vision?

The Trees

You’ve stuck your head above the tree line and you’ve gazed at the big picture. Now consider the trees standing in your way. In other words, once you’ve got your longer-term goal and a related goal for this year, you can more adequately take on a more specific work-related goal.

For a helpful framing of your work-related goal(s)for this upcoming year, consider the following 3 big categories. In Harvey Coleman’s book Empowering Yourself, The Organizational Game Revealed, he offers a simple yet extremely helpful acronym: P. (performance), I. (image), E. (exposure). Consider these as helpful “tree” categories to get you moving down the path you’ve set.

Performance – Goals that have to do with how you do your job. This can include doing your job better, learning new skills or even removing tasks you are doing from your job that either you don’t do well or shouldn’t be doing at all (delegation). Naturally, while important, Coleman argues this category only makes up about 10% of one’s long-term success.

PIEImage – How others perceive you. Your brand. If you’ve had the fortune of getting 360 feedback this year, you might have noticed components in your feedback which are more about other’s perception of you than your performance (Ex: You always arrive late to meetings, people can always tell when you don’t like what they are saying by your eye-rolling, you cut others off, you don’t dress professionally, etc…). A critical category to be sure. Coleman weighs this category as contributing a meaty 30% to your long-term success.

Exposure – How much visibility you are getting with and from others. Do others talk about you in meetings when you aren’t there? Are you networking with the right people? Do the right people “know” you? Upon first glance, this category seems like non-essential. Oh contraire. Coleman argues exposure makes up a whopping 60% of your long-term success. Expose away… appropriately of course.

Your Compass

All that stands between you and that sandy white beach is you. Get moving. As a mentor of mine always says, “keep it simple.” Narrow your work-related goals down to one or two. No more. If you can do that and stay true to your compass, you’ll be working under an umbrella in no time.



“I don’t have any goals”

nogoals_graphic‘Tis the season of resolutions and goal-setting. First, let me come clean and tell you that I am a big fan of setting goals, both personally and professionally. And I’m not just your average fan. I’m one of those face-painting, rabid kinda fans. Goals keep us on track and focused. And to be frank, had I not set some ridiculously crazy goals in my life (some might argue delusional), I wouldn’t have accomplished half of what I’ve accomplished. While I may be a bit on the extreme side as comes to goal-setting, I would want for you the same satisfaction of setting a vision and realizing it. This month is about filling the “no goal” void with some aggressive and focused goals in order to get you closer to your picture of perfect.

The School of No Goals

Before we go too far down the path of goal-setting, I need to attend to the recent trend of anti-goals. Many of you might have encountered this school of thought. This doctrine posits that both individuals and organizations shouldn’t set goals because in this new fast-paced world, too much is out of one’s control and thus failure and frustration are inevitable. They argue that the real way to approach growth and progress is to focus on one’s behaviors and hope for the best. My opinion on this particular school of thought? Simply put it is wrong-headed “excuse-making” clap-trap. Garbage. Junk. Not much better than some cheap “feel good” fix you might buy off the street. Of course, I can clearly see the appeal of the “no goals” philosophy. It frees one from guilt and failure. Why? Because one never sets a bar(a goal) so naturally there’s no “falling short.” On the flip side, “accomplishment” never happens because “success” is never defined. Without goals, we are simply buying lottery tickets hoping “something good” happens. What that “something good” is we aren’t sure but we hope we’ll like it. I don’t need to remind us of the odds of winning the lottery.

The Tip of the Spear

As I alluded to earlier, goals serve a very important role. They give us a direction. They provide the tip of our spear as we move forward personally and professionally. They paint a picture of the world we are trying to create. Without goals we are just taking action without a clear expectation or vision of where we want to be and the life we want.

This month we are going to talk about goal setting. My job in this is twofold:

  1. Give you a menu of differing types of goals for your consideration (a rich menu of personal and professional)
  2. Get you to pick one (the fewer the goals, the easier it is to focus and to guarantee progress)

Packing for Next Year

One final perspective on goal-setting: it is not about achieving the goal you set in the timeframe you define (Ex: goals for 2013, etc…). The objective is to make as much progress as you can toward the goal in the time in which you allot. For example, if you set out that your goal is to make $1M next year and unfortunately, you fall short and only make $800K or perhaps you decide to lose 50lbs. and you only lose 40lbs., those are not failures simply because you didn’t hit your goal. Those are clear successes because you moved far down the path toward your desired end state. Contrary to popular belief, in reality most goals are realistic. It is the timeframe we define in which to achieve them that is arbitrary. Our “goal” for next year is to use goals to focus our actions and see how much we can get accomplished. So, as we get ready to pack our goals for the coming year, guilt and fear of failure are not allowed in your suitcase (nor are they permitted in your carry-on bag). They won’t get past any TSA check-points. Leave ‘em both at home… with the lottery tickets. We’ve got too much to do.


Why I’m glad I got sick

Admittedly, this year has ended with a sputter rather than a bang. My tale of woe all began a few days before Halloween. I had tweaked my back and for three days I could barely move, hobbling around like I was a 95 year old man – the kind of old man that has a cane and waves it angrily at cars that drive too fast. As a result, I had to cancel and reschedule a bunch of work at the end of October, shifting it into the only three good weeks in November. Unbeknownst to me, that was the beginning of a chain reaction that sets up the purpose of this post. After three marathon weeks in November, I got sick. But not just any sick. No. I don’t do things half-way, folks. No, not me. I started off the week of Thanksgiving by getting the flu. After beginning to recover by mid-week, I started to feel my throat barking by Friday night. I figured, “here we go again. That damn flu still hasn’t fully left.” I was wrong. By Saturday morning I was so congested and my throat was so swollen, I had to sit upright to breathe. On Sunday, my seven year old was diagnosed with strep throat. Sure enough, that’s what dear old dad had contracted – a raging angry case of strep throat. So bad was my particular case that my ear drum had ruptured in that 48 hour period from all of the pressure. Today, nearly two and half weeks later, I’m still on the mend (with the help of some extra strong antibiotics).

And, it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

Lying in bed for countless days straight forced me to rethink some things. I came to the realization that over this entire year I had been pushing very hard to create the next big thing. Even though I didn’t realize it (or want to admit it), I was putting an enormous amount of pressure on myself. All the signs were there. Blood pressure, back issues, etc… But did I listen? Of course not.

Do any of us listen when we are driving towards something and we believe the only way is forward?

Being forced off the treadmill made me listen. Today, I’m in a different and better place than I was a month ago. Here’s what I came to realize:

  1. I need to take care of myself – this starts with prioritizing my health and healthy routines above everything else. If Hall of Famer’s do it, shouldn’t I. But it also means not overworking myself by filling my schedule completely full day after day. Just because I have capacity does not mean that I have to use it.
  2. I need to take the long view – I’m the king of trying to work magic in one calendar year (perhaps my greatest strength and weakness). For example, this past year I was going to grow my coaching practice, write a book, pilot a TV show and still keep all the rest of the balls in the air (existing coaching clients, consulting work, speaking engagements, teaching 500+ MBA’s, radio stuff, blogging, etc…). Umm, no. Patience, grasshopper. I need to focus on less and do it better. Incremental movements are key.
  3. I need to savor the moment – Over the past 6 months, My wife and I had been talking about moving from our current house to something a bit bigger. Our house is great, but after 14 years, we are getting close to outgrowing it. I would be kidding myself if this hasn’t been one more stressor in the back of my mind (racing to build up cash in order to make a move). Looking around at my home the last few weeks has me thinking to myself, “yeah, we probably will outgrow this soon. And, at that point, we’ll move. But today is not that day.” And that philosophy doesn’t apply just to my house. I’m going to sit back and savor where I’m at today in all aspects of my life. The day will come when I’ll be moving on to something else soon enough (home, family, opportunities, etc…). Doors will open. Doors will close. I don’t need to bang on the doors impatiently in the meantime.
  4. I need to set the right habits – Getting sick for that many days in a row had an unexpected outcome. It knocked me off of all of my routines. Of course it killed the good ones, but it also killed the bad routines. As an executive coach, I’m all about setting the right routines. And I also recognize that in the middle of craziness, it is hard to intentionally stop and change behaviors. It feels like there is too much at stake. I’ve been given the gift of a reset. From my eating to my exercise routines, from family time to my mental outlook, I’ve reset a bunch of stuff.

So, there you have it. For any hard charging, ambitious type, I highly recommend getting sick. It forced me to reevaluate, reflect and redesign my life for the better.

So, lick some door knobs. Go to a day care and ignore the hand sanitizer. Throw out the 5 second rule and eat anything you find laying around between the couch cushions.

You’ll thank me later.