Effective Goal Setting

broken glass on wooden surface
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Imagine you come home from work tomorrow night and, as you pull into the driveway, you notice a window has been broken. Not cracked, there is a hole in the window. The weather can get in, as can nosy neighbours and some ne’er do wells!

What do you do? You (hopefully) take action to fix the window.

Why? Because a broken window is classified as “wrong”. A fixed window is “normal”. A broken window is not.

When it comes to goal setting, you want to either:

  • get back to normal (i.e. fix the broken window) or;
  • create a new normal – do  something new with the window

As humans, we gravitate to normal, our comfort zone. Normal is deemed as safe. But what I view as normal and what you view as normal is likely very different. Therefore, normal is not arbitrary. This is great news because we can pick the new, better normal and work towards that. Maybe I’d like to have more of what you’re thinking.

And to create a new normal, we need a new problem.

As with the broken window, if we see a problem, we look to fix it. It’s automatic. See broken window, fix broken window.

We work to fix the things that are without or control.

And problems, like the broken window, create energy, an impetus to fix the problem. 

What is my point?

With regards to goals and making plans for things to change, we need energy. Ergo, we need a problem!

“Tell me what you want, what you really really want!”

Spice Girls

If we want to travel overseas for a holiday, most of us have to change our spending and put funds aside for the trip. This, in itself, becomes the new normal. It’s hard at times but we need to decide if we really want the trip and to make the necessary changes. If funds are short week to week, it can cause conflict. It’s called sacrificing and we all have different levels of sacrifice!

But we make the sacrifice if we want the holiday! And then, one day, we step on to that plane … 😀

And so, with goal setting, we need to change what is normal in order to achieve the goal.

Different isn’t always better but better is always different!

unknown

The “Holiday”
Imagine the change you want is the holiday. How do you plan for the holiday?You probably:

  • select a destination
  • check flights or journey options
  • review your budget
  • look up places to visit
  • book accommodation
  • create a spreadsheet to track things like packing, destinations, costs (no-one does that do they? *cough*)
  • you talk to people about it (endlessly!)

All of these actions to a greater or lesser degree, create energy. This energy provides the fuel to make your goal a reality. Hey, even planning for a well deserved holiday can be stressful and sometimes we think it’s just not worth the hassle – but it is and we endure!

What is your goal?
Can you adapt the above points to your goal? More than likely.

How much do you want your goal?
If the energy is there, you’ll achieve your goal or get very close to it. Even a holiday might need to be changed if something doesn’t work out and you can’t influence it. (I’d be on the next plane to Germany if Covid cases weren’t on the rise!)

Conversely, if there is no energy to change, the goal is likely to remain a goal. But, in the same way, if your goal is something you are prepared to sacrifice for, talk about, track progress and make it part of your “normal”, it’ll happen almost magically.

How do you achieve your goals? Let me know in the comments.

Using SCARF to Develop your Team

A new SCARF based staff development/coaching template is now available on the Resources page here.

The template uses the SCARF Model to help leaders determine where their staff are in relation to the five factors in the model. The template uses a rating scale of 1 through 10. This allows a leader to determine granular levels of each factor. You can also use an either/or approach. This means you can assess whether a team member is in threat mode or reward mode.

Look for Trends

It is important to have data to support your views or you may be off on a wild goose chase. Also note, people can have bad days and weeks, so also look for trends over time. A quieter day in the team may simply mean they’ve had an argument with their spouse.

Go Deeper

Another aspect is to go a little deeper than outward appearances only. This takes a little more care but you don’t need to be a psychologist. This might be what is referred to as “Will vs Skill”. If a person has the skills to complete a task but doesn’t, then it may be a “will” issue. There may be something internally preventing them.

Will vs Skill

A simple example I have come across many times is sales. People join organisations for a purpose and then sales comes into the role. (Or perhaps it was there all long and they have avoided it). Regardless, they now need to jump on the sales train.

Some people are averse to this approach with customers and avoid it. Leaders will consider all sorts of strategies to win them over.

The point about going deeper is to understand the aversion to sales itself. This may comes down to beliefs, attitudes and habits around the concept of selling. There could be many reasons for this:

  • family background is adverse to sales people
  • have been scammed before vowed to never do that to others
  • don’t want to be seen as a salesperson in the worst sense (many people use the “used car salesperson” metaphor)
  • Won’t people see me as pushy?
  • What if people say no? We all hates rejection.

In relation to the SCARF model, this might be seen as a threat and so they may use common behaviours to deal with the threat:

  • Fight – push back (e.g. why do I have to sell?)
  • Flight – avoid “selling” and describe is as better customer service (without the required results)
  • Freeze – reduction in contact with customers (in a contact centre this may look like shortened call times, hanging up on customers)
  • Flinch – using most of the process with out closing the sale (aka asking for the order)

The point is to assess where your individual team members are on the scale and work towards supporting them to the more beneficial side of the equation.

Character Development

pink paper origami
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When we think of personal development, we think in terms of taking new things on: taking on new skills, taking on new behaviours, as well as new attitudes and beliefs. This can be scary and take us well out of our comfort zone.

This is because, when we start to take on these new attributes, we’re rarely competent … at first. We get to (re)learn about the competency ladder.

  • Unconsciously incompetent – we did know that we didn’t know!
  • Conscious incompetent – we now know what we don’t know!
  • Consciously competent – we focus and become better at our new skills
  • Unconsciously competent – we do it without even thinking about it!

Acting as if …

In his commencement speech at the University of the Arts 2012, Neil Gaiman finishes off a great speech by suggesting people be wise. “But”, he says, “If you don’t know how to be wise, think of someone who is wise and just pretend to be like them.”

“Acting as if” leads to acting, or behaving and thinking, like the character trait you want to be competent in.

According to the site, Ranker, Daniel Day Lewis is known for staying in character off camera. Reportedly, he would send text messages as “Commander in Chief” and talk on the phone as Abraham Lincoln when he was filming Lincoln.

He was acting as if he was Lincoln!

What skill or behaviour are you looking to develop?

An actor will take the time to research their character. Particularly if it is based on true events, they will go to great lengths to find out about their character, as stated by Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger of Tom Hanks.

And yet, here is how Hanks describes the situation:

When we are looking to lead people, or influence others, what traits do we need to take on in order to be successful in the role or the situation? Think about someone you know who has the attributes you are seeking. Have a conversation with them, taking note of how they approach a situation. Then reflect on how you might adopt that skill.

For example:

Imagine for a moment, you get triggered very easily by certain situations or certain people. Perhaps a leader in your organisation is unethical but keeps getting accolades and acknowledgments. Each time you interact with them you find yourself thinking about their flaws and it can distract you from the task at hand.

Speak to someone you know and trust. Ask them how they deal with difficult personalities. (I suggest NOT mentioning your trigger person). Hear your colleague out and imagine yourself managing the situation the same way. What skills and attributes would you need to take on? Write them down.

Now “act as if” you had those skills. Can you do this for a few seconds? A few minutes? A whole meeting?

This is different from “faking it till you make it”. Faking it calls out the fact you are faking it. Therefore, it could mean you’re being duplicitous with yourself. And there is no need to be.

An analogy in two parts

  1. When we learn to drive a car on the road, we’re learning at the same time as doing. You’re not faking it.
  2. Sitting in a lounge chair, making car noises with hands on an imaginary steering wheel is faking it!

It’s the same when dealing with new and challenging situations. You’re actually “driving the car” no matter how nervously or how you feel inwardly or how many mistakes you make … you’re driving! 🙌

Truth be told, the person you went to for guidance, at one time, “acted as if” as well. Maybe they still are! 😧

Conclusion

We do this every day! We act as if every day of our lives. We do it subconsciously to fit in, deal with a difficult client, even drive to a brand new location because just getting there can be stressful.

Now the skill is to do it consciously, on purpose, with an expected result. If you don’t get it exactly right first time, you go again. You can’t be version 2.0 of yourself within being a Version 1.0! Not even Apple, Microsoft and Google can do that.

Develop your character they you want it to be! To benefit you and those you work with.

To help with this I have created a simple template you can use and re-use for skills and attributes you’re looking to develop this way. It is free and you can get it here.

The $1 Experiment – Update

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Happy New Year! 🥳 I hope everyone is well and started the New Year with a bang!

I am sipping flat champagne out here on the patio as I write this at 10:13am. A bit early but we thought the bottle was empty and, as there was one glass left, I wasn’t going to waste it! Cheers! 🥂

So, if you have been here before, you’ll know I am running an experiment called the “$1 experiment”. The premise being I am looking to provide value free of charge but would welcome any donations people may wish to contribute if I add value.

As this is Day One of the formal experiment, December being the “soft launch”, I thought I’d give you an update of how it’s going. You can check out the details here!

Over the Christmas period I did drop my level of posts but I’ll kick that up a notch now the New Year is here.

How much have I earned so far?

So far I’ve had two donations! This has equated (after fees from Stripe) to $2.04 into my account. Thanks to Ryan and Glenn! 🙏

I’m certainly not retiring any time soon. But it’ll be fun to see how this goes over the next 365 days.

Plans to increase the value for 2022

My aim is to provide new tools every week, so 52 new tools by year’s end. These will cover topics such as:

  • leading people
  • managing teams
  • developing habits
  • personal effectiveness
  • developing a better mindset
  • dealing with different personalities

If there is something you’re interested in that may fit into one of the above topics, let me know in the comments and I’ll do some research and maybe develop a tool people can use to improve their effectiveness.

The blog part of the website will always be free with donations accepted if you feel there is value in what I provide.

I will be developing some products for payment but they will be clearly defined and apart from the blog.

Have an awesome 2022 everyone.

Closing the Learning Loop

One of the dilemmas of trainers is in ensuring people to retain and apply the learning they have experienced.

This is one of my bug bears where I don’t want to spend time with a group, get great evaluations and feel they’ve “got it” only to find very little has been applied. I mean, application is the whole point.

I feel there is an open loop to learning that can be easily closed.

It’s back on the job, where the pressure of the work day and volume of requests do their very best to limit the time and effectiveness of embedding the learning.

People want to apply what they have learned because they remember what the benefit is. It’s having the time and clarity of what to do.

To that end, I have created a “Today I Learned” template.

This is a simple tool designed to allow a learner to have conversation on paper to make sure they are closing the loops to their learning.

It starts with a simple:

Today I Learned… and asks the learner to write down what the learning was. It could be a concept (Today I Learned … how to create an effective meeting agenda) to a whole workshop (Today I Learned … CPR).

So Now I Can … It then asks the learner what that means. This clarifies the purpose and benefit of the learning.

  • So now I can … set up meetings effectively … to help me stay on track.
  • So now I can … administer CPR if it’s needed … and save someone’s life.

I also suggest writing this in a format where you can explain it to others. This also helps in embedding the information.

But now back to work …

So you’ve just completed the best course you’ve ever attended and you’re keen to get stuck into it back at work (maybe CPR (above) was the wrong example to be keen about! 🙄)

But now, back at work with the pressures and demands, Ebbinghaus’s Forgetting Curve comes into mess things up! Elements are forgotten. We lose confidence and focus on the information just learned. It all becomes too hard and we hope we don’t need to administer CPR for at least 12 months.

To counter this, I’ve added the element of:

But I have questions … this allows the individual to acknowledge they had the training and gained some value. But now what do they do when they need to apply the skills/knowledge? It can all get a bit fuzzy, which means questions will arise.

  • Do I pull out the checklist first or do I go straight into CPR?
  • What if I get a stage the wrong way round?
  • “What if …, What if … What if …”

This section allows the learner to write down what’s in their head. Often in writing it out, the answer will become clear. Other times it may require contact with the trainer. (I’d be more than happy to help clarify concepts with a learner after a workshop. Their effectiveness back at work is the whole point, after all!)

The last two sections are:

  1. What is preventing me: a list of things that might be getting in the way
  2. What I plan to do is: a set of steps to overcome the preventions and create momentum

Finally

This is also intended as a coaching plan. Using it with a learner, it helps clarify the issues that are preventing improved performance or blocks to developing a skill. A good coach can work through each section and allow the learner to develop their own solutions.

You can find a copy on the Resources Page. I hope you find it helpful.

I’d be keen to get your thoughts. Have you developed something similar?

If you found this and other material here useful, consider dropping $1 in the cup! And tell a few friends! 🙏

Have a Growth Mindset … for others!

person holding a green plant

I was speaking with an ex-colleague a few months ago, and they shared with me something that happened to her at work.

Her supervisor told her to “… get a growth mindset. You have a fixed mindset and you need a growth mindset!” Her response, not sure if it was verbal or just to herself, was, “My mindset is my own business!”

Telling is not developing!

It made me think of how we assess others. When I think of fixed vs growth mindset I apply it to myself. What areas do I need to grow in? (still looking at you, touch-typing!)

But this interaction made me think how managers and leaders (and co-workers for that matter) consider those around them. Do they have a fixed mindset about others, even if they have a growth mindset about themselves?

Does considering oneself to have a growth mindset, create a level of false superiority over those one thinks have fixed mindset. I say false, because anyone with a true growth mindset would be considerate of others and work with them, not talk down to, or about, them.

Consider terms like:

  • that’s the good old Tom we know
  • she’ll never change
  • they’ve always been like that
  • you need to have a good think about your future (meaning someone is fixed in their current situation)

If we are in a fixed mindset about others, our coaching and interactions will bear this out. We will coach with a limited view of achieving outcomes. Because “they’ll never change” we don’t look for alternative solutions or coaching methods. And even if we do sometimes, it’s simply to prove they can’t change! The good old, “I’ve tried everything!” approach (personal experience!).

If we are providing feedback to our manager on our team’s performance, our report will be governed by our view of them. This goes both ways, by the way. It’s called the “horns and halo” effect.

There is a great video on the Ladder of Inference by Cheryl Williams. Suffice to say, we behave in accordance with our assumptions of others.

And then, what do you do when you’re in this situation? It can be difficult to change our views because we have built up such database of evidence in coming to our conclusions assumptions. We develop blindspots to what people do well, so their fixed mindset behaviours are highlighted while their growth mindset behaviours are diminished.

Conclusion

We absolutely need a growth mindset around our own performance.

We also, perhaps more importantly, need to have a growth mindset with our colleagues, direct reports and those we interact with at work.

Photo Credit: Photo by Akil Mazumder on Pexels.com

The R in SCARF

Why the R in SCARF is the most important element.

SCARF is a great tool for anyone, leader or not, to help improve the environment at work. (You can use this in your personal life as well.)

The basic premise is we operate by threat or reward. If something seems threatening, we work to avoid it. If something looks rewarding, we’ll move toward it.

When it comes to work environments, businesses and teams often look at material rewards to gain people’s cooperation, be it bonuses, gift cards, chocolates and time off, to name a few.

And they all have their place. (I am an anti “either/or” person. Things are seldom that black and white.)

But, using everyday human considerations, as described by the SCARF model, would go a long way to improving a workplace without additional monetary costs. Plus, it’s just a good thing to do.

But there needs to be a word of caution for anyone looking to adopt the model without investigating a little further.

The key is the “R” (Relatedness) in SCARF.

Relatedness is a feeling of being safe in the presence of others (trust vs distrust). We can flesh this out quite easily to say that good relationships at work are essential.

In addition, Todd Wagner & James K. Carter, PhD, cited in their great book “12: The Elements of Great Managing” the need of having a “best friend” at work. That is, good relationships.

Get the Relatedness element wrong, and you may struggle to see the results you are looking for. And many times the leader doesn’t know why.

Here’s why!

Let’s look at how a less than ideal relationship might affect the other aspects of SCARF. Remember, if it is not ideal, it can be seen as a threat. And people try to avoid threats.

Status

Is the relationship being used to create a win-win or a win-lose scenario? If it’s perceived as win-lose, then the status level of one party (Individual/Team/Division) is going to be diminished (i.e. threatened). If status is threatened, goodwill reduces. Teamwork fades and performance dissipates. Will the relationship break completely once one of the parties has achieved their personal goal? How will that affect the organisation?

Certainty

How would a good relationship build certainty? If one party sensed the relationship wasn’t strong, how would that affect certainty in a role, in a team, in an organisation? Often, when there is uncertainty, people begin to fill in the gaps in the story. And, again, because this is a threatening situation, people tend to retreat. It can then be a self fulfilling prophecy of an adequate performer becoming a poor performer, not because they don’t have the skills, they’re in protection mode!

Autonomy

I have seen and experienced this myself. Be on the right side of the person and life is good. Be on the wrong side and it can go horribly wrong. All of a sudden you feel like you’re being watched and yet you may not have any real idea of what you have done … because there is no significant relationship. So, with less autonomy, they begin to follow the rules. If they follow the rules they are safe. Less initiative is shown, less risk and this can be viewed as poor(er) performance.

Fairness

I hope it’s obvious what the lack of a good relationship will do to affect the fairness element of the SCARF model. And, more importantly the performance of the business.

What does this all mean?

Must every leader need to have a strong personal relationship with every member of their team?

From a logistical point of view, and when talking about large numbers, it’s likely not possible. But a leader can lead by example with their immediate team where it has more chance of flowing across the business.

Even leaders who do good things and with good intentions need to be aware e of the perception of their actions.

A humorous example is that of the late Colin Powell, as an image in his autobiography, A Soldier’s Way, shows. He often used the “six-gun” method when calling on reporters at the Pentagon. He’d done it for years and no-one told him. Then Saturday Night Live got a hold of it!

(On a More Serious) Case in Point

Two managers I know, different companies, make a point of walking through their business each morning to say hello, be available to talk with and be visible. It’s a quick walk and not intended to take a lot of time but the effort is made to engage with the staff and if an issue needs to be raised, they stop and listen.

One manager gets a great response. People look forward to the morning “chat with the boss.”

It’s a bit different with the other manager. His staff make a point of “hiding” when the morning walk begins. Some staff message others to say, “The boss is coming!” … it’s a warning!

Same activity, two very different outcomes.

It all hinges on the relationship.

Over to you. What have you seen that works well? Do you agree or disagree? Happy to have a conversation.

Note: Links to resources in this article do contain affiliate links. This means I may get a small payment if you use the link. The resources do not cost anymore to you.

Avoid These Two Coaching Mistakes

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Imagine your team. Imagine their performance mapped along a bell curve. It’s likely you’ll have a fairly common distribution.

You’ll have some at the right hand side, killing it. Mostly having good days, weeks and months. A good proportion will be in the mid range. What Kim Scott in Radical Candor* calls Rockstars! (Ch. 3, p 43). And on the left hand side of the bell curve are those who are not quite making it.

It’s these team members I want to address here because I have done what I’m about to describe (to my shame). If you make these mistakes it will cost you time, money, productivity and customer service.

The good news is … it’s all avoidable!

Mistake OnE: Fixed vs growth mindset!

Not theirs, yours! As coaches we can have an opinion of a direct report that they:

  • cannot grow
  • will not come to terms with a change
  • have always been this way
  • will never change

With this mindset, how do you think the coaching will go? Even if you are determined to be a good, objective and supportive coach, can you overcome the mindset? I’d suggest it’s harder than we think. I know most, if not all, coaches don’t want to be in this situation.

How to change the mindset to coach effectively?

As always, the following is going to depend a lot on your relationship with the individual. If you have a good, respectful relationship, options open up.

  • Have a conversation with your direct report and be open about your concerns.
  • Be open about you own thoughts and ask them for help – it may be more of a molehill than the mountain you’ve imagined.
  • Even if they agree with you, don’t take the easy way out too quickly. That’s just a path of least resistance. Stay with them and work with them on the solution. This is, in part, how you become a good/great coach. It’s when others look at your results and wonder :“How the hell did you get through to them? I’ve been trying for years!”
  • Dig deeper into what could be the learning, attitudinal or habitual issue. Many times we have performance issues due to a habit or belief. We don’t realise it because it’s in the subconscious. You don’t need to be a psychologist or therapist. Learn to ask good questions.

Over to you: what would you suggest?

Mistake Two: Average is the Enemy

Let’s imagine for a moment we have a person working for us who is on the left had side of the middle of the bell curve: they are considered a low performer.

At a minimum, we’d like them to hit the middle line. We’d like them to meet the goals of the role. We help them do this though coaching, performance management, counselling, training. A myriad of technologies.

Some people take to this like a duck to water. A little bit of coaching and development and they close the gap. Others take longer, like crawling across cut glass.

But let’s assume a happy ending and the performance gap closes.

What happens now?

What normally happens when we coach someone from the left hand side to the middle? From low performance to acceptable performance?

We stop the coaching and start monitoring and supporting.

We have just coached a below average performer to be … average!

The result being they will hover between just below and just above the acceptable level. As a leader we will deem this “okay”. Or, worse, we will be watching them like a hawk to re-start the performance management process again. That’ll make them feel comfortable! 😉

Why stop there?

You’ve just helped someone improve their performance. They may be keen to go further, to become a high performer.

What are your next steps?

Here are some thoughts.

  • Continue to engage with them about broadening their skills around particular aspects of the role. Aspects they may be able to improve quickly.
  • If it’s sales and service, help them with questioning and listening skills. Role play tough situations. Help them get comfortable with higher performance, so it becomes the new norm for them. So even with some dip in performance, they’ll still be above average!
  • Continue to provide feedback when they do something (positive) they hadn’t done before.
  • Partner them with a high performance colleague who has a bent for coaching and developing others. (Caution: some high performers hit their targets because they are left alone to get on with their work. Unless developing others is part of their development, I’d avoid these, at least at first! Again, first hand experience!)
  • Get them to log their achievements. It’s not an extra task, journaling is a very effective way of improving performance. This helps them reinforce their progress. These insights can also be used as tools in coaching sessions when looking to help them replicate good practices and habits.

Over to you: What have you seen work effectively?

Summary

As a coach we need to own our actions and mindsets. These mistakes cost you, the direct report and the company, money and misery.

As I confessed earlier, I’ve made these errors. (And maybe it’s just me!)

A common phrase these days is #IYKYK (if you know, you know).

Be on the lookout for your own mindset and, when you’re coaching someone who’s below par, enjoy the process of coaching them to high performance, not just average.

What have been your experiences? Have you seen this/done this? Prepared to share? 😉

*affiliate link

Be the G.O.A.T.

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The term G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) is often applied to superstars of sport and business, of stage and screen.

But did you realise that if you are better than you were yesterday, you are your own G.O.A.T. of that!

Perhaps you are thinking that doesn’t count. Maybe it only counts when there is an official record of the achievement. The Guinness Book of Records or front page of the paper.

If that’s the case, do you realise how many people achieve great things who don’t get recognised?

Here are some you may not have heard of:

  • Nellie Bly: around the world in 80 72 days! One her own. Note: She took with her the dress she was wearing, a sturdy overcoat, several changes of underwear, and a small travel bag carrying her toiletry essentials. She knew how to pack!
  • Cleisthenes: Though many people credit Thomas Jefferson as the father of democracy, the honour actually lies with the Greek philosopher Cleisthenes. Who? Yep!
  • Pope Leo I: All popes are famous aren’t they? Pope Leo singlehandedly persuaded Atilla the Hun to back down from his invasion of Italy. Did he get a gong? Nope! Should’ve!
  • Percy Julian: Pioneered the drug industry. After he developed the chemical synthesis of hormones like progesterone and testosterone, he became the first African American chemist inducted into the National Academy of Sciences. His research also laid the groundwork for the modern day steroid.

So if you’re waiting for recognition from others … breathe in … hold … no keep holding …

This means the recognition of your achievements, the possibility to be the G.O.A.T. is in the hands of others. Not everything is statistical like:

  • Most number of wickets (cricket)
  • Most number of 3 pointers (basketball)
  • Most number of Oscar wins
  • Most number of Oscar nominations (without a win!)

And what if others don’t want to recognise your feats? What then?

This is my fourth blogpost in four days. That is a record for blog posting streaks in my household. I am the G.O.A.T! Tomorrow, when I post my fifth, I’ll be the G.O.A.T. again. You may think that is unremarkable. But if I am to post every day for 100 days or 1,000 days, I have to do the four day streak and then the five day streak.

Over to you … what have you done today, or plan to do today, that will make you the G.O.A.T? How will you be your G.O.A.T. tomorrow.

Let me know!

Don’t belittle your achievements.