Monthly Archives: January 2009

How to identify and set goals

As we enter into this New Year we all tend to have a heightened sense of the opportunities and possibilities that 2009 can bring. The need for goal-setting becomes more obvious and clear. And the great thing about goal-setting is you can keep it as simple or get as elaborate as you would like.

I’ve often said the major reason for setting a goal is for what it makes of you to accomplish it. What it makes of you will always be the far greater value than what you get. That is why goals are so powerful – they are part of the fabric that makes up our lives. And goal-setting is where we create our goals.

Goal-setting is powerful, partly because it provides focus. It shapes our dreams. It gives us the ability to hone in on the exact actions we need to perform to achieve everything we desire in life. Goals are GREAT because they cause us to stretch and grow in ways that we never have before. In order to reach our goals we must become better. We must change and grow.

Also, goals provide long-term vision in our lives. We all need lots of powerful, long-range goals to help us get past short-term obstacles. Life is designed in such a way that we look long-term and live short-term. We dream for the future and live in the present. Unfortunately, the present can produce many difficult obstacles. But fortunately, the more powerful our goals (because they are inspiring and believable) the more we will be able to act on them in the short-term and guarantee that they will actually come to pass!

So, let’s take a closer look at the topic of goal-setting and see how we can make it forceful as well as practical. What are the key aspects to learn and remember when studying and writing our goals?

1. Evaluation and Reflection. The only way we can reasonably decide what we want in the future and how we will get there is to first know where we are right now and what our level of satisfaction is for where we are in life. So first take some time and think through and write down your current situation, then ask this question on each key point – is that okay?

The purpose of evaluation is two-fold. First, it gives you an objective way to look at your accomplishments and your pursuit of the vision you have for your life. Secondly, it is to show you where you are so you can determine where you need to go. In other words, it gives you a baseline from which to work.

I would strongly encourage you to take a couple of hours this week to evaluate and reflect. At the beginning of this month we encourage you to see where you are and write it down so that as the months progress and you continue a regular time of evaluation and reflection, you will see just how much ground you will be gaining – and that will be exciting!

2. What are Your Dreams and Goals? These are the dreams and goals that are born out of your own heart and mind. These are the goals that are unique to you and come from who you were created to be and gifted to become. So second, make a list of all the things you desire for the future.

One of the amazing things we have been given as humans is the unquenchable desire to have dreams of a better life, and the ability to establish goals to live out those dreams. Think of it: We can look deep within our hearts and dream of a better situation for ourselves and our families; dream of better financial lives and better emotional or physical lives; certainly dream of better spiritual lives. But what makes this even more powerful is that we have also been given the ability to not only dream but to pursue those dreams and not just pursue them, but the cognitive ability to actually lay out a plan and strategies (setting goals) to achieve those dreams. Powerful!

What are your dreams and goals? This isn’t what you already have or what you have done, but what you want. Have you ever really sat down and thought through your life values and decided what you really want? Have you ever taken the time to truly reflect, to listen quietly to your heart, to see what dreams live within you? Your dreams are there. Everyone has them. They may live right on the surface, or they may be buried deep from years of others telling you they were foolish, but they are there.

So how do we know what our dreams are? This is an interesting process and it relates primarily to the art of listening. This is not listening to others; it is listening to yourself. If we listen to others, we hear their plans and dreams (and many will try to put their plans and dreams on us). If we listen to others, we can never be fulfilled. We will only chase elusive dreams that are not rooted deep within us. No, we must listen to our own hearts.

Here are some practical steps/thoughts on hearing from our hearts on what our dreams are:

Take time to be quiet. This is something that we don’t do enough in this busy world of ours. We rush, rush, rush, and we are constantly listening to noise all around us. The human heart was meant for times of quiet, to peer deep within. It is when we do this that our hearts are set free to soar and take flight on the wings of our own dreams! Schedule some quiet “dream time” this week. No other people. No cell phone. No computer. Just you, a pad, a pen, and your thoughts.

Think about what really thrills you. When you are quiet, think about those things that really get your blood moving. What would you LOVE to do, either for fun or for a living? What would you love to accomplish? What would you try if you were guaranteed to succeed? What big thoughts move your heart into a state of excitement and joy? When you answer these questions you will feel GREAT and you will be in the “dream zone.” It is only when we get to this point that we experience what OUR dreams are!

Write down all of your dreams as you have them. Don’t think of any as too outlandish or foolish – remember, you’re dreaming! Let the thoughts fly and take careful record.

Now, prioritize those dreams. Which are most important? Which are most feasible? Which would you love to do the most? Put them in the order in which you will actually try to attain them. Remember, we are always moving toward action, not just dreaming.

3. S.M.A.R.T. Goals. S.M.A.R.T. means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-sensitive.

I really like this acronym S.M.A.R.T., because we want to be smart when we set our goals. We want to intelligently decide what our goals will be so that we can actually accomplish them. We want to set the goals that our heart conceives, our minds believe and that our bodies will carry out. Let’s take a closer look at each of the components of S.M.A.R.T. goals:

Specific: Goals are no place to waffle. They are no place to be vague. Ambiguous goals produce ambiguous results. Incomplete goals produce incomplete futures.

Measurable: Always set goals that are measurable. I would say “specifically measurable” to take into account our principle of being specific as well.

Attainable: One of the detrimental things that many people do – and they do it with good intentions – is to set goals that are so high they are unattainable.

Realistic: The root word of realistic is “real.” A goal has to be something that we can reasonably make “real” or a “reality” in our lives. There are some goals that simply are not realistic. You have to be able to say, even if it is a tremendously stretching goal, that yes, indeed, it is entirely realistic — that you could make it. You may even have to say that it will take x, y, and z to do it, but if those happen, then it can be done. This is in no way to say it shouldn’t be a big goal, but it must be realistic.

Time: Every goal should have a time frame attached to it. I think that life itself is much more productive if there is a time frame connected to it. Could you imagine how much procrastination there would be on earth if people never died? We would never get “around to it.” We could always put it off. One of the powerful aspects of a great goal is that it has an end, a time in which you are shooting to accomplish it. You start working on it because you know there is an end. As time goes by you work on it because you don’t want to get behind. As it approaches, you work diligently because you want to meet the deadline. You may even have to break down a big goal into different parts of measurement and time frames. That is okay. Set smaller goals and work them out in their own time. A S.M.A.R.T. goal has a timeline.

4. Accountability (A contract with yourself or someone else). When someone knows what your goals are, they hold you accountable by asking you to “give an account” of where you are in the process of achieving that goal. Accountability puts some teeth into the process. If a goal is set and only one person knows it, does it really have any power? Many times, no. At the very least, it isn’t as powerful as if you have one or more other people who can hold you accountable to your goal.

So: Evaluate/Reflect; Decide What You Want; Be S.M.A.R.T.; Have Accountability. When you put these 4 key pieces together, you are putting yourself in a position of power that will catapult you toward achieving your goals.

Here’s to doing something Remarkable in 2009!

Chicago CIO and Entrepreneur. Started @Orbitz, @AssureFlight, Team ITG, YourPrivateLine and others. I Love technology, startups and meeting interesting people.

Dare to Dream

Do you remember when you were a child and no dream seemed too big? Some of us thought we would go to space; some dreamed of riding with Roy Rogers; others imagined stepping to the plate in a big-league game. Every one of us, when we were young, had a common trait – we were dreamers. The world hadn’t gotten to us yet to show us that we couldn’t possibly achieve what our hearts longed for. And we were yet still years from realizing that in some cases we weren’t capable of achieving our dream.

Eventually we started to let our dreams die. People began to tell us that we couldn’t do the things we wanted. It was impossible. Responsible people don’t pursue their dreams. Settle down, get a job, be dependable. Take care of business, live the mundane, be content.

Do you know what I say to that? BS!

It is time to dream again!

Why? Here are just a few reasons:

* Avoid regret. The facts are in, and someday we will all lie on our deathbed looking back through the history of our lives. We will undoubtedly think about what we wished we had done or accomplished. I for one don’t want to regret what could have been, what should have been. So I am deciding today to pursue my dreams.

* The world needs people like you to dream of something great and then to pursue it with all of your heart. Maybe you belong to a business, school or organization that started out with good intentions but has settled into the same ol’ same ol’. Shake them up and remind them of how they could really help people if only they would dream!

* Personal and family fulfillment. One of the things that happens when we stop pursuing our dreams is that a little piece of us dies and we become disheartened, if only in that area of our lives. Stepping up and pursuing your dream rekindles that passion and zeal that everyone has the capacity for and lets us experience fulfillment. Having a purpose puts the zip in our step and the zing in our emotions!

* Making the world a better place. All of the great accomplishments that have ever happened began with a person who had a dream. Somebody rebuffed the naysayers and said to himself or herself, “This can be done, and I am the one who will do it.” And in many instances they changed the world for the better. It isn’t just the Martin Luther King’s, the J.F.K’s and Obama either. Think of all the people we have never heard of who have started things large and small that help people world-wide every day.

* Leaving a legacy. How will your children remember you? As one who sought all that life had to offer, using your gifts and talents to their fullest extent, leading the family with a zest for life, or as an overweight couch potato who could have been? Our children need to see that we dream; that we search for something better. They in turn will do the same!

So where do we start? Here are some ideas:

* Reconnect with your dream. Set aside some time to let yourself dream. What have you placed on the backburner in order to live the status quo? Settle on one or two dreams that you can and will pursue. Don’t come up with too many. That will only deter you further.

* Decide that you will do it. This may seem elementary but many people never decide and commit fully to their dream. They simply keep “thinking” about it.

* Tell others that you are going to do it. This puts you on the record as to what you are dreaming about. It makes you accountable. It will help you do it if for no other reason than to avoid embarrassment!

* Develop a step-by-step plan. This is absolutely essential. You must sit down and write out a few things:

* A timeline. How long will it take to the end?

* Action steps. Point-by-point what you will do and when you will do them.

* Resources you will need to draw from. What will it take? Who will need to be involved for help or advice?

* An evaluation tool. You need to evaluate from time to time whether you are progressing or not.

* A celebration. Yep, when you are done you should already have planned what you will do to celebrate. Make it big!

I have found that there is no better time than now. So, set aside some time today to get started on your dream. Follow the action plan and set your sights for the top of the mountain! You will be glad you did!

Chicago CIO and Entrepreneur. Started @Orbitz, @AssureFlight, Team ITG, YourPrivateLine and others. I Love technology, startups and meeting interesting people.

Lifelong Learning Your Key to Employability

In today’s business climate, no one’s job is completely secure. While your specific job may be necessary today, that does not mean it will be necessary tomorrow. As the future workplace continues to evolve, many employees who don’t consistently update their skills and industry knowledge often find themselves out of a job. This doesn’t have to happen to you. When you take the steps to understand and anticipate future and industry trends that could ultimately change the nature of your job, you take the first step to lifelong learning.

The fact is that jobs in almost every industry are being totally revamped in order for organizations to remain competitive. Are you aware of the trends, ideas, innovations and advancements in your field that might bring about serious change in your organization this year? In five years? How will these trends affect your job? What is your future going to look like? If you want to stay employed, you must know what will be expected of you down the road. What skills do you have that will be obsolete? What skills will be needed that you don’t have yet?

All the knowledge we have today will represent only 1% of the knowledge that will be available in 2050. In other words, we can never stop learning. There will always be more to know. And the more you know, the better chance you have of staying employed. How have you responded to technological changes, as well as all of the other changes that are going on in the workplace? Do you accept new responsibilities and challenges and see them as opportunities to increase your value to your employer? Before you get left behind with inadequate skills, use the following suggestions to help you identify ways to enhance your current skills.

1. Identify Skills that are of Value to Your Company
To assess your value to your organization, you must be aware of the skills you possess that help make you a valuable employee. Analyzing your skills objectively is the place to start. First, determine what you are good at doing and then take an honest look at how many other employees in your department or your organization possess the same or similar skills. Some organizations place a high value on specialists who are very good at one thing, while others value more generalized knowledge across a wider spectrum. To remain employable, it’s important to know where your organization places greater emphasis. If you are not aware of your strengths and their value to your organization, it is probable that you aren’t using them to their greatest advantage. Even if you are aware of your strengths, start expanding your level of expertise and learn new skills to increase your value.

In addition to self-assessment, it’s important to also get feedback from your manager or supervisor. When asking for an evaluation, perception is the name of the game. You can have all the right motives, justify your behavior, and defend your attitude to the hilt. However, if your boss, co-workers, colleagues, and customers perceive you as apathetic, irritable, argumentative, or impatient, then that is their reality. You need to address their comments not by tirelessly defending your actions, but by working to understand what it is you say and do that creates this perception in other people’s minds. While it takes great confidence, even courage, to ask for honest feedback, it’s the first step to assessing your skills and seeing where you need to make improvement.

2. Keep Your Skills Up to Date
Even if your skills are of current value to your organization, you must be prepared for the future. The vast majority of people who lost their jobs due to downsizing or cutbacks revealed that they knew of the possibility that their jobs might be eliminated-even months in advance. Nevertheless, they did not go back to school, network, or train for another job in their own organization, or look into the possibilities of other employment or of starting their own business. Most did not even have an updated resume when they received the bad news. What about you? Are you preparing for the possibility that your job many be eliminated in the future?

What new skills do you need to acquire, and which of your current skills need enhancement? Perhaps you could develop your computer skills, enroll in a class or attend a seminar, learn better people skills, become a better problem solver, or improve your writing skills. The list of possibilities is endless. Most people, however, are working longer hours than ever before and the thought of going back to school at night or taking a class on the weekend may be something you don’t want to think about. But the thought of being unemployed may be even more staggering.

Once you determine the skills you need, arrange to get that training in a way that is the least disruptive to your life. You’ll find that there is a wide variety of options to meet your training and educational needs. An additional benefit is the opportunity to meet and learn from other people if you will only step outside your comfort zone to get to know them at training sessions and workshops. It’s amazing that in today’s rapidly changing job market there are still employees who feel that they have no need to learn anything new. This is not the time to demonstrate a lack of interest in learning anything new-not when a commitment to learning is so necessary in order to stay employed.

3. Find a Mentor and Learn from a Pro
A mentor is a wise and trusted teacher or guide who can help to ensure your future employability. Having a mentor is another way to sharpen your skills and acquire new ones. You may have thought that someone you admire is far too busy to have time for you. In fact, many people are willing to share their knowledge and experience with those who want to learn.

Unfortunately, many employees never ask for help or advice. They believe that asking for help will pinpoint them as being inept at their job. Nothing could be further from the truth. When you seek help from a mentor, you show that you want to discuss ideas, support others, and work as a team. It shows upper management that you take your job seriously and want to continually improve.

Many employees find mentors in their own organizations who contribute to the success of their careers. No matter what field you’re in or how much you know, there are people who can teach you something more. Make sure you take advantage of any opportunities you have to learn from the pros in your business or profession. It’s an important part of your commitment to lifelong learning.

The Final Steps
Above all else, be sure to stay current with all industry trends. You can do this by reading professional magazines and trade journals that relate to your business. In addition to reading, network, ask questions, and attend in-service training programs to determine how you fit into the big picture. If you don’t see your job as a part of that big picture-as part of the future of your business and your organization-learn what you can do to change that. Make sure you join business associations and attend conferences. They provide the opportunity to meet your competition firsthand, see what the latest trends are, and make new friends.

Granted, committing to lifelong learning requires time and dedication. And while you may think you don’t have the time to implement all these ideas, if you want to stay employed, you need to make the time for lifelong learning. It’s the only way to ensure lifelong employment.

Chicago CIO and Entrepreneur. Started @Orbitz, @AssureFlight, Team ITG, YourPrivateLine and others. I Love technology, startups and meeting interesting people.

Management 101: Teamwork – works!

A 20-year study at Stanford University examined the career paths of thousands of executives to determine what qualities they either had or developed that enabled them to move ahead the most rapidly. Researchers concluded that there were two primary qualities that, more than any others, were indispensable for men and women who were promoted to positions of great responsibility.

The first quality was the ability to function well in a crisis. It was the ability of the executive to keep his or her cool when the company or the department faced serious challenges or setbacks. It was the ability to calmly analyze the facts, gather information, reach conclusions, make decisions, and then mobilize the other people to respond effectively and solve the problem.

However, this quality, the researchers found, could be tested only in a real crisis. It was not possible to create a phony crisis to tell how well an executive would perform.

The second quality that was identified among the fast-trackers was the ability to function well as a member of a team. This tendency toward cooperation rather than confrontation was evident early in a person’s career. It was the primary quality that senior executives looked for and rewarded the most. The ability to be a good team player inevitably led to greater and greater opportunities to function as a member of more and more important teams. In fact, teamwork is so important that it is virtually impossible for you to reach the height of your capabilities, or make the money that you want, without becoming very good at it.

You can make the decision to be an excellent team player in everything you do at work and at home. Your aim should be to seek out every opportunity to demonstrate your ability to contribute to the success of a group of people in accomplishing large objectives. And you can start right where you are.

Let’s start off with the definition of team. A team is two or more people who combine their talents and abilities to accomplish a specific goal or series of goals. A team, by definition, is made up largely of equals, men and women who are different only in their areas of skill and who are peers when they sit down together as a work group.

In this sense, you and your spouse are a team. You and your coworkers make up a team. When you volunteer in any charitable organization, all the people you work with are members of a team. If you have a social circle and you plan activities together, you are functioning as a team.

A team is formed to take advantage of the power of synergy. Synergy means that the total is greater than the sum of its parts. For example, let’s say that four individuals working alone will produce four units of work; when they are combined as a team, the four individuals may produce five or six or eight or even 10 units of work. Many jobs simply cannot be done by one person working alone, whether it’s carrying a heavy box or carrying out a major corporate project. A team needs to be formed whenever the task at hand is greater than the capacity of any individual working alone.

Over the last few decades, the concept of teamwork has evolved rapidly. We came out of World War II with a “command and control” mentality. Most of the heads of American corporations, large and small, had been military officers, of various ranks, during the war. They brought their training into the workplace. Their approach to management was the hierarchy or pyramid style, with the president at the top, the senior executives below him, the junior executives below them, and so on, all the way down to the workers and support staff who made up the base of the pyramid. The orders traveled in one direction: downward. Information filtered up slowly. People were expected to do their job, collect their paycheck and be satisfied.

However, two forces have converged to transform this approach to management dramatically. First is the rapid rate of change and the increasing complexity of even the smallest business operation due to the advent of the computer age. Everyone has critical skills and knowledge that are necessary to many other people if the job is to get done on time and to an acceptable standard of quality.

In today’s world, your job in your company requires that you know a lot about what is going on everywhere else, as well as be thoroughly conversant with what you do. And the fastest and most accurate way of keeping current with what is going on is to develop and maintain a network of contacts, an informal team of people within your workplace who keep you informed and who you keep informed in turn.

The old methods of command and control now exist only at the old-line companies, many of which are fighting for their very survival. Today, men and women want a high degree of participation and involvement in their work. They want an opportunity to discuss and thoroughly understand what they are doing and why they are doing it. People are no longer satisfied to be cogs in a big machine. They want to have an integral role in achieving goals that they participated in setting in the first place.

Being a team player is no longer something that is optional. Today, it is mandatory. If you want to achieve anything of consequence, you will need the help and cooperation of lots of people. Your main objective is to structure everything you do in such a way that, because you are constantly cooperating and working well with others, they are continually open to helping you achieve your goals as well.

Now, the major reason why teams do not function well, and why people end up not making their full contribution to the success of the teams, is lack of clarity. All the studies of team building and team development focus in on the importance of everyone’s being absolutely clear about what the team is trying to accomplish. This can be in the form of a goal or objective handed down by senior management, or it can be the result of discussion and participation by the various team members. In any case, everyone must know what is to be done, to what standard, by what deadline, and what the roles and responsibilities of each team member will be in the achievement of that goal.

One of your key concerns is to be absolutely clear about exactly what is expected of you. If for any reason you are not sure, bring it up and ask about it until you have no doubt whatsoever. Then get busy, do exactly what is expected of you, and do it well.

Remember, in all your interactions with your team, your role is to be supportive and helpful. Your role is not to challenge, criticize or argue, but to look for solutions and for opportunities to help other people make their maximum contribution as well. When you sit in on a team meeting, you are “onstage.” Everyone is watching you. The best team players I have ever seen are those whose comments to the other members of the team are in the form of suggestions on how things can be done better. The best team members are always offering to help other people after the meetings to get on top of some aspect of their work. This focus on collaboration and cooperation is seen by everybody and marks you as a person to be both liked and respected.

Many men and women have kicked their careers into the stratosphere by taking on a small responsibility and doing such a good job with it that they came to the attention of important people both inside and outside their organizations.

Continually look for opportunities to get onto teams and to make valuable contributions. Volunteer for additional assignments. Focus on high-priority tasks, and finish what you start on time and on budget. Do excellent work. And remember that, as Confucius said, “He who would be master must be servant of all.”

Chicago CIO and Entrepreneur. Started @Orbitz, @AssureFlight, Team ITG, YourPrivateLine and others. I Love technology, startups and meeting interesting people.