The last thing most of us are thinking about right now is completing our New Year’s resolutions for 2016. It is the mad holiday rush. Shopping, Gift Wrapping, Holiday Concerts, Travel Plans, and Office Parties. Statistically, only eighteen percent of individuals who set New Year’s resolutions will succeed. This figure has preoccupied me over the last two years as I studied and research what makes leaders successful and what doesn’t.
In November, I was asked to put together a workshop on How to be Successful in Business. As I compiled the information what I came to realize is that the actions that make a business leader successful can make us successful as well. The one characteristic that all successful leaders have in common is a drive to be successful.
If you are willing to work towards your goal, you too can be successful. In this newsletter/blog, I provide four ideas when used in concert can provide you guidance toward your destination. These four ideas are from my leadership research and experience working with clients. Like all researchers, I stand on the shoulders of giants and build on the works of others including Marshall Goldsmith, Teresa Amabile, Seth Godin and numerous others who have provided me insights on my journey to success.
I hope that as you read this newsletter, it will inspire you to start your journey to success.
“If you can imagine it, you can create it. If you can dream it, you can become it.”
― William Arthur Ward
My life’s work is to be a leadership guide; a person who assist others to be successful organizational leaders. Where I cannot help, is when they cannot envision a better future self. My first interaction with any client is understanding what success feels and looks like to them. Only then can we start working together to develop a strategy to get from point A (present self) to Point B (Future Self).
Success does not have to be “Big Change the World Dreams.” Success can be “change your world dreams.” It might be as simple as losing ten pounds, saving for a new car, getting a new job, taking a family trip, better communications with your significant other, or start a business. For my business clients, it usually centers around having a greater impact on the business.
The first step is to put your dream into writing and to follow the rules of SMART Goals by making it Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. If you do this, you have started on your journey to being a success. For some, this is a difficult task because although they can envision it in their mind, translating it to paper so others can understand it. For these individuals, I suggest doing self-brainstorming where you are capturing pieces of your dream and pulling them together in a single place. This process will help you visual what success looks like for you and help you better explain it to others. This process is not a quick process and will take time for you to develop a clear understanding of your definition of success.
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
― Maya Angelou
When working with my clients, the next step to being successful is understanding what actions or behaviors they need to focus on to be successful. For this, I use a tool called the change triangle which was introduced to me by an executive Vice President I worked with. It is a simple but powerful tool that helps us understand what we need to do to be successful by asking ourselves three questions.
- What behaviors or actions do I need to continue to be successful at my goal? This question allows us to keep certain behaviors to be successful. It grounds us in our present day self, reminding us that we do not have to discard who we are to be successful. For example, if it is your goal to lose ten pounds before the next college reunion (Note the SMART goal elements in this goal), there are probably certain behaviors you are presently doing that are helping with that goal. For my wife and I we like to walk our dogs, this is an activity we should continue to help us in our goal of losing weight.
- What behaviors or actions do I need to stop doing to be successful at my goal? For most of my clients and participants in my workshops, this question defies logic. For most of our lives, we are told to grab the gold, reach for your dreams, or become all you can be. All forward driven phrases. Except if we do not stop doing certain behaviors our chances of being successful diminish. When I was a teenager, my father would take my siblings and me hiking. One of the things, he always reminded us, was to make sure we kept our pack as light as possible, especially when we were climbing some of the higher mountains. This wisdom is good for our goals as well. What are those behaviors that hold us back, create extra weight on our journey to success? For me when it comes to losing weight, I know that I need to stop sitting on the couch at night. Not only am I not getting any exercise; it tends to be the place I eat subconsciously.
- What behaviors or actions do I need to start doing to be successful at my goal? For most people this is straight forward; they understand the activities they will help them be successful in their pursuit of their goals. If not, they can hire life or business coaches like me to help them develop an awareness of what behaviors will make them successful at their goal. As you develop behaviors, it is important that you define them regarding SMART behaviors. They should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For instance, for losing weight, you might write your response as, “I will do cardio exercise for forty-five minutes three days a week.” This action helps you measure the progress you are making toward success.
The next step toward success is measuring our progress so we can see how far we have come. With holiday travels starting soon, I am reminded of those road trips with my family where one road looked like the other, and I could never figure how far we had progressed toward my grandparent’s house, hence the question from the back seat of the car, “Are we there yet?”
In their book, Progress Principle, Teresa Amiable, and Steven Kramer note the importance of creating small wins to keep moving toward our goals. The challenge for most of us is how we track our progress to make sure we are heading in the right direction. I have two basic methods which I have used with my clients.
The first was introduced to me my Marshall Goldsmith, Executive Coach, and New York Times Best Selling author. He calls it the Daily Questions and wrote about it in his book “Triggers.” In its basic form, it is a spreadsheet with the list of the behaviors/activities we want to focus on in one column and the days a week in the row above.
Each day rate yourself against the behaviors by asking the question “Did I do my best to …” and then the behavior. If you do this for two weeks, a month. You will start seeing trends; those behaviors you are putting effort towards and those you are not. At this point, you have a choice to either work on those behaviors so you can be successful or admit that you are not willing to change certain behaviors. Moreover, if the latter is the case, you have an additional choice to decide whether the goal you are working towards is important to you and if you can succeed in that goal without changing that particular behavior. For instance, if I am trying to lose weight and have chosen not eating potato chips as a behavior but realize that after a month, I have not been as successful as I like at stopping eating potato chips. I know have a choice. Do I allow myself to eat potato chips or do I refocus my energy on not eating potato chips or do I stop trying to lose weight? Hard choice for sure. However, changing our behavior is not easy.
The second way to measure our progress is to use technology. There are numerous coaching apps on our smart phones that we can purchase to help us. And if you have the resources and are going to make a concentrated effort, go for it.
However, I have found an easier way to use technology to help us. All of our smart phones come with a reminder app which we can use to our benefit. Right now open your reminder app and write this question down.
“I have I done my best to change my behavior so that I can reach my goal of. . .”
Now set this as a daily reminder so that it appears as an appropriate time for you. If you are a morning person, it may be first thing in the morning. If you are an evening person, it may be right after dinner. When it appears, visualize your goal for five minutes and think about your behaviors and if you did your best to succeed. In time, you will be able to create a better focus approach on how you can exceed.
Find your community.
Lastly, find your community or tribe. In his book, Tribe, Seth Godin tells us the importance of having likeminded people in our lives. When you are trying to be successful toward a goal, whether it is losing weight or saving money, running a successful business, it is important to have people who are on the same journey as you.
I always envision the pioneers who crossed our great country in the Conestoga wagons. They were a tribe of like-minded individuals searching for a better life. Together they dealt with all the obstacles and challenges crossing the Great Plains, and the Rocky Mountains by sharing information, working together and supporting one another.
Most people will turn to close friends and family to be part of their community, but this is wrong. Although they will be supportive, they are on different journeys and will not be able to understand the challenges and obstacles you face. If you are trying to lose weight, you are not going to look for your community of dieters at your local bar. The best place to look will be in your local gym. So think about who your community is and where you can best find them.
“We often miss opportunity because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
― Thomas A. Edison
Opportunity and Success are siblings; one leads to the other. The more success you have, the more opportunities are given to you. Above I have provided four ideas to make you successful in reaching your next goal. These tips will be useful as you begin your journey to success. They will provide you touch points to help you keep moving in the right direction.