Today’s guest post comes to us from Brandon Smith. Therapist, professor, consultant and radio host, Brandon brings an upbeat, witty approach to the challenges of workplace health and dysfunction. Brandon is the founder of theworkplacetherapist.com – a resource dedicated to eliminating dysfunction at work, improving workplace health and restoring optimism and focus in the workplace. Brandon also currently serves as faculty at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School where he teaches and researches on topics related to leadership, communication and healthy workplace dynamics.
Setting 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 going to 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 definitely have my “specials of the day.”
As 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 five years into the future (or ten 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, and so on.
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 (five or ten 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?
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 have 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 three 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.
Image—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, and so on). 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 nonessential. Au contraire. Coleman argues exposure makes up a whopping 60% of your long-term success. Expose away . . . appropriately of course.
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.