Career Development Goals

Do you have clear goals written down?  If not, start by identifying key insights and lessons by looking backwards.   How can you build more opportunity for “flow” (aka your mojo workplace zone) in your work life?

If you are unsatisfied in your career, you likely need a new career plan. It happens. As we age and grow professionally, our ideal job criteria can change dramatically. The same position or industry that excited us 10 years ago may look very different today. Our needs change, as do the skills required to be successful in the marketplace.

It’s important to get clear about what’s important to you in a dream job — consider your own skills, strengths, interests and needs, as well as things such as company or team size, growth opportunities, geographic location, job function and lifestyle considerations.

Though it’s easy to imagine, many people get stuck taking their dream past this point, as it often requires sacrifice, discipline, work and commitment. Reality can be sobering, but identifying the gap between where you are today and where you want to be is vital for developing a successful plan.

A career self-assessment is important, and many people will want to invest in outside expertise for this important step. Consider your experience, strengths and challenges. How do these match with those required to be successful in your dream job?

Your plan to address any identified deficiencies is frequently the difference (and key) between a dream and true professional achievement.

This year create goals that can help you prioritize your time and efforts. Research shows that goal setting can lead to improved performance. (In a famous Ivy League study of students, the 3 percent of those with written goals earned 10 times as much as the other 97 percent of classmates put together!) Choose carefully. A long list of goals can overwhelm, and having 10 priorities is like having none.

The “SMART” acronym can be useful for effective goal setting. Though there are many variations of the SMART goal setting process, these cover the basics:

  • Specific — What does success look like with this goal?
  • Measurable — How will I track my performance?
  • Achievable — Is this goal reasonable and realistic vs. “pie in the sky”?
  • Relevant — Would achieving this goal make a true difference? The goal should matter to you.
  • Time bound — What is your “by when” or time in the future by which you want to accomplish this goal?

I would add a “C” to the end of the “SMART” acronym to provide motivation and leverage; it can be powerful to imagine what it will be like to achieve your goal (or not!).

  • Consequence — What does achieving (or not achieving) your goal look like? Is it building your dream home, sending your kids to college or using your creative talents to better others’ lives? Whatever yours are — you need to get clear about them.

Consider, for example, the difference between a goal of “to be successful” and one of, “I will be in a director role of our company by June 2009, which will increase my salary by 25 percent and allow me to build our retirement home on Orcas Island.” The second goal is much more powerful, compelling and focused.

The difference between “pie in the sky” and achievement of goals is coming up with the specific action plan. Your action plan is your personal road map to success. What are the daily or weekly steps you need to take this year to meet your goal? For some it will include new job tasks to gain experience. For others it may be taking the necessary steps to achieve an advanced degree or conducting informational interviews with professionals in the targeted field. Be honest with yourself about what you can realistically accomplish in the coming year. Identify the “must dos” vs. the “would like to do” to achieve your goal. Remember to anticipate obstacles to success and build in your plan how you will overcome them!

The hard part comes next — actually doing the action steps required and staying on your path. To help, write down your goals, share them with others and use visual triggers that represent attainment of your goals that you can see every day (some use vision boards or screen-saver reminders). Remember to celebrate small successes as you go along, and to use temporary setbacks as learning opportunities vs. reasons to give up.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper was quoted (while covering the aftermath of hurricane Katrina) saying, “Hope is not a plan.” Successful plans require considerable thought process, commitment and effort — as well as having champions, coaches and allies that will help keep you on path and accountable.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your career coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach professionals all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

Finding The Job That Fits You

If you are frequently bored, anxious or apathetic in your job, there is a high probability that your current job simply isn’t a good fit with your talents and skills. Success in your career is up to you. Finding a job that matches your interests, skills and talents is key to success and job satisfaction.

We all have unique experience and talents and it can often be challenging finding a job that fits our capabilities, potential and strengths.

A “right fit” job can look like different things to different people but here are the areas most people find important:

  • Having some degree of challenge.
  • Being recognized and appreciated by peers and supervisors for contributions.
  • An opportunity for advancement or development.
  • Being able to work with others we respect, like and/or can learn from.
  • Fair compensation for contributions (yes, money matters).
  • Enjoyment doing daily work tasks.
  • The opportunity to use core talents and strengths.

There are others, of course, but the list goes a long way toward increasing the potential for workplace happiness.

Marcus Buckingham, author of “First, Break All the Rules”, “Now Discover Your Strengths” and “Go Put Your Strengths to Work,” has spent his career researching and linking high performance to an individual’s core talents or strengths. His Gallup survey of nearly 2 million employees launched his “strength-based” revolution. Buckingham defines a strength as not merely something you are good at but also something you find so satisfying that you look forward to doing it again and again. Those in jobs that allow ample opportunity to do what they do best are more satisfied and more productive.

Sadly, Buckingham’s research suggests that only 17 percent of the work force believe they use all of their strengths on the job. Part of the problem is they settle for jobs that aren’t the right fit.

Management is the other part of the problem. Too often managers don’t focus enough on identifying their workers’ strengths and providing opportunities for them to leverage these strengths in their jobs.

What can managers do? Buckingham recommends managers focus on the following areas:

  • Establish a process to identify individual strengths. Ask the employee to identify their best day at work in the past three months (what were they doing and why did they enjoy it so much).
  • Determine what triggers and best supports these strengths (e.g., time of the day, audience, reward, recognition, goals, specific tasks etc).
  • Determine the employee’s preferred learning style. Buckingham identifies three primary styles: analyzing (these people need time and information); doing (trial and error) and watching (they like to study the complete picture).

The best leaders do not use a “one size fits all” approach with their people.

Workplace satisfaction is important to our personal well being — given that we spend about one-third of our lives at work. As a career coach, I encourage those seeking a new job to first identify their strengths and what workplace situations or experiences result in their being in “flow.” Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi identifies “flow” as a human “peak” experience of supercharged productivity, engagement and happiness. It happens when we bring our strengths and talents to bear on a challenging goal or task. Athletes often refer to this condition as being “in the zone.” If you have ever been doing something at work that you were so engaged that you lost track of time, you were probably in your “workplace zone.”

Frequently cited components resulting in achieving flow:

  • Immediate feedback, response or reward.
  • Highly challenging tasks met with high skills/talent/ strength.
  • Fully focused concentration.
  • Clear goals.
  • Feeling of “being in control.”
  • Loss of self-consciousness.
  • Altered sense of time.

The greatest leaders bring out the best in others. They know their people’s strengths and support an environment that eliminates distractions and impediments to performance and job satisfaction.

Leaders who help their people find work “flow” can expect exceptional creativity, productivity and job satisfaction.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your career coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach professionals all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

Embrace Change

Times have changed, and today’s career path is not what it used to be. Consider:

  • The average American changes jobs every three years.
  • Today’s elementary/high school student likely will have 15 different jobs by age 38.
  • One out of every four workers today is working at a company where they’ve been less than one year.

Taking charge of your career is more important today than ever. A critical element for success in today’s job market is the ability (and willingness) to continue to expand our skills, knowledge and capabilities. The days of going to college and earning a four-year degree that will carry you through a professional lifetime are most likely over.

To secure the best jobs in a constantly changing marketplace requires a lifetime learning ethic. Those who demonstrate flexibility and adaptability and learn new skills will be the winners with today’s career challenges.

If career success matters to you, here are a few steps to consider:

Ask yourself: What career path is right for me? Evaluation of your “dream career” requires an honest self-inventory around purpose, values, interests and skills. Professional career coaches provide assessment, structure, support, challenge and strategic help for this process. Many advocate some type of “soul searching” to help you align your gifts, values and talents with your vision or purpose for your work life. The goal: to identify how you will increase the likelihood of “flow” — the state of satisfaction one gets when challenge and clear goals are aligned with talents and skills.

Exploration: Most career development involves some level of exploration. Job shadowing, exploring career trends, job availability and information interviews can be helpful strategies.

Identify career goals: Stephen Covey advises us to “begin with the end in mind.” Understanding where you are going is important. You can’t hit what you aren’t aiming at. One study of Yale seniors in 1973 revealed that the 3 percent who had written goals accomplished more (financially) in their careers than the rest of their class combined. Yet studies indicate that few of us have written down our goals. Career goals provide both focus and energy.

Assessment: Taking an accurate assessment of your core strengths and identifying skill “gaps” is vital to realistic career planning. There are a number of assessment tools available, with “360” evaluations (feedback surveys from multiple raters associated with you) being one way to help identify both strengths and developmental needs.

Getting honest feedback from your superiors and peers on the areas you need to change — and then honestly and genuinely addressing them — can be the difference between a mediocre and a highly successful career.

New job assignments: Career development requires getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things. Most successful leaders report that they learned their greatest leadership lessons through difficult work assignments and accepting new job/task challenges. A few new job tasks for you to consider:

  • Manage something new and/or unfamiliar (a product, team, technology, etc.).
  • Coach an employee with a performance challenge.
  • Work with a dissatisfied or challenging customer.
  • Manage an intern.

Continued academics: Consider new technical training, certifications and/or going back to school for your advanced degree. Imagine that interview where your potential new boss states, “Hmm, I am sorry you have a master’s degree; we were looking for someone who has demonstrated less commitment to self-advancement.” Being competitive in today’s job market requires continual learning and updated skills.

Professional career development: Many of today’s most successful professionals have used career or leadership development coaches to help them advance. Hiring a career coach is an investment in you. For some, it can be the difference between going to work every day to a job they dread or one that is satisfying and rewarding.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your career coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach professionals all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

Goal Setting

Goal setting is a smart practice for all workplace professionals. Setting goals can help provide focus, order, direction and inspiration to your work life.

Start by reviewing the past. Take a look in the rearview mirror during the past year. What are you most proud of accomplishing? What did you learn? Identify any workplace disappointments: What didn’t you accomplish? How did you get in your own way? This is an important exercise because what we are unconscious about can rule us.

As an executive and leadership development coach, I have suggested (and gleaned from clients) many workplace resolutions designed to increase leadership and the health and performance of teams and organizations. Here are a few to consider:

  1. Become an extraordinary listener. Listen more than you speak. Everyone has heard the old saying, we have two ears and one mouth, so use them proportionately, but few heed this advice. I have never heard a leader criticized for listening too much — only too little. It’s difficult to get input (and therefore buy-in and commitment) when you are in “tell” mode.
  2. Put time aside each day for reflection, planning and prioritization. Franklin Covey suggests starting each day with a 15-minute check-in identifying your priority tasks vs. items that would be nice to get done today. Knock out your priority tasks first. This will help you stay focused rather than frantic and in “firefighting” mode each day.
  3. Establish a procedure to capture ongoing learnings, such as a debrief or postmortem following projects, meetings or presentations. Keep asking two questions: What can I (we) learn from this experience? How can I (we) improve this next time?
  4. Keep adding to your skills and workplace tool bag. Learning something new will keep you engaged and interested. Being a lifetime learner will be essential to thriving in this new world economy. Read books, take courses, trainings, etc., that help you further develop your workplace skills. Wise organizations will invest in further training and development of their most valuable asset — their people.
  5. Find a mentor or coach. This should be someone you can confide in, learn from and who will model best practice for you (someone with the necessary time and energy to partner with you). Professional coaches provide a confidential third-party, nonbiased perspective; they can help guide, challenge and support you in becoming the best you can be this year.
  6. Don’t try to do it all. Delegate more. Help those under you grow by giving them opportunity (and lighten your own load for your work/life balance). When delegating, do so with clear parameters of freedom (like budget, time, etc.), specify what success looks like and provide necessary resources. Consider outsourcing if necessary instead of asking you or your people to give up personal lives.
  7. Do a reality check. Find out how you are perceived by others. Inquire and be curious (not defensive) about how your actions and words affect your co-workers. Take a 360-degree feedback survey (a multirater review that gives you feedback from all around you: boss, clients, co-workers and direct reports).
  8. Increase your self-awareness. Not knowing what we don’t know can be a killer. (How many times have we heard, “I never saw that coming!”) Identifying your behavior patterns under conflict, stress or when challenged can be enlightening. Do you point fingers at others or take personal responsibility? Do you give away your personal authority or approach challenges collaboratively, calmly and openly? Dysfunctional emotional intelligence patterns can stall a career. I equate leadership development ultimately to self-development. It’s a worthwhile journey.
  9. Get in touch with your inner authentic voice. Sometimes it’s hard to even hear our own voices due to the “noise” of others, the “shoulds” or outside pressures. Find some quiet time to reflect on what matters to you. Think about the big life questions: what are your values, your purpose, why are you here and what do you want to accomplish?
  10. What is your career vision for the next 5 and ten years? What do you want to create? Write it down, along with your plan. Research demonstrates that the act of writing down goals is powerful.

The challenge for most people, of course, is sticking to their goals. Whatever your goals, keep them to a manageable and a realistic number of goals. To increase the likelihood you will keep yours, find a coach or support person to help you keep focus and accountable for what you want to achieve.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your career coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach professionals all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

Better Performance Reviews

The annual management task of delivering performance reviews. More than 70 million Americans go through this annual ritual, yet dread both giving and receiving them.

“Dilbert” cartoonist Scott Adams claims that the annual performance review is “one of the most frightening and degrading experiences in every employee’s life.” The good news: It doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are some “dos”:

  1. Set the stage for a two-way conversation. Relieve tension and facilitate dialogue by communicating upfront your review process agenda. Let employees know they have input.
  2. Start by letting employees assess themselves. What are they most proud of, and what do they consider areas for development?
  3. Seize the opportunity to acknowledge what you like and appreciate about how the employee performs.
  4. Identify what success looks like for the coming year, given company objectives, etc. Create an employee development plan with specific goals and tasks.
  5. Focus on the employee. Be truly present. Listen and make a genuine attempt to understand concerns and any feedback (yes, you should ask).
  6. Talk about their strengths and challenge areas. Deliver the negative (avoid sugarcoating) but make sure the employee knows what he or she can do about it.

On the other side, don’t:

  1. Talk too much. Reviews should be interactive. Don’t let whatever “form” you use dictate your process; it’s not about the form. If you are doing all the talking, you’ve probably lost them. (You’ll know when their eyes glaze over!)
  2. Make it personal. Stick to behavior specifics.
  3. Offer challenging feedback using generalizations. Many clients tell me they are told during their reviews that they need to improve areas such as “communication.” Most people have no idea what this means. Identify how you and the employee will know if he or she meets your expectations for improvement.
  4. Make assumptions about how the employee is receiving the feedback. Emotionally charged situations often foster misunderstanding. Probe for understanding and reactions, including confirmation of critical elements of the review.
  5. Avoid the negatives. We all have room for improvement. Even the most talented individuals want to know how they can reach the next level. Refusing to identify issues, challenge for improvement or hold the individual accountable does not foster growth. When you avoid giving tough, direct feedback, you aren’t doing them (or you, or the business) any favors.
  6. Hammer on negatives. Don’t shred personal self-esteem by telling them every negative thing you’ve ever noticed. Reinforce that it is behaviors and actions you want changed, and that you have confidence in the person you are challenging.

As a professional coach, I am often brought into situations requiring review and expertise with “challenging” personnel and difficult workplace relationships. Most leaders who find themselves stuck in these situations want options and practical help with how to review and coach frequently outstanding individuals that will support positive behavioral change.

Here are just a few scenarios that may require special help:

  • Reviewing the individual with great technical skills but who lacks the interpersonal skills or emotional intelligence to do the job effectively. The first challenge is how to acknowledge the value of the employee’s contribution while increasing his or her self-awareness of emotional and interpersonal patterns and their impact. The next challenge is coaching and/or training the employee to develop new behaviors.
  • Leaders from organizations in the midst of major “cultural” change often struggle with how to set and manage expectations around the change. The challenge here is developing expected performance standards with a highly defined process for regular feedback and measurement.

An organization’s most valuable resource is its people. The best leaders understand that personnel require both acknowledgment and challenge — and that skillfully developed and delivered performance reviews can be a highly effective management tool in today’s workplace.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your career coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach professionals all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com