Category Archives: Goal Setting

Do You Want To Start Your Own Business? Then Do It.

Stop Planning.  Start Doing.

I speak to a lot of people who want to start their own business.  I speak to lots of people who don’t start their own business.  There is only one difference between people who want to and people who have their own business.  The ones who have their own business actually DID it.  I know.  I spent six years “planning” my business.  I bought every book.  I thought I hadn’t put together enough money.  I didn’t know how to do all the things that I needed to know how to do.  I didn’t have enough contacts.  I didn’t have enough customers/clients.  Duh.  I didn’t have a business.  Why would there be clients/customers WITHOUT a business?  You just have to step out if faith.  I”m not saying do it with NO planning. You have to think out your opportunities.  You have to think out how you’re going to eat. And then you need to do it.

start

I can relate to not moving on it.   Was I more prepared after six years?  Yes.  I was not six years-worth more prepared, though.  So much of the learning that happens when you start your business happens when the rubber meets the road and you actually have to make it work.  There is nothing that does that except actually doing the work.

Do It Before You Leave Your ‘Real’ Job

What I didn’t do, which I should have, was start my business while I was still working my 9 to 5 job.  It really didn’t occur to me at the time, but I now know that this is a great solution to cushion the risk and to accelerate the learning while you still have an income.  With the current state of the economy and the likelihood that you will lose your job at some point in your work life, this approach of having an income on the side that you can ramp up if something happens makes a lot of sense.  There are a couple of new books that are great guides on how to do this.

Some Books That Might Help.

  • The Economy of You by Kimberly Palmer.  This book has lots of stories about people who actually DID it.  They started small and built their business while still employed.  The book describes when the business owners cut the cord and relied on their business for their income.  It is a great read and is quite motivational.  You don’t have to wait for perfection–step out and see what happens.
  • How to Work for Yourself by Bryan Cohen.  This is a book that addresses all the excuses you have about “no time.”  (That was what you were thinking when you started reading this post, right?)  Again, Cohen is quite motivational.  As I read the book I started noticing all the ways that I waste time.  (As I write this, this book is $0.00 on Kindle–that won’t last long–grab it!!!)

A slightly older, but more comprehensive book:

So . . . I’ve provided you some books to read if you want to put it off a little longer.  I’ve provided you books that can motivate you and challenge you if you REALLY want to do this.  Which ever–read these books.  Make this the year you DO it.

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Filed under Books, Career Goals, Goal Setting, Recession Proof, Start a Business, Success

Do You Take Initiative?

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Duh.  I Know To Take The Initiative.

You’ve heard that you should take initiative. Duh. But do you do it? Do you suggest ideas? Do you seek to improve the situation? Do you take action? Do you do it when it isn’t expected? The FREE Dictionary defines “take the initiative” as “to activate oneself to do something even if one has not been asked to do it.” That last part is the important part–even if one hasn’t been asked to do it.  Do you do things without being asked to do them? Do you surprise the people you work with by taking on things and getting them done?  So many of us wait around to be told to do stuff.  Do you see things that need to be done, problems that need to be solved, and do you take them on and get them done?

Taking the initiative can make the difference between getting noticed and not.  It can get you attention from the right people in your organization.  Part of the reason for that is that it is such a surprise when people actually step out of their ‘wait to be told’ role and think for themselves and take action.  You may think I’m crazy.  You may think that people take the initiative all the time.  But think about the last time someone actually surprised you by doing something that needed to get done that wasn’t clearly in his/her responsibility.

People who are good at their job are good at what their job is–not beyond that.  People who take initiative are beyond good at their job.  They are on their way to being good at the next level job and the one beyond that.  They are thinking (and acting) like their boss.  Whoa, you may say.  My boss won’t like that.  I’ll step on his/her toes.  There is a difference between ‘doing’ your boss’ job and taking iniative.  When you take initiative, you help your boss rather than step on his/her toes.  You lift some of the load.  Remember–SURPRISE is the key.

So How Do You Take Initiative?

We are well trained to do what we are told.  We learned it at home.  It was enforced at school.  (I once did a survey of middle school teachers of how they identified students who were leaders.  Many of them said the leaders were the ones who followed directions, were quiet and did what they were told!)  We learned to succeed at our entry level jobs by learning and following the rules quickly and well.  Our bosses expect us to do the things that are in our job.  They don’t expect much else.  And so we learn.  We modulate our brains and actions to fit without our roles.  We wait to be told to act beyond the day to day-ness of our jobs.

The key to taking the initiative is the way you think about it.  Do you see a problem?  Instead of just seeing it and walking by it, think about what could be done about it.  Think about what YOU could do about it.  Then DO it.  It takes some bravery.  It’s like visiting a new city without a map.  Make creating that surprise your goal.

The first time I did it, I did it by accident.  I created a report of my observations about something just because I was  too full of my own opinions to keep quiet about it.  It didn’t occur to me that anything would happen except that someone might read my report.  Then I just couldn’t stop with the opinions and made some suggestions at the end of the report.  I didn’t see it as taking the initiative.  I saw it as finding a way of expressing my opinions and ideas that were trying to push their way out of me.  Apparently this spontaneous creation of opinion and suggestion (on a problem that had been driving people nuts for a while) from someone at my level was completely unexpected.  It got attention.  It got me called into a meeting with people at the top of the organization to be questioned about my ideas.  It got me assigned to the group to implement some of the ideas (that got funded beyond my imagination).  It started my career on its way.  I recently found a copy of the report I wrote so long ago.  It wasn’t particularly well written.  Today I would know how to ‘sell’ the ideas and I would have pre-sold them to people to make the organization more receptive.  My reaction when I found that report, however, was–that is when my career hit a pivot point.  When someone read that report, he was surprised.  Maybe the surprise itself made him pay attention to the content.  I can see now:  I took the initiative.  That accident taught me the benefit of taking the initiative.

So What Do You Do?

  • Proactively look at problems.
  • Think about what it would take to SOLVE them.
  • Think about what you could do to get the ball rolling.
  • DO IT.

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Do You Ever Think About Your Legacy?

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This has been a tough week.  A dear friend’s husband had a stroke.  A young acquaintance died.  A friend lost a job.  Another friend had a baby girl. The juxtaposition of all these events has made me think of  mortality and therefore, my legacy.  What will people remember about me?  What difference will I make in the world?  Whether today is my last day or I have 50 more years, what impact will I have on my world?

Steven Covey, in his best seller, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, made one of the habits “Begin with the end in mind.”  Obviously, it is hard for us to begin with our legacy in mind.  As children, we can’t grasp the concept of a legacy.  We feel immortal and think in the present.  As children we aren’t able to grasp how we can/will have an impact.  We live our lives, usually as best we can, and we get smarter.  At some point, we suddenly realize that our existence in this world can change the world and that we can influence that.  That’s the really cool part.  We can influence it.

Have you thought about it?  I probably first thought about it when I attended a Leadership Development program in my late twenties.  I was about the same age as the young acquaintance who died this week.  They had us write an obituary.  Begin with the end in mind.  When you read obituaries, you get a snapshot of people’s  lives–what was important to them–

  • their families
  • their military record
  • their accomplishments
  • their publications
  • their interests

(For one of the most interesting obituaries, read this one.)

Obituaries take it down to the most important things in your life.  So for you, what is that?  Are you focused on the things that are most important to you?  Is that how you spend your time?  Or do you spend your time on what other people think is important?

When you encounter life events like I have this week–a death of a young person, a friend with a stroke, a birth of a baby–it helps to re-focus you on what is important.

The most important things to me are:

  • my family
  • my work
  • my students and clients
  • learning

What about you?  What will people say about you?  What are you focused on?  What are you ‘wasting’ your time on?  Are you proud of what you have accomplished so far?  What else do you want to accomplish?  What are you going to do about it?  You have the ability to influence it.  Today.  Tomorrow.  As many tomorrows as you have.

Enjoy.

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Do You Need More Education To Grow Your Career?

Do You Need Education?How Do You Decide?

I recently have had a couple of folks let me know that they have completed the next level of their education.  One of them reminded me that I had responded to his “I’ll be x years old when I finish my PhD” by saying “You’ll be x years old anyway, you might as well have a PhD when that happens.”  That sounds like something I’d say.  And I stand by that.  I don’t believe that you’re ever too old to get more education, and I think education by itself is extremely valuable.  Given that, though, with the price of education today and the sacrifice it takes—away from family and aspects of work—I think it is worth asking whether or not you need more education to accelerate your career.

Let’s Start With What Are Your Career Goals

What do you want to do with your career?  What are your career goals?  What industry, company, level, function, job?  In what time frame?  I know, I know—you don’t know.  You don’t have to know precisely—you need to know generally.

  1.  What industry?

Industry is important.  Do you want to be in the same industry that you’re in now?  Do you want to be in a different industry?  Does your industry require a certain level of education for you to be credible?

If you industry requires a level of education to get to your career goal, or if you want to move into an industry that requires education then, YES, you need more education.

  1. What company?

What is the standard in your company?  Look at the Executives.  Do they all have advanced degrees?  Do most of them?  Are there classes of those with degrees—those who’ve been around for a long time don’t have degrees and those who are newer do have degrees.  When they recruit, what are they looking for?  (It’s important to do this analysis on a pretty regular basis and look at everything the company is recruiting for, not just education).  If your company has a record of promoting from within, and those who get promoted don’t necessarily have advanced degrees, then NO, you probably don’t need more education.

There are many ways to get your ticket punched.  Quite frankly, getting education is the easiest.  Degrees come with the assumption that you know what you need to do.  You can certainly know what you need to know without formal education.  It is just harder to prove to decision makers (including those who hold your career in their hands) that you know what you need to know without that degree or certification.  In fact, I am self-taught in my primary area of expertise—organizational change management and organizational effectiveness.  People who decide to hire me are generally looking for a degree in this area for confirmation of my abilities.  I have to show them experience and writing and references to overcome my deficiency of related formal education.  I’ve always managed to do it.

 

 

  1. What function?

 

Within companies and industries there are different education expectations within different functions.  Finance people may be expected to have an advanced degree in Finance or an MBA or be a CPA, while technical resources may be expected to have a first degree in computer technology, but experience or certifications in certain systems or languages are much more important than additional degrees.  On the other hand, portfolios may be more important than education or certifications for graphic artists.

The standard within the function within the company can help you decide whether you need more education.

*******Remember, however, that career portability is always a consideration.  Does the company you are using to make user decision follow the standards for the industry? *********

  1. What level?

 

What level do you want to reach?  CEO?  A recent U.S. News analysis of Fortune 500 CEOs indicated that of the 500 CEOs,  35 didn’t graduate from college.  Two hundred had M.B.A.’s and about 140 had other graduate degrees. So . . . do you have to have a degree to be a CEO?  Probably YES, you need an undergraduate degree, probably NO, you don’t need a graduate degree.  But then, it depends on the other factors—industry, company, experience, getting your ticket punched.

People could argue that some of the best CEOs (and then they could argue about ‘best’ too) of our times—Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Barry Diller—didn’t have undergraduate degrees—why do you need one.  You don’t.  Do you have a killer idea and the energy, stamina and luck to drive it to market and beyond?  If you don’t have a killer idea, then what skills do you have and how do you provide that you have them to the computers and people who are screening your resume and track record.  Do you get results (and can prove it)?  Then you are less likely to have to have additional education.

What about to be a mid-level manager or entry-level Executive?  An MBA or other business degree helps.  It helps because it provides you with an overview, with some depth, on how you run a business and how you get an organization to deliver results.  To be a mid-level manager or entry-level Executive, YES, probably you do need a formal education. (Again, it depends on the industry, company, function . . . but it does help get your foot in the door and provides you credibility that you know what you’re doing.)

 

  1. What job?

 

Obviously, if you want to be a medical doctor, you need a lot of formal education.  If you want to be a hospital administrator, it probably it isn’t a requirement.  If you work at an organization that requires all Executives to have degrees, then you do.

Even If You Don’t HAVE to Get a Degree/Certification, Should You?

 

Again, it depends:

  • How important is a Degree/Certification/More Education to YOU?

 

Many of us were raised to think that people with an education were “better.”  Our families valued degrees, and we were taught to have that as a goal.  Many of us think that we need a degree to be more valuable.  If this is a big deal—even if you went through the analysis above about whether your career goals require more education—you should consider getting that education.  Self-respect and pride are important for personal happiness and career success.

 

  • Do You Find Learning Fun?  Do You Do That More Easily In A More Formal Setting?

 

If you can afford it, and have the time, then by all means—get more education.  It can’t hurt (except in some cases, a PhD—I’ve seen hiring managers not hire PhDs because they thought they were too academic).

Can You Afford It?

Start with a ROI analysis.  What will it cost?  What will the return be?  It’s perfectly ok to  put intrinsic returns in—that’s what you’re evaluating when you decide to buy a big boat or a vacation home—but you do have to weigh the costs too.  The dollars spent for the education v. the dollars spent for a better school (which might help with being a more credible candidate for career acceleration –65 (13%) of Fortune 500 CEOs have degrees from Harvard) v time spent away from family v likely increase in income over your lifetime v how much better you’ll feel about yourself.  Just don’t do this assuming that it will automatically pay off in all the ways you think.  Investigate this carefully.

 

 

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Stick with Your New Year’s Resolutions: Find Your Gateway Habits

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Another Year, Another List

Do you make the same New Year’s Resolutions year after year?  Save money.  Lose weight. Get a new job. Get a promotion.  Spend more time with the family.  Do you ever get your resolutions done?  How about trying something new this year.

Look at your resolutions.  What is the one key thing that you could do that would make a difference on all of them?  What behavior could you change that would help you achieve your goals for the year?  For example, if this were your list of resolutions:

  • Lose weight
  • Start a blog
  • Spend more time with the kids

What behavior change could you make that would help achieve all of them?  What about if you increased your weekly and daily planning?  What about if each week–let’s say on Sunday–you planned your meals for the week, calendared exercise and writing and time with the kids-and then followed up each morning (or evening if that works better for you) with specifics re:  food you’re going to eat, review of what you have eaten, when/where you’re going to exercise and activities with the kids?  If you put weekly/daily planning into your life, then your success with your yearly goals is much more likely.  If you add a “gateway” habit into your life that serves your goals, then you are much more likely to be able to stick to achieving your goals.In this case, the weekly/daily planning would be a gateway habit.  If you want to increase your exercise, parking far from the door or walking up the stairs could be a gateway habit.   If you eliminate an existing gateway habit—eating in the car, starting your day with the Internet–then you can impact the follow on unconscious habits.

Gateway Habits

A gateway habit is a habit that leads to other behaviors and habits.  According to research done at Duke University, more than 40% of the actions people take each day are unconscious habits.  Autopilot.  We’re aren’t thinking about it.  We just do it.  Like what we eat for lunch.  Like the snacks we grab as we walk through the kitchen.  Like the TV in the background.    One of these unconscious habits leads to the next–drinking and smoking, watching TV and eating–and at the end of the year, we’ve made no progress.  The secret to making changes is to identify key gateway habits that will lead to other changes that get you to your goals.  Changing gateway habits helps make all the related habits conscious and puts us more in control.

For example, if you need to lose weight, you could cut out eating after 7 pm.  Make your eating after 7 a conscious no-no.  Once you’ve mastered that, all of your eating will be more conscious.  Then focus or what you eat for lunch, or decide to always eat breakfast.  This will make your eating much more conscious.  Before you know it, you are in control of your unconscious eating.  Losing weight is easier when you are focusing on specific eating-related habits, rather than all the deprivations of losing weight.  Add new habits as you succeed with changing and before you know it, you’ve succeeded.  You can have as much success through eliminating existing gateway habits.

Great books to help you with getting control of your unconscious and conscious behavior:

Try Something New This Year.  What Do You Have to Lose (or Gain)?

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Filed under Books, Career Goals, Executive Development, Goal Setting, Personal Change

Your Last Minute Isn’t Always Your Best Minute

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I’ll Stop Procrastinating.  Tomorrow.

I used to put things off to the last minute.  I told myself it was because I worked better under pressure.  That is what you would call a rationalization.  We frequently rationalize our negative behaviors.  I know I do.  I can’t exercise hard because my neck hurts.  I can’t run because it’s raining (haha and I go to the gym).  Back to the procrastination, though.  Some of us procrastinate infrequently, some of us procrastinate all the time, but almost all of us procrastinate some of the time.  I have a dear friend who procrastinates on everything.  She doesn’t get a lot of things done–she runs out of time.  And she suffers major consequences.  It’s painful to watch her put things off that really matter until it is too late.  Ironic as it is, procrastination is a form of being a control freak.  You’re in control in putting things off–I know–that makes no sense, but lots of things we do don’t make sense.

I’ve been told that procrastination isn’t a problem of time management.  I’ve been told that telling someone to start following a Franklin Covey plan is like telling a depressed person to cheer up.  It’s much more complicated than that.  There are some things that can help, though.

First, Figure Out What Kind of Procrastinator You Are

  • Are you a risk taker?  Do you get a thrill from having to scramble to get something done by the deadline?
  • Are you an avoider?  Are you avoiding doing something because you are afraid of failing?  Or afraid of succeeding?
  • Are you a decision procrastinator because you’re afraid/can’t make a decision?
  • Are you a rebeller?  Are you not doing something because someone wants you to and rather than stand up to the person, you avoid doing it?
  • Are you a perfectionist?  Do you put things off because you want/need to be perfect–and know that that is impossible–so it’s just easier to put it off?

Next, Look at HOW You Procrastinate

  • Do you distract yourself with trivia and less important things?  Are you an expert distractor?
  • Do you tell yourself that you’ll do it tomorrow (and believe that  things will be different tomorrow–until tomorrow and repeat?)
  • Do you find ’emergencies’ that need to be handled instead of the task at hand?
  • Do you put off specific tasks–or do you put off everything?
  • Do you underestimate how long something will take?  Or overestimate how much time you have left?
  • Do you exaggerate how bad/hard/tough the task will be?

Take Action

The easiest, best, most productive way to overcome procrastination is to START.  I know that seems awfully simplistic.  It works, though.  If you look at what kind of procrastinator you are and then look at how you procrastinate, set up a situation that reduces/eliminates the ‘ideal’ procrastination environment.  Eliminate your normal distractions.  Tell yourself that you’re going to experiment with taking more time to do something.  Tell yourself it doesn’t have to be perfect–just done. Give yourself a reward AFTER you’re done.  Think through doing the worst task of your day FIRST.  Then find one task that needs to be done.  And do it.  Start.

Pay attention to what it feels like to be working on something that you would normally put off.  Is it uncomfortable?  Does it make you happy?  Or satisfied?  Or stressed?  Do the next step.  Does it get better or worse.  Continue until the task(s) is done.  Do a ‘lessons learned.’  What worked?  What didn’t?  How can you apply these lessons learned to the next thing that you would normally procrastinate about?

Commit to ‘not’ procrastinating on a certain number of things–let’s say 3 or 5.  Promise yourself that you will do this many tasks without procrastinating and will do the lessons learned exercise.  Once you’ve met that commitment, decide whether it’s worth it to keep doing this, or whether you’d rather go back to procrastinating.

You may have a good (subconscious) reason for procrastinating, but it is a choice. You can choose whether you change it or not.

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Get Your Business Started. What Are You Waiting On?

It’s Time to Put Up or Shut Up

So you want to start a business.  Someday.  Someday will come and go and where will your business  be?  What are you waiting on?  You want to get everything set up first? You want to do the business plan first?  You want to analyze the potential market first?  You want to find money first? You want to come up with the killer idea first?

Let’s Start At The Beginning

Why do you want to start your own business?  That’s the first question to answer.  The answer to this question can actually help you figure out what kind of business.

  • Do you want to work for yourself?  Get rid of bosses?  Feel an accomplishment that you built something? Control your destiny?
  • Do you want a work/life balance?  Be careful about this one.  Most small business owners work an awful lot—many more than their corporate employee colleagues.
  • Do you want to get rich?
  • Do you like the risk/reward of starting and running a business?
  • Do you want to work people of your choice—and not A$$ho@$?
  • Are you stalled out at your current organization?
  • Do you want to create a business out of something you are passionate about?
  • Do you think you can do it better?

Next Step—What Business do You Want To Start?

Do you have a plan or idea that you’ve been storing in the back of your mind for a long time?  Does it make it to your New Year’s Resolution list or you Life Goal list on a regular basis?  If you have such a plan/idea, look back at your answer to “Why Do You Want to Start Your Own Business?” above.  Does your plan/idea serve that reason?  For example, if you want to start a restaurant but your reason for starting your own business is work/life balance, then the back of your brain probably knows that those two don’t go together.  If you want/need security, than, again, you probably know that deep down inside and aren’t really willing to put that at risk by really starting your own business.

If your idea for a business  is perfectly suited to your reason for wanting to do this, then there is some other reason that it hasn’t happened yet.   Some possibilities:

  • Analysis paralysis.  This was mine.  I wanted to think out every possible ramification and pre-plan for each eventuality.  I bought and read every book I could get my hands on.  I went to seminars, talked to experts and still didn’t move forward.  The key issue here is that you can never be ready enough before you start because some of the most important things that make you ready to run and succeed at your business are the experiences you have in running your business.  Even if you’ve run several businesses before, you will not be able to pre-plan all the things that can happen.
  • Fear of failure. I guess it would be nice to be able to out plan failure.  It just isn’t realistic, though.  Depending on how you define failure:  not meeting expectations, not making enough money, not finding your market, not having enough cash flow, not growing as fast as expected, growing faster than expected (OK, maybe that one isn’t failure), going bankrupt–most start-ups fail.  You make adjustments, you try again, you try something else.  Fearing failure is a lot like a four year old fearing growing taller.  It is a necessary part of the process.
  • Lack of time. This may be the reality, but if you don’t make the time, then it won’t happen.  You CAN make time to do what is important.  Steven Covey taught us to do what was important.  To begin with the end in mind.  What does you business look like in your future?  What does it provide you? Money?  Joy? Autonomy? Isn’t it as important as the other things that you are doing?  Carve out one task a day or one task a week to work on.  After a couple of months, you will have made progress and you will be on your way.  Once your business starts to become REAL in your eyes, then it will be easier to put it at the head of the line, or at least in the line, of what you’re working on.
  • Not enough money.  Build a sufficient business plan to persuade someone to help with the money.  Ask friends, family, skilled colleagues who could help.  Figure it out.

Just Start

There is a great gook about this, Just Start by Leonard A. Schlesinger and Charles F. Kiefer.  Take the risk.  Learn from it.  Move closer to your dream.

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