This is the time of year where people often reflect back on the past twelve months and start to look forward to what the new year might bring. Some even go to the extent of making significant personal change commitments, via New Year’s resolutions, that unfortunately most often fall short of their desired results. But whether you are a seasoned professional or a new graduate, a CEO or a front line worker, whether you are focused on running an organization / department or on your own personal career development, you will most likely want to see some greater level of actual success in 2016.
So, in the spirit of the season, I thought that I would share some ideas, via this brief interactive exercise, that may be helpful to you in enjoying a more successful 2016. Feel free to read and attempt to conduct this exercise in your head. But you will most likely benefit if you write down a few notes. So, on a piece of paper (landscape), first create 4 separate columns that will look like this:
(A) (B) (C) (D)
Now take a moment to think about what is most important to you in your work. What do you really want to experience and what do you really want to avoid? With this in mind, think seriously about how you would best describe your work experience in 2015. And then, from the following positive to negative ranked word list, select the word that would be most representative of your 2015 experience. Try to be as accurate as you can in your selection, and write your selected word under column A, 2015.
From a work perspective, was 2015;
Next, think about all that happened throughout 2015 that influenced your word choice, and write down 1 to 3 key points that support your decision in your 2015 column. Finally, go one step farther to think about how these experiences made you feel when they occurred, or how they make you feel upon reflection today, and write 1 to 3 words that represent these feelings in your 2015 column.
Now shift your thinking forward and focus on your upcoming 2016 year (or beyond if you want). Envision yourself at the end of 2016, looking back on the completed year, and select another word from our list that best represents how you would like to describe your 2016 experience. Obviously, many of us would prefer to select “fantastic” on the most positive end of our scale, but let’s again be realistic about our choice. Hopefully the majority of us will at least select a word from the upper, more positive, end of the scale.
Under column D, 2016, write your newly selected word. Then try to identify 1 to 3 things that you would like to experience in your projected 2016 year that will have influenced why you chose your 2016 word. What will you like to see happen? Again, include a brief list of these experiences in your 2016 column. Finally, write down 1 to 3 statements below this to describe how you will feel as a result of these preferred occurrences happening in 2016.
Now you should take a moment to review and evaluate the differences between your 2015 and 2016 columns. Ensure that that they make sense to you, and then apply any quick adjustments that you see as being necessary. If you are looking beyond 2016, make sure that your 2016 column is congruent with your longer-range projection.
How big of a change, if any, is there between your 2015 and 2016 word choices on our positive to negative scale? Is there a significant difference or a minor difference? I would hope that most people would say that they would like to see some upward progression, regardless of what word level they chose to represent their 2015. After all, 2015, however defined by you, is simply a ‘bench mark’ from which you can progress, with your goal being to simply experience a more positive result throughout 2016. Obviously, if the items within 2015 are positive we would like to expand on them, and if they are negative we would like to avoid repeating them, reduce them, or eliminate them all together. Even for those people who are at the highest end of our spectrum, ‘fantastic’, their 2016 can grow into even more ‘fantastic’ since there is never an upper most limit.
After your review, choose one statement from the following three selections that provides the best overall description of what you want MOST in 2016;
more career safety,
a feeling that you belong to something, or
to make a difference.
Only pick one, and include it at the bottom of your 2016 column.
Now, let’s focus on the two centre columns. First, in column B, create a heading entitled “Stopping Me (-)”. Then below it, list 1 to 3 things that may be stopping you, or making it more difficult, to experience what you want in 2016. In column C create a heading entitled “Helping Me” (+), and list 1 to 3 three things that would help you to experience what you want in 2016. These latter items should be directly tied to the 2016 occurrences that you identified. What will help to bring them about?
Now your page headings should look like this:
(A) (B) (C) (D)
2015 Stopping Me (-) Helping Me (+) 2016
Take a moment to review your two centre lists. Then within column B, identify the items that are out of your control, and identify the items that are within your control. Similarly, in column C, identify the items where you would be relying on other people, events, or conditions to help you and then identify those items that you can take control of.
Making Some Key Adjustments
Here’s a critical point. If you want to go from A to D, you need to find ways to reduce the impact of what is stopping or restraining you. So, is there any way that you can turn some of these negative barriers to you realizing your desired 2016 results into positives? Here’s an example of what I mean by this. I will bet that the great majority of people have included ‘the economy’ (in some form) as stopping them from moving forward. And this item has likely also been listed as “beyond their control”. As a result, they can use this as an excuse for making minimal effort, and instead they will essentially be more reliant on luck to fulfill their 2016 objective rather than being smart and proactive.
And for you this can actually be a wonderful thing.
Because if the majority of people blame a poor economy, and believe that there is nothing that they can do about it, they will naturally do very little (or nothing). And this creates a HUGE opportunity for those fewer people who put in the effort to find new ways of doing things, to keep moving forward, and to leave their competitors behind. While you cannot control the economy, you CAN control how you cope with it. So seriously re-evaluate your column B to see if there are ways that you can take some control over these negative barriers, and to actually move them from column B to ‘helpful’ column C.
“It has been my observation that most people get ahead
during the time that others waste”. – Henry Ford
Considering column C, there is nothing wrong with receiving help. But you would be wise to not rely on other people to provide it. Are there items in column C that you can take more control over rather than rely on external forces? An example here could be taking steps to proactively develop your performance skills in order to get that next promotion rather than expect it, or to proactively go-out-and-get that new career position rather than hope that someone will hand it to you. Believe me, the great majority of people are in the latter groups. (No, I don’t want to view your profile or receive your resume!) Find new ways to help yourself, because better things come faster to people who do things differently than the majority.
The mandate for managers and organizational leaders should always be; increased performance regardless of external conditions. The effective ones don’t make performance excuses. simply because they don’t have to. Their role is to find better ways to perform, not to continue to do the same ineffective things just because “this is the way we have always done it”. Don’t be surprised if performance is substandard when you hope that people will perform, and you accept their excuses for non-performance. Help yourself by taking appropriate control and hold those to whom you delegate responsibility accountable for performance results. You need to surround yourself with effective people who in turn, will actually help you to meet your performance objectives.
So take a moment to really try to think differently about the items in columns B and C. What can you do better?
“Progress is impossible without change,and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”.
– George Bernard Shaw
Will 2016 be better than 2015?
I have used the word ‘better’ for a reason. Rather than make unrealistic and unattainable goals for 2016 (like New Year’s resolutions) you should simply strive for ‘better’. I firmly believe that everyone can achieve ‘better results’ in their 2016 compared to their 2015. But if you sincerely want to bridge the gap between your 2015 and 2016 word definitions, it is important to recognize that, the bigger the gap between them, the more effort you will most likely have to make. That said, you will find some sustaining motivation by remembering how you will feel once you have met that 2016 objective as compared to how you felt about 2015. Learn from it.
And this motivation will provide the incentive and energy that will support your personal commitment to change, whatever is in your control, so that you can move toward your preferred experience in 2016. Know that the majority of people will not change fast enough, and will continue to do the same things as they did in 2015 despite hoping to see different, better, results in 2016. Grasp this opportunity to differentiate yourself from the majority and, rather than wait and hope for change, personally drive the change that you want to experience. Your needed change will occur faster when you initiate it.
“The two most important requirements for major success are:
first, being in the right place at the right time,
and second, doing something about it”. – Ray Kroc
So it all starts with you. If you want to ensure positive, results-oriented change, you need to take the lead. Become an agent of change, first with yourself and then with others. People who are not willing to help and invest in themselves, in order to do what is required to bring about more desirable results, have no reason to expect others to. Become uncomfortable with your ‘status quo’ and identify the negative barriers that are restricting your changing it. Whenever you can, turn these negatives into positives. See opportunities rather than make excuses. Take control. And help yourself rather than waiting for others to do all of the helping for you.
Being proactive, and ahead of the majority, is actually safer than waiting and hoping for better things to happen. Surrounding yourself with people of similar thinking and capabilities, in an organizational culture that is compatible with your ambitions, will not only provide you with a sense of belonging, it also increases collaboration and facilitates higher individual and cumulative performance. And when all of this is present, you will be able to help other people and to truly make a difference.
“Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity” – Numerous
Jim Gilchrist CAES