By Whitney Johnson
Driven by discovery.
This phrase sounds magical—evoking images of explorers like Columbus or Lewis and Clark. It seems even more magical when you consider one of the key attributes of a successful executive is curiosity, and that 70 percent of all successful new businesses end up with a strategy different than the one initially pursued. Groupon, for example, started out as an activism platform bringing people together to fundraise for a cause or to boycott retailers (ironic!) while Netflix, the Emmy-winning content company, started as a door-to-door DVD rental service.
But there’s a rub.
Discovery implies the unknown and most of us seem to prefer the safe harbor of the known–even when the known isn’t all that great. So, here’s a hack for putting some structure around navigating the unknown based on theory of discovery-driven planning of Rita Gunther-McGrath and Ian McMillan.
1. Create a reverse income statement. If you are launching a new company, rather than forecasting how much revenue you will generate and what your costs will be and then solving for the profit, you build the income statement in reverse. You decide on your required income, and then solve for how much revenue will deliver those profits, and how much cost can be allowed. When it comes to personal disruption, the question you ask is: To achieve my baseline level of happiness, what do I need to accomplish and what am I willing to give up in order to make this happen?
2. Calculate the cost. With this step, you estimate what the cost will be to produce, sell, and deliver a product or service to a customer. Combined, these are the allowable costs that permit the business model to hold together. As an individual, the question is what kind of time, expertise, money, and buy-in will you need to make your plan operational?
3. Compile an assumption checklist. This checklist allows you to flag and discuss each assumption as the venture unfolds. For example, what assumptions are you making about how much you will sell and at what price? As an individual, if you decide you want to earn $300,000 a year consulting, and last year you earned $270,000 consulting, then conventional planning works. If you’ve never consulted, then you’d want to think about the assumptions behind your ability to earn that $300,000. How many clients will you need? How many hours per day will you need to bill, and at what price point? Do you enjoy the work, and will it be emotionally satisfying?
4. Prepare a milestone chart. This chart specifies which assumptions need to be tested and what you are going to learn by each milestone. In discovery-driven planning, learning is the essential unit of progress, so a course correction isn’t equivalent to failure, as it would be in conventional planning. Rather, it’s an opportunity to recalibrate so you achieve your goals more quickly.
One of the key attributes ascribed to disruptors is that they play where no one else is playing. As a trailblazer, even though you may have a goal or purpose, your path to that objective is yet to be marked.
Being driven by discovery can be scary and lonely, and you will undoubtedly end up in places you haven’t anticipated. But, like Lewis and Clark, you have a plan: to discover and conquer territory.
About the Author
Whitney Johnson is an investor, speaker, author, and leading thinker on driving innovation through personal disruption. Her new book Disrupt Yourself, will be released on October 6, 2015. To learn more, visit http://whitneyjohnson.com/disrupt-yourself.
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“The real art of communication is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”
~ Unknown ~
Josh is a sales executive at a medium-size software company. He’s always made his numbers and hit his quotas. As he advanced in the organization, his responsibility and the number of people he manages have increased. Josh’s career goal is to become VP of sales within the next year.
He’s always known how to get results, but his fatal flaw is that he has no idea how to manage his people. The bigger his team grew, the more his abrasive and combative style got in his way. Word got back to HR that he was a bully, a hard-ass, blunt, and intimidating. Ultimately, this information was documented and he was laid off.
However, his boss’s boss saw potential in Josh. He liked the work he did and could see he really wanted to learn and grow, to get past his weakness in managing people. The boss knew that, if given the right tools and support, Josh could be extremely valuable to the organization.
When a position opened up, Josh was hired back. This time he was provided with employee training in the form of an executive coach, management training, mentoring and sponsorship. Here are the initial actions his coach took as he helped Josh design a game plan for success.
- He appealed to Josh’s self-interest. The coach asked Josh one critical question: “Given how your co-workers perceive you, what do think will happen to your goal of becoming sales VP if you don’t do anything?’ Following Josh’s answer the coach replied, “So persuade me that there are advantages for you to make some changes in your attitude and behavior, if sales VP is what you really want?”
- He helped Josh see reality. Using his last 360 before he was terminated, his coach painted a clear picture of how he was perceived by others during his employee training. Abrasive people are prone to blame others for their bad behavior, since they often see themselves as superior and all-knowing. Josh soon understood that, in order for the situation to change, he must change. He started by planning his communication in meetings and one-on-ones in advance, which helped him avoid the sarcastic, off-the-cuff remarks that had alienated his co-workers in the past.
- He played to Josh’s competitive nature. The final question was, “So do you really think you can do this? Can you really change to the point where others perceive you differently?” Josh took that as a challenge. “Of course I can,” he replied.
It’s now been over seven years since Josh was hired back and he’s received performance reviews and thorough 360s. This sales executive is now a VP with a highly motivated and loyal team and he’s never been accused of being abrasive or combative during the whole seven years.
Do you need to change the way people perceive you at work? Write down three relationship issues that you think might be getting in the way of your career goals and start developing your plan to change.
Talkback: Have you turned around a difficult situation or relationship at work? How did you do it? Share your story here.
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“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment”
Setting Work Performance Goals with Your Employees
If you are in a leadership position, you are constantly faced with the challenge of keeping your employees motivated and productive. Most companies use work performance goals as a means of evaluating employees. However, from the employee’s point of view, they are often looked on as an arbitrary and rigid means of doling out raises. That is because many organizations fail to use goals properly.
Goals are most effective when the individual expected to meet them has a part in setting them. As a manager it is important to put yourself in the place of the employee and ask yourself these basic questions:
- What kind of goals would motivate me in this position?
- What sort of goals would make me happier and more productive in this position?
With these two questions in mind and with the help of the following pointers, employees will no longer view goals as mere management tools but rather as they should be: personal motivators for success that can help your employees succeed.
1. Include employees in the process
But give them guidance along the way. As their manager, you know best what they need to achieve in order to meet company objectives. But having them contribute to their own goal setting in a meaningful way will also help motivate them to meet the performance goals for their jobs. Failing to reach a goal we set for ourselves is always harder to swallow than failing to reach a goal we think leadership arbitrarily set for us. On a side note, having the employee help set goals will give you valuable insight into what motivates each individual.
2. Set deadlines
Open-ended goals promote procrastination. Many companies employ quarterly goals in conjunction with long-term annual goals. However, short-term goals will also provide an ongoing metric of the employee’s progress. Deadlines should also be set according to the rhythm of the metric they measure. For example, if you are servicing clients on monthly contracts then the goals should naturally have a monthly deadline. In such a case, weekly or bi-weekly goals will help the employee keep on track with reaching their objectives.
3. Make goals measurable
For goals to work they must be tied to some quantifiable data. That way when the deadline arrives there is no question whether the goal was reached or not. If you are unsure of how to measure success, enlist the help of your employee.
4. Give feedback
Regular feedback is vital in helping your employees reach the goals set for their work performance. When speaking to them, look for opportunities to give encouragement. But don’t allow the feedback to be one-sided. Listen to any concerns or suggestions the employee may have. Open communication may make the difference between a goal that is simply reached and one that is blown out of the water.
5. Reward success
Make the reward worth the work needed to obtain it. Again, consider what the employee will value. Some employees respond to cash incentives, extra time off, or gift cards. Others may prefer the public recognition of receiving an award. Who wouldn’t like to display an art glass award on their desk? Allowing the employee to help determine the reward will motivate them to work toward achieving it. Get creative and change rewards frequently so they don’t become routine.
6. Tweak as needed
Some goals will remain the same as long as the company is in business. These strategic goals reflect the core values of the company. But many goals are dynamic and should reflect the changing responsibilities and talents of the employee. Pin job performance goals to areas where the employee can improve. Finally, as the employee gains experience and additional responsibilities, make sure their goals grow with them.
A note on failure:
If an employee fails to meet their goals, it is not the end of the world. Of paramount importance is the attitude of the employee. Did their failure result from a lack of activity, or did they give their best but simply come up short? If an employee has put forth noticeable effort and still failed it would be counterproductive for a manager to humiliate or punish them. Failure from inactivity is what should be punished.
Performance goals are a benchmark of success. As long as an employee continues putting forth effort to reach them, they should continue to receive support from their managers. If you are having a hard time with this idea, consider some of the great failures in history. These would include the likes of Einstein, da Vinci, and Michael Jordan. Although known for their successes, these individuals had greater failure rates than their peers. But they kept striving toward their goals and eventually reached them.
Dennis Phoenix is a human resource specialist and avid business writer. He writes primarily on topics ranging from business relationships to employee satisfaction for Able Trophies.
Talkback: How have you increased the effectiveness of your employees work performance goals? List your ideas below.
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“To find a career to which you are adapted by nature, and then to work hard at it, is about as near to a formula for success and happiness as the world provides. One of the fortunate aspects of this formula is that, granted the right career has been found, the hard work takes care of itself. Then hard work is not hard work at all.”
~ Mark Sullivan ~
Client Christopher Asks: I’ve been at my job for about three years now. I thought I’d just be happy in this position. I mean, I like my job and all. But I’m finding it’s getting a pretty boring. I realize I’d like a more of a challenge. But I have no idea how to figure out this career advancement process. What does it take to get a more fulfilling job? How do I even start?
Coach Joel Answers: Good question, Christopher. To help you get started on your search for career and job advancement, you need to make some decisions. These choices will help you find your direction and open the path to a better job.
1. What is your career goal? I know that might be hard to answer, as you thought you had it solved. But now, take a moment and look at what gives you satisfaction.
- Which parts of your job to you enjoy most?
- As you look around you, which jobs to other people have that you think you would enjoy doing?
- Are there salary goals you have?
- Are there certain kinds of responsibilities and actions you enjoy doing?
All of these are clues to what your career goal might be.
2. What skills will you need? After you choose a career goal, Christopher, you need to understand the skills, education, and training necessary to advance to that job. The bureau of Labor Statistics offers an Occupational Outlook Handbook that lists thousands of jobs and the criteria for them.
One additional benefit is that it predicts whether the need for that specialty will be increasing or decreasing in the coming years. As you think about your career goal and the training necessary to help you advance, this can be a good source for you.
3. Where can you find the training? Once you’ve chosen the career you want, and you know the skills you need, where will you get them? Consider looking for them exactly where you are.
- Your company may offer the training you need. It might be through mentoring or other traditional or non-structured learning at work. Especially if you’re looking to advance in your company, this is a best first choice. You’ll learn the skills most desired by your organization.
- College classes or degrees may be preferred if you are looking to move a great deal higher in your company.
- Coaching is a valuable option to hone in on skills – analytical thinking, problem solving, decision making, team building, and other skills essential for success.
4. How can you promote your job advancement? Once you know where you want to go with your career and job advancement, you need to take steps to make it happen. Assess how much help you might get from your current employer. Ask for feedback on your current job, and let them know what your goals are. They may help you work into that job. If not, hone your skills, develop your talents, and search for a job in another market.
Christopher, many people want to move ahead in their career and just aren’t sure how to get started. If you follow this plan, you can soon feel comfortable that your career and job advancement is on track to success.
For more information about how to advance your career with personalized and individualized coaching, contact Joel.
Talkback: What steps have you taken to advance your career? How did you start out?
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“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”
~ Helen Keller ~
Client Stephanie asks: I’m really disappointed! I paid a lot of money for a business career development program. It promised to give me all the knowledge I needed to really move my career forward. Then I invested all this time and effort. And I really haven’t seen any results at all. I feel cheated.
What should I look for in career development programs, so I can really see my business career take off?
Coach Joel Answers: First, you need to set realistic expectations for all business career development programs. They are not the be all and end all of career advancement. They can play a key role in growing your skills and knowledge, but they have limits.
Typically they give you knowledge and skill sets, but they don’t always tailor the class to your needs. Nor do they analyze your progress in a real-job way or give you opportunities to implement what you’ve learned.
Even after the course you need to practice implementation, gain visibility and influence, and work with your boss to find places to put your new skills into practice.
Assuming you are doing everything right, here are some valuable keys to uncover strong business development programs—programs which might help with your career growth.
1. Not all programs address the same thing. Some focus on new graduates and helping them find jobs or learn about career opportunities in different businesses. So if you’re just out of college, these may be great programs for you.
If you are further down the experience path, these programs will not move your career along. So as you investigate a program, ask who its intended participants are. What are the specific skills, knowledge, abilities they will teach?
2. Evaluate your own career goals. Stephanie, look at the current skills you have and the areas you need to improve. Will this particular career development program address the weak areas you want to strengthen?
Don’t hesitate to call the school or company offering it and ask in depth questions. This is your time and money. You need to see that it profits you.
3. Will you get knowledge or application? Simple book learning or even audio or video learning can only take you so far. Do you have a chance to apply what you learn? Do you have interaction with other employees, role playing, modeling and other ways to practice your new found skills?
4. How much feedback will you get? Sometimes we cannot see our weaknesses. We might think we are being direct. Others may see it as an attack. Will your business career development program give you the kind of feedback that will be meaningful to you?
Stephanie, you may find your career needs more individual attention than a career development program can give you. At times you’ll get more rapid advancement through a mentoring program or a coaching program.
Your business may also have a strong career development program you are not familiar with. It may let you try out different areas in the company. It may help you work on new skills, find new opportunities to grow, and give you frequent feedback. Check with your boss or HR department.
5. Look at the credentials of the business offering the career development program. Do they have a history of success? Can you talk to other graduates and learn the strengths and shortcomings they found in the program? Are they well known?
Do they have books, articles, or other resources you can review for free? Then you can see their philosophy, teaching style, and content. You can see if it will be a comfortable fit for you.
Stephanie, I know it hurts to feel you’ve wasted your money. However, every experience can be a learning experience. Now you know what to look for in strong business career development programs.
When you search again, you will have the fundamentals necessary to make a good investment choice.
If you are uncertain whether a career development program would help you advance at this stage in your career, contact Joel. He will help you see the best path for you to use to advance your career.
Talkback: How have you invested in business career development? Have you used a program you thought was effective… or not very effective?
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