One of the most frequent discussions that I have had with leaders is how to strategically develop and work on set goals. The next step, after setting some developmental goals for one’s improvement and growth is to find ways to keep the goals. The keeping of the goals, much like Jerry Seinfeld’s famous episode of “keeping a reservation”, is the hard part. To paraphrase Jerry's dilemma in our goal-setting context, "anyone can make a goal, but the keeping of the goal is the whole point of having the goal in the first place". A frequent suggestion I make is to find some intentional rhythm and accountability by the concept of FIRSTS.
FIRST OF THE DAY
Ideally, a leader would review his or her own goals in the FIRST part of the morning. Before the onslaught of meetings, phone calls, and the tyranny of the urgent overtake the calendar and divert one's attention, consider carving out a few minutes at the beginning of each day to review goals. If they are top of mind at the top of the day, there is a better chance steps will be taken to move the needle towards achieving them.
FIRST OF THE WEEK
Since this practice can be hard to do consistently for most of us, the next strategy is to review one’s goals on the FIRST day of the week, Monday. This seems far more doable and for me will forever be the day that I will most likely reach for the goals (written or electronic) and do a specific review of them. Much like the first part of the morning, dedicating time for goals on Monday can help to dictate what happens in a given week, and will make goal completion more likely.
FIRST OF THE MONTH
The next strategy is the FIRST days of the month. The days with low numbers….1st, 2nd, 3rd, … these are the key days for goal review. I have also found that these are good days for tackling the more routine aspects of life like changing filters, checking due dates and managing other calendar type reminders to keep life running smoothly. This way the filters are not neglected in the home or office for months, and the goals stay a priority even after significant time has passed.
FIRST OF THE YEAR
Finally, on should focus on the FIRST months of the Year. January and February are the best times for annual planning, reviewing previous goals and updating or creating new ones. Take some time...some significant time...to do annual plans, to mark the calendar for off days, vacation days, travel days and other key days that must be noted and planned out early for the best strategic approach. Many have found that to block out family graduations, birthdays and anniversaries is also helpful to get all “locked and loaded” early on so that family disappointments are minimized and if possible avoided altogether. The first part of the year is typically when goals are set, and thus is an ideal time to build as much structure and support around those goals as possible.
Chances are that not all of the FIRST’s will be remembered or observed, so take advantage of the ones that work for you. For me, when those low numbered days that pop up, they grab my attention and remind me to stop, take out the calendar or the phone to walk through the month. The gift that comes with this strategy is that you can be sure that life is being lived forward, well planned and intentional. The Wisdom of Firsts results in finding purposeful and joyful results and memories made, rather than a life of regret.
If you have had any amount of interaction with Leadership Systems, Inc, you probably know how highly we value using questions in leadership! From a small business owner to the "Miracle On The Hudson" pilot Captain Sully to the mom at the breakfast table talking to her son.... we believe that the practice of asking great questions is one that can transform your leadership and coaching!
On this day we celebrate the life and impact of Dr. Martin Luther King, and one of his many famous quotes always stands out to us at LSI:
"LIFE'S MOST PERSISTENT AND URGENT QUESTION IS THIS:
WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR OTHERS?"
This question is as important today as it was in 1957 when Dr. King challenged a crowd in Montgomery, Alabama. It is a question that is deeply personal as it urges us to focus on our individual involvement with our neighbors as well as it is widely collective in it's encouragement to be involved in our community. It combines the sentiments of Jesus in the New Testament telling followers to treat the "least of these" as if they were serving him with the selflessness and altruism that has made America the most giving nation in history.
But for just a moment, let's allow this powerful question to cross into your experience within your organization:
Consider your role at your company...what are you doing for others?
Consider your clients...what are you doing for others?
Consider your boss or shareholders...what are you doing for others?
Consider your employees...what are you doing for others?
Today, I encourage you to take this challenge from Dr. King and make it personal. But I would also like to ask you to make it corporate... what would your organization look like if it had this attitude every day?
On this Day Of Service, let's remember to ask just a little more of ourselves than normal. And then let that attitude become our new normal.