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S.M.A.R.T. Goal Setting

What has been most helpful to me in my student and professional careers is setting goals. For myself I know I need to have some sort of vision of where I am going before I can even start. By creating goals it gives me a clear path to the vision but gives me something to work towards. I’m a person who likes to create lists. By checking a task off a list gives me instant gratification and motivates me to keep moving forward. To me goals are like a list of things I have to do. I have my big picture goal and then I have a list of things I need to go to get there. Also by writing down goals I have a way to hold myself accountable.

So for those of you who struggle with setting goals for yourself here is a simple model to follow. This process is called S.M.A.R.T. goals. Some of you may have seen or heard about this before. It is a commonly used practice to set up effective goals.

Each letter is a step for setting goals. I will outline each step for you.


Specific: This is where you answer Who, What, When, Where, Why and How? Goals like “I want to buy a car” are not efficient. A better example would be “I would like to buy a car at the dealership in the next six months by saving $335 from every paycheck to be able to make a down payment of at least $2000”

Measurable: You have to have a way to measure your progress or success. If you wanted to measure your progress on buying your car you could keep a running balance of your savings thus far. If you are not on pace to your goal you will easily be able to identify this and make adjustments.

Attainable: Make sure this is a goal that you can reach. If you make $20,000 a year it would not be attainable to say you want to buy a Bentley in the next 6 months with $2,000 down. Having high expectations is good but you need to make sure its within your reach…otherwise it’s just a dream.

Realistic: The goal needs to be something that you are willing and able to do. Again with the Bentley example, if you had an income that could support you in getting the high-end luxury car then it would be a good goal to make but in this case with just $20,000 a year it would be realistic to pick something more in your budget.

Timely: Your goals need to have a timeline attached. If you don’t have a timeframe you will feel like you are working forever with no end in sight. In the example I have been using the timeline was stated in the beginning.

Remember goals are there to help you. Spending a little bit of time on goals will help you have better results. Once you write your goal and follow through you will be happy that you did it.

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Effective Coaching

Today I am going to share with you a process to follow that will increase effectiveness of your coaching. This process entails four simple steps that help you illustrate the lesson or information that you are trying to get across.

The first step is TELL: Give complete verbal instructions of the task or process that needs to be completed. Be sure to go over all steps verbally and be very thorough and straight forward with what you expect. State the reason why it needs to be done in the way you are describing and how it relates to the overall vision of team, department or company. Make sure to answer any questions before you move on to the next step.

The second step is SHOW:  Demonstrate to your employee how you would like to see the process done. Once they see you perform the task it will be easier for them to understand what exactly you are looking for. Having verbal and visual instruction usually enhances the message and understanding.

The third step is DO: After showing what you want to see done then it’s time to do it together. The collaboration will reinforce the employee’s understanding of the task and give you the opportunity to help if they are not successful during the practice run.

The last step is REVIEW: Do a quick recap of everything you talked about. Ask if they have any questions and be sure to reiterate the value this task has to the team, department or overall company vision.

Even though I have not included this as a step, the most important part of the whole process is the follow-up piece. Make sure you follow the progress and check back in with them periodically. Hopefully these 4 easy steps will make your next coaching session easier!

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How to Deal With Negative People

If you ever want to read a good book about using positive energy to fuel your life, work and team, you should read the “Energy Bus” by Jon Gordon. About two years ago my supervisor had my whole team read this book and implement its message and lessons in our workplace. Over the last week I have had several peers come to me and asking how they can get rid of a negative person in their life. My peers inspired me to write this blog and share the lessons that Jon Gordon shares in his book. There are many valuable pieces of information in this book but the one that I will be sharing is the one that taught me a lot about how to deal with negative people.

A little bit about the book…the story is about a guy name George who is a little down on his luck. He is not having a good personal or work life. One day his car breaks down and he learns that it will be awhile before it can be repaired so he has no choice but to ride the bus. After a few rides he becomes friends with the bus driver, Joy. Joy is essentially his mentor and shares 10 rules for positivity. One more thing you should know…the book refers to “the bus” a lot. The bus represents your personal space, your team or your family.

The rule about negative people is Rule# 8: “Post a Sign That Says “No Energy Vampires Allowed”. Jon Gordon writes:

  • Identify the negative team members who are affecting the success of your bus ride.
  • Open the lines of communication. Let them know they are being negative. Determine if there is a justifiable reason. Determine a course of action that will lead to individual and team success. Encourage them to get on the bus with positive energy. Give them a chance to succeed.
  • If they fail to make changes and continue being negative, then you have no choice but to let them off your bus.

I like that Jon Gordon uses the term “Energy Vampires” because it’s true that negative people take the positivity out of the environment by spreading their depressing messages. By asking questions and getting to know the person you might be able to clear the air and fix some things that are causing that person to be negative. Perhaps they just simply need someone to listen to them. Never the less, always give that person a chance and if they don’t want to change their ways or understand how they impact the group it is time to part ways.

I hope this information helps answers your questions about how to deal with negative people.

For more about the Energy Bus by Jon Gordon, click here.

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How to Plan and Run a Meeting

In order to plan and run a successful meeting it is important to put some time into preparation of your meeting. Time is a very valuable asset to people and because of that you want to make sure that you are using your time and your participant’s time wisely.

Begin with writing out a list of all of the topics that you would like to discuss during the meeting time. Then write a rough draft or think about what you want to say and how long you think it will take you to get your message across. With this information you can determine how long you want to schedule your meeting for. Make sure you account for time that will be used by your participant’s answers and comments as well. Once you have figured out what you are going to discuss and how much time it will take, reserve a location for the meeting and send out the meeting invitation using programs such as Microsoft Outlook or a paper invitation. Be sure to include the length of the meeting, location, materials needed and key topics that are going to be discussed. Next, create your presentation using the timing guidelines you created. This should be done at least a week in advance from the meeting time.

Throughout the week prior to the meeting you should be practicing and revising your presentation. A few days before the meeting takes place type up an agenda and email it to all of the participants so they know what to look forward to in the meeting. Ask three people to volunteer to be the note taker, timekeeper and relevancy checker. Here’s a review of what their tasks are:

  • Note taker: Writes down all of the information discussed in the meeting and how long it took for each topic. They then type up the notes so they can be given to anyone who was not able to make it to the meeting. These notes are also used to keep track of the information shared in each meeting.
  • Timekeeper: They make sure the meeting follows the allotted time for each topic and make sure the meeting does not run over the specific time for the meeting to end.
  • Relevancy checker: This is optional but the relevancy checker makes sure the conversation stays on topic and the meeting doesn’t get out of control. The relevancy checker will gently knock on the table to signal the facilitator when the meeting gets off topic. The facilitator is the one that will get the meeting back on track and tell the participants that their question or topic will be addressed off-line in another meeting or by email. The relevancy checker will write down topics that were not able to be addressed in the meeting so that they can be addressed later in email or another meeting. If you have a hard time staying on topic with your group I recommend having a relevancy checker.

On the day of the meeting bring along your presentation materials and extra copies of the agenda in case someone did not receive one or print it out. Get to the meeting location 15 minutes early so you can set up and greet the participants as they arrive. At the top of your presentation welcome everyone and quickly go over the agenda. Introduce the note taker, timekeeper and relevancy checker. Then take it away with your presentation. After your meeting is over, collect the notes from the note taker and relevancy checker. Make sure all meeting participants get a copy of the notes, if necessary forward them to your boss and be sure to address all questions to be answered off-line within 2 business days.

I know that this all seems like a long process but I guarantee that you will have a more successful meeting if you take the time to prepare!

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The Stars on Your Team

On a team or organization you are going to have people that perform on different levels. The ideal team is to have a group of star performers but we know that this does not happen, not by itself at least. So how can you increase the number of “Super Stars” on your team? The answer is focus on the “Middle Stars”!

There are 3 levels of performers: “Super Stars” who are exceptional performers, “Middle Stars” who are not perfect but they are meeting the expectations and are willing to learn, and “Fallen Stars” who have major performance issues. It is not worth your time focusing on the “Fallen Stars” because usually they have made the decision to not perform at their full potential.  It makes no sense in wasting valuable coaching time on someone who is not going to make something of themselves.

The majority of your team is going to be “Middle Stars”. These people are doing what is expected of them but if you spent more time with them and mentored them it’s easier to bring them to the top with the “Super Stars” than it would be to bring up a “Fallen Star”. Some tips to coach “Middle Stars” from WalkTheTalk.com are:

1. Build their confidence by increasing their responsibilities

2. Give frequent and accurate performance feedback

3. Teach them how to set goals and keep their performance on track

4. “Catch” them doing good things and praise them

You could also leverage your “Super Stars” to help you motivate the others to do great work and to reach goals. Share your team vision with everyone but really use your “Super Stars” to keep it alive.

Lead by example and you will see positive results!

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Set the Stage for Success

I have found in order to maintain a positive work space you must keep the energy and enthusiasm alive throughout the work day. The best way to do this is to start out first thing in the morning. Remember, you are the leader and it is your job to set the tone for the day. There are a few easy activities that you can do within the first 15 minutes of your day connect with your team and send a positive message.

To start everything off it is important for you to be the first one into the office in the morning. Get your day started by getting your workspace ready to go before your employees come in. Greet your employees as they walk in and pump them up for a great day. Don’t talk business until everyone’s shift starts. I have to say this step is a work in progress for me. I’m usually late for work so I have been making an effort to arrive at least 15 minutes early to prepare for the day. So far since the New Year has started I have been better at being to work on time.

Next, if your time allows, hold a short morning meeting or huddle. This will allow you to set the stage for the day ahead. First start the meeting with a 3 minute ice breaker by asking for volunteers to share good things that have happened to them, their family, the community or a co worker in the past week. Starting off on a positive note will get everyone in the right mindset to perform at their best. After everyone has shared, discuss the agenda for the day and any other information that might need to be shared.

Lastly, leave the huddle with words of encouragement. Throughout the day check in with your employees, send out recognition cards, and give positive verbal reinforcement. If you keep it positive then the rest of your team will follow!

Feel free to leave comments or leave suggestions on how you energize your team!


Boost Moral By Using Simple Recognition

Believe it or not there are many managers out there that don’t feel they should have to say thank you to an employee who is just simply doing their job. Well, I beg to differ. I feel that giving thanks, even if it is for the smallest thing, is essential to boosting moral and giving recognition. Coming into work week after week doing the same exact thing can be mundane and after awhile you feel almost robotic. As a manager giving kudos or thanks is a way to bring the human element back into the job. It feels good when people recognize you for the good things that you do and it gives you that intrinsic reward you have been striving for in the work that you do.

The easiest way that I have found to give recognition is to write my employees a little note to tell them about the good things I have seen from them. Even though the written notes can be time consuming, the positive outcome is far greater than the time that I put into it. Also by giving a note, my employees can hang it in their cubicle or put it on their desks as a reminder that their work is important and they are important piece of the company. In my opinion it leaves a longer lasting impression than just verbal recognition alone.

I have put together a few check lists as a guide to help you make your notes.

First, here’s a list of some reasons you could give a note:

  • Your employee met their goal.
  • Your employee has been working on improving their work and you want to let them know that you have recognized their efforts.
  • They beat a record (personal, or something that was set by another employee)
  • Your employee came up with a best practice that was implemented in the workplace.
  • They went out of their way to do something they were not asked to do.
  • They helped on a special project.

Obviously, the list could go on and on but this should give you a good idea on what to look for.

Second, here are some examples of what you could say in the note:

  • “John, I noticed you have been working hard to improve your writing skills. I read your last article about…I really liked the way you said…”
  • “Sally, I really appreciate you helping me put together the manager’s luncheon on Friday. Without your help I would not have had everything put together in time”
  • “Pam, way to go on beating your personal best on Wednesday! Your hard work paid off and you are now raising the bar for excellence in your department!”

Lastly, I leave you a few tips that I follow when putting it all together:

  • Make your message personal. Write something more than just “Thank you”.
  • Sound sincere.
  • Sign your name on the note.
  • Write legibly.
  • Get fun cards or stationary. It adds a personal touch.

I hope this helps you make a more personal connection with your employees. I try to do this at least twice a week along with giving verbal recognition daily. Please feel free to leave comments below about strategies that have worked for you or the success that you have had with the advice I have given in my blog. Thanks for reading!

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