Accomplish Your Executive Goals By NOT Trusting Yourself

As January draws to a close, many people realize their New Year’s resolutions are falling by the wayside. Why is this such a common experience?

David DeSteno is the author of the forthcoming book The Truth About Trust.  In a recent column, he points out that you cannot really “trust” yourself to implement your goals.  He outlines his research demonstrating that goals we set for the future are often linked to emotions present when we set new objectives.  He adds that as these emotions fade, so does our drive to accomplish the original goal.

For example, at New Years you might feel overweight and want to be thinner so you resolve to have a salad at future dinners. Then, as time passes, your enthusiasm for salad fades. Even if you are successfully eating salads during the first week of January, at the start of week 2, potential distractions may arise. As you get closer to that fast food restaurant on your drive home from work, your desire for that cheeseburger grows. This distraction threatens to circumvent your ultimate goal of weight loss.

Most alarmingly, DeSteno asserts that, not only will we break these promises we make to ourselves, but we will then create a story that justifies our actions and, subsequently, forget about our failure. Why? Because we don’t want to believe that we are untrustworthy.

As an Executive Coach I am interested in the results of DeSteno’s research because so much of what I do involves setting goals with clients to achieve metric outcomes. DeSteno’s findings underscore how important it is to add interim steps to ensure that those goals are realized. One effective tool is to remind a client, or for a client to self-manage and remind him or herself, of the emotional enthusiasm they felt when they initially set their goal. Emotions fade as time passes, so the ability to reignite their present day apathy into their former passion, increases the chances of successful goal completion.

Here are a few other coaching tips to optimize successful goal completion:

  • Visualize the future and why your goal will help you in the long run.
  • Make it fun! If you are going to the gym, bring music you like.
  • Utilize task management systems and apps so they help you stay connected to your goals.
  • Set smaller, manageable goals every day that serve as stepping stones to your ultimate or what I call “BIG” goals. Breaking up a big project into smaller pieces makes it less intimidating and allows you to retain your initial optimism.
  • Enlist a friend or family member to hold you accountable.

Let me know if you have other ideas for achieving goals that have worked for you!

Warm regards,

Joe Siegler


Hero: Jerry Ragovoy

Songwriter Jerry Ragovoy passed away on Wednesday, July 13 at age 80. Ragovoy leaves behind the legacy of hit songs performed by the Rolling Stones (“Time Is On My Side”), Janis Joplin (“Piece of My Heart”), Jimi Hendrix (“Stop”) and numerous others. A memorial piece in The New York Times shows Ragovoy’s career as a songwriter was just as intriguing as the hit songs he’s written.

Ragovoy began his career as a music buyer for a department store in Philadelphia. Though he started his own record company, Ragovoy had is sights set on being a songwriter for Broadway.

In New York, in 1962, he found his career taking a different turn. He started writing a number of songs for groups like The Majors and Garnet Mimmis and the Enchanters. His song “Time On My Side” was adapted and made into a hit by the Rolling Stones. By 1966, Ragovoy was the head of artists and repertory at Warner Bros Records and in 1969 he founded a new record company, The Hit Factory.

Jerry Ragovoy sought to work on Broadway, but ended up getting famous for writing hit songs for classic artists, earning praise from his contemporaries for his mastery of the R&B idiom. Because he was willing to put his theatrical plans on hold, he ended up taking his life in directions few get to tread.

What executive coaching lessons can we glean from this man and his remarkable career trajectory?

  • Your career path may allow you to expand, shift your focus, and even change your direction entirely. Opportunities in slightly different fields may be offered to you. If you’re interested, you may find yourself excelling in something new and unexpected.
  • Ragovoy “shelved” his plans for Broadway to write for musicians. You may have a specific dream or goal in mind – don’t let it close you off to new experiences that may become new realities. Be prepared to adapt.

JS

How to Beat Burnout

No matter what field you are in or whether your business has managed to stay prosperous despite the economic recession, your team members may experience fatigue and burnout. If your business has fallen on tough times and has faced downsizing, burnout will most likely surface in some form.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) studied how fatigue currently plagues the American workforce: the prevalence of fatigue in the US is as high as 37.9%, with 65.7% of these fatigued workers reporting their productivity was severely hindered. This loss of productivity and weak performance is said to cost employers $136.4 billion annually. As the economic climate remains on edge, organizational leaders must do something to curb fatigue or risk dealing with its much more severe and costly counterpart, burnout.

Organizations must make preventing burnout and fatigue a priority. While fatigue may surface as exhaustion or a “funk” caused by stress, burnout is a syndrome with more troubling symptoms. These include:

  • Insomnia
  • Loss of interest in work and hobbies
  • Absenteeism and low performance
  • Low or levels of confidence, energy and concentration
  • Feelings of hopelessness

Fatigue left unchecked can kindle into burnout – it must be caught and corrected as early as possible. If you see symptoms of burnout in yourself or your coworkers, be sure to consider the following in order to address the situation:

  • Offer encouragement and ask how you can be of assistance.
  • Identify and empathize with their distress. Do not pass judgment.
  • Mention existing employee assistance programs and other referral options, such as executive coaching.

Learning to prevent burnout in your team or organization is paramount to your continued success. If you notice potential problems in your team members, don’t be afraid to suggest the following steps to avoid burnout or fatigue.

  • Identify and eliminate sources of significant stress.
  • Pay special attention to your physical well being.
  • Be vigilant of all your various responsibilities in life, not just work-related duties.
  • Recall what makes you passionate about your work and why it matters.

Executive coaching can help you assess your priorities and keep burnout at bay. To learn more, get in touch today.

JS

Hero: Masao Yoshida

On March 12, as the world watched the unfolding disaster in Japan, a monumental decision was made at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The plant manager, Masao Yoshida, ignored a direct order from his company superiors to stop pumping the sea water that was cooling the reactor. In one act of defiance, Yoshida prevented another plant meltdown, saved thousands of lives, and exposed the troubled relationship between his company Tepco and Japan’s ruling government.

Yoshida’s actions and their aftermath are chronicled in a June 12 article from the New York Times. The piece suggests that the complacency of Tepco and the numerous bureaucrats surrounding the Japanese Prime Minster created a situation that left plant workers to fend for themselves. The move to stop the cooling of the Fukushima plant was not based on reason – it simply had to be done.

Thankfully, Yoshida received only a light verbal reprimand from his superiors. Though they may not admit it, his actions prevented a terrible situation from becoming worse. Masao Yoshida joins the leagues of those who’ve had to disobey in order to do the right thing.

We can learn a lot of useful coaching approaches from Yoshida and from those who came before him. “Deep Throat,” a/k/a W. Mark Felt, helped expose the Watergate scandal by divulging information to the Washington Post. During the reign of the Nazi Party in Germany, many Germans put their lives at risk to help Jews and other minority citizens hide or escape the country. Frederic Whitehurst exposed the inefficiency and lack of investigative rigor in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Today, he oversees the Forensic Justice Project for the National Whistleblower Center.

What can we learn from these defiant heroes? Here are a few takeaway coaching tips:

  • Always do the right thing. Never rationalize destructive or ineffective behavior by claiming, “I did what was asked of me” – that will never be a suitable excuse.
  • If you fear that following your conscience will draw the wrath of your colleagues, consider the consequences of not doing the right thing. Think of how you will feel if you don’t take the risk and stand up for what you believe.
  • Remember that people doing the wrong thing often think they are right. When you follow your conscience, be prepared to face strong opposition with few allies.
  • Doing what you know is right is always, ultimately, its own reward.

When you take responsibility for following your own sense of what’s right, you may save lives or you may simply make things brighter in your own corner of the world. Whomever you are, this challenge is yours to accept.

Fall of a Billionaire

The New York Times ran a story about the FBI’s conviction of Raj Rajaratnam, a billionaire investor and owner of the Galleon Group, one of the world’s largest hedge funds. On May 11 he was found guilty of insider trading with 14 counts of fraud and conspiracy. Even before he was caught, at the height of his success, Raj was already spinning out of control. His abusive business practices were about upend his career and his life.

The case of Raj Rajaratnam shows that spinning can happen to anyone. He’s a business graduate from the prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. His hedge fund once held over $7 billion. He catered to high-profile clients such as the Swiss Bank UBS. Yet this wildly successful investing titan was found guilty of a blatant and serious Wall Street crime.

How can we learn from his example? How can we recognize spinning and stop it before it destroys us?

These important coaching tips may help you stop the spin:

  • Think hard about the consequences of your actions. For example, if you consider breaking a rule or a law, recognize that you would likely be caught and punished. If that occured, what would your life become?
  • Be accountable to colleagues who will remind you to be the person you want to be. Understand that they do so for your benefit.
  • If you are spinning, change your momentum immediately. Talk to a professional counselor, or possibly a lawyer and PR expert. Make amends as necessary and take every action to get your life back on track.
  • Be honest with yourself and with those around you. Denial only worsens the problem.

Raj Rajaratnam made a series of decisions that has cost him his career and years of his life. No one is immune from spinning out of control, but the decision to stop is ultimately your own.

Should I Stay or Should I Sell?

For many entrepreneurs, it’s hard when deciding to sell part or all of their company. The New York Times piece, “Why It’s So Difficult for Entrepreneurs to Head for the Exit,” had a Q&A with, Paul Spiegelman about his reluctance to sell a company he built from the ground up. His story serves as a mirror for those in the same position. For Spiegelman and for fellow entrepreneurs, selling a company often goes beyond a paycheck.

Spiegelman considered handing over his company to investors for the sake of growth and fresh capital. Though he saw the advantage of an outside investor, the possible damage to the brand of his company was too big a risk. For those in the same position, it means looking at yourself as much as you look at your business.

There are some coaching tips to help those who are in the process of making one of the hardest decisions as an entrepreneur:

  • Ask yourself what you want as an entrepreneur. Do you think it’s time for you to move on? Do you have any interests beyond your company you’d like to seriously pursue? Is there more you want to do with your company?
  • Weigh the risk vs. reward of selling part or total control of your company. For instance, it could be useful to have outside investors with useful capital and new ideas. But it also might mean less or no say on company strategy.
  • Consider the doubts about selling. Would you regret it? What would you not want to have happen to your company if you were to sell? Would you feel better leaving it in the hands of a relative? Do you still want to work part-time?

Speigelman made his decision based on what he wanted for his company. In a decision like this, find out your priorities and be confident in your final decision, even if your answer is “no.” Sometimes capital is not a “good enough” reason to sell.

Aspiring for One Career, Choosing Another

A recent article on AOL News called “From Aspiring Actress to Economic Leader, Duke Says It’s ‘Personal’” explores how a person can shift careers out of necessity and wind up happy. Lack of opportunity for employment can force people out of their field, but it’s not always a crisis. Sometimes it’s an opportunity to switch to a more fulfilling and rewarding career. Your old career can be your new hobby, especially if you’re struggling in a competitive and creative field like acting, music, or art.

The article’s subject Elizabeth Duke started as an aspiring actress but was forced to start working in banking in order to make a living. She began as a teller and has since worked her way up to a Governor of the Federal Reserve. This is a great example: if an individual values income over passion, it may be sensible to convert passionate careers with low income potential into hobbies while pursuing a new career path with higher income potential.

Some things to ask yourself before jumping careers:

  1. What are the opportunities in your current passionate career like?
  2. What other careers could you pursue?
  3. What are advancement opportunities in the other career like?
  4. How could your previous experiences in your passionate career contribute to a new career?
  5. In what ways could your current career be pursued as a hobby?
  6. How can you pursue your passionate career and figure out how to make money doing it?

Sometimes life deals us a difficult hand with high unemployment rates in our chosen fields. It’s up to us to turn this into an opportunity preferably still make it work or decide to move onto a new path. I find clients who face the challenge and make their passionate choice work financially gets the highest grade. Compromises are fine too, though, and are a part of smart life choices as well.

What are your thoughts?

JS

The New Collaborative Office Space

A recent business trend has been towards more collaboration among colleagues, and a recent New York Times article “Office Work Space Is Shrinking, but That’s Not All Bad” explores this trend’s effect on the size of work spaces. As companies seek to cut unnecessary spending, they move into smaller office spaces, and one positive result is that fewer walls are present between employees, and space limitations require more shared tables and fewer desks. As a result, the new office atmosphere is much more collaborative, with employees being less tied to their respective desks, and more free to move about and work with others. It’s a very interesting example of innovation resulting from other needs.

This new office atmosphere is much better, both for productivity and aesthetics. Not only will employees be more willing and able to collaborate effectively, but the death of ugly cubicles is a welcome change and makes the office a more warm place to work. Even though the impetus is to cut space and expenses, the shared open spaces can look like modern French cafés with wifi and shared large tables and sitting areas. The atmosphere is more social, less isolating, and fosters connection and communication on projects across departments.

Some additional things to consider:

  • If it’s needed, is there some private space for employees to use temporarily?
  • Similarly, do the employees have private spaces to keep their files, notes, and office supplies?
  • Does the WiFi work easily with different laptops?

The end of cubicles would be a great thing for all concerned. The new office environment is collaborative and interactive, and the new office space should reflect this movement.

What are your thoughts?

JS

Stand Out in a Job Interview

A recent article in the New York Times called “I Asserted Myself and Got the Job” by Marat Gasiev and Patricia R. Olsen demonstrates one of the most important truths about job hunting: you need to stand out from your peers, and the best way to do this is by bringing specific insights and innovations to the interview. Ask yourself: if you were filling positions at a company, who would you be more impressed by: a candidate that answers questions simply and generally, or someone that can demonstrate experience and forethought about your industry?

HR representatives are always on the lookout for people that can bring new innovations to their field. That’s the major draw of hiring outsiders. Before you even apply to a specific job, research the company’s background and brainstorm what new ideas you can bring. As Gasiev reports doing, tailor your résumé and cover letter to each application, rather than relying on a boilerplate to suffice. The more specific, the better.

I have found that applicants who report unique ways of handling a specific job are much more interesting than someone who speaks in vague generalities. Once you have the opportunity to separate yourself from other applicants, demonstrate your familiarity and research by bringing up the innovations you would make. Be careful: you don’t want to sound arrogant, but the more specific and realistic your suggestions, the more you will stand out.

Key approaches to the job search:
1. Research the company behind every job posting before applying.
2. Customize your résumé and cover letter to fit every application you send out.
3. Brainstorm a short list of innovations relevant to your area of expertise that you could suggest the company institute at interviews.
4. At your interview, make a few key suggestions based on your research without seeming smug or arrogant.
5. As you work your way up the interview chain, demonstrate your foreknowledge early so that your interviewees recognize your familiarity with the industry.

Don’t strive for the middle of the pack. Sometimes hundreds of job-seekers apply for one opening; you need to distinguish yourself. The best way to do this is by demonstrating your competency, humility, and creativity.

Do you have any other suggestions? Please send your thoughts.

JS

You Can’t Prevent Disappointment

Nobody likes being disappointed. It sucks. Whether at work or in life.

During the past few days, Tony Robbins, the virtual god of coaching, was suddenly dropped by NBC, canceling his new television show after only 2 episodes. The news was unexpected for a man who takes pride in his effectiveness in helping others be successful. Suddenly, many American people were not interested in viewing the show. Yet he models resilience by still taking pride in the show: “I am grateful for the reach and experience that the specials created.”NYTimes

If you bravely open your eyes, disappointment strikes multiple times every day. It can be when you are let down by a colleague, a customer, a vendor, or yourself. It can be a sale that doesn’t close; a business plan that does not pan; a talk you give that fails to inspire.

I get disappointed all the time as an entrepreneur. For example, when my book was published this past year, with the launch parties and press, I thought that EVERYONE would get interested in coaching. Instead I found that the smaller but steady flow of clients still allowed Full Life to thrive. Also, when I opened the center 8 years ago, I thought thousands would come for coaching. Many did, but it is common for a business person to think huge things may happen right away. My experience is that usually incremental steps do occur. I never like disappointments, but I have learned to see and feel them, and then go on with a great attitude.

Many clients wonder how to develop a thicker skin. You might consider the following steps of how to modify your thinking in order to build resilience:

1. Expect disappointments and failures so you are not surprised when they occur;

2. Pursue life balance so your confidence is not based only at work;

3. Live for your passion and do the things at work you love;

4. Let the warrior in you come out so no one can bring you down; and

5. Persist, persist, persist.

So remember to take pride in all you do and weather the disappointments with courage and conviction. Don’t try to control everything. Keep going and dare to be disappointed and sometimes fail multiple times, tomorrow, and every day.

Let me know your thoughts about disappointment and share this with friends and colleagues who would be interested in this dialogue.

JS

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