"setting goals"

Tue 21 January 2020
Participating in mentor relationships is extremely valuable and can open up opportunities for both professional and personal growth. 

But what happens when we don’t do the things we said we would do in our previous meeting or the person we are mentoring doesn’t accomplish what he said he would do the previous meeting?

You are faced with a crossroads. If you didn’t accomplish your goal, were you too ambitious with how you would spend your time or did you drop the ball? Can you be honest with yourself to recognize where you messed up?

If the person you are mentoring didn’t accomplish his goals, why did this happen? Do you feel comfortable with applying enough pressure to show that you care but not so much that you turn the person you are mentoring off? 

This article covers some helpful tips towards building a mentor relationship that is healthy and productive.

Set expectations upfront

When setting goals in a mentoring relationship, it is extremely important that you both set expectations. If you don’t put on guardrails for tasks not getting accomplished, the relationship has a high likelihood of fizzling out because if there isn’t accountability for the goals set in the relationship, there likely isn’t much accountability for the relationship overall.

It is great to set goals that are months or years away but the problem with this is that it is difficult to assess of you or the person you are mentoring is on the right track. Ideally, once you set a longer term goal, you set goals for you to accomplish between meetings that create a path towards your end goal. 

If you don’t accomplish these tasks between your mentor meetings, it is important for you to assess what is realistic and what might be too ambitious.

Challenge with questions not statements

If your mentor or the person you are mentoring doesn’t achieve his goals, it might be tempting to be frustrated. In a mentor relationship, you are investing your energy in seeing this person succeed. If they can’t accomplish the tasks they set for themselves, it can feel depleting or frustrating.

The key to properly challenging the person you are mentoring to ask poignant questions that help them come up with solutions. Saying things like “you need to do this...” or “I can’t believe you didn’t get that done…” doesn’t help you and may turn the person you are mentoring away. 

Asking questions like “since you weren’t able to accomplish this, is there something you can do this week/month to help you get back on track?” or “do you feel like you can still accomplish your goal even though you missed your task this week?” or “if you aren’t able to achieve your goal, what will be the outcome of that?” 

Once the person you are mentoring has answered these types of questions, the number one most important question to ask is:

How can I help you?

This shows empathy and your accountability to them achieving this goal.

Reevaluate the goal for changes

You or the person you are mentoring may determine that the goal set initially is not as important as it once was and that there is a new goal that has taken precedence.

This is completely fine and normal!

The key to properly handling this situation is sharing this information with your mentor. They will support you in this transition because they care about you accomplishing your goals, not that the original goal gets accomplished.

You aren’t letting your mentor down by changing your goal but you are letting your mentor down if you don’t share this new goal with him.

As a mentor, you can ask the question “is this still the most important goal on your plate?” or put another way “what is your biggest concern with the work you are doing right now?” Sometimes it is easier to answer questions about concerns than goals and prioritize them because people are more willing to do things to avoid pain than gain pleasure.

Overall, when it comes to mentor relationships and holding people accountable, it is key to be transparent, create protocols for not accomplishing tasks on the way to a goal, and be empathetic.

If you are interested in learning more about research on mentor relationships for companies, check out https://ambition-in-motion.com/companies.

Fri 20 December 2019
Jon, a tall, strong, lumbering man was recently hired to cut down trees for a wood-burning energy company. On Jon’s first day, he cut down 8 trees (a pretty impressive amount). On his second day, he cut down 6 trees (still pretty good). On his third day, he cut down 5, on his fourth day 4, and by the end of the week he could only cut down 2 trees.


Jon went to his boss, Steve, and said: “I apologize but I must be getting weaker.”  


Steve replied, “When is the last time you sharpened your ax?”


Jon responded, “I haven’t had time to sharpen my ax because I have been so busy cutting down trees.”


You may be thinking to yourself, “obviously Jon needs to just sharpen his ax and he’ll be able to cut down as many trees as he did on day 1.”


But is it really that obvious? When is the last time you sharpened your ax? The ax is a metaphor for time management in this story. It is really easy to judge and know the “right answer” for how everyone else should manage their time, yet, many of us wonder why we are never able to complete our own to-do lists.


Stories are engaging and become more real to us the more they relate to our lives. So while not everyone reading this blog may be a tree cutter, you can definitely relate to the trials and tribulations of getting everything done on your to-do lists.


You might be thinking to yourself “well I already take the time to create a to-do list so I am good.”


Merely creating a to-do list is not enough to properly manage your time. If it were then getting everything on your to-do list complete wouldn’t be an issue and you wouldn’t have read this far. We know that when a to-do list is too long, it can cause us to drown and feel like we are under a never-ending pool of things to complete. We create solace with never completing our to-do list and justify never completing the list.


But what if, instead of just creating a to-do list, you instead create a story around every task on your to-do list? Just like the story about Jon the tree cutter engaged you enough to read this far, having a story around every task on your to-do list helps you stay engaged on the tasks you need to get done.


Not only do stories help you stay engaged, but they help you prioritize your tasks as well. If you create a narrative for your day or your week or your month (or even year!), you can create a path to success.


Sure, you may want that promotion (award, ribbon, raise, acknowledgment from peers and supervisors, family progress, or anything else you define success as) at the end of the year and sure, you may have thought of some milestones (i.e. tasks on your to-do list) that will help you achieve those outcomes, but what is your narrative for how all those tasks will get done? What sacrifices are you willing to take to make your story happen?


When you create a story for yourself, you create a picture for what you can realistically achieve. Since you are the only person who knows what you are truly capable of, you know that your story will be feasible since YOU wrote it!


So stop reading this article, go to your to-do list, and begin writing a story about each task. You will realize that your to-do lists turn into already-done lists quicker than you ever imagined.


And if you were curious, Jon ended up sharpening his ax by sharpening his mind and realizing that burning wood is a very unsustainable way of producing energy. Jon created a story for himself and enacted windmills all over his community and is powering his town sustainably.
Fri 1 November 2019
Mark Twain once said, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” This sentiment that Mr. Twain held remains true to this day, but can be very difficult to uphold.


For college students thinking about life after graduation, it is very easy to fall into the trap of settling for the safety net of the first job offer they receive after school. This is not to say that the first job offer that a student receives through their career development process is not of their highest ambitions. However, with the conditioning that a typical college student faces from his parents, friends, professors, and the media, it is easy to understand how students can find themselves afraid to pursue their true dreams.
 

  1. The conditioning is bullshit


Conditioning in this sense is the feeling that one must take an action because an external stimulus is influencing that behavior. Some examples of this include pursuing a career only because it relates to your major, not pursuing a career because you didn’t have a high GPA, not considering a company because it doesn’t come to your university to recruit, or not pursuing a company because you don’t feel like you are good enough or have the appropriate credentials.


I was running an Ambition In Motion workshop where we recommend companies to students that align with their strengths, interests, and work environment desires. When one of the students was informing the group of his recommended companies he said:


“All of my recommended companies are amazing but I don’t think they are realistic for me.”


I followed up to him by asking, “Why not?”


He then proceeded to list off all of the conditioning he has received throughout his collegiate years. He didn’t have a high enough GPA. The company didn’t recruit at Indiana University. He didn’t have any connections to anyone at the company.


In response I told him, “Dream big! You are just as human as every other college student that is about to graduate. You don’t have to lower your aspirations because of what other people around you have told you. Your dreams are just as valid as anyone else’s. Through Ambition In Motion, you will learn how to build relationships with professionals at your recommended companies. Who knows what will occur from there, but if you don’t put yourself out there, you will relegate yourself to settling for whatever job offer comes to you.”
 

2. Your dreams and goals are valid

 
When it comes to deciding your career, don’t be afraid to think big! Almost every college student has a similar amount of career experience, give or take an internship or two. That is to say, not that much.


Sure, some universities have more companies recruiting at their career fairs and career development offices. This doesn’t guarantee students at those universities jobs at those companies. It also doesn’t mean students outside of those universities are precluded from those jobs. It just means that students, regardless of their universities, are on an even playing field when it comes to pursuing their dream jobs. Everyone is capable of getting their dream job if they put themselves out there and build relationships with people at their desired companies.


3. Careers are not predetermined

 
If your career was predetermined by your degree, university, GPA, or other conditioning factors, why would we even apply to jobs? To put it another way (and to keep with the season of March Madness), if the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament had a predetermined winner, why would we fill out brackets?


Mr. Twain’s belief about not surrounding yourself with people that belittle your dreams and goals is very important advice that every college student should keep in mind. College students should surround themselves with people that support their goals and ambitions.


Limiting beliefs are only limiting if you believe them. Dream big and pursue the career and life that you would be jealous of.

Fri 6 September 2019
What you think of yourself vs what others think of you could be like the difference between a horse and a seahorse. Why does it matter how well we know ourselves? What can we do to get a greater understanding of what others think about us? How do misperceptions of oneself even originate?


Self-Awareness is at the heart of emotional intelligence. The better you know how others perceive your actions, the easier it is for you to cater your communication in the way you want to be perceived. How others interpret you can be based on what you say to what you do to how you look. For example, Jay Cutler (the quarterback for the Chicago Bears) gives the impression that he doesn’t care when he plays football and many would care to argue that this is because of his face. Jay Cutler has a bad case of RBF (Resting Bitch Face) which turns people off and causes people to not like him, regardless of whether he is a likeable guy. If Jay Cutler made more of an effort to smile more, people would probably like him more. The point of this example is to convey that how self-aware you are can directly impact how well others like you.


Impressions are created in seconds, whether that is what you heard about somebody, saw in or on somebody, or what you perceive about somebody. Self-Awareness is the ability to understand what people think about you and emotional intelligence is the ability to cater your communication through language, body, and perception to the message you would like to embody.


It matters how well we know ourselves because the more self-aware we are, the happier we will be. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses and learning where your place is based on those strengths and weaknesses is paramount to finding the place where your perceptions meet reality. If you have an unrealistic perspective of yourself, you will consistently be disappointed because you will expect to be treated in a certain way and consistently not receive that response.


We gain a greater understanding of ourselves by listening to the feedback of others. The biggest difficulty people have with this sentence is the word “listening”. Humans possess an inherent drive to not admit our flaws. It is natural for people to get defensive when a flaw is pointed out because to us, flaws are a sign of vulnerability. What most humans don’t understand is that other humans like when people can admit their own flaws. For example, many comedians are extremely successful because they can make fun of themselves. Kevin Hart is hilarious because he fully understands how short he is and all of the downfalls (and silly upsides) to being short. People see this vulnerability in another person and it makes them comfortable to be vulnerable themselves.


Misperceptions of oneself build when we see an idealized version of what we think we can mold ourselves into. For example, many university business schools inform their students that employers are looking for students who have strong work ethic, listening skills, and communication skills. Many students, with the desire to eventually get a job from such an employer, tell themselves that they are strong in all of those skills (whether or not they have worked to develop those skills). When those “aspirational” strengths become so encoded into one’s mental view of ourselves, we build an unrealistic idea of how people perceive who we are.


Ambition In Motion is a company that helps young professionals develop key soft skills, emotional intelligence, and self-awareness. Ambition In Motion helps young professionals gain a realistic idea of what it means to be in the working world and helps unite a company’s business goals with a young professional’s personal goals. These skills directly correlate to higher job satisfaction, productivity, and retention.

Fri 16 August 2019
A goal without a plan is a wish. Is this common sentiment true? Is it impossible for us to achieve a goal that we never planned for?


The ability to set goals equates to an ability to possess control of the outcomes of your situation.


If you are in a job and think to yourself “I hate this job and would be more than willing to accept an offer from another company” but don’t do anything to get an offer from another company, how do you really expect to get another job? Your complaint falls on deaf ears. I have interviewed roughly 100 recent graduates in the past year that are seeking new jobs and about half of them aren’t doing anything to actually “seek” a job. In fact, the closest they got to “seeking” a job was telling me in that interview that they were probably seeking for a new job. I then follow up to ask them “how long have you felt this way?” and the response is typically at least a month to sometimes at least a year.


Why? Your career is typically one of the most prominent sources of professional aspirations. Why are young professionals so complacent in being unsatisfied? Rather, once they realize they are unsatisfied, why is there not a process of setting and achieving goals to get out of that unsatisfaction?


Actually seeking a new career is hard, takes time, and typically isn’t fun. The irony of getting out of a bad job situation is that you have to work even harder outside of that job to find a new one. The issue is that most people enable themselves to not work as hard outside of their job because of the stress they receive from their job. Then, through some random job opportunity (a friend mentioning it, a random email, etc.), you jump on it like it’s the gold rush without thinking “is this job in fact better than my old job?”


Part of goal setting, especially in a professional environment, requires self-awareness. Working to better understand yourself should be the first plan to achieving any professional goal. Taking the time to write down what you like and don’t like (in this example, in your job) is vital to understanding what your next move will be. This takes time and may even require the help of your peers, close friends, and family to inform you of what you like to do and what your strengths are. This is because sometimes you are so deep into what you are doing (and what you think you should be doing) that you can’t see the forest from the trees. From there you can analyze what jobs you think you might like and then reach out to people actually doing those jobs (LinkedIn is great for this) to get better insight on what the job is like. When reaching out to those people, don’t ask whether or not they like the job because that depends on their personality and work style and how that meshes with their work opportunities. Their work style is completely different from yours so their feelings about the job should be irrelevant to you. Questions like “is the work autonomous or structured?” are better because they are not as subjective.


This is just an example of setting a plan to achieving a goal, but the point is that it pays off to plan and not let things come at you as random happenstance.

Building Mentor Connections Through Work Orientation

Kickstarting Mentorships For Fulfilling Careers