Where Are You Going? Three Benefits of Setting Goals.

Communications, Growth

As fall begins to settle in here in the great state of Minnesota, it gets cooler and the leaves fall. We collectively drag out some warmer clothes and bitterly put away those summer shorts and wonder why we do live here year after year. Fall also reminds me of looking forward and sorting out what’s next. You see, despite Outlook for both the office and my phone, Google calendars, a calendar on the fridge, a calendar in my office (you’re getting the idea) I still keep a planner too. It’s nice for me to make notes or change appointments on the go and it’s always with me. As I get ready to order the 2011 planner, I looked back and flipped through the pages of the last year. It’s amazing to see the journey you take in a year. There are reminders of successes, failures, and moments to remember both personally and professionally.

I also set goals in the back of said planner. Some are for the next year and some are significantly longer-term. I recently hit one that I’d set out more than 10 years ago when speaking with the president of the first company I worked for out of school. He’d asked “how will you know if you’re successful in your career? My response was, when my peers and those I respect come to me for thoughts, assistance, or to chat when they hit challenges in their careers. It was an answer rooted in what I saw in my dad growing up as he worked hard but gave freely of his time to try to help others and his profession. It was a surprising moment for me and one that probably wouldn’t have meant much if I hadn’t set out some goals about what I want to achieve and how to do so.

So, as we enter 2011, consider the benefits of goal setting in your career.

1) They provide focus: The process of goal setting is one where you need to stop and think. These goals aren’t just the tactical elements that need to be covered for you team/boss next year but think about where you really want to be in three years. What are the steps you need to take to make that possible? It’s difficult to take time to stop and slow down but it provides clarity to what you truly want to achieve.

2) You have accountability: The simple act of writing out goals provides you with a measurable timeline. You’ve laid out your goal, perhaps some building block goals along the way, and you have a path to guide you. You’re far more likely to meet your goals when they are written out than just saying “someday I want to…”

3) Goals serve as a reminder: When times get tough, which they will, looking at your written goals can provide you inspiration to keep moving forward. The challenges remain but when aiming for a larger goal, you can ride out the ups and downs along the way.

Kids Teaching the Workplace: Three Tips to Getting Along

Business Communications, Communications, Leadership, Life

It’s that time of year again where students of all ages head back to school.  From kindergarten to grad school, brilliant minds are being molded and shaped. So why are office dynamics still so challenging? Why is it that seemingly grown adults still get caught in “I don’t like so and so from marketing, they just have it out for me.”

I wish I had the one solution…I’d be an instant “business guru” making $50k a day on the corporate speaking circuit. (*Note here- I may not be a guru but if you like this post, I’m significantly cheaper that the $50k crowd. Call me.)  Thus, like any good communications professional, I went to my best source.  I asked my wonderful, brilliant daughter to share how people should work to get along.  Her points are brilliantly simple and truly do remind me of the principle of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  Really, after years of study we should all know this but here goes.

1) We get along because we’re one class.  We’re a team.

An honest point and realistic understanding that, unless you’re the CEO, you aren’t going to have the ability to build your team *exactly* as you might like.  Fact is you’re always going to have different personalities, styles, and talents on any team.  It’s not always fun to work with, or for, people who you may not love but the sooner you can accept that life isn’t always a bed of roses the better.  You’ve got your team, the key is to best fit in and make the team better in any way you can.

2) If we disagree, we still get along.

Really? Kids at five and six get this, why don’t we?  Disagreement happens and in the grown-up world it can actually be a good thing.  In my experience, if you never disagree it means that you’re probably not trying hard enough and thinking about ideas that will really make a difference.

There are ways to disagree professionally.  It shouldn’t be a personal issue when someone questions an idea or a particular effort.  Give feedback that will move you toward the ultimate good of the company and accept feedback or questions that do the same.

3)  If we have problems, we talk to the person first.  Then you go to a teacher after you try to work it out.

Seriously, if everyone did this there’d be so much less drama at the office.  It is so much more effective to go to “Bob” in accounting if you’re having an issue than complaining to your boss about Bob. Nobody (CEO’s, Presidents, Exec Directors) likes a crybaby.  If you haven’t even made an effort to professionally resolve a potential issue with a colleague before raising the issue with your boss and making it a high corporate priority you very much risk damaging your own reputation as much or more than that of the person you’re discussing.  Obviously there will be times in your career when higher-level intervention is needed and there are cases when a co-worker is seriously inappropriate and in need of an attitude adjustment.  Just be sure you’ve done all you can reasonably can do to solve the issue directly first before pointing fingers.

I had a blast hearing how simple this all seems to a child.  What else have you learned and what other tips do you have to avoid needless office headaches?

The Miracle of Teamwork


Today, the United States Olympic hockey team will try to win its first gold medal since the legendary Miracle on Ice team of 1980.  A lot has changed in the last 30 years as this team is made up of NHL players and veterans that are far from the college team filled with kids who captivated the country, and many all over the world, decades ago.  However, the game today got me thinking about that team of kids and their accomplishment and in particular about the coach of that team, the legendary Herb Brooks.  The way he built that team is an example of outstanding leadership on so many levels.  One of the keys to their collective success was Brooks belief in teamwork.  It’s been well documented, most visibly in the motion picture Miracle by Disney, that Brooks took a unique approach to creating a team that he believed could achieve more than anyone thought possible. 

How did he do it?  There are a few specific areas that I believe are key.

  • The Right Players- One of the quotes that has always stayed with me since first hearing it was “I’m not looking for the best players, I’m lookin’ for the right ones.”  In creating a high performing team, no matter what the situation, an essential element is getting everyone to buy into the goal and to be willing to fit a role that will best support the team.  I’ve been part of some really great teams and some that probably didn’t really reach their full potential.  When you can get the “right” mix, it’s truly awe-inspiring to see how the efforts of many come together to produce more than the sum of their parts.


  • Egos Are Checked- Another common pitfall for teams, which ties back to understanding roles, is the interference of ego.  Let’s face it, we have them.  We all like to be recognized and viewed as good at what we do.  And, there’s nothing wrong with wanting recognition for good work; but if it becomes the source of jealousy or any member of the team focuses more on their own glory than team it can become a distraction or downright cancer to the success of the team. 


  • Heart- This is one of the elements that you can’t just preach or teach.  Feeling personally connected to a team has to come from each member and it has to be genuine.  For the highest performing teams, in sports or in a professional environment, you have to care about others on the team.  You won’t always be best friends, or even close with everyone, but you have to support them.  You must accept both the strengths and weaknesses of the team members and find ways to succeed together.  Brooks understood this and created a tremendously demanding environment for the team and intentionally kept them at a distance, which was unusual for him versus other coaching efforts, but it strengthened the team.  The team joined together, put differences aside, and became as it worked to reach a far greater goal.

As the United States and Canada meet today, I know that nothing will ever top the 1980 team in my eyes.  I also recognize that the reason that team was so special to me has a lot more to do with teamwork, pride, and courage than just hockey.  It’s about the miracle of teams.


If you want to check out more about Herb Brooks and his work, you can visit http://www.herbbrooksfoundation.com