In coaching situations, I always start with asking the person I’m coaching what he or she wants to accomplish. “Why are we here”? and “What are two goals you want to achieve as a result of the coaching experience?”
I’m often amazed at the lack of precision in people’s answers.
“I want to get ahead at work.”
“I need to be a better communicator.”
“I want more recognition for what I do.”
Or, you may want to propose a project to your manager.
“I think we need to do something to keep our meetings from running so long.”
Few people love long meetings, so your assertion may come across as simply stating the obvious and won’t get any traction. Books and articles on managing meetings offer hundreds of suggestions about how to run an efficient meeting. Which one or ones do you propose?
Make your objective specific and measurable.
The first step toward influencing others to take the action that you want is for you to be clear and specific about what it is that you want to happen and what exactly do you want someone else to do. A few guidelines can help you achieve your objectives. Rather than “I need to be a better communicator,” perhaps your objective should be “I want to overcome my fear of speaking to large groups” or “I need to learn to present my ideas more succinctly.”
I once had a coaching client who wanted to get noticed at internal meetings and events. He worked for a large utility company, and he described his goal in the following manner: “I’m fine in one-on-one situations, but when I’m in a crowd, I feel like the invisible man. When I attend a large meeting at my company, no one remembers that I was there.” His goal was specific enough that we were able to set some specific action items to move him forward.
If you don’t have some way of measuring your success, you have no way of knowing if you are achieving your goals. Perhaps the person who wants to make an impact at meetings receives follow-up emails and LinkedIn requests after a meeting. Or, at the next meeting, someone asks if he is going to be there. He may even be put on a task force by a senior executive who was at one or more meetings that he attended. Decide how success will manifest itself and aim for those outcomes.
Make sure that your goal is consistent with the person or organization’s strategic initiatives.
If the company is in a cost-cutting mode, a proposal to buy everyone a new iPad won’ receive a warm response. Think about the things you want to achieve that will track with the current state of the company. If you want more visibility and recognition, for example, you might propose a way to reward employees and keep morale high that costs little or no money.
Anticipate and address any possible resistance and have a plan to mitigate the risk or other constraints. Further, have at least a rough outline of how to implement your suggestion.
Aim for objectives that benefit the most people.
An idea that is simply good for you without any tangential benefits to anyone else may in fact produce a negative effect when you propose it. Think of ways to benefit others while helping you achieve your goals.
Further, engage allies along the way who might get on board and endorse your plan. At the same time, if your plan may not receive a positive response from one or more people that you know, find a way to get their input and, if critical, modify your idea to make it more palatable to them. Above all, don’t forget to give credit freely to those who help you along the way. People love to see their input in action, and the opposite is true in magnification when they realize that you have taken a brain child of theirs and made it your own.
Achieving personal goals in a diverse workplace with different and often competing agendas isn’t simple or easy, but if you handle the process thoughtfully and altruistically with your audiences in mind, you will, in many cases, meet or exceed your expectations.