Business Planning for the Business of You

Jan 22, 2019

Did you know that it’s National Get Organized Month? It seems to fall at an appropriate time of the year, with countless “new year, new you” social media posts, an onslaught of new members at your local gym and the never-ending New Year’s resolutions. We often take the time to start fresh in our personal lives, with hope of sustaining change for the entire year. But many of our goals of change fall short of expectations because we’re often trying to make drastic changes without real planning.

What about our careers? We all aspire to reach new plateaus professionally, but are we actually organizing ourselves to succeed? Let’s face it – if you’re looking to make a business case to open a satellite office in a new area, but the only research you’ve done was talk it over with some guy on your recent flight home from Vegas, you may not be totally organized. So let’s get that sorted right now, in January.

Getting it together

Here are some tips that might help you organize your professional goals:

  1. Write down your goals. This might be the “old man” in me, but I find it to be extremely helpful to physically write down goals I’d like to work towards. After I write them down, I take a week or two to think about them, then I begin to prioritize them. It’s business planning for the business of…well, me. Some goals will require more capital in the form of time or commitment (like studying for a designation); others will be reliant on the completion of other tasks (like preparing a presentation to deliver at conference); and others are easily obtainable (like getting CE credits). Unless you have a great memory, you should write your goals down.
  2. Organize your stakeholders.  In my experience, very few professional goals are conquered alone. For example, adopting new technology at your firm typically involves a group of individuals collaborating for weeks or even months to figure out the “right” solution, and that’s before it even gets budget approval. Taking the time to set sights on your (or your team’s) vision, then organizing the appropriate stakeholders to get to your goals is key. Also, when building out your list of stakeholders, resist the temptation to only include people who see your goals the same way you do. Just because they don’t see your goals the same way you do, it doesn’t make them an unreliable resource. I recently read a book called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – the second dysfunction is fear of conflict. When selecting people who can help you reach your professional goals, don’t be afraid of a little conflict.
  3. Make some of your goals fun. Professional goals can sometimes be rigid, but there is always some room to mix business and pleasure. Take business travel. I’ll admit that I sometimes cringe at the thought of going to Wisconsin in February, so I’ve made it a point to incorporate something fun (an activity, a restaurant or a landmark) while I’m out there. At home, my wife and I bought our daughter a puzzle of the United States, so whenever one of us is traveling for business, we’ll put the puzzle together with her and highlight where mommy or daddy are working. It’s a small gesture, but it’s kind of cool to make travel a family activity.

Goal-setting means different things to different people. And we all have different objectives for the year, both personally and professionally. Make sure that you know exactly what achieving your goal(s) actually looks like and ask for help when you need it.

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