Most of us start the new year with high hopes and big plans, but by February things have rarely turned out as expected and a lot of people end up feeling demoralized. This is one client’s story of how she went from viewing January as a loss to recognizing how much she had achieved and rekindling her motivation and enthusiasm for achieving her goals.
By the end of January, Jill* was pretty frustrated. At the end of 2016, we had created a strategic plan for the year, which included three focal areas that covered a total of eight projects, both personal and professional. She had determined her top three priorities for January and then… as they do… circumstances got in the way. One partner and two associates left her firm unexpectedly, leaving her, as the practice group leader, with a great deal of extra billable and non-billable work. Then, there were her mother’s heath problems. (Her mother is recovering, but naturally, it was stressful and time consuming). Between those two unforeseen circumstances, January at first glance, appeared to be a waste from a strategy and growth perspective – until we dug deeper.
Like most of us, Jill really prefers to win and finds losses rather demotivating. So, we sat down and looked for the wins. She had some ambitious business development goals that simply didn’t happen. However, she did create significant forward movement in three of her other project areas. The way she did it was different than outlines in her strategic plan, but her actions and the results aligned beautifully with her big picture goals.
Creating a stronger, more collaborative team was one of Jill’s goals for the year; and she made remarkable progress in the context of hiring new lawyers. In the past, Jill relied mostly on recruiters to find good candidates and then she and her team went through a fairly standard interview process. This time, she used hiring as an opportunity to increase collaboration with the other lawyers of her group. She led a two hour meeting over lunch in which they drafted an informal, but still powerful, vision of where they wanted to go as practice. Based on that vision, they then decided what kind of professional experience and personal attributes were essential and which were desirable for the new hires. Following the advice from the book Who by Geoff Smart and Randy Street, they also committed to very rigorous interview process that has been proven to yield much better long-term results. (For more on hiring, read this.) Since hiring is and important element of creating a strong team (not to mention the benefits of creating a shared vision) we declared this win number one.
Another of Jill’s goals was to spend at least 90% of her professional time on activities that (A) she enjoys and (B) which are her strengths. With the drama that followed the partner and associates leaving her firm, she ended up being dragged into all kinds of conversations that that were “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” – and certainly not helping that 90% goal. In service of both her leadership and her time management goal, she deployed a variety of tools and techniques to focus the conversations on actions, next steps and commitments. In the process, she increased her skill at managing people, discovered some insights, and reduced the amount of drama significantly from what would have been predictable without her efforts. Win number two!
On the personal side, one of Jill’s goals was to connect more with family members. Although, dealing with a health problem was not what she had in mind, the situation did prompt Jill to have a lot more contact with family than usual and she was very intentional about making those phone calls and emails as loving and personal as possible, rather than simply dealing with logistics, passing on medical information, etc. Out of her commitment, she and her two sisters are now planning a family reunion for the summer. Win number 3!
Now that you have heard the details, it sounds like Jill had a pretty amazing month, doesn’t it? What about you? How how has the year gone so far? Are you giving yourself credit for all that you do? It may seem unimportant, but without recognizing our wins we don't actually have a realistic perspective on how we are doing.
Wishing you joy and success as the new year progresses.
* Jill, is of course, not her real name. When in doubt, alliteration.