Each one of us have priorities and goals. They drive what we do and why. We may not realize we do, but they exist. What are the differences, why are they important, and how are they related?
Our priorities are what is most important to us, and we (must) follow them. They are a guide – more of a strict set of rules, if you will. Priorities are just that, priorities. They should be set in a clear order. Our first priority is just that, number one in our lives. Then move on down the line. If we place something in front of our priorities, any of them, then they do not align with who we are – or our priorities are not truly a priority.
I, like most of us, struggle in this area. This is partly why I am posting this. You see, I have a list of priorities and goals (listed at the end of this article), and I strive to achieve my goals regularly. But, sometimes (often?) I re-align my priorities or goals to meet some other objective. This, then, shows me my priorities are not in the right order – so they are not really a priority.
Priorities are our focus points that ensure we are working purposefully live our lives and achieve our goals. There is a saying that if it isn’t a complete and solid yes, then it must be a whole-hearted no. Why? If you cannot completely agree to do it, if it does not align with your priorities, then you must not entertain it, as this will mess with your priorities, your goals, and ultimately your life. You, your family, your business – your life – will ultimately suffer as a result. With that, if you are married or in a relationship, make sure you and your significant other are on the same page with your priorities and goals. If you are not in sync, your relationship will inevitably fail.
Our goals are what we strive to achieve. Goals may be personal (what we want for ourselves), professional (what we want to accomplish in our careers, businesses, etc. – both for us and our organizations), or family and friend focused (what we would like to do for others). This is not an all-inclusive list, but should get the idea across – our goals are something to attain.
Many businesses or non-profits have missions, visions, and goals, and so do individuals. Most of us have personal or family-focused goals like becoming financially independent, have a healthy marriage, raise successful and happy children, and so on. Some of these we may not even realize they are goals. Just think of what you want to possess, be, achieve… these are your goals. The question you – we – must ask is, are they important and do they align with our priorities.
How are goals and priorities connected?
First, define your priorities. What is most important in your life? List them. I have identified my five priorities, but you can have more or less. The idea here is to understand who you are, what you believe, and hold yourself accountable to them.
Second, identify your goals. These can be life goals, 5-year goals, family goals… whatever goal(s) you want to set. But they need to be something that will take time and effort to achieve. If they can be completed in a few days, weeks, or even months, chances are they are more of a to-do list item. These can change over time, as you accomplish them, as life changes, as you get older, etc. The point is, they should be something you strive and work for over a long period of time.
Last, a story. I used to play Monopoly with my family (oh-so seldom). My wife calls the game the “family fighting game”. Why? Because at some point, someone gains the upper-hand, owns the right properties, and leverages this against another. Sure, this is the point, but a fight ensues. Then, we change the rules (or we just didn't follow them to begin with). We start negotiating to gain or trade properties. But, we certainly didn't do it fairly. Instead of mortgaging the hotels, houses, then the properties, we began selling them just to stay in the game and hope we land on the right spot – but usually the person buying them would give some outrageous price and just own the board. Or, for example, we would agree that if my son owned a property, and gave my daughter “X” amount of monopoly money, that he would not have to pay her the landing-fees for 5 turns around the board. Thus, she could never increase her Monopoly cash stash. In the end, she loses (or I do, because that’s just how it works), and the fight begins – or continues.
They point to this story is to act in an ethical and moral manner. Following your priorities to achieve your goal is no simple task. Taking shortcuts may seem like the easy route, but it will eventually lead to devastation and destruction. We must keep our priorities in line as we strive to reach our goals, in an ethical and moral manner. Otherwise, what is the point.
Below are my priorities and goals. Feel free to use them as a guide. Another suggestion I heard on a podcast recently (sorry, I don’t recall which podcast), was to create a page on your website, visible to only those that have the URL, and save it as your browser home page. That way, anytime you open a new web page, you see your priorities and goals. Here is my oh so “secret” priorities and goals page - Jared's Priorities and Goals. You can also create a screen saver, background, printed copy hung next to your computer… whatever it takes to remind and keep you focused on them both.
What’s the point? This acts a constant reminder to you, of what your priorities and goals are. Does what you are about to search for or do on the internet align with your priorities and contribute to the achievement of your goals? If not, then why are you there?
Ultimately, your priorities and goals should complement each other, not take away from one or another. They should work in a symbiotic relationship towards meeting your goals while keeping in line with your priorities.
A little bit more about your priorities and goals.
My priorities and goals
Until next time…
“You change for two reasons: Either you learn enough that you want to, or you’ve been hurt enough that you have to.” - Unknown
Change is tough. For anyone. It comes in the many forms and may be a personal choice or imposed upon you. Change often appears as bad such as a layoff from a long-term job or falling out of a friendship. But change can also be good, or needed, even if you did not ask for it. It really depends on how you handle the change and what you learn from it.
You see, most people do the same thing because “that’s just the way we have always done it”. Have you ever heard that? The why fix it if it’s not broken mentality only goes so far. Of course, when it comes down to priorities, if it is not hurting, then let it be. But, just because it is not hurting, does not mean it is helping – whatever the “it” is.
Following a process or procedure that adds several layers of complexity for no apparent reason may not directly be hurting anything or anyone, but it certainly is not helping. Yet, because someone 10 years ago, who is no longer with the organization, decided it was a good way of doing things, the process remained.
The premise applies to leadership. What may have worked to get you to a certain position within your organization or in life, does not mean doing the same will take you further. Leading a small team of 4-6, you can be very close to each member, know the names of their pets, spend holidays with them, go to their kids’ birthdays, and so on. What happens when you grow to 25 people? Or, what if you have been the micro-managing leader that wants to know every nuance of every detail and nitpicks every issue? It will be impossible to do the same with a group of 25 as you did with 4.
This is the change that is needed in order to grow as an individual, a leader, and to help your team grow as well. There is a book titled, What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful by Marshall Goldsmith, that discusses this concept, focusing on leadership principles. I highly recommend reading it if you have not already.
So what happens when something bad happens to you, such as that layoff of falling out? It really depends on how you handle it. For many, the layoff is a blow to their ego, which can be quite painful. Many people simply do not have the savings available to sustain themselves while looking for work. Others, it is blow to their confidence. Still, it can be an opportunity to find a new passion in life, the start of a new adventure, the push needed to write that book you have always wanted. Change is difficult, but it really is what you make of it. Change is what makes you – us all – grow.
Jared W. Snow
So, what do you do when you feel like a hypocrite, when your professional life and your personal life seem to contradict each other. You may have heard someone say that a house cleaners house is never as clean as the one they worked on that day or the general contractor’s house is in more need of work than you once thought possible. Shoot, I have had marriage counselors that have been divorced – doesn’t that just seem odd?
I am not referring to the complete double-sided life of proselytizing a drug-free life during the day and abusing drugs at night. I am referring to the issue of being good at leading others at work for example, but struggling to do the same at home.
Well, there are a number of reasons why this could be true. They are burnt out from their day doing their profession and just don’t have it in them to do it anymore (whatever it is). Perhaps they do what they do because they have learned so much from their own life that they want to help others (in the case of the divorced marriage counselor), makes sense right?
(But, shouldn’t our professional and personal life be the same, at least similar, in how we handle them?)
We all learn from the example set before us. We are more likely to follow what we see, rather than choose not to follow what we see unless it completely contradicts our personal and professional beliefs, morals, or ethics. So how do we follow the example of someone giving advice, for example, when they don’t even practice what they preach, so to speak?
The truth is, they (we, you, me) may be sharing advice based on their (yours, my) own experiences of making the wrong decisions. Why learn from your own mistakes when you can learn from someone else’s, right? If you feel like a hypocrite for mishandling one aspect of your life, while doing another very well, chances are you need to reprioritize your life and make sure you are applying an appropriate balance of your time, energy, finances, etc. in all that you do.
To be honest, I have been feeling more and more like a hypocrite lately. Struggling at home while talking and writing about leading others. I know I am not the only one. But, it is time for a change for me. Is it a time for a change for you? What will you do? Please share with me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let’s grow together.
Jared W. Snow
I recently conducted an interview, as a panel member, for a technical position within my organization. The position requires a great amount of technical (IT) skill in SharePoint in order to be successful. I was provided a list of 12 questions the board would ask and use as a basis of evaluation. Each question was specific to SharePoint. In preparation for the application process, a general position description was advertised which contained a clear requirement to understand SharePoint from a developer perspective. In this case, the position was for a SharePoint developer, which is a niche skill. Many of the applicants were technologically savvy, communicated well, but just did not have the knowledge or experience as a SharePoint developer.
There are generally 2 primary styles of interviewing; technical and discussion centric.
This method should be used when the position requires technical skills that must be employed immediately. This could be a sudden vacancy in the IT department, internal financial review office, or other positions that require a specific certification (such as an OSHA hazmat specialist). In these cases, it may be more beneficial to conduct a more technically focused interview.
This method should be used in any case. At a minimum, getting to know the applicant by simply talking will put the applicant at ease, creating more relaxed natural responses. Once the person is relaxed, if needed, get into the technical aspect of the interview. Or, simply talk. Sometimes, it is better to hire someone you can get along with, who is motivated and has the drive and enthusiasm you seek, instead of a highly technical individual.
So, which is more effective?
It really just depends on the situation. Going back to the initial example of the SharePoint developer, we could have hired just about any of the applicants as they were technically competent. In that case, however, we needed a turn-key employee, someone we could hire, help him or her learn how the organization conducts business, and let them do their job. We could not afford to spend the time to train someone to do the job due to other constraints. If we could, we would have trained one of our existing employees.
There are a few questions to ask as you develop your interview process or overall style. First, can the skill you are looking for be developed internally? What skills do you require immediately? What does your organization value? What type of personality are you looking for?
Take this a step further. Why is the organization hiring outside of the organization for an essential position? Organizations should invest time in developing and mentoring their team. Cross-training should be completed at all levels. When a sudden need to hire presents itself, the organization should be able to promote from within. My personal goal is to work myself out of a job through SOP development, training, and automating repeating processes. If I can disappear for a month at a time and my team can carry on without being completely adversely affected by my absence, then I am doing my job. I push my team members to do the same. Many consider this ludicrous as it would seem that I am unnecessary. My job is to lead my team. My job is to motivate and inspire, mentor and train, and provide task and purpose for my team. If a single person becomes the point of failure or the “choke point” where everything stalls out, then the organization is doing something wrong.
Getting back on track and wrapping up, the most effective interview process is situationally dependent. However, I recommend focusing the interview on getting to know the person, and hire the best personality based on your organizational culture. Yes, consider their background, skill, experience, and technical prowess. But much of this can be learned on the job. Character and personality take a lifetime to develop. Which is the better investment for you and your organization?
Jared W. Snow
Goal development is an integral component for personal, professional, and organizational success. Goals drive direction to produce a result. Without a goal it is impossible to know where you are going. It would be like getting into your car and driving without a destination; there is no point in doing so. Now, my wife used to get into her car and just drive without a destination. But in this case, she just wanted to get out on her own and just think. The goal was not the destination, rather the opportunity to process her thoughts.
Have you ever heard someone say that they do not create goals, that way they cannot fail? Maybe even you have said this. The idea is, without a goal there is no chance of failing since there is no targeted result. This is a “wing it” type of lackadaisical attitude towards achieving something. This attitude is often aimed at some form of personal development preceded by a past failure.
The reality is most people create goals (sometimes subconsciously) to accomplish something. “I am not going to do anything today” is still a goal, with the result of accomplishing nothing. People with the idea of “no goal making for me” or often referring to a stretch goal such as a college degree or losing a few pounds. In the work place, this could be increasing sales by 10% each quarter, taking on a new routine task, or improving a process and reducing paper usage.
So we know goals are important, but what is a good goal to set and how is it developed? The acronym SMART has been used to help guide the goal development process. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound. The SMART process is a great way to clearly identify the goal, how to know when it has been achieved, and some important characteristics of the goal.
Let’s define SMART
A goal must be as specific as possible. Instead of losing weight or increasing sales, you want to lose 15 pounds in 3 months by going to the gym 3 times per week or increase sales by 10% in 45 days by contacting 10 more potential clients per week. Some goals are a bit more challenging to specify, but the more clear the desired result is, the easier it will be to monitor and assess. Answer the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, why) to help the goal become more specific.
A goal must be measured otherwise it is impossible to identify if progress is being made or when the goal is achieved. Measuring progress becomes some level of accountability and helps you remain focused on what is important. A measureable goal includes how many or how much and identifies what success looks like. The goal to lose 15 pounds in 3 months could be measured by checking weight loss each month and tracking the frequency of working out. Success looks like 15 pounds lost in 3 months.
A goal must stretch the individual or organization enough to make them work hard, but not so far as to cause unnecessary stress and strain. The goal should be just out of “arms reach.” Too far out and the goal is not likely attainable but too close and the goal will not stretch the individual or organization. An easy goal for someone in sales may be an increase of 10%, a stretch goal may be 25%, and an unattainable goal may be 50%. It is up to the individual or organization to determine what is just out of arms reach. The purpose of a goal is to stretch the individual or organization. This could require more time, training, finances, or a change of attitude.
A goal must be relevant to the person, project, or organizations mission. For example, if an organizations objective is to reduce paper usage across the state by 50% in the next fiscal year, an appropriate goal would be to develop an automated workflow to create and process PDF forms instead of printed forms and increase registered users by 2,000 each quarter.
Additionally, they must be relevant to the individual or organizational conditions. Using the same paper reduction example above, if the cost to become a registered user exceeds the budget of their target audience, then the goal of 2,000 users might not be relevant (or realistic, another “R” word used in the SMART acronym).
A goal must have a suspense. A suspense is the benchmark for which success can be assessed. A lack of a suspense results in a lack of urgency and potential failure.
To wrap it up
Whether you are looking to lose a few pounds, increase sales, or reduce your paper use, a goal may be simple or complex, long in duration or brief, involve an individual or organization. The most important fact to realize is that goals are meant to be achieved.
Jared W. Snow