5 Steps to Coaching Your Employees to Success (Based on the Co-Active Coaching Model)

March 14, 2019 • 5 minute read • by Saeed

“While the big events of our lives create the impetus for change, it is the moment-by- moment choices that mold and shape us.” 

― Karen Kimsey-House, Co-Active Leadership: Five Ways to Lead

If you have room in your head for only one nugget of leadership wisdom, make it this one: the most powerfully motivating condition people experience at work is: making progress at meaningful work. And coaching can help your team members experience progress at meaningful work.

To do so, regular communication around development — having coaching conversations — is essential to understand what drives each person.

Unfortunately, many supervisors think they don’t have the time to have these conversations, and many lack the skill. Yet 70% of employee learning and development happens on the job, not through formal training programs. This is an opportunity missed.

Coaching is a powerful experience that creates a resonant connection with another person and helps them achieve something they care about while helping them become more of who they want to be. If there’s anything an effective, resonant coaching conversation produces, it’s positive energy.

Start today to be a more effective manager by engaging in regular coaching conversations with your team members. As you resolve to support their ongoing learning and development, here are five key tips to get you started.

1.      Design Your Alliance

First, design and sustain your alliance. While your role as a coach is not to provide answers, supporting your team members’ developmental goals and strategies is essential. But to do so, you need to establish an environment of mutuality and trust. As a coach, you must know how to work with your team member to empower them. This is a process of ‘co-creation’ where the employee also helps create the kind of coach she needs. Here, you can ask questions like:

  • What are you looking for in me as your coach?
  • If this coaching was to be effective, what would it look like?
  • What is the best way for me to challenge you?
  • How do you want me to respond when you have not completed something you wanted me to complete?

The designed alliance is the co-created space within which the coaching takes place. This space is dynamic and evolving so periodically you can check in on your designed alliance to see how it’s working for you. Just like ground rules you may need to add, modify, or delete some of your agreements depending on how the relationship has evolved.

2.      Listen with curiosity: 

Have you ever had the luxurious and deeply validating experience of communicating with someone who is completely focused on you and actively listening to what you have to say with an open mind and an open heart? What does that feel like? That’s coaching. And listening in coaching may be the most important skill set.

You can open a coaching conversation with a question such as “How would you like to grow this month?” Listen with your full attention, and create a high-quality connection that invites your team member to open up and to think creatively and then follow your curiosity.

3.      Ask, don’t tell.

As a manager, you are used to problem solving. This is fine when you’re clarifying action steps for a project you’re leading or when people come to you asking for advice. But in a coaching conversation, it’s essential to restrain your impulse to provide the answers. Your path is not your employee’s path. Open-ended questions, not answers, are the tools of coaching. You succeed as a coach by helping your team members articulate their goals and challenges and find their own answers. This is how people clarify their priorities and devise strategies that resonate with what they care about most and that they will be committed to putting into action.

There are two main types of questions, OPEN and CLOSED. Closed questions are less useful in coaching because they only promote a “yes” or “no” response. Open questions promote discovery and stimulate thinking. They are therefore ideal for coaching.

Open questions are ones that start with what, where, when, how, and who. Aim to avoid the ‘why’ question which can be seen as aggressive and stimulate a defensive response. There are three specific types of open questions you may find helpful when coaching. They are:

  1. Clarifying questions: “What else can you tell me about that?”
  2. Creative questions. “What if the possibilities were limitless?”
  3. Process questions. “How would you approach that from a different perspective?”

The best way to get someone to self generate ideas and solutions is by asking them, which is why powerful questions are so critical. And powerful questions are the key to helping individuals unlock their own potential.

4.      Forward the Action

Oftentimes in a coaching conversation, the person you’re coaching will get caught up in their own stories.  While it can provide temporary relief to vent, it doesn’t generate solutions. Take a moment to acknowledge your employee’s frustrations, but then encourage her to think about how to move past them. You might ask, “What is it you really want?” or “Which of the activities you mentioned offer the greatest potential for reaching your goal?” Then, when the employee is settled on an action, ask them what action, if taken, would make the biggest difference in helping them advance towards their goal.

5.      Build accountability.

Last, but not least, it is imperative that the employee follow through on commitments. Accountability increases the positive impact of coaching conversations and solidifies their rightful place as keys to organizational effectiveness. If your employee plans to network with other potential business partners, for example, give these plans more weight by asking her to identify specific individuals with dates and times and to deliver this information to you by a certain deadline.

A Final Word

If you want to build stronger bonds between you and your team members, support them in taking ownership over their own learning, and help them develop the skills they need to perform at their peak, try establishing regular coaching conversations.

Coaching accelerates progress by providing greater focus and awareness of choice. It concentrates on where you are today and what you are willing to do to get where you want to be tomorrow. Coaching provides a transformative space for your employee to experience easier and accelerated growth to move them towards their goals. It provides insights and clarity, pattern recognition and interruption, conscious commitment, real time feedback, and accountability.

Join the movement and coach your heart out.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others. 

I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

©2019 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A., CPCC

Communication Breakdown at Work?

April 26, 2018 • 2 minute read • by Saeed

“What we have here is a problem to communicate.”

~ Spoken by Strother Martin (as the  prison warden) in the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke

George Bernard Shaw best summed up the problems that lead to communication breakdowns. The single biggest problem in communication, he said, is the illusion that it has taken place. And therein lies the problem.

Here is a perfect example of what he meant spoken by a U.S. government official: “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant!”


Question: How do you communicate with impact?

Answer: Strategic Listening.  Here is how it works:

Step 1: Put away the smartphone.

Step 2: Suspend judgement.

Step 3: Reflect on what’s being said.

Step 4: Ask open-ended questions to bring people out and get them to expand their ideas.

Step 5: Then restate their ideas to show you’ve been listening.

Step 6: Have a real conversation.

Good luck:)

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Respect is the Currency of Great Leadership. Here are 5 Ways to Earn It and 1 Rule to Remember!

February 9, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed

“Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.”

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

High respect = High performance.

But you have to earn my respect. If I don’t respect you, why should I follow you?

The principle is simple. If people respect you, they will give their 100% to their work. But not 100% of the people will respect you.

That’s because of the 20:60:20 rule.

The rule says that 20% of your highest performing and most dedicated team members respect you already. Then, you have a reasonably high level of respect with your solid citizens (the middle 60%) that are good but not great. As for the bottom 20%, well, no matter how much you try, not everyone will love you. Trying to win the respect of your least productive people is, unfortunately, not an efficient use of time and effort, particularly in today’s time starved business environments.

Leadership is not a popularity contest. Leaders who strive to be liked absent respect, fail as often as authoritative rulers. Respect is earned not given. And if you buy the above arguments, namely that respect is the currency of leadership and that leaders need to at least ensure they have the respect of the 20+60%, then another key question emerges: How can leaders best earn the respect of their teams?

While the answer differs according to context, I have generally observed that leadership respect is a combination of five important factors:

1.      Respect is about listening:

Lean in, share acknowledgment and paraphrase what you hear them say. When you actively listen, you are not thinking about what you will say next. Be with them in the moment. This means that when employees talk with you, show interest and enthusiasm for their thoughts. Leaders who only like the sound of their own voice, never gain the benefit of the many voices around them. No matter how good you are, after a while, people will stop listening if you are not listening to them. Respect is a reciprocal act of listening and communication. By being open to input from peers, colleagues, and subordinates, you broaden your sources of information. By helping others be open to input from each others, you expand possibilities and opportunities to accelerate progress. This is how listening makes you a better leader.

2.      Respect is about accountability:

Successful organizational management necessitates accountability. There is no way around it. In practice, respect must form the foundation of accountability. Accountability is being responsible for our actions at all levels. It is about owning, correcting, and learning from our actions. It is about being transparent. It is also about being aware of the perceptions we create and taking responsibility for our emotional footprint at work (emotional intelligence). When leaders take personal accountability, they are willing to answer for the outcomes of their choices, their behaviors, and their actions in all situations in which they are involved. Accountable leaders are fixers, not blamers.

3.      Respect is about sharing success:

It shouldn’t seem hard. Give credit to others for their success; take responsibility for your own failures; and learn from both. If you are the type of leader who takes the credit for the work of your team members, you are no kind of leader at all. Good leaders share the credit with their teams when things go right and take the blame when things go wrong. Being a blame thrower spreads insecurity and decreases the odds of your employees taking ownership. Sharing credit builds investment in your enterprise by your employees and allows it to flourish.

4.      Respect is about consistency:

Are you constantly sending mixed message? Are you the manager who says she wants ideas from her staff and then proceeds to put down every idea brought to her? Without respect, it’s just harder for you to get shit done. If a leader develops a reputation for being inconsistent in either their words or actions, employees will eventually lose confidence in their ability to lead effectively. Consistency is not a concept; it’s a personal discipline. If you consistently demonstrate your commitment to a desired goal and are willing to invest the necessary time and effort to achieve that goal, people will also notice that and be inspired by your example.

5.      Respect is about walking the talk:

Lead by example. It’s the oldest leadership lesson in the book. Being a role model is about being value driven and being value driven earns respect. Child development specialist and author Dr. Robyn Silverman suggests that healthy self-confidence manifests as pride in who you are and what you’ve learned throughout your life. Show courage when faced with difficult decisions. Demonstrate trust (the cornerstone of all relationships) towards others and take actions to earn their trust. Demonstrate ongoing commitment to excellence. Do everything to the best of your ability; always.

As leaders, we must acknowledge the role we play as exemplars. People are savvy. If you don’t walk the talk, they’ll notice. Earn respect through actions and strong work ethic. To be a trusted leader who earns the respect of others, you must honor your words with actions and care for others beyond yourself (servant leadership). This helps build respect and trust within teams, between peers and colleagues, and ultimately promotes a sense of fairness that is essential to an engaged workforce. Walking the talk is the mark of a true leader and is exactly why leadership is so tough and exactly why there are so few real leaders. When you let promised work go undone, you lose respect and set a bad example. Effective leaders do not avoid responsibility, they do not procrastinate, and they do not under or over commit. If unsure about whether they can commit, they say no to the task and yes to the person asking for the commitment. In this way, leaders provide their own insurance that they won’t let promised work go undone.

 A Final Word…

The organization as collective entity achieves great results not only because of strong sales, growth, operational efficiency and competitive position, but also because of the positive workforce culture and strong values of respect and accountability. This concept applies to everyone in the organization but especially to the leadership who should be held accountable for their actions. Exercising complete respect consistently as a leader enables environments that bring out everyone’s best performance. It is essential for creating economic as well as social value. Leadership is not about being right all the time. It is not about having all the answers. It is rather about acknowledging when you don’t have all the answers. It is about the near-wins, not the wins. It is in the striving and the reaching, the journey, the promise of getting there, and the perpetual self-refinement.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.



©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Let’s Get Over the Fear of Giving and Receiving Feedback

November 29, 2017 • 4 minute read • by Saeed

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” ~ Ken Blanchard

Let’s get real about this.

The workplace is a beehive of feedback whether we ask for it or not. Things like facial expressions, gestures, silence, reactions, etc. give us a sense of how people are reacting to us and/ or our work. Moreover, when we receive direct feedback, much is offered very cautiously because most colleagues want to be supportive and friendly, after all everyone realizes that you will continue to work together after the feedback is delivered. All the more important that the feedback relationship be a productive one.

But feedback is marred by stigma. Employees are afraid all they’ll hear is negative feedback and criticism. Supervisors anticipate a defensive response to whatever they say and however they say it. As a result, feedback is not practiced or incorporated into the fabric of the organization and consequently one of the potentially most effective tools for performance improvement remains underutilized. Most people appreciate and need feedback to improve performance and advance their careers.

So, here are some quick tips to help you give and receive feedback. At the end of this article, I’ll point you to another resource to get an even more in depth understanding of feedback and its role in the modern workplace.

How to Give Feedback

Interpersonal conflict in work teams is inevitable.  Indeed, some level of tension works to feed creativity and motivation.  But when the behavior or attitude of a teammate is interfering with the team’s efficacy, you may find it necessary to provide some challenging feedback.

Below are some things that may be helpful in delivering feedback, especially when presenting difficult feedback:

1.      Choose the right place and time. Offer your feedback in a private, quiet place where your teammate won’t feel embarrassed or defensive. Feedback should be immediate or close to the time of when the task was completed.

2.      Focus on behavior. Discuss how current behavior is causing unintended results. Do not ever make the feedback about personality. That only generates a defensive response. Outline how current behavior is impacting the team as a whole.  Try to be specific and support your ideas with examples.

3.      Create an alliance. Ask permission to offer suggestions or ask if you can suggest possible changes in behavior or attitude.

4.      Mutual reinforcement. Try to explain how both of you might benefit from a change. Try to tie it to the larger goal or vision for the project or the organization. In other words, contextualize the feedback whenever possible to make it a greater learning opportunity.

5.      Make it two-way. Make sure that the exchange is a conversation, not an attack, a lecture, or a reprimand. Do this by asking questions and allowing the recipient to come to their own conclusions or to offer their own ideas.

6.      Be attentive. Give the other party plenty of time to respond and listen attentively. Remember, this is a dialogue not a monologue. Listen for areas of concern or areas where further development, training, and coaching may be needed.

7.      Check your language. Use the pronouns “I” and “We” rather that “you.”

8.      Check your tone. Don’t be the least bit condescending. Don’t get defensive or overly aggressive. Avoid aggressive language.

How To Receive Feedback

Let’s face it, if feedback is critical, it may hurt. We all say we want feedback, but some of us just want validation and not necessarily to know have some work to do. It hurts our ego to learn we are imperfect. Still, feedback must be embraced if we are to get better. Since we grow and learn from honest and constructive feedback, it is important keep in mind the guidelines below for receiving feedback effectively:

1.      Don’t be defensive. Even if the feedback is hard to hear, stay cool, ask honest questions, and process the intent of the feedback before you react.

2.      Listen for the unspoken message.  Sometime you have to read between the lines to find the true feedback.

3.      Don’t listen selectively.  Try to take in the whole of the feedback.  Don’t focus on one statement or one detail that rubs you the wrong way.

4.      Ask follow up questions.  To discover the underlying truth of the feedback you receive, you may have to ask questions that call for elaboration, examples, clarification, and details.

5.      Don’t blame the feedback provider. Unless they are just destroying you, assume an honest intention and recognize that giving feedback is also an art. Not many people are good at it.

6.      Don’t react emotionally. Receiving feedback can be nerve racking so try to stay relaxed.   If you hear something surprising, take time to think it through before you react.

7.      Be receptive.  Establish yourself as a person who will listen thoughtfully to feedback.  This doesn’t mean that you have to accept all criticism, it just shows that you are eager to improve and grow.

8.      Absorb and Act.  Not all feedback is useful but through honest introspection you can decipher those parts of the feedback that will help you find success.  Once you have done this, then set a course of action to incorporate it into your performance.

For feedback to be really effective, it should be woven into the culture of the organization. The ‘constant feedback workplace’ is one in which employees and supervisors learn to interact around feedback to improve performance and productivity. For a deeper dive in creating a feedback culture and making the most of employee feedback, see my recent article titled 6 Criteria for Providing Feedback That is Heard. In the meantime, use the incorporate the tips above immediately into your daily work because feedback is the most promising tool for behavioral change that managers have at their disposal.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.



©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

A Top 10 Roadmap for Socially Intelligent Leadership

August 29, 2017 •  8 minute read • by Saeed

The world is increasingly global.

The world of work is increasingly collaborative.

Learning to navigate work’s new byways and highways is increasingly critical to your success.

In order to lead effectively, today’s leaders need to cultivate social and emotional intelligence. This is no longer a “nice to do” – it’s a leadership requirement needed to get results and advance in any organization.

Social Intelligence (SI) is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal for strengthening your leadership and your team.

Consider this your GPS. Here are the top ten ways to learn to cultivate your social intelligence as a leader and get better results:

  1. Learn to let go of being the expert and having all the answers:The reality is, no single leader (or organization) can possibly have all of the answers. Complex business decisions require the collective input of many stakeholders. Allow yourself to be influenced by the opinions of others. Clinging to the belief that you need to have all of the answers leads to a perception of arrogance from others. Let go!


  1. Learn to listen actively:  Active listening is a skill that involves focus, energy, and commitment. How well you listen has a major impact on your relationship with others and the perception of you as a leader. I am always amazed at the imbalance between talking and listening that leaders exhibit. True leadership is about taking into account the opinions of others. The only way to do so is to listen. Lean in.


  1. Learn to lead sideways not just up and down:Leading sideways means being a leader – and sometimes being a follower.  This is the least talked about form of leadership. It means paying attention to what’s important to your colleagues and looking for ways to help facilitate their goals. It is difficult because you don’t have the same leverage as when you lead up and down. It takes social intelligence to lead sideways. It takes the power of persuasion and the leveraging of relationships – not just your title.


  1. Learn to build personal relationships:When you take the time to get to know someone personally, it becomes easier to build trust, resolve conflicts, lead sideways and generally be more productive. Go out for regular coffee, lunch, or after-hour informal get-togethers.  Stop looking down and dreading teambuilding events and activities or those after-work social events. Learn to embrace the informal opportunities  that can help build relationships.


  1. Learn to Establish trust:See my article “Trust is the Cornerstone of All Relationships.” You can’t be a great leader without trust. Trust is not a benefit that comes simply by virtue of your title. It is earned through relationship building.  Building trust is central to morale, productivity, and employee engagement. The good news is that you can build and maintain trust over time.


  1. Learn to keep your commitments:Part of the trust equation is maintaining your commitments. When you walk out of a meeting or end a phone call, and you say you’re going to do something, do it! Missing deadlines and ignoring the concerns of others is a surefire way to erode trust and respect.


  1. Learn to embrace diversity:This is a fundamental truth: when you get people with different perspectives together to solve a problem, you’re more likely to come up with bolder, more creative solutions. Decades of research has shown that when people work directly with someone with at least one diverse trait, it challenges them and actually makes them smarter and more diligent.


  1. Learn the art and skill of asking questions:If you want catalyzing insights, learn the art of asking powerful questions. If you find yourself bored in meetings, I am willing to bet that the meeting leaders are not asking the right questions or facilitating the right conversation in the right way. When meetings are one-directional, people stagnate. To innovate, use these four magic words that also demonstrate you are a socially intelligent leader: “What do you think?” Yes, it’s that simple!


  1. Learn to resolve conflict:Working with others can be messy and conflict is inevitable. Conflict management is about teamwork, respect, collaboration and negotiation. The best conflict negotiators lead conversations away from the petty issues people can get bogged down in and towards team goals, team interests, and opportunities for achieving win-win solutions.


  1. Learn how to make consensus decisions:Consensus does not mean that everyone must agree. It just means that everyone can live with the decision that was made. Involving others in the decision-making process can harness the collective wisdom of your team, and gain critical buy-in through ownership of the decision. This will speed up, implementation and ultimately result in a better outcome for your project and your organization. Institutionalize it.

Follow these ten tips and you’ll become known as a socially intelligent leader – a leader that helps to produce extraordinary results by leveraging the collective talent of the entire enterprise.

10 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Intelligence and Motivate Your People

May 18, 2017 •  6 minute read • by Saeed

“Emotional intelligence, more than any other factor, more than I.Q. or expertise, accounts for 85% to 90% of success at work…I.Q. is a threshold competence. You need it, but it doesn’t make you a star. Emotional intelligence can.” ~ Warren Bennis, Author and Pioneer of Leadership Studies.

Daniel Goldman’s seminal work on Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence reveals the surprisingly deep impact of our relationships on our personal and professional lives.

Social Intelligence (SI) is the ability to successfully build relationships and navigate social environments.

Certain things leaders do—specifically, exhibit empathy and become attuned to others’ feelings and motivations—literally affect both their own brain chemistry and that of their followers. The good news is that social and emotional literacy is not fixed early in life. If you have a growth mindset and you are willing to put a few simple things in practice every day, you’ll seen reap the rewards of authentic connection with the people with whom you work. Here are 10 ways to enhance your social intelligence.

1.     Recognize that attention is the currency of all relationships: Giving people your attention tell them you respect their opinion and feedback. We live in a highly distracted world. How often do you find yourself talking to someone scrolling through their email on their phone. How do you feel? Lock eyes, listen hard. Give the gift of attention. Be mindful. Be present.

2.     Invest in relationships: Get to know people, really know them, and let people get to know you, really know you. Don’t hesitate to share a story or to talk about yourself in a way that shows something about your character, as context and time permit. Over time, go a level deeper of getting to know your people by investing in some one-on-one time with them, outside of the context of immediate tasks or projects. Understand personalities and motivations. Show heartfelt caring and concern about others.

3.     Smile more often: Facial expressions say a lot. A scowling or stone-faced leader does not say: “I’m approachable! Come, let me know what you need and what’s happening.” Rather it tells those you lead to stay away and don’t bother me. Make the choice to smile more often than not. Let your team know they can approach you by welcoming them with a smile.

4.     Share your mistakes and vulnerabilities: One thing exceptional leaders know is that mistakes need to be recognized. And they’re willing to go first with their mistakes. Approachable leaders open up about the mistakes they have made. They also let their team know where the mistakes have led. By being open about past mistakes, you encourage others to share their trials with you. Doing so allows you to help guide them through the tough times.

5.     Tell more stories: Stories have a great power. They draw people in and they help people remember details. Stories can also help make you a more effective communicator. People are drawn to stories. Stories click with others. And stories create community when done right. Tell stories that encourage your team to be a community.

6.     Get good at chit-chat: Effective leaders are willing to sit down and chat with those they lead. Whether it’s at the lunch table or at the front door or at a community event. When leaders initiate conversations with others they are seen as approachable. They open the doors to conversations. They make the first move so others can feel more comfortable.

7.     Share the glory: You will find there are leaders who hog all of the glory for a job well done. You will also find that these leaders are rarely the ones that have credibility with their teams. Rather, the leaders who share the glory are the ones who are seen as fair leaders and people rally around them. Don’t hog the praise for yourself. Pass it around to the ones who really helped your organization get to where it’s trying to go.

8.     Be relentlessly positive: There are positive people and then there are negative people. Generally, people are drawn to those with a positive worldview rather than those who hold a negative worldview. Having a negative outlook will make others see you in a negative light. Change your perspective and begin to think positively. Share this positivity and others will see you as a more positive and effective leader.

9.     Show your interest in who they are: Heart-Tree-Star, developed by a Microsoft manager who ran training and development for senior executives, is one structured way to think through and communicate about what motivates people. The three-part model goes through three lines of discussion around current passion and enthusiasm, growth and skill development, and personal definitions of progress and achievement:

  • Heart: What do you love doing? What are you good at?
  • Tree: What do want to develop? How do you want to grow? Where do you want to end up in the future?
  • Star: How do you feel rewarded?

10. Communicate like your life depends on it: When you get ideas and suggestions from colleagues or your team, acknowledge them. Ten words or less, such as, “I appreciate the heads up,” or, “Thank you, that update helped me,” does a lot to encourage further information, whereas a ringing silence or lack of response telegraphs apathy, which tends to shut people down. When you decide to ignore input or recommendations, certainly ones you solicited, take a moment to explain. Absent that, people will read their own story into your silence, which may be: s/he doesn’t want my input, so I’m not going to provide it. Consider making extra effort to be gentle with people who are easily intimidated, or less prone to go “toe to toe.” Attention is the currency of relationships but communication is the grease that keeps the wheels moving.

Good luck.

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent post on what babies can teach us about employee engagement.



How To Create Your Own Personal Strategic Plan (a.k.a. Personal Development Plan)

May 1, 2017 • 9 minute read • by Saeed

Companies have strategic plans so why not you?

No matter the technique, any strategic planning process is about getting from Point A to Point B. You do this by first defining Point A (identifying where you are now) and then defining Point B (identifying where you want to be in the future). Then you develop strategies that will be your road map from one point to the next. What follows below is a classic organizational strategic planning technique adapted for personal development.

You’re welcome.

Now, let’s get started. Write down the headings I use below and follow the instructions under each category. Let’s do this.

  1. Vision: the “what”

Your vision statement is your north star – a mental picture of what your future self may look like. As the sun does to a flower, your vision statement should pull you towards your optimal desired future state. It should be inspirational and focused on what you want to achieve over time.

Ikea’s vision is to offer a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.

Amazon’s vision is to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.

  1. Mission: the “why”

Your mission statement should provide a top-level answer to the essential question: Why do I exist?

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.

Having a personal mission statement brings clarity and purpose to your life. Employees often can’t remember the company’s mission statement. That’s because they’re usually all-things-to-all-people word salads. A mission statement should be a concise statement of What you do, Who you do it for , and How you do it. Too hard to write or remember? Try creating a mantra or adopt a favorite quote that guides your personal and professional life.

  1. Goals: the “where to”

A goal is a specific target, a destination, an end result or something to be desired. It is a major step in achieving your vision. Ideally, each goal should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound (a.k.a S.M.A.R.T.).  You could have one or several goals to achieve your vision: lose weight, gain weight, whatever. A charity might want to increase donations by 20% in one year, or maybe increase community engagement through social media by 10% the next. You get the idea. But remember The Law of Diminishing Returns: The more goals you set, the less likely you are to achieve them. One goal distracts from another, leaving you less likely to accomplish anything. In goal setting, quality, not quantity is what counts.

Finally, take your resources into account as well as those things that might facilitate the achievement of your goals or be a barrier to realizing them.

  1. Strategies: the “how”

This is where the fun begins. Each goal should have 1-3 strategies. This is what you will do to reach your goal.  Be sure to separate the things that must absolutely be done this year, from the things that would be nice to have, but aren’t urgent. Save those for years two and three. For now, just think what concrete action or set of actions needs to be taken tomorrow, to reach your goal?

Our hypothetical charity might create celebrity partnerships to support their programs or invest in optimizing the website to increase online giving. What about you?

  1. Key performance indicators and targets: the “how much”

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are used to measure your progress towards your goals. You may have heard the famous management axiom “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Your metrics will ultimately let you know whether or not your strategic plan was effective.

The target is the number you need to reach to achieve your goal. In the examples above, the target is directly integrated into the goal statement: 20% for the increase in donations, 10% for the growth in community engagement.

Let’s look at some examples of personal and professional goals with associated KPIs:

Personal Goals & KPIs:

Goal 1 – Read more: KPI 1 –   # of non-work related books I read each month.

Goal 2 – Exercise more. KPI 2 –  # of times I go jogging each week.

Goal 3 – Play more: KPI 3 –  # of fun things I do every day.

Professional Goals & KPIs:

Goal 1 – Read more: KPI 1 –  # of work related articles I read each week.

Goal 2 – Improve typing skills: KPI 2 –  # of typing classes I attend each month.

Goal 3 – Improve public speaking skills: KPI 3 –  # of presentations conducted each year.

  1. Self-Assessment: the “let’s get real” 

No strategic planning process would be worth its salt without a good Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats  (a.k.a S.W.O.T.) assessment. The first two are usually internal and the second two are usually external.

Printable-SWOT-Analysis-Templates-for-DownloadDraw a grid like the one you see on the left and in the individual quadrants write your:

  • Strengths: the (internal) attributes you possess that will help advance your plan.
  • Weaknesses: the (internal) attributes you possess that will hinder your plan.
  • Opportunities: the (external) conditions that may advance your plan.
  • Threats: the (external) conditions that may hinder your plan.

Strategic inquiry – Now ask:

  • How can I Use each Strength?
  • How can I Stop each Weakness?
  • How can I Exploit each Opportunity?
  • How can I Defend against each Threat?
  1. Putting it all together “the personal strategic plan”

If you did all of the above, you’ve managed to complete a personal assessment, develop a vision for the future, craft goals and related strategies to move towards that future in a systematic way, and establish metrics for your progress. Bravo! Those are all the essential elements of a strategic plan and therefore essential elements of your personal development plan. Now, comes the hard part.

The devil in any plan is always in the execution.

Good luck.

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

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