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Find Difficulty In Achieving Your Goals? You Should Adopt This New Way Of Thinking

Find Difficulty In Achieving Your Goals? You Should Adopt This New Way Of Thinking

Do you have a major goal in your life that you are trying to achieve, but you are stuck in a rut as to how to get there? Have you broken down the steps needed to reach this goal? Sure, you probably have. Yet, you may be unsure about how to get started. The problem may lie in the way you look at your goals. You may be looking at the steps as problems to overcome instead of solutions to reaching your goal.

If you can change your mindset and start looking at goals as solutions, science has shown that you can develop more creative ideas. In the 1980s, business professors at Stanford University started teaching a relatively new business concept called Design Thinking. Design Thinking in business is intended to help businesses research and develop new products for customers based on their needs.

Design Thinking is based on five steps. They are:

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1. Empathize: This requires the researchers to fully understand the experiences of the person for whom they are designing the solution. It’s done through observation, interaction, and working side-by-side to learn their problems.

2. Define: This step is where the researchers process the results of their findings in the first step in order to find a point of view to address with the design of the product or solution.

3. Ideate: Now, the researchers will brainstorm and work to develop numerous different possible solutions. They should be as diverse as possible to allow the researchers to step outside the box and explore many original ideas.

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4. Prototype: Here is where researchers take their best ideas and develop them into physical solutions. Perhaps it’s a new product or service. This will be delivered to users in the last step.

5. Test: Of course, after developing the prototype solutions, the researchers must test them with the users they empathized with. Testing includes feedback on results to refine and improve the prototypes. It even includes learning more about the user and possibly adjusting your definitions even more to perfect your solution.

So, now that we know how businesses use Design Thinking, how can you use this mindset to accomplish your personal goals? One writer recently used Design Thinking to help her lose 25 pounds. It can also be used to find a life partner, a new job, go on that dream vacation, start a new hobby, or whatever goal you truly have.

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Let’s take one of those goals from above and talk about how Design Thinking can help you achieve it. Imagine with me that your goal is to find a new job. We’ll go through the steps to see how we can accomplish that goal.

Empathize: Why do you want a new job? If you’re not working currently, that’s an easy question to answer—you need to make money. If you are currently working, what is it about your current job that makes you want to find another? Is it better compensation and benefits you’re looking for? Is it a better environment, or do you want a more rewarding work experience? Understanding the reason why you truly want a new job will help you in finding it. The key is to start asking yourself why you want this and what it would accomplish for you.

Define: After asking yourself these questions, here comes the hardest part—defining which answer is the real reason. Maybe you are disappointed with the money you’re getting paid, but the real root of the problem is that you are bored with your job and you need a new challenge in a new field. The point is, this where you find the true answer to those why and what questions.

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Ideate: If you decide that you need a new challenge, and you’re not getting that through your current employer, you need to start formulating ideas of what potential employers can provide you with those opportunities. Start making a list of those companies and the positions you want. Be as radical as you can here to make sure you think of the best ideas. Changing jobs is not a minor decision to make.

Prototype: In our case here, this may seem hard to do. In reality, it’s not. Imagine the job you want. Create it in your mind and then develop a model of it at home or at another location outside of your current place of work.

Test: Now, try doing that job and record the results. Does it increase your happiness? If yes, then start pursuing that new job in the field you want until you find it. You may even need to use Design Thinking to land that interview with the specific company you want to work for. If your answer to the happiness question is no, then you will need to return to step two and make sure you have defined the true issue and continue from there until you get a yes.

By using the Design Thinking method, you are able to better understand your goals, why they mean so much to you, and you instantly become more creative in figuring out ways to achieve them.

Featured photo credit: Paxson Woelber via flickr.com

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Last Updated on October 21, 2019

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination, is a reminder of why I am so drawn to leadership as a topic. Whenever I think it is impossible for me to be more impressed with her, she proves me wrong.

Earlier this week, a former marine suggested that he had been in a long-term sexual relationship with the Senator. She flipped the narrative and used the term “Cougar,” a term used to describe older women who date younger men, to reference her alma mater.

Rather than calling the young man a liar, or responding to the accusations in kind, she re-focused the conversation back to her message of college affordability and lifted up that “Cougar” was the mascot for her alma mater. She went on to note that tuition at her school was just $50 per semester when she was a student. Class act.

But by the end of the week, news broke that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, another contender for the presidency, had a heart attack. Warren not only wished Sanders a speedy recovery but her campaign sent a meal to his staff. She knew that the hopes of staff, donors and supporters were with the Senator from Vermont and showed genuine compassion and empathy.

To me, she has proven time and time again that she is more than a presidential candidate: she belongs in a leadership hall of fame.

What makes some people excel as leaders is fascinating. You can read about leadership, research it and talk about it, yet the interest in leadership alone will not make you a better leader.

You will have more information than the average person, but becoming a good leader is lifelong work. It requires experience – and lots of it. Most importantly, it requires observation and a commitment to action. Warren observed what was happening with Sen. Sanders, empathized with his team and then took action. Regardless of the outcome of this election, Sanders’ staff will likely never forget her gesture.

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You would have had to work on a political campaign in order to appreciate the stress and anxiety that comes with it. In this moment, staff may not remember everything that Warren said throughout the lengthy campaign, but they will remember what she did during an unforgettable time during the campaign.

If this model of leadership is appealing, and if you are searching for how to up your own leadership game, read on for six characteristics that good leaders share:

1. Good leaders are devoted to the success of the people around them.

Good leaders are not self-interested. Sure, they want to succeed, but they also want others to succeed.

Good leaders see investing in others just as important as they see investing in themselves. They understand that their success is closely tied to the people around them, and they work to ensure that their peers, employees, friends and family have paths for growth and development.

While the leaders may be the people in the spotlight, they are quick to point to the people around them who helped them (the leaders) enter that spotlight. Their willingness to lift others inspires their colleagues’ and friends’ devotion and loyalty.

2. Good leaders are not overly dependent on others’ approval.

It is important for managers to express their support for their teams; good leaders must be independent of the approval of others. I explained in an article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, that:[1]

“While a desire to be loved is natural, managers who prioritize approval from subordinates will become ineffective supervisors who may do employees harm. For example, a manager driven by a need for approval may shy away from delivering constructive feedback that could help an employee improve. A manager fearful of upsetting someone may tolerate behavior that degrades the work environment and culture.”

In yet another example, a manager who is dependent on the approval of others may not make decisions that could be deemed unpopular in the short run but necessary in the long run.

Think of the coaches who integrated their sporting teams. Their decision to do so, may have seemed odd, and even wrong, in the moment, but time has proven that those leaders were on the right side of history.

3. Good leaders have the capacity to share the spotlight.

Attention is nice, but it is not the prime motivator for good leaders. Doing a good job is.

For this reason, good leaders are willing to share the spotlight. They aren’t threatened by a lack of attention, and they do not need credit for every accomplishment. They are too focused on their goal and too focused on the urgency of their work.

4. Good leaders are students.

In the same way that human beings are constantly evolving, so too are leaders. As long as you are living, you have the potential to learn. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge you think you have; you can always learn something new.

I have the experience of thinking I was doing everything right as a manager, only to receive conflicting feedback from my team. Perhaps my approach was not working for my team, and I had to be willing to hear their feedback to improve.

Good leaders understand that their secret sauce is their willingness to keep receiving information and keep learning. They aren’t intimidated by what they do not know: As long as they maintain a willingness to keep growing, they believe they can overcome any obstacle they face.

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As both masters and students, good leaders read, listen and study to grow. They consume content for information, not just entertainment purposes. They aren’t impressed with their knowledge; they are impressed with the learning journey.

5. Good leaders view vulnerability as a superpower.

It means “replacing ‘professional distance and cool,’ with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure,” said Emma Sappala in a Dec. 11, 2014, article, “What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable” for Harvard Business Journal.[2] She went on to note the importance of human connection, which she asserts is often missing at work.

“As leaders and employees, we are often taught to keep a distance and project a certain image. An image of confidence, competence and authority. We may disclose our vulnerability to a spouse or close friend behind closed doors at night but we would never show it elsewhere during the day, let alone at work.”

This rings so true for me as a woman leader. I was raised believing that any show of emotion in the workplace could be used against me. I was raised believing that it was best for women leaders to be stoic and to “never let ‘em see you sweat.” This may have prevented me from connecting with employees and colleagues on a deeper, more personal level.

6. Good leaders understand themselves.

I am a huge fan of life coach and spiritual teacher Iyanla Vanzant. In addition to her hit show on the OWN network, Vanzant has authored dozens of books. In her books and teachings, she underscores the importance of knowing ourselves fully. She argues that we must know what makes us tick, what makes us happy and what makes us angry.

Self-awareness enables us to put ourselves in situations where we can thrive, and it also enables us to have compassion when we fall short of the goals and expectations we have for ourselves. Relatedly, understanding ourselves will allow us to know our strength. When we know our strengths, we will be able to put people around us who compliment our strengths and fill the gaps in our leadership.

Final Thoughts

Being a good leader, first and foremost, is an inside job. You must focus on growing as a person regardless of the leadership title that you hold. You cannot take others where you yourself have not been. So focusing on yourself, regardless of your time or where you are in your career will have long term benefits for you and the people around you.

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Further, if you want to become a good leader, you should start by setting the intention to do so. What you focus on grows. If you focus on becoming a better leader, you will research and invest in things that help you to fulfill this intention. You will also view the good and bad leadership experiences as steppingstones that hone your character and help you improve.

After you set the intention, get really clear on what a good leader looks like to you. Each of us has a different understanding of leadership. Is a good leader someone who takes risk? Is a good leader, in your estimation, someone who develops other leaders? Whatever it is, know what you’re shooting for. Once you define what it means to be a good leader, look for people who exemplify your vision. Watch and engage with them if you can.

Finally, understand that becoming a good leader doesn’t happen overnight. You must continually work at improving, investing in yourself and reflecting on what is going well and what you must improve. In this way, every experience is an opportunity to grow and a chance to ask: ‘What is this experience trying to teach me?’ or ‘what action is necessary based on this situation?’

If you are committed to questioning, evaluating and acting, you are that much closer to becoming a better leader.

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Featured photo credit: Sam Power via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Chronicle of Philanthropy: Why Good Managers Overcome the Desire to Be Liked
[2] Harvard Business Journal: What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable

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