“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams
It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that in each and everyone of us, there is a potential leader. The difference between John Quincy Adams and yourself however, is the courage to take a step forward and the drive to reach a goal. Do you ever lay awake at night thinking about the promotion you should go for but can’t because you don’t think you would be fit for it? Think again, here are some indications that you are a great leader, and you don’t even know it yet.
1. You are approachable.
If you find yourself giving advice to your friends and coworkers more than you are taking it, it means that they value your opinion and are the go to person for help. Being approachable is an important quality for a leader to have because no one really wants to work for someone without an open door policy. People trust your judgment and confide in you: take pride in that.Advertising
2. You maintain a smile, even when it is difficult.
Maintaining your composure professionally is an excellent trait many leaders have and many companies are looking for. It is important to keep calm and keep the situation under control. If you have found yourself nodding silently and listening to someone who is obviously upset and is screaming at you, then you have more patience than most.
3. You have an open mind.
Keeping an open mind is an important trait when it comes to being a leader. If you have found yourself listening to someone tell you on how to do things more efficiently and take it as constructive criticism, I applaud you.
4. You are straight forward.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where someone is asking for advice and even though you know they do not want to hear it, you give it to them anyways? You don’t sugar coat it and give it to them straight to get the point across. That is a good thing, it may not seem like it to your friend at the time, but it is a great quality each leader has. Sometimes, you will have to hold meetings, give constructive feedback on an employee’s performance and occasionally, let someone go. It takes a tough person to have this trait, be proud of it.Advertising
5. You are responsible, even though you don’t want to be.
There are some of days where it just sucks to live and you want to just lay in bed. You want to stay there, eat your meals there and go back to sleep. Whatever has got you down, you push it aside and you force yourself out of bed because you have responsibilities. You have people counting on you and you have things to get done that will not finish themselves. There are some that don’t make it out of bed, and just push those tasks aside for another day, but not you. This is called being responsible. Leaders need be responsible when no one else wants to be.
6. You treat everyone equally despite how you feel.
Whether it is at work or at school, you treat people equally regardless of your feelings. Being a leader means that you must be able to treat everyone with respect, even if you are having a bad day. If you are the kind of person to leave your personal life’s luggage at the door of the establishment you work or study at, that is impressive. Not many can do that.
7. You are confident but are never afraid to ask for help or support.
Great leaders are not perfect. They are confident in the choices they make but they are not afraid to ask for help if they need it. If you have found yourself stuck in a rut and ask someone else for support, take it as a good thing. You are human and though you may know a lot, you don’t know everything. If you accept this and move on with an open mind, consider yourself leader material.Advertising
8. You find the silver lining, even in the worst situations.
Your energy is irresistible. Everyone needs positive energy to feed off of and leaders of all kinds need to have it. It is important to have this energy in the work place because mistakes are made here and there, but any action taken afterwards can make the situation worse if you let negative energy fester. Great leaders take every situation and focus on the silver lining.
9. You help others without expecting anything in return.
Have you found yourself finishing tasks at work because it needs to be done not because you have been asked? Or volunteering to help someone move just because? Great leaders do things to help others and not expect anything else in return from anyone.
10. You genuinely care about how others are feeling.
Sometimes in life, you find yourself pushing plans aside to listen to someone vent or to be their shoulder to cry on. You are the person that people come to when they want to talk about life and how it is going wrong. You make time for this because you honestly care about how people feel. Great leaders not only try to get to know who their people are as employees but also as actual people. They acknowledge that people have feelings, ups and downs, and need to have someone listen and reset their mind.Advertising
If you found yourself thinking, “I do that” with several of these points, you may just be a leader. All you need is a little confidence and initiative to make it happen. There is nothing in this world stopping you from being what you want to be, except yourself. If you want it, work for it. You already have got the traits of a leader and the world could always use another great one.
Last Updated on April 23, 2019
How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated
Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.
While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.
For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.
While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.
I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.
Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.
Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.
Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.
The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.
Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.
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What Is a Stretch Goal?
A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.
In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.
For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.
This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.
It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.
The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals
The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.
I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.
Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:
1. Get Outside of Your Head
If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.
If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.
I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.
Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.
2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time
When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.
I see this in so many areas of life:
When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.
In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:
“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”
Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.
3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting
When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.
The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.
For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.
We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.
From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.
When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.
Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.
4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals
is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.
While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.
Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.
For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.
By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.
5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts
I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.
When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.
One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.
Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.
I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.
A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.
As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.
From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.
The Bottom Line
These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.
For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.
More Articles About Goals Setting
- How Setting Personal Goals Makes You a Greater Achiever
- How SMART Goal Setting Makes Lasting Changes in Your Life
- How to Set Goals and Achieve Them Successfully
- How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life
Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com
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