Regular readers of my blog know that this summer was pretty exciting for me as I had the opportunity to teach at two universities (Brandeis and Boston University) and visit Lagos, Nigeria where I spoke with over a thousand students about innovation and entrepreneurship.
However, the lesson that stands out the most from this summer is that one-time speaking engagements and short-term (3 to 5 day) conferences don’t really ensure nor support meaningful change. It’s great to speak with motivated students and business owners about change and innovation but it can also be quite disappointing if the impact you are aiming for is fleeting.
How many times have you left a seminar charged up and inspired to execute change within your organization only to return to your ‘daily life’ and ‘business as usual’ never implementing the much desired change? I can personally attest that this is something that plagues me and sometimes leaves me pondering why I bother attending or speaking at conferences if it isn’t going to make a difference.
This month we explore how to shake things up and become the game changer you need to be!
We all know that change is hard, really hard, but if you (and I) don’t take the steps required to execute on our dreams, then nobody is going to do it for us. Change is in your hands but it won’t happen simply by attending a few workshops or networking occasionally to make the ‘right’ connections. These are activities that are great starting points but you must take the time to create very specific and measurable goals in order to achieve the vision that you are aiming for.
As a trainer, my desire to have a long term impact on individuals I have the privilege to work with led to the creation of a business card handout used to capture an important SMART goal. It asks ONE simple question: “What SMART goal do you want to achieve in the next 30, 60 or 90 day period (you pick the time frame)?” Plus, there’s space for only four actions to be executed during that period to ensure you don’t become overwhelmed with too many activities that simply won’t get done.
Since I started handing these out at seminars I have been thrilled with the responses I have received. Months later participants in a workshop or talk I gave have come up to me to show me their SMART Goal card and tell me that they carry it around to ensure they actually do what they had committed to. This takes the prize when it comes to my own job satisfaction. Would you like your own card? Feel free to click here to download the SMART Goal Card.
I’ve seen the benefits of follow up in my workshops and in the classes I teach at BU and Brandeis. One example is a course I taught over the summer called the BU Urban Business Accelerator. This is a 10-week course designed to help students gain expertise through consulting with small business owners in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. The students achieve solid experience as they begin to truly grasp what it means to be a small business owner and see first hand the obstacles encountered in growing and maintaining a business. The business owners get support from dedicated, hard working students who research their specific industry (e.g., beauty salons, electronic stores) and help them better understand how they are doing relative to others in the industry and learn how to manage their business by the numbers.
This course, masterminded by a BU student in his senior year, has a unique twist that is at the heart of its success and differentiates its impact and value from other programs. There’s a 24-month follow-up. The program doesn’t end when the course does, unlike most traditional classes and business growth programs. This follow-up provides a chance to review what’s working, what’s not and what midcourse corrections need to take place to ensure the companies are using the new tools provided to them by the students. While we are still in the early stages of gathering this post-initiative data, I am convinced, based on early data collected, that this is a critical element that will help make this program a true game changer. In fact, I believe it makes enough of a difference that I am reviewing other business growth classes that I offer to determine how I can ensure that the lessons taught are lessons executed
Long-term success has a better chance of occurring when individuals measure their success not by the strength of their idea but by the actions they take to directly achieve their goals.
Like a great diet or exercise regime, success depends on what happens when we leave the protected environment of the classroom and return to working IN the business. Without making time to work ON your business and make appointments with that very important VIP – you, you may have had a nice experience but the bad habits return quickly.
Ready to set your SMART goals now? Simply visit the SMART Goals page here on my website for a worksheet to help you define your goals and executable action steps and to download my SMART Goal card.