Are Your Goals on Target?

“You are aiming too high.  You are not lining up the front and rear sights of the barrel.  Now you are just waiting too long and the target is out of reach.”  This was just some of the advice that was filtering through my noise-cancelling earmuffs while shooting with my son in Montana. What do you know—shooting clay pigeons (and you were worried I was shooting live animals) is a lot like setting SMART Goals!  Here are just a few ways SMART Goals are similar to blasting clay pigeons out of the air:



I was doing a horrible job lining up the front sight bead with the rear sight bead of the shotgun barrel (probably because the darn thing was way too heavy for me); therefore, my shots were all over the place and not hitting my targets.  In my SkillPath classes I teach that you are never going to hit your target (goal) if you do not have a clear and specific idea of where you are aiming.  For instance, saying, “I want to grow my business,” is very different than saying, “I will attain six new clients for my consulting business.”  The later is very specific.



I couldn’t judge how far away I was from my target or why I wasn’t hitting it, but my son sure could.  With his keen eye, he told me if my shots were too low, too high and exactly how many feet I needed to adjust either way.  When setting your SMART Goal make sure you know how you will measure your progress.  Example:  “I will join a local networking group to make new contacts, and I will make three phone calls per day to follow up on leads.”  Write down exactly how you will measure your progress. 



It’s pretty clear there was no way I could ever become the top scorer on any Montana shooting team, so any such goal would be unattainable for me:  However, with daily practice and coaching I could definitely increase the number of clay pigeons I hit by 25%.  Your SMART Goal should not be out of reach, or it will become a drudgery.  On the other hand, it should be challenging enough to help you grow and improve your skills along the way. 



This is the so what part of your SMART Goal.  What’s in it for me, or for others is the question answered here.  For example, is improving my marksmanship important enough to me to invest the time?  Probably not.  In the business example above, increasing your client base by six will increase your revenue.  This may allow you to put your kid through college, or buy a new car. 



My timing, according to my son, was way off.  I waited too long before pulling the trigger, and by the time I did the clay pigeon was out of range.  Make sure with your SMART Goal that you don’t let the target get away from you.  Set specific deadlines with dates and be accountable to them.  For instance, “I will have two of my new clients in three months from now.”  Don’t let them get out of range! 


Communication expert Zig Ziglar once said, “Even if you have never before shot a bow an arrow, you can be more accurate that an expert marksman if you make only one change—blindfold the archer and turn him around so he doesn’t know where his target is.  No matter how skilled they are, people shoot blindly when they don’t have a clear goal.  But even amateurs will hit the target when they know what they are aiming for.” 

 There is hope for me yet!


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Want A More Satisfying Career? Become A Mentor

The word Mentor in magazine letters on a notice board

If you’re not currently mentoring someone, it’s time to ask yourself:  “Why not?” You may feel you don’t have anything to share as you’re not experienced enough or considered a tenured professional. Maybe you don’t know who would be a good fit as your mentee or just don’t have any time.

But avoiding becoming a mentor is doing both yourself and others an injustice. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be in the later stages of your career to be a valuable asset to a young professional.

I can attribute much of my success to the mentorship I’ve received throughout my career. I firmly believe that without my longtime mentor Tom Antion taking me under his wing when I was a teenager, I wouldn’t be where I am today. My experiences as a mentee are just one of the reasons why influencing and mentoring others are key components in everything I do. In fact, I even founded Open Me, my online greeting card company, to influence others to take a more thoughtful approach to helping others.

Here are just a few reasons why you should become a mentor:

1. You can directly influence the productivity of your employees. Through mentoring, you’ll be able to impact the efficiency of others. Are you an expert at managing your inbox? Mentoring may be your chance to impart your wisdom on those who need a productivity boost. By taking on a younger employee, team member, or intern as your mentee, you will be able to groom them to be more productive and work harder for a cause that’s relevant to both of you.

2. It’s a chance to challenge yourself. Doling out advice sets you up to stay on the ball at all times. As a mentor, you’re forced to consider your actions and experiences, learn from them, and share them. This continual sense of awareness will ensure you’re constantly challenging yourself to be better.

3. Revisiting past lessons can be transformative. Regardless of whether you’re just starting your career or you’ve been at it for 20 years, the hurdles you’ve overcome are worth revisiting. Sharing both your positive and negative experiences with others is a perfect way to revisit the valuable lessons you’ve learned throughout your career.

4. You’ll help your mentee to harness their talents. Being a mentor often means helping others to harness their own unique gifts. These might even be things that your mentee doesn’t know he or she has to begin with. As a mentor, you’ll be able to help others improve their career by keying in on and nurturing what they’re great at.

5. Giving back feels good. Let’s face it: Helping others can feel pretty nice at the end of the day. As a mentor, your advice and guidance could change someone’s life. Sharing your knowledge and experiences may help someone transform their career, start a company, or even change the world for the better.

6. There’s always something to be learned. You should never stop learning. Through mentorship, you’re essentially opening the door to a number of different learning opportunities. Your mentee’s own experiences may even teach you a lesson or at least get you thinking in a new direction.

7. There are more options than just face-to-face mentoring. Today, mentor-mentee relationships don’t just have to take place in your office or local coffee shop. Thanks to Skype, social media, and email, you can mentor someone anywhere in the world. In fact, my online writing and blogging is just one way for me to reach a much larger audience with advice.

Mentoring is an incredibly rewarding experience. Not only does it allow you to do your part to influence the next generation of workers, but it will give you a feeling of satisfaction.


Thanks to Ilya Pozin, Contributor to Forbes.

Posted in Career Success, Dealing with People, Emotional Intelligence, Employee Development, Employee Onboarding, Generational Management, Generational Training, Human Resources, Interpersonal, Leadership, Leadership Basics, Leadership Skills, Learning, Management, Mentoring, New Hires, Organization, Positive Leadership, Supervisor, Team Building, Thought Leadership, Training & Development | Leave a comment

7 Management Practices That Can Improve Employee Productivity


All companies want to improve employee productivity, but how often do they examine their own management practices as a means of attaining it? Studies consistently show that a disturbingly high number of non-management employees are disengaged, not working at full productive capacity.  Following are 7 practical suggestions – steps management can take to improve productivity by putting employees in a more productive mindset.

Design economic incentives so employees at all levels of an organization can benefit from them.  There’s a natural tendency for management to focus most heavily on senior-level economic incentives. While this is completely understandable, it’s best not to neglect substantive incentives for lower-level employees… that is, if you expect them to be vigorously committed to an enterprise’s success. To the argument that this will be unduly costly, a program has to be carefully structured, of course, so additional payouts reflect clearly defined revenue and/or earnings targets.

Provide meaningful feedback in a constructive manner on a regular basis.   Feedback is a foundational management skill; the ability to provide regular, helpful feedback to employees in a manner that encourages, not discourages, is a cornerstone of effective management. That’s not to say feedback is always positive – that wouldn’t be management at all – but that the communication is done thoughtfully… whether the occasion is encouragement for a job well done, or that course correction is needed.

Respect employees as individuals, in addition to the job they do.  Respect can be a simple but powerful motivator, just as its unpleasant twin, lack of respect, has the opposite effect. When employees feel genuinely respected (always assuming it’s warranted), they’re much more likely “to go the extra mile” to help a company succeed.

Be sure management at all levels of an organization receives adequate training. There’s a tendency for companies to invest heavily in “leadership training” while focusing far less on supervisors and middle managers. I can readily speak from experience on this one, having received considerably more training and development opportunities in the latter stages of my career than in the early formative stages, when I most needed it.

Provide support for employees when it’s genuinely needed.  Valued support can take many forms: equipment when existing is outdated or inefficient; emotional support in the face of (occasionally) unfair criticism; flexible support for a reasonable level of work-life balance. Management support in times of need won’t be forgotten; it builds employee goodwill and loyalty.

Don’t be emotionally stingy.   There’s nothing for management to gain by withholding praise and recognition when it’s warranted. A recent employee study I came across indicated that recognition is often a more powerful motivator than money. While this may well be less true at senior levels as financial rewards escalate, this post is focused on general employeeproductivity…where the broadest gains can be made.

Ensure senior leadership models behavior that makes the rank-and-file proud to be part of the team.  Nothing demoralizes employees more quickly than seeing senior leaders act in a way they don’t respect, and few things energize employees more than a senior team they admire. Leaders are always being watched and judged; employees have keen eyes (and are keen data sharers!).  When leadership is “walking the talk,” it will be quickly noted – but so will “talking the walk” without actually walking it.

To help boost productivity, employee engagement matters. Ultimately, most employees would much rather be part of a team they’re committed to, not just a member of an organization. Developing and maintaining a consistent management approach that engenders esprit de corps is a key link in the productivity process.

Such management – balancing appropriate levels of results-orientation with understanding of employee needs – is neither easy nor unattainable.

It’s also the thread from which the cloth of day-to-day productivity gains are made.


Thanks to Victor Lipman, Contributor to Forbes.                                                                       Photo credit:  Workaholics, Comedy Central, 2013

Posted in Active Listening, Career Success, Coaching, Communication, Creative Leadership, Dealing with People, Delegation, Emotional Intelligence, Employee Development, Generational Management, Generational Training, Human Resources, Leadership, Leadership Basics, Leadership Skills, Learning, Management, Mentoring, New Hires, Organization, Positive Leadership, Supervisor, Team Building, Thought Leadership, Training & Development | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Why Most Leaders Need to Shut Up and Listen


While some may be impressed with how well you speak, the right people will be impressed with how well you listen. Great leaders are great listeners, and therefore my message today is a simple one – talk less and listen more. The best leaders are proactive, strategic, and intuitive listeners. They recognize knowledge and wisdom are not gained by talking, but by listening. Take a moment and reflect back on any great leader who comes to mind…you’ll find they are very adept at reading between the lines. The best leaders possess the uncanny ability to understand what is not said, witnessed, or heard. Warning: this isn’t your typical piece on listening – it isn’t going to coddle you and leave you feeling warm and fuzzy – it is intended for leaders and is rather blunt and to the point.

Want to become a better leader? Stop talking and start listening. Being a leader should not be viewed as a license to increase the volume of rhetoric. Rather astute leaders know there is far more to be gained by surrendering the floor than by dominating it. In this age of instant communication everyone seems to be in such a rush to communicate what’s on their mind, they fail to realize the value of everything that can be gleaned from the minds of others. Show me a leader who doesn’t recognize the value of listening to others and I’ll show you a train-wreck in the making…

It is simply not possible to be a great leader without being a great communicator. This partially accounts for why we don’t encounter great leadership more often. The big miss for most leaders is that they fail to understand that the purpose of communication is not to message, but to engage – THIS REQUIRES LISTENING. Don’t be fooled into thinking that being heard is more important than hearing. The first rule in communication is to seek understanding before seeking to be understood. Communication is not a one way street. I’ve interviewed and worked with some of the most noted leaders of our time, and to the one, they never miss an opportunity to listen. In fact, they aggressively seek out new and better ways to listen.

Simply broadcasting your message ad nauseam will not have the same result as engaging in meaningful conversation, but this assumes you understand the greatest form of discourse takes place within a conversation, and not a lecture or a monologue. When you reach that point in your life where the light bulb goes off, and you begin to understand that knowledge is not gained by flapping your lips, but by removing your ear wax, you have taken the first step to becoming a skilled communicator. A key point for all leaders to consider is the immense value contained in the old saying, “it’s impossible to stick your foot in your mouth when it’s closed.” Think about it – when was the last time you viewed a negative soundbite of a CEO who was engaged in active listening?

The next step in the process is learning where to apply your new-found listening skills. Listen to your customers, competitors, your peers, your subordinates, and to those that care about you. Ask people how you can become a better leader and then LISTEN. Take your listening skills online, and don’t just push out Tweets and Facebook messages, but ask questions and illicit feedback. Use your vast array of social media platforms, toolkits and connections to listen. If you follow this advice not only will you become better informed, but you’ll also become more popular with those whom you interact with.

Have you ever walked into an important meeting and wondered who the smartest person in the room was? If you mull this over for a moment you’ll find the following statement to be accurate: almost universally, the smartest person in the room is not the one doing all the talking – it’s the person asking a few relevant and engaging questions and then doing almost all the listening. At its essence, leadership is about action. That said, leaders who act before they understand don’t tend to achieve the outcomes they desire.

Following are 6 tips for becoming a better listener:

  1. It’s not about you: Stop worrying about what you’re going to say and focus on what’s being said. Don’t listen to have your opinions validated or your ego stroked, listen to be challenged and to learn something new. You’re not always right, so stop pretending you know everything and humble yourself to others. If you desire to be listened to, then give others the courtesy of listening to them.
  2. You should never be too busy to listen: Anyone can add value to your world if you’re willing to listen. How many times have you dismissed someone because of their station or title when what you should have done was listen? Wisdom doesn’t just come from peers and those above you – it can come from anywhere at anytime, but only if you’re willing to listen. Expand your sphere of influence and learn from those with different perspectives and experiences – you’ll be glad you did.
  3. Listen to non-verbals: People say as much (if not more) with their actions, inactions, body language, facial expressions, etc., as they do with their verbal communications. Don’t be lulled into thinking that because someone is not saying something they’re not communicating. In fact, most people won’t overtly verbalize opposition or disagreement, but they will almost always deliver a very clear message with their non-verbals.
  4. Listen for opportunity: Intuitive listeners are looking for the story behind the message, and the opportunity beyond the issue. Listening is about discovery, and discovery doesn’t only impact the present, but it can also influence the future.
  5. Let listening be your calling card: One of the best compliments you can be paid is to be known as a good listener. Being recognized in this fashion will open doors, surface opportunities, and take you places that talking never could. Listening demonstrates that you respect others, and is the first step in building trust and rapport.
  6. Recognize the contributions of others: One of the most often overlooked aspects of listening is thanking others for their contributions. If you glean benefits from listening to someone, thank them. Even if no value is perceived, thank them for their time and input. Never forget to acknowledge those who contribute energy, ideas, actions or results. Few things go as far in building good will as recognizing others.

Allow me to leave you with one final thought to reflect on – if you’re ready for advanced listening skills, don’t just listen to those who agree with you, but actively seek out dissenting opinions and thoughts. Listen to those that confront you, challenge you, stretch you, and develop you. True wisdom doesn’t see opposition, only opportunity. I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who said, “Speak little, do much.”

In my opinion great talkers are a dime a dozen, but great listeners are a rare commodity. What say you?


Thanks to Mike Myatt, contributor to Forbes, follow Mike on Twitter @mikemyatt.

Posted in Active Listening, Career Success, Communication, Dealing with People, Employee Development, Human Resources, Interpersonal, Leadership, Leadership Basics, Leadership Skills, Learning, Management, Organization, Positive Leadership, Supervisor, Training & Development | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Is Your Self-Esteem on Life Support?

self esteem concept

Many of the courses I teach for SkillPath have audiences filled with people, predominantly women who suffer from let’s call it “need-to-please-itis”. We were all taught as children to say thank you and please, if you can’t say something nice then don’t say anything at all, and the nicer you are the more friends you have – right? When we practice these basic standards of courtesy that is a healthy form of the “need-to-please”, but when we come down with “need-to-please-itis” your self-esteem starts to shut down and is put on life support, this is when a dose of assertiveness is needed!

The chronically unassertive person is a doormat, available for everyone to walk over, and unable to do anything about it. An unassertive person might eventually burst into a fit of anger at what they see as ‘the last straw,’ but this is not being assertive — it is a symptom of the problem. To change we must look at the feelings we have about ourselves. Ask yourself:

  • Why do I feel so pressured by others?
  • Why I am so easily pushed around?
  • Why do I let people who hurt me in?
  • Why can’t I stand my ground?

If your answer is I don’t know, I don’t want people to be mad at me, or some self-deprecating response then it’s time for you to start getting the lifesaving help you need. Assertiveness for people with “need-to-please-itis” is perceived as a medication with the horrible side effect of being mean.  To be clear being assertive is not about being mean, manipulative, bullying or intimidating others. Being assertive does mean evaluating what you want, asking for what you want clearly, directly, and with confidence, and looking for solutions or actions that best accommodate everyone’s needs.

If your tendency has been to allow the needs and wants of others to determine your outcomes in life you may find yourself feeling as if you are treading water in a riptide – will you make it to the shore of safety or drown in a sea of anger or depression?

Should you want to start swimming toward the shore of safety simply reach out for the help you need whether you find it at a live seminar on assertiveness or learn the 12-steps to high self-esteem in the privacy of your home or car. However, you choose to heal your “need-to-please-itis” you deserve to be happy and healthy today!


Thanks to Sherry Hayes-Peirce, trainer at Corporate Strategies by SkillPath. Sherry first worked for SkillPath in the 80s as a program manager to help pay for college. After graduation she started her career in training in 1990 with a healthcare company. Three years later she decided to follow her passion for a career in television news. For over a decade she served in positions in front of and behind the camera in cities all across the country. A shift in the news business in 2000 provided an unimaginable opportunity for Sherry to be on the ground floor for learning emerging technology in communications, when the Internet and social media were in their infancy.

In 2009 Sherry responded to an invitation to audition for SkillPath, which in her mind brought her full circle and back on the right road for her career path. She has now become a highly rated social media and communications trainer by sharing realistic examples that are relatable, incorporating experiential activities and ensuring attendees have an individual “personal action plan” as a call to action for change when they leave her training classes!

Sherry says, “Everything that happens to you in life has a reason, and your mission is to find a way to purpose that experience so that it benefits someone else” and she hopes her blog will benefit everyone who reads it.

Posted in Coaching, Communication, Customized Training, Dealing with People, Emotional Intelligence, Employee Development, Generational Management, Human Resources, Interpersonal, Leadership, Learning, Management, Mentoring, Organization, Positive Leadership, Supervisor, Team Building, Training & Development | 1 Comment

Breaking Bad Communication Habits


Communication is an area that we can forever improve on and it’s an important area for anyone interested in personal development. Habits are often harmful and promote bad communication styles.  Most of us are trained to be advocates in our communication, that is one who argues their case, pushes what they want and seeks to find approval of that communicated message and to find followers doing so (Oh ohhh…, that might include a few bloggers then as well!).

The One Communication Mistake We All Make

There is one mistake everyone makes from time to time in the way they communicate.  This is when we send our message instead of communicating in a way that ensures our message is in fact received.  This happens when we are impatient or not considering the other person’s perspective and we simply think that making our voice heard and our message sent is in fact communicating.  Well, it is not.  Communication is all about how you actually deliver your message and so you cannot simply send your message without knowing it is actually received.

Don’t make the mistake of sending your message simply to get your ideas out without regard for others.  Keep your ego at bay when you want to be heard and consider whether it is an appropriate time for the receiver as well as you to communicate.  Remember, if they are not going to hear it, then it isn’t worth saying.

Getting Past Being Right

The next mistake often made in communication is that of having to be right.  Many of us just love to be right and it is a conversation and healthy communication killer.  If you do not stop to listen to other perspectives and accept new ideas in the way you communicate, this having to be right habit will surface often and it a tough problem to break.  Trust me, I know from experience.  I can’t say I’ve broken this habit myself but its something I’m much more aware of and I do notice it and stop myself often.  If you simply state that you disagree AFTER listening to another person’s angle and actually ensuring you understand it, you can still debate things in conversation but if you have a habit of telling someone else how they are wrong, you can immediate kill the conversation.


Criticism for some people is very easy and its often the first thing on your mind when you hear other people’s ideas.  I think this is closely related to the bad habit of having to be right and this one comes more subtle but even more dangerous because often it isn’t even founded in anything.  Being critical and voicing it often comes very easy to most.  It’s a way to express creative ideas but unfortunately, when it is delivered as criticism, it is often a power trip for a creative mind to show their creative powers over another’s idea.

All three of these bad communication habits lead to adversarial communications and they can harm your relationships with other people.  Be aware of these in your conversations and look to eliminate these bad habits by replacing them with good communication habits.  Listen more than you speak, try to actually understand what others are telling you before debating it and don’t tell them they are wrong or make generalizations about people with words like always and never.  Keep your criticism at bay and do your best to keep conversations going by showing interest in others, inquiring more about what they want to talk about and by staying open-minded of other’s ideas.  These steps will help you practise good communication techniques and can lead you away from the bad habits that bring upon adversarial communication.


Thanks to Mike King contributor to Learn This at

Photo credit:  Breaking Bad, AMC, 2013, High Bridge Entertainment/Gran Via Productions/Sony Pictures Television.

Posted in Active Listening, Career Success, Communication, Customer Service, Customized Training, Dealing with People, Delegation, Emotional Intelligence, Employee Development, Human Resources, Interpersonal, Leadership, Management, Mentoring, New Hires, Organization, Supervisor, Team Building, Training & Development | Leave a comment

It’s Friday!





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