The Who, What, When, Where, How of Growth Plans

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I love this time of year, mostly because it’s the turning of the page, a fresh start. Blank calendars, blank notebooks – they scream of possibility and opportunity. This year, rather than simply outlining my goals for the year, I decided to be more purposeful and create a growth plan.

Now, goals are great. Without them you really have no direction or focus throughout the year. I’ve definitely got goals (in business and in my personal life), that’s the starting point. Goals are the target. Growth plans are how you become the person you need to be in order to hit them. Traveling to Paris is a goal. Building up the confidence (and letting go of your ego) in order to invite your mother (who you haven’t spoken to in over a year) on this trip of a lifetime (and perhaps going to some family therapy first), is the growth plan.

Business growth plans are a strategic planning activity that enable businesses leaders to plan and track growth while allocating limited resources towards specific business objectives. If you aren’t doing this in your business or for (or with) your Executive and leadership team, you should be. It’s a great exercise to purposefully plan to succeed now and in the future.

You’ve likely heard of growth plans in business. But what about personal growth plans? How many of us are doing this in our personal life? A personal growth plan is a strategic planning activity that enables you to plan and track your growth while allocating limited resources towards specific personal goals. What we focus on expands. Are you putting intention behind the activities you are filling your 2019 calendar with? Are you all over the place with goals and have pages of things you want to do someday? That’s not going to cut it. Time and attention are limited resources. In order to grow, you must purposefully choose conferences, books, coaches, and more, to get you where you want to go. That’s what a personal growth plan is all about.

The first step to creating a growth plan is determining your overall goals for the year. Here are a few of mine:

  • Write 1-2 books with Adam
  • Get my real estate license
  • Read 52 books
  • Pay off all non-mortgage debt, max out my Roth IRA, and start looking for our first investment property
  • Lose weight for good and maintain new lifestyle
  • Travel to North Carolina monthly
  • Attend Muster or Sheepdog Response

Once you have your big goals for the year outlined, get a bit more specific. The goals are the WHAT you’re going to accomplish. You need to drill down on the WHO. And the who is you. Who do you need to become and what areas do you need to improve on in your life to hit these goals? What do you want to learn? What skills do you need to hone? Do you want to work on your follow-though, your public speaking skills, your spirituality, or your 5K time? For me, I want to work on my financial knowledge, my leadership skills, my overall health and fitness, and overcoming my fear of judgement and overthinking in order to take more action!

After you are clear on what you want to work on, the next step is breaking that down into actionable and measurable steps. For example, I want to write and create more. That is incredibly abstract and easy to dismiss and push to next week or next year. So, what does writing and creating more actually mean? How do I want to realize that growth? Through my blog. Taking that once step further, I plan on writing one blog post a week in 2019, for a total of 52 blog posts. That is an aggressive goal for me, but that’s what growth is all about. Testing our limits and seeing what we are capable of. Publicly proclaiming your intention helps with accountability too.

Below is an example of my personal growth plan for 2019. I have divided my growth plan into two main categories: Learn and Act. I could get lost in learning, if I don’t purposely design ways to take action on what I learn. All of these items are designed to help me get out of my comfort zone, to do hard things, and to push me beyond what I thought I was capable of.

LEARN:

  • Quantum Leap (January 24)
  • Inman Connect in NYC (January 28 – February 1)
  • Keller Williams Family Reunion in New Orleans (February 15-19)
  • Behind Every Leader in Austin (May 3)
  • Career Visioning
  • 306090 & Success Through Others
  • Muster or Sheepdog Response
  • Chief of Staff Mastermind
  • Randy Mayhew School of Real Estate
  • Read 52 books (2019 reading list coming next week!)

ACT:

  • Launch http://www.TheSheepdogLife.com
  • 52 Lead & Assist blog posts
  • Host one webinar each quarter
  • Host Lead & Assist 4 week webinar series
  • Coach two clients
  • Lead and engage with Reading is Sexy monthly book club
  • Workout a minimum of 5 times a week

I’m still working on adding in some conferences as dates are announced, finalizing my 2019 reading list, and creating a content calendar for my blog.  But the framework is there. I not only have a goal of growing my leadership skills (through education and by coaching/training others), increasing my financial acumen (through books and courses), and become a more well-rounded individual through experiences (traveling and creating), but I have specific actions I am going to take to get there.

Once you have your growth plan outlined, it’s time to take that list and add all events, vacations, and deadlines to your calendar. When it’s scheduled, it’s real. Pro tip: If going on vacation(s) this year is important to you, then even if you don’t have the entire trip planned, at least block off the dates in your calendar. It will give you something to look forward to and it will help push you on your other goals to make it happen.

Let’s recap how to create a growth plan:

  1. Outline your 2019 goals (WHAT)
  2. Translate your goals into specific areas for improvement and growth (WHO)
  3. Create actionable and measurable steps for your growth (HOW)
  4. Schedule all events, deadlines, vacations, etc. in your calendar (WHEN & WHERE)
  5. Grow!

If you take the time to plan out your year in advance in detail, with deadlines, success is inevitable. Almost… There is one caveat to all of this. You have to do the work. When it’s 5am and your alarm goes off, you have to put on your lulus and hit the gym. You need to block off two hours each week to write your blog post. You need to put your phone away at X time each night to spend time with your kids. You need to save a percent of your income each week in a travel fund. It is the small daily habits and activities that will ultimately dictate your success.

Your growth plan is not a one and done activity. This is something I would recommend you revisit each week during your Sunday planning time. What do you need to adjust on your calendar in the week ahead in order to hit your growth goals? Do you need to double down on your workouts or writing time? Who or what do you need to say no to or eliminate from your day, week, or life? Harsh? Perhaps. But this is your life. The second you let someone else start dictating what is right, what is important, what you should or shouldn’t do, is the second you are no longer living your own life.

Creating a growth plan is all about you. Be selfish with your growth and with your time. Ultimately, by become the best version of yourself, you are able to give the best of yourself to others. Who can argue with that?

Share your 2019 growth plan in the comments!

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9 Things To Do on Sunday to Set Yourself Up for a Successful Week

Asian woman drinking coffee with friend free image

During the week, from the moment Executive Assistants wake up, until the moment their heads hit their pillows – they are on. I don’t mean they just show up to the office and sip coffee while scrolling through Facebook and occasionally answering the phone. I mean, they are responding to emails while they eat breakfast, scheduling social media posts as they slip on their stilettos, listening to leadership books while they grab a latte, and preparing for meetings between meetings. They don’t just show up, they step up, and step into any role that needs filled that day or any other day for their Executive.

It can easily get overwhelming if you don’t have measures in place to streamline your days and weeks. Like many Executive Assistants/Chiefs of Staff my weeks are packed. So I use the weekend to set myself up for a successful week ahead. Every Sunday I spend several hours planning and preparing for the upcoming week. I hope some of these ideas will help you enter the week feeling a little less stressed, more in control of your time and schedule, and even more badass than I know you already are. Here’s what works for me:

  1. Family Meeting – My family consists of myself, my husband, Bill, and our mutt, Karma. And we all show up at the dining room table at 11am on Sundays. Bill makes the coffee. I bring the calendar. Bill works at night and has an unpredictable schedule including several meetings and trainings throughout the week outside of his regular hours. And I often travel several times throughout the month. We both work a lot and could end up being two ships passing in the night if we didn’t make it a priority to get on the same page. Every Sunday we meet to go over our schedules in-depth to make sure we each have errands covered, know who is on doggy-duty, and in general just make sure we know where each other are during the week! We also plan at least one date night. At this meeting we also go over our financials. We have specific goals to pay off all of our debt by the end of the year, so we make sure we are on track and transfer funds into the appropriate savings accounts and discuss any big trips or expenses that are coming up (hello, taxes!). This has been such an important part of our marriage; I highly recommend you institute weekly family meetings.
  2. Schedule Workouts – As I mentioned in a previous post, fitness is a huge focus for me this year (and for the rest of my life!). I’m on day 18 of a 30 day workout program right now. Every week as I’m going over my schedule with Bill, I also make sure I am scheduling all of my workouts. Depending on my work schedule, after-hours events, and date nights, that sometimes means I have to work out the morning. Not my preferred time to work out, but I’ve got goals.
  3. Meal Plan and Prep – This is such a critical one for me. I am on a fitness and health journey to lose 50-60 lbs and change my lifestyle indefinitely, so making sure I have healthy meals and snacks prepared for the week is essential. I usually make quick snacks like hard boiled eggs and oatmeal energy bites, and portion out other snacks, such as trail mix, fruit, and veggies. I also prep and portion out all of my lunches (for example, quinoa, chicken and broccoli or pesto shrimp and sweet potato noodles). Dinners are usually the hardest for me. My husband works at night so I don’t have a whole lot of motivation to cook for just myself. So I make two meals on the weekend that can last the week or are really quick to make (like quiche and salad or turkey meatloaf and squash). Even if I don’t prep everything ahead, I have meals and snacks planned for each day so I never have to think about what I’m eating or when.
  4. Call Family – While you’re meal prepping and cooking, it is the perfect time to call  your parents, siblings, in-laws, best friends, etc. and catch up. Everyone’s in a good mood on a Sunday morning after a fresh cup of coffee.
  5. Review Executive’s Schedule – Every Friday afternoon and Sunday I review Adam’s calendar for the week. If I haven’t already, I will confirm any meetings and make sure there aren’t any outstanding items I need to get ready for his meetings or training events for the week. If there are any meetings that are out of the ordinary or that might need additional explanation, I will email him so he has all the information he needs.
  6. Prepare & Anticipate Questions – Every Monday morning I meet with Adam for one hour. I prepare any questions or important items on Sunday night after reviewing Adam’s calendar in order to maximize our meeting. We may go over presentations for the week, travel schedule, or move through a list of items I need a decision on. In addition to preparing questions for him, I make sure to anticipate his questions in order to have that information ready (such as number of registrations for an event, specific amenities at a hotel, or cost of a new insurance premium) so we can both move forward with our priorities for the week.
  7. Plan Outfits –  I am a huge proponent of the office uniform and basically only wear skinny ankle pants, a blouse, and a blazer in either black, white, or beige. Why over complicate it? I do like to fancy it up with some gold or turquoise jewelry and leopard print heels every now and then. I also look at my calendar and plan accordingly. If I have a presentation or important interview, I may go more business formal, then if I have a solo day in the office following-up on emails or writing content. Regardless, it’s still black, white, or beige. I may throw in some navy blue or gray just to switch it up a little. Perhaps you have a little more fun with your fashion than I do, which means it’s even more important to plan your outfits – including jewelry and shoes. One less thing to worry about during your whirlwind week.
  8. Plan and Schedule Social Media Posts – If you manage social media for your Exec or have an avid following of your own, then plan your content and schedule your posts ahead of time. I’ve used Hootsuite and Buffer to schedule posts such as inspirational quotes, thought provoking questions, articles or blogs of interest, career opportunities, upcoming training events, and personal photos or anecdotes. It’s not always perfect, and there are things that often come up in real time that are more relevant. But, this way, you always have content planned and ready to go to continue to build the brand, provide value, and increase engagement whether that is for yourself or your Executive. Real time events that come up (like the massive blizzard we had in Vermont this week) are just bonuses.
  9. Complete Weekly Goal Setting Sheet – Every Sunday, I outline all of my priorities and must-do projects for the week (both personally and professionally) and then make sure I have time-blocked those items into my calendar. I use a document call a 411 from the book The One Thing (which is a MUST read for increased productivity and better time management). Click here for a copy of the 411.

Most importantly, don’t forget to relax and refresh! Grab brunch with you best friend, read a good book, binge watch your favorite show, go for a hike with your partner, take your kids to the movies, get a massage, sleep in! Whatever your go-to is to decompress and rejuvenate… do that.

How to do you relax and recharge? What do you do to prepare for the week ahead?

5 Things to Prepare for Your Next Performance Review

I may be the minority, but I love my yearly performance reviews! It is such a great time to reflect on what you have accomplished, where you can improve, and set new goals. And of course, it is the (sometimes only) opportunity to discuss compensation, increased responsibilities, flexible schedule, or other requests that benefit YOU, not the company.

career_is_your_businessHere are 5 things to prepare for your next performance review:

  1. Do a thorough review of what you have accomplished this year, and what you did not. (TIP: Keep a running list of all of your accomplishments throughout the year in Evernote, a spreadsheet, or Word doc so you don’t miss anything). Discuss why certain objectives were not hit and how you will work to close the gap (and by when) or if you need additional resources to accomplish said goals.
  2. Review your objectives/goals for the rest of the year or the following year. Do not simply review the company goals, but what you want to accomplish in your career (do you want to take on a new project, lead the culture committee, write a blog, etc.?). Then outline the 3-5 strategies you have developed to achieve those goals. Include deadlines and any resources you need to accomplish them.
  3. Request specific training opportunities (I highly recommend Behind Every Leader!). Outline the cost and the benefit the training will bring to you and your organization.
  4. If this conversation will include a discussion about compensation – be prepared. I recommend outlining everything you have accomplished in your role (tie specific dollar amounts or clear company wins to each one). Also, do some extensive research on compensation for your role in your city/state. Because EA positions are so varied, I often include the compensation info for several different roles and then find an average based on the percentage each plays in my role.
  5. Prepare an agenda including the four points above (review previous year, next year’s goals, specific training requests, compensation analysis) and any other special requests or key points you would like to discuss. Email/print for your Exec the week of your performance review (usually the night before will do as that is likely when they will review and we don’t want it to get lost in the inbox!).

While I hope you are having these conversations more frequently than once a year (at least quarterly), often annual reviews are your one chance to discuss, well, your performance. I know these are not always easy. The first few performance reviews I did with my Executive, Adam, I was a nervous wreck. The compensation conversation was the most difficult part. But I found that having the facts prepared always bolstered my confidence. And they were never as difficult as I had built up in my mind. If you are being honest with yourself and have done a thorough reflection of your past performance, you know if what you are asking for is legitimate.

Bottom line: Move beyond the basics of what went well and what didn’t. Do your research, be prepared, bring evidence, and advocate for yourself. No one else will do it for you.

Quick Tip: Make sure you stay on topic! These conversations can sometimes get off track and before you know it you’re discussing who your Exec needs meetings with that week. Prepare the agenda and talking points and keep going back to them until you have satisfactorily discussed all points. This is your meeting. Own it!

Have a performance review story to share? Tell us about it in the comments! What else would you add to this list?