It can be challenging to work towards long-term goals on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis. In Episode #46 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we explore how leaders can intentionally and attainably set goals that work towards the bigger picture.
To learn more about intentional goal-setting, consider bringing a 5 Levels of Leadership Workshop to your organization this year.
Read the transcript below:
Welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach. And I’m Chris Goede, Vice President with the John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining. Today’s topic is titled, “Tuesday’s Coming: What Will You Have to Show for It?”
So, I love to write. I have the best intentions to write many days. There used to be a long list of reasons, I call them excuses, why I didn’t write. In January of this year, I made a commitment to myself to publish a short article on my website every Tuesday morning at 8:00 AM Eastern Standard Time.
After 25 Tuesdays in a row, I’m still going. I’ve noticed a renewed focus on my writing, and you want to know why? Because Tuesday’s common. The reason I picked this topic, and it’s a bit of a funny title, but it’s really meaningful to me. I really feel the presence of time passing when I have this commitment. I start thinking about how it was before I made the commitment. You know, people say, wow, I can’t believe it’s Memorial Day already. Time is passing. I started thinking of all the excuses that I’m making. I hear them on my coaching calls with folks how much is not getting done. Because we don’t have a small goal. I know that Tuesday is coming. And I’m thinking, what am I going to have to show for it? I wake up every day, I think, oh my gosh, Tuesday’s coming. I’ve got to get busy.
It even makes me think about my pastor. He’s a guy that communicates on a regular basis, whatever it is, and Sunday’s always coming. And I think you bring up a good point. I find time going by faster the older I get, and I’m used to it. I just kept looking out at what’s coming next and just letting the time pass by. And I think the older we get, the more activities you have going on, the more distractions you have going on, I think the faster the time goes. And to your point, sometimes you look back and you’re like, man, what did I accomplish between that one thing and the other? Let’s unpack a little bit here for us. How did this awareness of Tuesdays coming change your approach to life and even as a leader? Becoming aware is the first step to any growth plan.
I think so. When I became aware of how fast Tuesdays were showing up, I started to question exactly what I was working on and what progress I was making towards my most important priorities. So, I designed a simple three-step process for making sure that when time has passed, and by the way, it’s going to pass, that I had something to show for it and not just a handful of excuses that I routinely would fall back on. And the three steps, I’ll just give it to you quickly and maybe we can talk about them, number one is I need to set a goal to set small goals. Then two, I need to determine this week’s three. I’ll tell you what that means. And then, number three, was be accountable for executing on the three. That’s really how I broke it down.
I think that you’re so right about awareness around that first step. You’ve got to understand, you know, we were talking offline about you writing these Tuesday posts. Your goal is not necessarily to write a book. Your goal is, I’m going to write a post and I’m going to post it every Tuesday. Now that may become a content book, but your goal is small. You’re going after kind of this small goal, which becomes attainable in your mind. It sets up your priorities. John tells a story and we talk about little things. Well, I just triggered a thought. I always tell my kids that little things lead to big things, good or bad. And I’ve said it when I’ve questioned some of their behavior, some of the things that are going on and I’ll just throw it out there. Or when I see some good things going on, you know, hey, little things lead to big things. I’ll give you an example. My daughter plays competitive volleyball and she’ll do some work on her own. Not a lot, just an hour here, an hour there. She’d come back and I’d be like, I’m proud of you. Cause that little thing is going to lead to a big thing down the road. So, no matter what it is, whether it’s in your own personal life, whether it’s an athletic career, whether it’s as a leader, you just got to become aware of that.
John tells this story in regards to the little things I just want to share with you quickly, and you probably have heard it as an example, but it’s about a guy who calculated that if he lived to be 75 years old, then that would mean he would have 3,900 Saturdays. So basically 75 years old, right, times 52 weeks a year. When he figured this out, he was already 55 years old. So he had already burned through 2,860 Saturdays. So the man bought a jar and placed 1040 marbles in the jar. Then, every Saturday, and I don’t know if I could do this every Saturday, he’d reach in and he’d remove one marble and throw it away. As John tells it, the man says that on this day he took out the last marble out of the jar. And it’s a great graphic reminder of just how every Saturday, for you, it’s every Tuesday, right now is going by and passing whether we acknowledge it or not. So anyway, let’s get back to this process.
Let’s get started. The first one, set a goal to set small goals. Let’s unpack this a little bit further than we were. I think if you want to make sure you’re working on the right things, the most important things for you, the true priorities in your life, then you need to set a goal that you can strive for. As I published an article every Tuesday at 8:00 am, that the goal was going to motivate my writing. I’ve got to do something each week to make that happen. I highly recommend it, a small goal that you can work at daily or weekly. You mentioned that I could have said, I’m going to write a book, I’m going to publish a book and that’s a large goal. I could easily develop a bunch of excuses for why I can’t. The house isn’t quiet. The coffee isn’t warm. I can’t write a book right now, but for my little 500-word article for my website for Tuesday morning at 8, I can make time for that. I can start that. It’s small enough to start my perfectionist. Perfectionistic tendencies don’t get in the way of me taking action.
I love this, and when you think about it from the perspective that you shared with us, I think it really does three things. Number one, it just gets you in the habit of thinking on a weekly basis about your focus. If it were a book, you’d be like, you know what? I’ll get that to next week. But this way, it gets us thinking on a weekly basis. Number two, I think it gets you focused on your true priorities. This is a priority to you and your goal is to make sure that you publish that blog post every Tuesday morning. And then the third one, it forces you to break your big goals into small actions. We talk a lot about starting with the end in mind and then working backward from there. This is a great way to say, whatever your big goals are, break them down into small action steps and then attack that.
Let’s go to number two. Number two in your process here is determining this week’s three, another play on words that you make me communicate on this podcast to set me up for great success. Talk to us a little bit about that. What do you mean by this week’s three? Well, for me, and I think it’s true for many leaders, especially that we’re trying to move a team or an organization forward, that we’re all trying to do too much. I can become distracted by it from what’s important by the sheer number of things that I’m trying to accomplish. There’s just so much going on. So much noise. So, this step helps me to write down at least three things that I plan to work on and accomplish in the next week and the following week. I tend to do this on Sunday evening. Depending on what the family plans are, I might have done it last thing on Friday before I end the day when it gets a little quiet around the office. It could be on a Saturday morning before anybody else gets up.
And I want to spend some time thinking about what do I find most important? And I just said three is a great number. But what are three things, two things, what’s your most important one thing? No more than three things that you absolutely are going to accomplish in the coming week. I find for me the magic really happens with this appointment with myself, just to put in a few moments focused thinking about three important things that I’m going to do in the next seven days that lead to the big goal. It’s those small things, but I have to set that appointment with myself to say, what are the three that I’m going to really attack during the week. I think the benefit from this is it forces me to have a goal, which is awesome. A lot of us maybe listen and don’t even really kind of have a goal what you want to accomplish, whether it’s this week, this month, this quarter, or whatever it might be.
And then it forces me to focus on what will get me to that goal. I just had this thought, I was working with an organization. The John Maxwell Company had partnered with them in Texas and we were talking about one of their long-term employees. And he’s there in the sales organization and he said, I’ll never forget when so-and-so first started working here. We really didn’t have a spot, but man, I really liked him. He had the character and the qualities I was looking for and so I said, you know what, we’re going to do this for 30 days and he put him on 30 day contracts and you’ve probably seen these 12 week plans, 90 day plans, 30 day contracts, but he literally had this employee on a 30 day contract and at the end of 30 days, depending on his influence in the organization and his production as a salesperson, he would determine whether or not he could come back to work.
What did that do for his focus? Yeah, he said he was killing it, blowing it out of the water. I even think about this too, when it comes to professional sports, what if we threw out the window, all these long-term contracts because what does everybody say in any professional sport when they’re killing it that year? They’re like, oh, he must be in a contract. And as an athlete, I’m sure they go into that year just in a little bit better shape, a little more focused. They’re saying no to certain things, yes to certain things. And it got me thinking about that while we were just sitting there talking about what if literally every 30 days your employer had the right to say, nope, not welcome back next month. Or they had to make that decision on the impact and the production that you had in your organization.
I think that’s a powerful thought to have. And I was trying to say, we do have it, it’s called professional golf. If you don’t perform, you are not on there anymore. Number two was setting the goal of the small goals and your big three for the weekend and then being accountable. Number three, be accountable for executing. It’s easy for me to say I’ll do something. It’s quite another for me to actually do it and then tell someone else about it or hold myself accountable in some way to see if I actually followed through. For me, it’s a personal commitment to Tuesday. You can go to my website, you can look at the dates and see that it’s every seven days.
And I’m pretty pumped that it was, I think we just hit number 26 this week and I’m halfway there. I was traveling, and I was off of time zones, big time. And I thought, if I have to stay up late, I get up, I’ve got to do this. So, for you it may be agreeing with your team at work or your family at home what you’re going to do during the coming week. I use my Sunday night planning just to kind of look back and say, how did I do, thumbs up, thumbs down. Was I true to what I said I would do? And then set the plan for the next week accordingly.
I love this because I think as a leader the biggest part of your responsibility is coaching your team. And part of being a coach, I think, there’s three things that happen. I call them the three A’s, right? You get to “a” point to where you can ask the tough questions. The second A is you’re helping them with action plans and then the third A is holding them accountable and, and so I think you just gave me an idea and if my team’s listening to this, we’re going to be in trouble. I got to say it now because now then they’ll hold me accountable for doing this. They’re not listening to this. Somebody is in trouble. That might be, it’s all right though. We’ll see who brings it up to me. That’ll be the real test is. What are the three things you’re going to attack this week? What are they? And we already kind of have a formal structure of one-on-ones and we kind of go over what I would call revenue important, operational important things.
What’s going on, what are you challenged with, but now we get a little specific right here and we say, okay, we’re going to look at this week, what are the three things? Then, when we meet next week and we’d be like, okay, let’s talk about what we did, what happened with those and what are the next three? And just really break it down into the, to the small items you’ve mentioned. You can also, I find, use this for your kids at home and helping anybody you want to help focus on the important task and not just the easy task. I think it’s that we talked in a previous time about our to-do list. I’ve got some hard things, let’s go to those easy things on the to-do list. They’re not really that important, but they’re easy to get off the list.
I want to just be aware of time passing so that I’m more intentional about how I invest my time. That’s really what it comes down to. Well, so as we wrap up, let me just give you this thought. Let me summarize it for me and what I’m taking away from our conversation today. A change in mindset. I think time does fly by. I think the farther out that we look at certain things, we begin to not see the things that are so important that are close up in order to accomplish those bigger things. And so, I want to be able to shift my mindset from, this is our long-term strategic goal, to what is it that I want to accomplish in these 30 days? Or maybe it’s even the mindset of, would my employer and my organization ask me back.
All right, this is in July. At the end of the day, August 1st rolls around, what’s going on? What is the conversation about? And so, I think it’s really around how you take the, you know, your big hairy audacious goals and how do you simplify them down into smaller 90-day windows. You can call it a 12-week plan if you want, or the 30-day, or maybe it’s even down to what are the three things that you’re going to do this week. And then, as I said, now my team and I are going to begin having conversations with that. And so I encourage you to do that with your team. I appreciate it, Perry.
Can you know Tuesday come in? It’s right to you that you just gave it away that we’re recording this in July. So, I want everybody on the podcast, think about this recording, when you think next week you think, how could it be July 4th already. Time’s flying. What do you have to show for it? So appreciate the insights, Chris. Just a reminder. If you’d like to learn more about the 5 Levels of Leadership or have a 5 Levels workshop at your location, we’d be glad to talk to you about that. You can find more information at JohnMaxwellCompany.com/Podcast– you can leave a question or a common for us there. We always love hearing from you. As always, we’re grateful for you being here. That’s it for today for the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.