Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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Have you ever been a coach? For a sports team? A team at work? A friend? Currently, I coach the Air Force Academy collegiate equestrian team, in addition to my business and executive coaching roles. There are many similarities with being a sports coach and a business coach. Coaching athletes and business leaders both involve encouragement, goal setting, deadlines, and some gentle reminding (some refer to this as “nagging”) when necessary. Whether it is in the boardroom or the locker room (Disclaimer: I have never been a coach that involved a locker room) an integral part of both coaching and leading is harnessing talent, and providing a mechanism for accountability. One of the tips in last month’s article was to create goals that are SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. What happens when we set easy goals? Grabbing and getting the low-hanging fruit – achieving the easily attained goals – are great initial motivators. This is why I occasionally include on my Productivity List tasks such as “Take Vitamins” and “Fill Gas Tank.” Some days we need the sense of accomplishment that builds confidence and momentum to propel us forward. Other times, we simply set goals that are quick to achieve for other reasons – fear of failure, or perhaps more commonly than we realize – fear of success. Thomas Hood, a 19th century British author and playwright wrote “Half of the failures in life come from pulling one’s horse when he is leaping.” (I liked the equestrian reference.) Hood’s caution, fear of success, holds many people back in their business lives as well as in their personal lives. Being any kind of coach requires recognizing when goals need to be tweaked for true, authentic reasons, or because there are barriers that need to be addressed. For instance, do you or your employees have the proper tools to meet the goal? Whether that tool is equipment, software, training, or simply fostering an environment of trust and pride in project ownership – without the proper tools, you and your team cannot succeed. Perhaps you worry about growing too large too quickly, or you might be worried about managing the extra personnel. Planning and setting measurable goals helps identifies possible problems as well creating solutions. An often overlooked aspect of goal-setting is the post-goal plan. Do you take the time to make new plans and goals based on reaching your initial objectives? For example, popular New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight, eat healthier, and exercise. An essential part of the success in weight loss is what happens when you reach your goal weight. There must be a plan for success to be long-term. Great companies are constantly renewing, reinventing and reinvigorating themselves and their products. What else are you doing to ensure that once you reach that goal you can continue to move forward? How are you going to build capacity within your office or company? This may mean hiring additional personnel, implementing client management software, adding additional office or production space. How are you adjusting your business plan as you meet and continue adjusting your goals? Who is holding you accountable? The most successful exercise programs occur when people commit to a workout buddy or a team. Having that other person who relies on you means that you show up and work out. If you find that you are not meeting goals, have trouble staying focused, miss deadlines, or slip off track, find a trusted friend and colleague to act as your accountability partner. Who ever you choose, make sure that they understand their role for your accountability. Set goals, brain-storm, and keep each other on track for 2012!


  1. Larry Smith

    Great to see you are supporting the Academy by coaching the equestrian team! LAS

  2. Christine Yocum

    Mary, this article couldn’t have come at a better time. We’ve been in goal-setting mode for two days and so very appropriate. Thank you.


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