2020 is going to be an exciting, stressful, and potentially game-changing year in so many ways. I put together my goals for the year (and the decade) breaking them up into different areas (professional, physical, financial, spiritual, learning, etc.). I share the “spreadsheet of dreams” with a few a few people for accountability and feedback. This year I am putting even more focus on the necessary tools for achieving these goals. As important as the “why” is, the “how” is the critical path to success, so I put together 4 major themes that have helped me along the way that I am doubling down on in 2020.
Find a Mentor
A great mentor can help you 10X your personal and professional growth in the same way a great sales leader can help a company 10X revenue. In the past week, I’ve spent time on calls with two of my mentors talking through my goals, asking for advice as I prepare for a jam-packed year of challenges, and trying to understand where the “whitespace” is on my professional journey. When I say “whitespace” I mean the untouched opportunities for growth. Sometimes it’s hard to see what you are missing and having mentors who are further down the path is a great way to get perspective on your own areas of development. Mentors are also great sanity partners who can help you weigh life’s big decisions. They push you to be and do your best, and know how to leverage you in return. A level of balance is required in all effective relationships. A great mentor is not just a disembodied voice, they are also a presence who believes in you and leverages your talents. If you are heading into 2020 without a mentor, stop what you are doing and go find one (or a few) now. Make sure they are someone who is further down the path you are in an area where you want to grow this year. Beyond that, there are no rules. Once you have established the relationship, don’t be scared to ask for help and offer to add value.
Conversely, as you achieve your goals and climb the professional ladder, seek out people to mentor. Pay the benefits you have received forward and be a consistent and accountable presence in the lives of other people.
Become a Better Partner
A big focus for me in 2020 is high-caliber collaboration. Even in the revenue organization it’s easy to live in a silo and miss opportunities to work with your field sales, marketing, customer success, and other teams right inside your org (not to mention your crucial partners in finance, product, technology, and people operations). Get out of your silo and find a way to add value across your company. The old adage goes “you will go farther together”. This is true not only in the projects you undertake, but also in your professional development. For example, you can learn a lot about managing large projects from Product leaders and a lot about developing curriculum and measuring retention from Learning and Development pros. Take a step back and look at how the greater team advances the narrative and make a point to share knowledge and add value to ALL of your partners.
Do the same thing in the greater space of your function. In the last few years, I’ve spent a lot of time working with other Ops and Enablement leaders on projects and have been able to incorporate a lot of the knowledge I’ve gained in my day to day work. Being a great partner means scheduling time to talk to people. I have at least one weekly call with someone in the Enablement space whether it is something I’ve requested or responded to and those calls tend to result in some type of learning. Even if it is just a call to make an introduction or answer someone’s questions, take some time to pay it forward – a general theme for me in 2020 is finding ways to be more generous to my internal and external partners.
Embrace Radical Candor
Does everyone remember reading Kim Scott’s Radical Candor a few years back? It was about being caring yet challenging when communicating with people. It’s a tough concept. Even last week, someone gave me critical feedback about my most recent book and my first inclination was to bristle. But at that moment I remembered that I rarely learn anything when I’m in a defensive posture with an answer at the ready (or more likely an excuse) for every criticism. We have to get comfortable being uncomfortable when requesting radical feedback. The good news is that once you embrace that radical candor you start to see themes emerge that you can take action on to grow.
The other side of radical candor is doling it out. It seems like it would be the easier of the two sides to be on, but there is work required to be able to offer people radical candor. They have to know you care and understand that you are coming from a place of compassion. I love the quote “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
I like the ask, assess, advise method for radical candor. Did you mean to come across that way? Here’s how it sounded. Perhaps you could reframe your approach this way.
There are few things better than working on a team with radical candor. You know where you stand with people. You trust that when you misstep, someone will be there to help you course correct. In a world of alternative facts, there is a lot of comfort in the company of honest people.
Become More Self-Aware
Everyone should be able to communicate your personal value proposition. Maybe it comes easier to those of us in sales and/or marketing, but we should all be able to confidently state who we are, what we do, and how we add value. One exercise you can do is write an updated professional bio. It is your value prop as a professional and it highlights the dimensions of who you are. This is why you should read what I write, listen to podcasts I am on, or attend my sessions at conferences. It’s practical because you have it on hand when a bio is requested, but it also serves as a short script of how to tell people what you do. It makes us accountable to live up to the hype and sets a new baseline that we can grow from overtime. A big missing piece for a lot of professionals is the ability to articulate not only their skills but what sets them apart from others in their function or discipline. I am not just an Ops and Enablement leader, I do these other things as well. When you put the package together, you become more diverse and more human (which increases your ability to appeal to a wider audience).
One piece of advice I give to my younger readers – it’s ok to tell the story of who you “want to be”! Everyone has a story. Before I ever sold a thing, I had some incredible experiences back in college that can be framed in a way that highlights a skill set I was primed and ready to develop. Pro tip – being self-aware and articulate are traits I’d hire for every time.
I love to engage with anyone who takes time out of their busy lives to read my stuff, so reach out and tell me what you think and feel free to challenge me as well. I hope you all have a plan to grow and achieve a lot of big goals this year. Let’s commit to helping each other grow.
Happy 2020 to you all!