Do These Two Things to Achieve Career Success in the New Year

Focus is the most important part of creativity, innovation, and career success.  If you work in a mid or large-sized organization the beginning of the year is chaotic.  There are multiple iterations of what human resource leaders call the “goal cascade” phase of the performance management process.  Senior leaders meet to name the top goals and objectives for the company, which are then shared with their direct reports.  Your manager identifies his/her goals linked to the company goals, then they ask you to create your goals.  Key tasks, risks, and mitigating actions are developed to formulate an operating plan.  This process is typical in many organizations.  The result?  It can be late February to mid-March before your specific performance expectations are finalized – and the first quarter is almost over!

It is the beginning of the new year – a fresh start. Plan and prepare for success by doing two things…

Discover Your Wow Accomplishment

As early as possible, speak with your manager and ask the following questions:

“What one thing, if accomplished, would have the greatest impact on the success of our department in the next 12 months?”

Then ask:

“What role would you expect me to play to support that one thing, and what does great performance look like?”


Use the answers to these questions to write your WOW Accomplishment.  Write it down on paper and phrase it like a resume accomplishment.  Describe the situation, task, actions you will take and the result.  Share your sentence with your manager and get their feedback.  Once you agree on the wording – this becomes your primary focus.

I know what you are thinking – Ted I have multiple goals, projects, teams, etc.  I get it, but the reality is you can become a superstar by achieving just ONE major goal each year.  Leaders overestimate how long it takes to navigate a large organization to achieve meaningful results.  To stand out, identify your focus early, then devote a minimum of 20% of your working time each week to achieving that goal.

Keep a log or diary where you document the steps you have taken each week to achieve the WOW Accomplishment.  Don’t spend more than 5 minutes completing this task.  Make simple notes about meetings you attended, people you worked with, and actions you took.  These notes will come in handy when it is time to write your performance review.

Develop a New Ability / Enhance an Existing Strength

Working on your primary accomplishment helps you deliver results today, but you also need to prepare for the future.  Like the WOW goal exercise, name ONE development area.  Below are examples of  development areas:

  • Communication Skills (oral and written)
  • Problem Solving
  • Innovation
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Sales / Marketing
  • Collaboration

Pick one area and commit to 50 hours of deliberate practice developing that skill or ability.  Use your network to identify a mentor who can create a plan for your development.  They can connect you with the best resources, people, and approaches to hone your new capabilities.

The popularity of the book Outliers has made people believe they need to invest 10,000 hours to be good at something.  That research was based on the concept of ability at the mastery level.  You can devote 25 hours and improve a skill that will be noticed by others.  Imagine you are a poor public speaker.  How much better would you be if you were coached by a knowledgeable speaker and delivered 50 – thirty-minute speeches in one year (25 hours).  Your skill development and growth would appear exponential to colleagues.

Bottom Line

Don’t confuse the urgent with the important.  Accelerate your career by focusing on one accomplishment and developing one new ability to put you on the path of success in the new year.

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