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The single biggest factor in achieving personal work goals

Posted by Simon Thiessen on 21-Jan-2016 09:00:00

determined_personal_work_goals.jpgWill you do whatever it takes – or are you kidding yourself?

In my work, I talk to a lot of people about the personal work goals they have set for themselves – the things they hope to do and achieve over the next 12 months.

It all sounds exciting and energising – but unfortunately it is often just empty talk and wild dreams. Why? Because a critical ingredient is often missing – really, really wanting it so much that they will do whatever it takes to achieve that goal.

So, when I encounter someone who is REALLY committed to achieving their personal work goals, it really stands out.

Think you are committed? Take five minutes to read this story – and then tell me whether your goals are real – and whether you are willing to do whatever it takes.

The hurdle


Late last year, we advertised for a new team member. An ad went on the local university website – which didn’t work and which I promptly forgot about.

Another medium drew a number of excellent responses and we quickly narrowed down to a short list and set up three interviews with the most promising candidates. Three days before the interviews, I received a phone call from Rachel. I explained that applications were closed and that we had selected three people to interview.

Politely, but with confidence, Rachel explained that she had seen the long forgotten ad on the university website – which apparently had a different closing date.

The challenge

personal goals


The only fair response was to accept an application from Rachel. Her energy and interpersonal style – obvious even over the phone – made that decision easier. However, I decided to be really clear about the reality, especially as it seemed that Rachel had minimal experience in the role.

Rachel, it’s been really nice talking with you and it is only fair that we give you the opportunity to apply. Let me be really honest with you before you spend your time –we do already have three really strong applicants who are all experienced in this area. If you are still happy to apply knowing that, I will read whatever you send me with a completely open mind.


The response


The next day, Rachel’s application arrived. It immediately stood above 80% of what I had previously received – simply because she had read, understood and responded to the things that were clearly important to me.

However, what really caught my eye was the SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) that she had done on our website. Why did this stand out:

  • No-one else had done anything like this
  • It specifically related to the job she was applying for – and demonstrated that she had the mindset to do the job we wanted done
  • It was pretty gutsy – a 20 year old job applicant telling a company CEO what was wrong with their website. This was a risky move and wouldn’t have worked with some (maybe many) people. The obvious risk was that I may have been offended but she probably didn’t want a job in which she couldn’t express herself anyway. Personally, I was excited by someone being prepared to tell it like it was. The lesson - maybe a few appropriate risks are needed to achieve your personal work goals. Maybe we have to choose between being average to everyone and exceptional to someone?
  • She was right! Her analysis showed excellent insight

This is what I really love: Rachel made it impossible for me not to give her an interview. I would be crazy not to talk to this person. She got herself in the game. But she didn’t stop there.

The next level

I rang Rachel and offered her an interview. I congratulated her on her application and again emphasised that we had three other really good applicants.

On the morning of the interviews, I received an email from Rachel – followed by a phone call. She had put together a website/ blog from scratch demonstrating many of the skills required for the role – including some analytics on its performance over the couple of days it had been online.

(Click screenshot to visit page!)

personal work goals

Instead of the interview we had planned, we asked Rachel to walk us through the site. She explained that she had constructed it because she knew she had less experience than her competitors – and wanted to prove she was both committed and a quick learner.

Put simply, she made it impossible for me not to give her the job. Which we did and have not had a moments regret since. My comment to her: you do for my business what you did for yourself and I will be very happy!

Why don’t we all strive this hard to achieve our work goals?

Sadly, it is often because we are:

  • Afraid - what if we do all that work and then don’t get what we were aiming for? The response is usually to play it safe – rather than overcommit and risk disappointment
  • Lazy - it’s too much work
  • Less committed to our personal work goals than we really think we are.

There is a massive difference between wanting something and being totally committed to doing what it takes.

Do yourself a favour – next time you are setting a personal work goal, ask yourself – am I prepared to do what it takes or should I stop wasting my time dreaming about this and do something I am committed to instead?

Better still, ask yourself, ‘what would it take for me to commit to this goal at a ‘Rachel’ level’?

Need further inspiration?

Download our six inspiring leadership posters to keep you focused on your goals!

Leadership poster


Photo credit: (Paralympics) Marc via Flickr; (Obama on phone) By The Official White House Photostream (P060809PS-0350) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Topics: Personal Development