5 Ways To Survive at Work When You Have Impossible Targets
Lately, your targets have been going up and up and up and you're beginning to wonder whether you've been set impossible targets.
Because though you've tried everything to hit them, from coming up with your best ideas to putting in extra hours, nothing seems to be working.
So what do you do?
Do you push back at your manager and say they're unrealistic? Or do you crack the Da Vinci Code?
Before you push back, I recommend you try these 5 strategies to survive at work and hit your targets.
I discovered these effective strategies when I had to hit the biggest yet lowest probability target in my life... avoiding cancer and staying alive.
Less than a year ago, I was diagnosed with a one in a million tumour that only grows in healthy girls and women under 35. It was bigger than a tennis ball and was pressing on my major blood vessels which caused me to have a mini stroke. I needed immediate surgery to take it out.
With this borderline malignant tumour, my chances of a healthy life after surgery weren't great. There was a 10% chance the tumour would grow back as pancreatic cancer which has a survival rate of less than 1%, and there was a 50% probability I'd have major complications after surgery and I'd die or become chronically malnourished, infertile or diabetic.
A 23-year-old woman, who was a few years younger than me, had the same tumour as I and died a within a year after surgery due getting one of the major complications and a cancerous re-growth.
The stakes were high. I needed to live and be healthy.
Here are the 5 things I learned about hitting your targets even when the odds are against you.
#1 - Early detection of your work tumour is everything
A tumour is an abnormal growth of cells in your body. We often think tumours only grow in people. But they also metaphorically grow at work and affect how you, your team and company perform.
They show up as problems that grow and spread throughout the organisation in a way that slows down or stops your business from functioning at 100% of its capability.
Example growths are bottlenecks, internal disagreements, low motivation, discrimination, communication problems... the list goes on.
When they start off small, for example, a couple of people on one team feel demotivated, it's manageable.
But when this spreads and affects all teams, and the majority of employees feel demotivated, then you have a serious issue. Staff turnover becomes high, those who were once passionate about the business stop generating innovative ideas and people begin to clock in and clock out.
And so before you assume that a target is unrealistic because you haven't figured out a way to hit it, ask yourself "WHY am I not hitting my targets?"
Often it's because something is standing in your way.
To figure out what's slowing you down or stopping you, write down a list all the things that are standing in your way and discuss with your team what you can do to overcome them.
#2 - Find a meaningful purpose in what you do
Let's be real, most targets feel purely financial. For example, "Let's close £2 million in client billings this year," or "We need to grow the business by 3x for an acquisition," or "We need to get 500k app downloads."
We often set targets because we feel they're necessary for financial reasons. But this isn't enough to make you or anyone in your team go the extra mile when work is tough and unsatisfying.
People only go the extra mile when they have a reason to. Whether it's for the greater good of the world, like saving the planet or saving someone's life ... or a personal reason like being able to afford good care and schooling for your children or being able to put food on the table.
If you don't figure out what motivates you, you won't have the energy, motivation or stamina to persevere and hit your targets even when the odds are against you.
To find a meaningful reason that'll motivate you to not give up, write down all the things you hope you can do in your professional and personal life. Explore how hitting your targets will help you achieve the things that are important to you.
There's no right or wrong reason.
The only thing that matters is that you have a meaningful purpose that'll inspire and push you to work smarter and harder. When something is truly important to you, you don't take no for answer.
#3 - Stop thinking things won't work and focus on how you can grow
A growth mindset is where you believe everything is figureoutable. You believe you can learn anything and you'll achieve anything with practice and in time.
One thing that surprises me is how very few of the people I've met have a growth mindset.
For example, most people I know would rather stay in their comfort zone and look smart, rather than step out of their comfort zone and fail when trying something new. They'll say things like "That's not how we do things around here."
If you're uncomfortable with trying new things, stepping out of your comfort zone and developing new skills, you and/or your team could be trapped by a fixed mindset.
A term coined by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, a fixed mindset is where you believe you're bad at something and won't get better even if you try. You believe some people are born nerdy, smart, tech-savvy and successful. And other's aren't and can't learn how to be.
A fixed mindset ought to be called a stuck mindset. Because it keeps you stuck where you are.
If you want to finally get a breakthrough and perform better than you and your team have done before, you need to focus on doing everything you can to grow. Whether it's by taking new courses to upgrade your skills, trying new strategies you've heard about or simply switching from thinking "I can't and I won't" to "I can and I will."
To discover how your mindset is keeping you stuck, write down 10 reasons why you believe you or your team aren't skilled enough to hit your targets. For each reason, write down one thing you can do to change it.
For example, I'm a Branding and Growth Consultant for people who want to be leaders in their field. One of the things I've struggled with is launching an online course. I didn't know how to do it. Writing it down showed me the next step would be very easy. Take and complete a course on launching digital educational products.
#4 - Make living a healthy lifestyle your #1 priority
We often take our bodies for granted. When all your fingers, toes, legs and arms are working properly and you live a "normal" life, it's easy to forget that a healthy body is essential for completing all your tasks.
But when you're diagnosed with a sickness or end up having a tumour like mine, life eventually stops because you need to recover and be healthy.
For at least three years before I was diagnosed, I was tired. I thought my fatigue was a direct result of working long hours, being stressed with work and my personal life. But even when I started contracting and worked from home full time, I was equally as tired.
The truth few people talk about is, when you're tired, you're not delivering your best work. Period.
Your brain isn't performing at its optimal level. In simple terms, you can't remember small yet important details, you're not as focused, your ideas aren't as creative and your projects aren't as innovative.
And if you're stressed, you're not as good a listener or communicator, you're more irritable, you're harder to work with and you're not showing up to work as your best self.
If you want to hit targets you've never hit before, you have to deliver your best performance.
As a former Chelsea Girls Football Club player, I and every athlete know, no one delivers their best performance if they aren't consistently eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep and having a ritual that helps you get energy. All the players who didn't take their diet and lifestyle seriously never made it to the top.
If you want to hit targets that take you to the top, write down 5 things you know are making you less productive and effective at work.
This could be not getting enough sleep, eating too many sugary foods that make you crash in the afternoon, not having some quiet time to yourself to think and get things done before meetings.
Whatever it is write it down. For at least 4 weeks, focus on resolving one of those things. When it gets resolved, move to the next thing.
#5 - Avoid taking reckless shortcuts you'll regret and have to pay for in the future.
It goes without saying reckless behaviour can destroy your career or business in a matter of seconds.
Infamous people like Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and Kevin Spacey know this too well. Despite being extremely talented at what they do, their lives turned upside down when they got caught taking advantage of their power for their own sexual pleasure.
Their story may seem far out. You most likely aren't a creep.
But to this day, many professionals still do something reckless in other ways. Most often, it's when they're looking to take shortcuts.
Whether it's choosing to use cheaper materials that aren't sustainable or ethical for the planet, committing consumer fraud like Volkswagen or paying men more because you believe they're less likely to go on long maternity leave multiple times like women.
You can also be reckless in smaller yet still problematic ways. For example, if you're working with your team and you don't gather the concerns of Directors who can stop your project at any time. If you and your team believe everything has been approved without verifying key stakeholders are on board with everything, it's easy to spend months on a project, only for a Director to turn around and say "Actually, this isn't going to work."
When you waste time on a project that doesn't get approved because you didn't align key stakeholders from the start, you've lost that time and it makes it harder for you to hit your targets.
Make it easier for yourself.
Don't do anything you know could be a problem in the future. Whether it's unethical, illegal or simply not collaborative, don't do it.
To figure out if you're sabotaging your success, write down 3 ways your projects have been stopped before and why. For each of these items, write down what you will do differently moving forward.
Make smart and sustainable, not reckless, decisions today and even though it may make things a little harder in the short term, you'll hit your targets sooner and more consistently in the long term.
To learn how to more easily achieve your career or business goals, come back next Thursday to read next week's blog post.
If you'd like to get notified when this post is up AND immediately learn my top 5 tips for becoming a leader who influences people and gets things done, sign up for my free 5-day email training.
#1: You'll learn how to overcome the thoughts and doubts that are sabotaging your ability to hit your targets.
#2: How to become so talented at what you do, people listen to what you have to say
#3: Become so influential, your words change the way your company does business and your impact makes the world a better place too.