CareerSherpas: Climbing the Mountain

When you’re on the way, it helps to share the load

Archive for March, 2008

No-brainer day: Set Goals

Monday, March 31st, 2008

Whether you’re considering a course of action or just trying to find a general direction to head in, setting goals is the only way to home in on what you want and what you need to do now. Knowing where you’re headed helps you understand the ramifications of your choices and gauge the benefits of opportunities.
No matter whose mantras you follow, whether it be David Allen motiviating us toward “Getting Things Done” or Alan Pease directing us toward better interactions with others and recognizing opportunities, goal setting is the cornerstone. By setting goals, we not only help ourselves understand the target, we can open ourselves to opportunities as they present themselves.

The core concepts that experts seem to agree on are:

  • Set short-, medium- and long-term goals: Each type of goal should offer a chance to move toward a longer-term goal. Every step should build on the previous one, letting you see the progress you’re making toward your bigger goals.
  • Set realistic goals: This doesn’t mean don’t set goals that you don’t know how to accomplish now, but it does mean consider what’s feasible. A goal of being the king (or queen) of England might not be feasible, but generalizing it to being a king (or queen) might actually be a possibility. (There are small islands for sale all over the place that are technically their own countries. As the owner, you could declare yourself to be royalty… A crazy idea? Perhaps. But then again…) Another example which has become more feasible in recent years is the concept of travelling into space. Sometimes a seemingly impossible goal becomes more realistic over time.
  • Write your goals down and update them: A written list of goals that can be read again and again is important. Without a documented list goals can be forgotten or disrupted.
  • Review and update your list regularly: Depending on who you ask, daily or weekly goal reviews are necessary. Practically, the frequency of your reviews seems directly connected to the ultimate success one has in achieving larger goals. While I’m looking for someone to do a study on the ratios and to give us all some direct guidance on optimal review cycle, clearly the most effective path to achieving your goals is making sure they’re fresh in your mind.

How do you set your goals? How far out are you looking? Please share in the comments!

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of and is currently working on his first book, managing a team of project managers, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.

Can You Rise Too High?

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Having made decisions in your career that moved you into management, do you regret it? Have you reached a pinnacle of success only to find yourself constantly reminescing about the fun of delivering on the front lines? If you’re having these thoughts, there are really two possibilities for where they come from:

  • You’re feeling nostalgic (completely understandable) or
  • You’ve moved into a position where you can’t do what you enjoy

If you’re consistently having thoughts like this, it’s important to really consider whether you’re in the latter camp. Given the wide variety of organizational styles that might provide the aspects of the job that you’re missing and the simple opportunities of taking a step back into a lower-level role, there’s no reason you can’t reconsider your position.

Most often this seems to occur with front line managers who aren’t too far removed from the delivery team and so get to see the parts of their jobs that they enjoyed dangled in front of them on a daily basis. It’s tantalizing to want to reach out and move the curtain, get your hands dirty and really get into the work. The problem is that by crossing that boundary, you limit the chances that your staff has to grow and mature professionally.

At the same time, a different structuring of your team could provide you with the opportunity to work on some of the day-to-day problems of your team without eclipsing them. An example is a round-robin style leadership where each individual can engage and help drive issues that the team is facing. This offers a chance for you to join in as a participant while giving the team opportunities to stretch and be challenged.

In some cases it might be better to shift to another company that has a structure that allows you to comfortably work on the day-to-day problems as well as maintain your managerial life. Some organizations with a flattened hierarchy as well as many start-ups have ample opportunities to dive in and help in the delivery realm either because there’s a need for everybody to work on problems as they arise or from simple resource limitations. Either way, being able to jump in and help when it’s needed and step back when it isn’t can make life significantly easier for everyone in these environments instead of complicating a chain of command.

However you choose to handle it, take time to think it through and try discussing the situation with your boss or peers, you might be surprised the doors that can open up for you.

If you’ve worked through this problem, or if you’re currently in the midst of asking these questions, let us know in the comments!

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of and is currently working on his first book, managing a team of project managers, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.

Time to move on?

Friday, March 14th, 2008

So you’ve been at your current job for a while, and you’re looking around and wondering if there’s something more. Should you go looking for something new?

Naturally, there are as many reasons to move from your current position as there are situations where it starts to sound like a good idea. There are some fairly basic criteria to look at when you’re considering a move:

  • Have you done what you came to do? Let’s say that when you started at your current job you set out with a plan in mind of where you wanted a position to take you, it should be fairly easy to look at that plan and see whether you’ve reached those goals. If you haven’t seen those goals come to fruition and you can achieve them in your current role and you can stick it out long enough to do it, then it’s probably not the right time to move. Focus on reaching those goals, and plan to line up your next move after you’ve reached those milestones.
  • Are you going through a bad patch, or are you stuck in a bad pattern? Sometimes we look at incidents like mistakes (not always our own), a bad assignment, or a not so stellar review and ask why are we doing what we’re doing. It’s important to remember that one problem doesn’t necessarily mean that the job’s not worth doing. Then again, if you’re always catching the bad assignments, or always caught up in your or someone else’s misfortune, you might actually be in a bad spot. If there’s a pattern of bad news, it’s probably time to think about moving on.
  • What is it that’s making you want to move? Ultimately, something is making you think about moving on. Maybe you’re not feeling challenged enough. Maybe you don’t get along with your co-workers or, worse yet, your boss. Whatever the situation, think about what you like about your job, take the time to consider the positives along with the negatives. If the negatives consistently outweigh the positive aspects, it might be time to change positions. At the same time, if you find more you like about your job, try looking at the issues you’re dealing with a different way. You might find more there than you thought.

Ultimately, when considering whether to leave a position make sure you take into account the whole picture. Remember that if there are problems where you are, the same problems might be waiting where the grass looks greener. Take the time to think about the issues and really weigh them carefully against what you like. You might find a surprise or two.

Got your own criteria for leaving a job? Let us hear about it in the comments!

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of and is currently working on his first book, managing a team of project managers, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.