Tag Archives: goals

Watch Your Tone?

By Melonie Curry, MBA

Do you remember the days of chilling in your room and your mom calls you and you yell WHAT? And she responds, you better watch your tone of voice or if you were in arms reach… you know how the story ended.

As communicators, it is still important to watch your tone. The words you chose to use to communicate with customers and coworkers establish your brand voice. The Nielsen Norman Group has developed The Four Dimensions of Tone VoiceThe spectrums include:

  • Funny vs. Serious
  • Formal vs. Casual
  • Respectful vs. Irreverent
  • Enthusiastic vs. Matter of Fact

Think about some of the communications you have viewed. When you log onto your bank’s website, the language is going to be very formal and serious. Health and fitness ads are usually very enthusiastic. During the Super Bowl, the commercials for Pepsi and Doritos were funny and irreverent. If you are writing a proposal, it could be formal and matter of fact. Using the wrong tone can take a very negative turn, as in Pepsi’s attempt to be aspirational by having Kendall Jenner hand a police officer a Pepsi during a social justice march.

Get a notepad and make two columns. Take a look at the vision for your personal brand vision or your company’s vision. Write down five words that describe the vision on the notepad (i.e. educate, inform, superior service, quality, funny, factual, aspirational).

Now it’s time to take a look at the tone of your communication. You can look at your website, email messages, personal bio and or social media messages. Identify the tone of five samples in the second column.

Are the tones of your communications aligning with your vision? If not, it’s time to watch your tone. Before you post or hit send, take a moment to review the tone and ensure your communications are in alignment with and promoting your vision.

Melonie Curry, MBA, is a staff analyst with ParkHouston.

Are Systems More Important than Goals?

checklist of habitsBy Matt Penney

I was recently reading James Clears’ Atomic Habits. It’s a follow-up book to one of my favorite reads, The Power of Habit, which declares that 40 percent of your decisions are not deliberately chosen but instead are habits. If almost half of all actions are not contemplated, what does that mean for our own personal growth and for the trajectory of our parking operation?

The paradigm-breaking concept in Atomic Habits is that systems are more important than goals. In a world so saturated in goal setting and goal achievement, this concept sounds almost naïve. Of particular interest was the book’s highlighting the negative aspects of the pursuit of goals:

  • The quick frustration with lack of progress or a missed goal (like New Year’s resolutions).
  • The fixation on measurable metrics that can’t incorporate a bigger more complex picture (as seen in public education mandated testing).
  • Cutting corners to achieve the goal but at an overall detriment to an organization (remember Enron).
  • The potential listlessness after a goal has been missed or even achieved (think gaining weight back after a period of weight loss).

It’s not so much that Clear advocates systems without goals, but more an emphasis on a system of habits rather than the goal. He suggests that if two or three habits are established/refined, the overall desired outcome could be achieved with success greater than set in a goal.

Baylor Parking Services followed this habit-first emphasis with surprising success. Baylor clears a little more than 2,200 parking spaces for football game day use. We wanted to physically tow as few cars as possible but didn’t set a goal to define a successful outcome. Instead, our department focused on communicating with each vehicle owner. This involved a system (habits) of emails and phone calls (two systemic steps). The end results have been far better than expected with only a handful of vehicles towed before game days. On one occasion, we did not have to tow a single vehicle.

In this scenario, it appears Clear may be on to something. If habits really do make up 40 percent of our actions each day, this has a significant effect on us personally and on our organizations. Are our customers really choosing where/how they park? Or are they following an automatic/unthinking pathway created in their brain? What about our employees and the way they act/react?

Atomic Habits outlined basic rules for molding habits. If Clear is right, these habit/system strategies may be more productive than goal setting.

Matt Penney is director of parking and transportation services at Baylor University.

The S.M.A.R.T. Approach to Financial Goals

By Mark A. Vergenes

As you move through life, it’s essential to continually establish, measure, and refine long-term financial goals. We recommend using the S.M.A.R.T. planning tool. It’s believed George T. Doran created this acronym for a management paper he wrote back in 1981 for the Washington Water Power Company.

S: Specific Financial Goals

When you create goals, it’s not enough to write down that you want to have enough money to live a general kind of life or save for retirement. Instead, be specific in ways that help you map out a real plan: pay off my existing debt in the next 12 months, or save enough in the next eight years to pay for half of my two children’s college.

You can have more than one specific goal but you shouldn’t have dozens. Pick the items that are most important to you and your way of life and focus on achieving the most important goals.

M: Measurable Financial Goals

As you develop your financial goals, you’ll need to assign dollar values. To see your progress as you reach your goals, you’ll need to measure them periodically.

A broad goal is to save for retirement. Think more specifically. You may be 20 years from retirement and want enough to spend $50,000 a year each year for an estimated 15 years of retirement. This allows a financial planner to help you figure out reasonable savings goals, factoring in interest over time, expected returns, social security, cost of living, health care concerns, and inflation.

A: Assignable Financial Activities

Who is going to track your financial goals? Are you going to spend time doing this with your partner or spouse? Would you like a financial planner to help you track your progress? Is your sister-in-law an accountant who wants to help? To reach aggressive financial goals, assemble a team of experts and make sure everyone understands their assigned role.

R: Realistic Financial Goals

We all want a Porsche. And a villa in Italy. And to retire at age 40. But shooting for the moon is not helpful when creating financial plans. Consider your income and a reasonable projection of your future income, and plan accordingly. If you want to eliminate mortgage payments before you retire in five years but you owe more than $100,000, diverting all your money into home payments may not be your best move. It may be more realistic to downsize, refinance, or even rent your home to tourists for three months of every year.

T: Timeline

Most of us postpone serious financial commitments until our 30s, 40s, 50s, or beyond. Create realistic timelines for your goals and stick to them. While it may feel uncomfortable to extend your mortgage into your retirement years, it may be necessary to meet other financial obligations in the interim.

The more time you give yourself to reach financial goals, the more attainable they will become. Planning early can, literally, pay off in the long run.

Mark A. Vergenes is president of MIRUS Financial Partners. He will speak on this topic at IPMI’s 2019 Leadership Summit, Oct. 3-4 in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Investment Advisor Representative offering Securities and Advisory Services through Cetera Advisor Networks LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. Cetera is under separate ownership from any other named entity. MIRUS Financial Partners and Cetera Advisor Networks LLC are not affiliated. 

What Summer Can Teach Us About Surviving the Long Grind

By Michael Pendergrass, AIA

Ah, the traditional summer road trip. Packing the family up in the car and heading out to see far-off destinations feels like a rite of passage in the U.S. When you pull out of the driveway, you’re fueled by the excitement of the adventure to come. Spirits are up, hopes are high–at least until you hit that first long stretch of road that goes on for hours without any sign of the promised adventure. Nine hours in the car without a reward can make both kids and adults cranky, bored, and restless. Suddenly the destination no longer holds that magical appeal–all you can think about is getting out of the car.

This may sound familiar to anyone who’s worked on a big project that is months or even years down the road from completion. That long-awaited moment when the work pays off and the goals have been realized is the ultimate celebratory occasion, but if you’re so focused on that end goal that you neglect to do a little sightseeing on the way, all you have to look forward to is that feeling of being stuck in the car. What started as an exciting journey becomes an unrelenting grind.

To keep my family engaged on a recent trip we took through California, we made it a point to find interesting landmarks along the way, like the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, or the World’s Biggest Dinosaur Museum in Cabazon. By having these mini-stops on the way, our ultimate destination didn’t seem so far away.

When it comes to the workplace, how can we commemorate the smaller milestones on the way to a big project completion? Happy hours at the end of the day or catered lunches to celebrate the completion of a deadline are great ways to reward your team and remind them how much they have accomplished, even if there’s a lot more to do. Any outing or activity that offers a change of pace creates opportunities to connect, recognize our accomplishments, and re-energize ourselves for the next phase. Our office even participates in the occasional ping-pong or shuffleboard tournament to encourage people to put down their pencils and get out of the car to stretch their legs, so to speak.

If you’re feeling a little worn down by a long grind, stop for a moment to reflect on what you’ve accomplished. It’s probably more than you think! How can you commemorate your progress? What milestone will you celebrate next, and how will you reward your team?

Michael Pendergrass is an associate principal with Watry Design, Inc.

Four Tips to Achieve Your Goals

By Vicki Pero, SPHR

As a new year begins, many people and organizations are focused on goal setting. Often, sometime in the first few months of the year, goals are modified or abandoned because we’ve fallen off track and achieving them seems out of reach. Instead of sharing a bunch of tips on how to set goals, here are a few strategies to help achieve them.

1: Write Down Your Goals.

Research has shown that simply writing down your goals will increase the likelihood of achievement by as much as 42 percent. There is something about putting goals to paper that increases accountability. It also offers a point of reference to go back to and refresh yourself on your commitments.

2: Don’t Try to Eat the Elephant in One Bite.

One of the biggest pitfalls people fall into when setting goals is making them extremely challenging, which sets us up for failure. If you set a goal to go to the gym every day, for example, the first day you are too busy, have a head cold, or some other life event, it’s no longer possible to achieve, and this can be self-defeating.

Set smaller, more attainable goals that will lead to the bigger achievement you are working toward. You will gain momentum as you go and increase the likelihood of achieving your bigger-picture objective.

3: Less is More.

On the theme of avoiding over-commitment, don’t set too many goals at one time. One to three goals strikes a good balance. Anything more than this dilutes focus and jeopardizes the chance you will complete any of them. If you’re not convinced, read “The Four Disciplines of Execution.”

4: Celebrate Successes.

Most of us are really good at beating ourselves up when we don’t achieve a goal, but move right on to the next thing when we have a success. Take a moment to recognize when you achieve a milestone or achieve a goal. Even identify a reward for yourself for when you achieve a goal and follow through when you succeed.

Think of these tips as building blocks in your strategy to achieve your goals. Using any one or any combination of them will help you to make sure 2019 is a success personally and professionally!

Vicki Pero, SPHR, is principal with Marlyn Group.