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Moving Towards Great… Changing behaviors that were acceptable in the past

bonsai forrestWhat Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team?  Part 7 of a series…

Next time we will talk about how expectations for behavior and performance will be changing, and how to make this process as painless and blameless as possible.

(Cue into music)  So we’re back with part 7 of what seems to be a growing series on how to hire for, and develop a great team.  We’ve talked about hiring for qualities because they can’t be trained; about how and why we welcome (indoctrinate) our new hire; and how to start removing roadblocks that are keeping our current team members from being great.

Next up, we have to change our team member’s expectations for service, performance, and behavior. 

If we have been leading this team for some time, we have allowed the team, as well as the culture, to become whatever it has become.  We have allowed the current standards to develop, and our actions (or lack thereof) have allowed the current culture to be the norm.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter if we are new to the team, or if we have been the team Leader, our goal is the same… we need to change the standards, the expectations, and the culture of our team.

I have found, through trial and more error than I’d like to admit, that the best way to go about this is accepting responsibility for the current state of affairs.  Even if you are new to the team, accepting responsibility for allowing the current reality will go a long way in beginning to develop trust with your team members.

Blaming the past Leadership, even if you don’t feel as if you are bad mouthing them, will certainly turn off a number of your team members.  It seems that the most simple and productive way through this is to tell ourselves that they did the best they could with the tools they had (because that is exactly what they did), and our job is to move forward from where we are now.

So, to continue changing the expectations for our team, we will need to address the behaviors or standards that were acceptable in the past, and state clearly what will be the standard moving forward.  These conversations will happen with individual team Leaders, team members, department teams, and with our entire team gathered together for a whole team meeting.

I realize that I write very differently than most, in that I try to spell out exactly what to do in order to achieve the results I describe.  This makes for longer posts, as well as fewer bullet points, so I hope you’ll bear with me.

Perhaps a few examples are in order…

We’ll start by talking about why we feel the need to make these changes, with honesty and transparency.  This is the only way to move forward and have any chance of achieving great.

You will own all responsibility for allowing the current conditions and standards of behavior… If you are not willing to do this you will not achieve great!

The more open and honest you are with your team members the better the odds they will trust your intentions and want to move forward with you.

So… I’ll list some examples of behaviors with the one successful way I have found to state how things will be changing.  This is not necessarily the only way to go about this, just the way I’ve found that works.

In the past, it’s been OK to complete and turn in your period end inventory without being audited by store Leadership.  Moving forward, you are responsible for getting a member of store Leadership to audit your inventory before handing it in.  This is not a punishment, nor is it because I do not trust you… it is simply a smart way of double-checking important work.  We all make mistakes, and using another pair of eyes is the best way to run our business.

In the past, I have allowed people’s attention to be on cell phones and laptops during meetings, instead of what was happening at the meeting.  Moving forward, cell phones will be put away, and laptops will be closed during meetings so we can all be present and participate in the running of our business.

In the past, team members have been allowed to have phones in their hands while on the clock, and on the sales floor.  Moving forward, once clocked in (and not on break or lunch) we will focus on our work, and our customers.  Cell phones are distractions, and so should not be in our hands or used at all during work hours.  If a team member has a personal situation that they feel necessitates cell phone use or availability, they need to talk to their team Leader about it before beginning work.

In the past, it has been acceptable to turn in team member reviews past the due date.  Moving forward, reviews will be completed and filed before the due date.  If there is a reason you do not feel this is possible, you must speak to your team Leader about it 2 weeks before the due date.  Our team members deserve their reviews on time.

These are just a few simple examples, and in each, we are accepting that the behavior had been accepted in the past, so there is no consequence for that past behavior.  However, in the future, we spell out the new expectation, and explain why the expectation is changing.  Doing this right will answer most questions, and get everyone on board.

Only a few parts left… We started changing the culture of our team by hiring only great team members, and continued by addressing behaviors that need to change.  In the next few posts we’ll talk about how to create a culture where feedback flows pretty freely, and where our team members ask forgiveness rather than for permission when trying something new.

Developing Your Future Leaders Part 7… Even More Traits That Describe Leadership

Even More Traits That Describe Leadership

Problem solving: defined as finding solutions to overcome obstacles, to find a way around, or through difficulties. Again, I think that this is one of the easier qualities for us to recognize in our team members. We usually hear about it after the problem has been solved, when a team member explains how they achieved the outcome. It may be after we ask why it was late, or in a form we didn’t expect. You may find that many of your team members were affected by some unexpected event. At best, the work of some was delayed, and at worst the work of others stopped. Then you will likely have one or two who found a way to continue working and get done on time. These are the people you want by your side.

The people who are good problem solvers will have varied backgrounds, they will have connections outside of the department, and they will be open-minded. These people will have read and be familiar with any training materials they received, and they will know more about the machinery/systems/materials you use than most other team members. Sometimes they will come to you to ask if they can skip steps; add steps; change the order; or alter a process… if at all possible your answer should be ‘yes, of course… let me know how it’s going’. These are the people who will help your business grow.

Relationship building: defined as the ability to identify and initiate working relationships, ability to find and maintain a mutual understanding. In your team members, you will have a few who seem to know, and be known by an unusually large number of their coworkers. Alternatively, it may not be that large a number, and they will have developed connections to people outside of their normal work group. Most people, if asked, will have a high regard for team members with this quality, and they will find them trustworthy.

The people you want will not be involved in gossiping, so you will not usually find them in the normal gossip group. These people will probably have a positive attitude, and they will usually be wearing a smile. In fact, they will probably have spent at least a little time attempting to develop a relationship with you. They will be the ones who ask if you have kids, where you grew up, and what’s the next move for you… not necessarily all work related stuff… they will be the ones who want to get to know you. In my opinion, as well as in my experience, relationship building and Trust are really what Leadership is all about. I don’t believe that one can call themselves Leaders if they cannot trust and/or are not able to build relationships. If you find these two qualities in any of your team members, find the time to take them under your wing and help them develop their strengths.

Self-confidence/self-esteem: defined as a feeling of trust in ones own abilities, a realistic view of ones own ability and power. Hmmm… this one can throw some of us off. I don’t believe that people will follow anyone who is not confident in their abilities, judgment, and qualities. And at the same time we all know a number of people with inflated egos, who believe that they are God’s gift to everything.

I don’t think it’s very difficult to weed out those people in our search for Leadership qualities in our team members. However, some of us may not be as confident in ourselves as we would like. So it can be easy for us to feel that someone with an appropriate level of self-confidence is showing conceit, and an excessive sense of their worth. This is something that only you can see and evaluate. Each of us must be honest with ourselves, listen to how we judge ourselves, assess our own self-talk, and make a determination about our own self-confidence. Only then can we safely and honestly judge the self-confidence of those around us.

Now… we still have to identify actions that describe the quality of self-confidence, don’t we? Self-confident people are less influence by their peers, and tend to make better decisions. They will not be jumping into the spotlight, or bragging. We will often see self-confidence and self-responsibility together in the same people. These people will not go with the flow if it is negative, divisive, or works against their own goals. In fact, they will often be the ones taking a stand against the grain of the rest of the team, only because they are not afraid to be wrong. They will be the ones who don’t need much assistance, however when they do they will not hesitate to ask for help. They will be the team members who admit their mistakes, and if they joke it will be at their own expense.

Self-discipline: defined as the ability to do what one thinks is right, control of oneself and one’s conduct. Or… doing what you don’t want to do now, so later you can do what you want to do. People who are disciplined will have their own goals, and will not be wasting time at work. They will not often be late, nor will they be likely to be hanging around after work. They will not make excuses for themselves, and will often be some of your hardest workers. They will stay on task, and follow through.

They will generally follow rules without having to be told twice. They will probably be very involved in some sport or activity after work. They will be the team members who show emotional intelligence. They are team members who do not take short cuts, at least without asking first.

Servanthood: defined as a person who performs duties for others, a person in the service of another. At work, servant Leadership is the desire to do for others… to help others achieve their goals, to help them grow as people, help them become healthier, wiser, and more autonomous. As for finding servanthood in our team members, we will be looking for the people who do for others before themselves. If there is a line for food or treats, look to the back of the line… not at those who are a little put off that they are at the back, but at those who look as though they chose to be there (and they just may have).

When in a group setting, you will look for those who make sure the needs of the other members of the group are met, and that everyone is heard. They may be heard making sure the group understands that any action they take should be for the greater good. Just as we find gold by looking for the rock with which it is often found, we can look to other qualities and be likely to find servanthood.   We should look for humility, authenticity, and empathy. These people will be long-term thinkers, and much less interested in anything short-term.   They will encourage their coworkers, and will often help others with issues outside of work.

Teachability: defined as able and willing to learn, capable of being taught. We might also say humility, and they are not exactly the same thing. The people who are teachable will be open to the ideas of others, and listen much more than they talk. They will admit it when they are wrong, and have no problem talking about what went wrong, as well as what to do differently next time. They will also freely ask questions, and ask for directions.

These people will take criticism with ease, and will be able to change their behavior quickly and with a smile. Doing what they are asked to do is no problem, and does not involve their ego.

So these are some of the ways in which we find Leadership qualities in our team members. After over 30 years of hiring and developing hourly team members, I have come to believe that pretty much every one of us has one or more of these qualities in varying degrees. As Leaders, our job is to seek and find these qualities in our team members; acknowledge and help develop them; and for hiring Leaders, hire for them.

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Developing Your Future Leaders Part 2…

Training Our Team Members

While you are doing everything that we’ve been talking about so far, you start training. Yes… even more on your plate. That’s why you make the big money, right? ; )

Some of it will be retraining, and that’s OK. It’s OK if they tell you they already know how to do that… show them your expectations. Tell them that you have very high standards, and you know they are capable of meeting them. Raising the standards of quality, efficiency, and service on the team is part of moving towards a high functioning team. Tell them all of this… remember our belief in transparency, and how this will build trust. Talk to them.

And remember, you are training people… these people are just like you. They do not respond well to being talked down to any more than you do. They do not appreciate being spoken to as if they were children any more than you do. They want to be shown at least one; maybe two ways of achieving the outcome needed, and then allowed to work out which method is best for them. We have to allow them to make mistakes, and see if there is yet an even better way to get to the desired outcome. If you are not ready to do this, you are not quite ready to be a Leader.

There are doubtless people on your team who have not been properly trained to do their job in the most efficient way (at least the most efficient you are aware of), or given high enough expectations (and the support to meet them), or given the chance to ask questions, or been allowed to practice the correct method, or the chance to alter the task to allow them to do it faster/better/easier. You will talk to each and every team member about his or her job. No one knows more about the tasks of a role than the person who has been doing those tasks.

Again, some of you are not quite ready to trust that this is the case… that your team members are not just out to take advantage of you. That they are just waiting for the opportunity to make you look like a fool. You might believe that his kind of thinking is natural, and no one really trusts other people to perform well.

Your thinking would be wrong! Do you believe that your boss should trust you? Are you deserving of trust? I’m guessing most of you will answer yes… yes, you think you are deserving of trust. And yet you don’t believe that the people who work for you are deserving of your trust? Hmmm… How would you define that kind of thinking? Does the word arrogant fit? No? Then how do you justify and rationalize the view that you are deserving and the people who work for you are not?

All right then! Let’s move on shall we?

You don’t have to trust everyone with everything at once. After all, they have been taught that they should not be thinking for themselves, and have not been allowed to do what they think is best. Start by asking questions and gathering information. Ask your current team members the questions we learned to ask in my series on hiring (which starts here). Ask them what they would do differently if they were in charge? What would they change if they owned the company? What would they like to see changed about their job? Do they have all of the tools they need to achieve the desired results?

Make sure each and every team member knows why their particular job is important in the big scheme of things. Over the years I have found so many team members had no idea that the job they did was important. It might sound silly to you… that you would be paying someone to do a job that was unnecessary, and yet no one had ever told these team members that they were an important part of the team. Make sure you say these words out loud… “You are an important part of the team, and I am invested in your success!”

You may not get the picture perfect reaction to your openness, honesty, and transparency, and that’s OK. You cannot take any of their reaction personally. Remember that your team members are probably expecting you to find a way to lower their pay, or their benefits if they get any, reduce their hours, or put more on their plates while giving them nothing in return. That is the way it is in too many workplaces… Is that how it has been in your workplace? It’s your job to show them, not just tell them, but also show them over time, that this is different. You are listening to them. You will make sure they have the tools they need. You will allow them to try new things, and expect that some of the time it will come to naught. You will have their back when they make a mistake. In time, they will begin to trust you. It is then that you will begin to have real influence over them.

This is a process. It takes an investment from you. You have to give more time and energy than you are used to. For many of us transparency and honesty do not come naturally at work. You will have to follow-up closely with your apprentices and keep everyone on the same page. If it is at all possible, work a variety of shifts, to be working alongside your apprentices as often as you can. Speak to the team members who almost exclusively work with your apprentices, and see if they are getting the same message that you are giving. If not, fix it right then and there, and then schedule time for follow-up talks with your apprentices. They need more help (as opposed to you scolding them).

There is a key here… even though we are extending trust, and allowing things to change, we still have a business to run. People will do what you inspect, not what you expect. That means A LOT of follow-up (at least at first). You will set that expectation up front with the entire team… you will be allowing AND inspecting. We still have department, region, and company KPI to meet. You will do your part, and it won’t take long for them to start believing you. They have to do their part, and you need to make sure they do, by checking that our standards/quality/quantity expectations are being met. Part of your job is to hold them accountable, as it is their job to hold you accountable for keeping your word.

Next time, we’ll talk about building trust by giving away responsibility. Don’t worry… we’ll talk about the right way to do it.

Oh… and if you like my blog, please ‘like’ my Facebook page.  The button is just up there at the top right.  I dare you to click it!

How to Find Your Future Leaders Part 1…

Meeting with Our Team Members

So… we’ve done a lot so far. You should be proud of all of the work you’ve done! Now you have to follow through on your promises from the whole team meeting. It’s really the only way to be a true Leader… you have to meet with your apprentices AND each of your team members in order to build relationships with them. We will talk about when and where to meet, what kinds of questions to ask, what to personal information you should share with them, and what to expect from them.

You need to start meeting with people as soon as possible. You just met with your apprentices while preparing for your whole team meeting, so you have some time for your team members. You will of course be paying them to meet with you, so during work hours is appropriate. If you need to meet with them before or after work, you will need to be very flexible with their availability, and understand that it may be difficult for them.

The point in meeting with your team members is to get to know them, and in order to do that, they have to be willing to talk to you. It might take a couple of meetings for people to believe you have good intentions, and start to open up to you. That’s going to have to be OK. One thing you can that may speed things along a bit is to talk to them outside of work. Yup… take each of them out for coffee, a walk around the block, whatever you or they want… as long as it’s doable in the time you have, and it’s not in an office at work. Offices at work are places where team members get written up, where they feel intimidated, and where most of them definitely do not feel relaxed and at home. Since you want, no… need them to talk to you, and volunteer information about themselves, you are responsible for helping them feel relaxed and able to do just that.

Exactly how much time you can afford to give them is up to you, and… you must take this seriously. We cannot expect to get another person relaxed and involved in an honest and genuine conversation in 20 minutes. I would suggest 45 to 60 minutes as a first meeting. Later meetings can probably be shorter, and we’ll leave that until then.

What? You can’t afford to do that? You don’t think that’s a good use of your time? You haven’t been reading along, or reading the books I’ve suggested, have you? You will need to go back and start reading from the beginning, at least from here where we start to talk about hiring the best. Don’t worry… we’ll be here when you catch up.

For everyone else, let’s move on, shall we?

Your goals here are two fold. First, you need to really get to know these people. Yes, they are people, just like you and your peers. Some of them are just as smart, if not smarter than you. One or two might just surprise you and have more education than you. You need to get to know them, understand their motivation; how they got where they are; and where they want to go. Fully understanding their goals and dreams is the only way know how to help them get where they want to go. You will find it helpful to let them know about you, and your life, including the good, bad, and ugly. Sharing your struggles and mistakes will help make a connection, so please don’t get to this point and then fail to be honest and transparent. These people are not stupid, or as gullible as you might think. You need to really, honestly connect with them, and that means sharing yourself with them.

The other goal of these meetings is to begin developing Leadership qualities in our team members before we need them, and maybe before our team members are even thinking about their next role.

This is the great advantage of hiring for qualities rather than skills. We can pretty easily teach most any skill, however the qualities that enable us to be Leaders are not so easily taught. They can be developed, and only if the person has done, or is ready to do some very difficult personal work. And isn’t it handy that many of the qualities that we hire for happen to match up with the qualities of a Leader? Imagine…

So… first off, you may be thinking “Hey Steve… I didn’t get to hire any of these clowns, and I don’t see Leadership qualities in any of them”. “And while we’re at it, why do you always capitalize Leader”?

Well, I’m going to ignore the tone of that last remark, since the anger behind it is probably not about me. I capitalize Leader to give the word the respect it deserves, and to, in my mind at least, create a separation between the title ‘leader’ and a person who is acting like a Leader.

On to your actual issue… I understand that many of us inherited our teams, and we have to work with the team members we have. If you’ve been reading, you know that I have worked for some pretty crappy bosses, at some very unhappy workplaces, and under some unusually poor working conditions. I don’t think for a second that my experience is unique. A huge percentage of us have worked for years under managers who have no tools in their Leadership toolbox, and so they simply follow the example set for them… They yell, they demean, they threaten, they demand, they lack integrity, they keep all of the credit and love to place blame, they withhold praise as if it’s in short supply… I could go on and it just depresses me.

From my varied experiences as a team member, and my long and mistake filled years as a Leader, I believe the percentage of people who have a ‘great team member’ within them is much larger than most people think. And the idea that they could be a valued team part of a team, or even a team Leader, was beaten back down inside by the poor managers they had in the past.

We all have to work with the team members we have. Our job is to treat each and every one of them with respect, to trust them, to believe in them, and to give them a chance.

Yes… you with that smirk on your face… go ahead. Go ahead and tell us how you will be taken advantage of if you start trusting everyone. Tell us all how you have tried that in the past only to have someone take advantage of your good nature. You can leave the room. Your negativity is crushing me.

For the rest of us, yes… some of your team members will need to go. If you are to successfully transform the culture on your team, you need to get rid of the most negative, the ones who do not really want to work, or be part of a team. You know who they are, and it’s best if you get them off the team as quickly as you can.

For the majority of your team however, give them a chance, give them a safe environment, give them 9 times as many positives as negatives, give them the tools they need to do the job, give them the freedom (as much as you can in your workplace) to achieve the desired outcome without telling them how to do it, give them a fair and transparent rewards system, tell them about your own struggles, share your mistakes, show them you have integrity and walk your talk every day, ensure that your apprentices are following your example and expectations are consistent from day-to-day and shift to shift, allow them to make mistakes, have their back when they do, and be the person you always wanted as a Team Leader, and you will find a team full of good people, waiting to their chance to be great!

Now… literally how do we get there? Well… you have to do everything in this last paragraph. You have no other choice if you want to change the culture on your team.

Well… 3 pages is probably about as long as any of you are willing to read at one time, so we’ll stop here for today. Next up, we’ll talk about training, I think… there are so many important things to talk about, and I get off topic so easily.

Oh… and if you like my blog, please ‘like’ my Facebook page. The button is just up there at the top right. I dare you to click it!

How to Build a Leadership Team part 1… How to Set Team Goals

OK… back on track.  so we’re pretty much done with the hiring and indoctrination, although we will need to talk about the training, and follow-up with our new team member sooner rather than later, so we might see another aside.

For now, we need to move forward with building a Leadership team, without which we have no chance of building a high functioning team out of those great people we just learned to hire.  We started the process by meeting with our apprentices, to define our current reality.  Again, I find myself working on two things at once here.  We need to proceed to defining our goals, determining what needs to change, now that we agree on what is happening, and in addition to that there is also the personal work that needs to happen…

I am going to guess that the vast majority of you reading this do not have a boss who is a great Leader and is mentoring you.  You are more likely on your own in your hunt for the skills it takes to hire and keep the best team members.  Keeping those team members requires Leadership skills.  If you were sitting here with me we would talk about what I see you doing, how you are interacting with your team, why those things are or are not working for you, what behaviors need to change, and how to change them.  Often we would also need to talk about what thinking needs to change.  Since you are there and I am here, I can only talk about what should happen, at least in my experience, and you will have to find ways to get an objective look at your own emotions, behaviors, actions, and reactions to determine why you have been failing to achieve the results you want, what needs to change, and how to go about making those changes.  If you have specific questions post them in the comments box and I will do my best to answer them.

I think, if you don’t have a boss who is a good leader, you should do your best to find a mentor.  This person must be the kind of Leader you strive to be, otherwise how will they know how to get you there?  As John Maxwell would say, a leader can only develop others to his or her own level, and not beyond.  If your mentor is in a Leadership position, and yet is micromanaging, overbearing, and is not developing Leaders, they will not be able to show you how to be the kind of Leader who does those things.  Does that make sense to you?  Good.

I would suggest starting with other Leaders who work around you.  You will know you are onto to a good choice when you find a Leader who: has the respect of their team, has team members who don’t want to leave the team except to be promoted, promotes more team members than most, has a high functioning team, helps the team members achieve their goals, and is achieving their own goals as a team Leader.  Someone who fits this description will most likely be willing to talk to you about helping you develop your leadership skills.  You AND your apprentices are also, I expect, reading one of the two books I suggested in Hiring Hourly Team Members Part 15.  You should all be reading the same book, so you can talk about what you’ve been doing wrong, and how you are all going to act moving forward.

For now, we’ll get back to our team building…

Once we know and agree where we are, and what is actually happening, we need to decide as a team where we want to be.  We will have goals that we will need to reach, such as sales goals, margin and labor targets, etc…  In addition to these we will set our own goals for the team.  What is the minimum quality we will accept?  What level of service?  How will we judge ourselves?  How will we move those unacceptable people off the team?  Is there any chance we can change their behavior rather than losing them?  How and when will we give each other feedback?  This is important because many of the things we will be doing moving forward will be new to us, and may even seem unnatural.  We will have to help each other along in order to stay on track.  If you, as the Leader, think you can do this alone, and are not willing to accept feedback from your apprentices, you will not succeed in achieving your goals.

This is a key… Humility… listening to the people who work for and with you, and actually hearing how you come across, how you are as opposed to how you want to be, is a mandatory skill.  If you have ever come across in a way other than you intended… see this post…  Building our Leadership skills…  You took it the wrong way!  If you believe: that you are smarter than everyone around you; that you know better than everyone around you; that you could fix almost every situation if they would just listen to you; or if you blame anyone but yourself for your failures, please make an appointment to see a therapist or a job/leadership coach.  You have some issues with humility, and will NOT be able to be a great leader, or build a great team without doing some personal work.

Now, we all agree that we are going to raise our standards, and reach whatever goals we have set for ourselves.  Look at each of your goals and make sure that they are all quantifiable.  That is, can we measure them?  If not, how will we know how we are doing, or when we have achieved them?  Some of them may have to be modified to make them measurable   Remember, we are still doing this as a group.  It will not turn out well if you meet, agree on our reality, come up with goals, and then the Leader takes them and returns with a different list.  Your apprentices will not buy into your list of goals, and you are certain to lose some of the trust you have been building.

I would also want you look at your tasks, and make sure your break down builds in lots of smaller goals… one of the keys to maintaining a high energy level around something big like raising standards, and rebuilding team morale, is celebrating lots of small wins.

Another quick but important key here… We get more of what we reward and celebrate.  So… when you are setting up your goals, you must be sure to align the way you reward the team with your goals.  The majority of these rewards don’t have to be huge… they can just be small tokens… movie passes, free meals, etc…  Your main reward system should also be aligned with your goals, however I realize that many of you will not be in a position to alter those.  You will do what you can.  So many companies have terrific goals, and then they fail to align their reward system with those goals.  The end product?  Those goals go unmet of course.  You will do it differently.  You will align your rewards with your goals.  You will set up many small wins to celebrate along the way.  You will publicly appreciate team members every time you see them doing something right.  You will never correct a team member in front of other team members.  You and your apprentices will all be singing the same song, over and over and over, and you will all help each other stay positive.  Your standards will be the same from day-to-day and shift to shift.  You will sit in with your apprentices when they have difficult conversations, just as a moderator, making sure each person is ‘hearing’ the other and making sure it all turns out well, and then giving your apprentice feedback afterwards.  You will give away all of the credit to your team members and apprentices, while taking all of the blame when things go sideways.  You and your apprentices will be shining examples of the behavior you want to see.  Be the change you want to see… isn’t that what Gandhi said?  He was able to change a whole nation.  We just need to change our team.

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Here is a nice article about setting goals.. enjoy!

Seven Principles for Setting Goals That Work

There is another key here, and we’ll talk about it in the next post…

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