in Learning and Development, Self-Improvement

This article is part five of a seven part series on my perspective on building teams. You can read the rest of the series on my blog at  While I’m sharing anonymous examples of situations based on real experiences, the series should not be construed as an attack or disparagement on any specific organization I’m involved with, but rather as a list of my thoughts on how to improve teams in general. I look forward to your constructive criticisms and thoughts.

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Where do you see yourself in five years?

There I did it again. #sorrynotsorry How very “millennial” of me to add that hashtag. Oh, are we not supposed to talk about the hashtags? Are they still called hashtags? Whatever, kids these days. I’m going to put on a record. Yeah, now I’ve lost you young ones.

Think about your day job. What glue keeps everything bound together? Do you have a mission statement for your business, your team, or yourself? Do you have a vision for how to make that mission come to life?

I love telling stories — check it.

IMG_9506When you’re out in the woods, searching for a missing person, what is your goal? Do you just have one, or do you have some smaller goals that help you reach a larger goal? I suggest having at least three goals, let’s look at them in a land navigation scenario. You know you’re looking for a missing person, that’s goal number 1. In order to find that person, you need to go to some point that you cannot currently see. How far can you see?

From where you are right now to the horizon, that’s the foreseeable future. Your number one goal is beyond that point. Pick a point on the horizon, make that goal number 2. You now have two goals, get to that point on the horizon, then get to the missing person.

How do you get to the horizon? There’s hills, mountains, valleys, streams, even rivers or wildlife in between here and there. You need some intermediate steps or paths to get to the horizon, right? Can you see the path clearly between you and the horizon? Are there trees in the way? Any obstacles to circle around? Pick a point about 30 feet in front of you, get there. You’ve just achieved goal number three. Did that feel good? You just made meaningful progress toward your number one goal. Check that little group of steps off the list now, and set more goals, each thirty feet in front of you, in the direction you want to travel. Be sure to navigate around any obstacles, or use your resources to go through or over them. Keep checking off those boxes each time you get thirty feet closer.

Progress feels great doesn’t it? Have you found the missing person yet? No, of course not, but you’re feeling confident in what you’ve accomplished so far, right? How about that point that was on the horizon — it’s closer now, you’ve almost reached it, too.

IMG_9523Keep repeating this process until you reach that point you had selected on your old horizon. Have you learned anything new about the subject, or about your environment? Apply these lessons to your journey as you go. Now that you’re at goal number two, the point on your old horizon, it’s time to check off that box, too. Go ahead and pick a new point on the horizon. Have you found your missing person yet? No? Keep searching, keep navigating, you’ll get there eventually, and until you get there, you’re getting a lot of little steps done. It’s not such a long journey when you can accomplish things along the way.

Keep your eye on the prize, but don’t be afraid to put smaller goals in front of your eyes, too. Keep up your spirits. You know what’s great about these little goals? You’re practicing your communication and training skill sets as you accomplish the goals.

You’re communicating to yourself that you can do it, you can succeed. You’re training yourself to have more endurance, better observational skills, and you’re managing your time. You are now stronger, having made it this far. These little wins will keep adding up.

These goals you set don’t have to all be your goals, they can be your team’s goals, or your company’s goals. Does your team have a clear set of goals to act on each day? Do they know the “Commander’s Intent,” so that they can make better decisions when the goals seem far away or the plans become cloudy?

What if you don’t reach your goals? What if you miss the target? What if you don’t find the person you were searching for? Do you learn anything along the way? Did you improve your ability to communicate effectively? Did you overcome any obstacles?

If the answer to any of these is yes, then the effort is not lost. If you learned something along the way — then you are now better for it. Go out and search again. Keep searching, keep walking, running, hiking, keep reaching for your goal. Just because you didn’t finish it today doesn’t mean you need a new goal, it means you need to move the goal to tomorrow.

In the last few days, you’ve learned or been reminded about communication, training and setting goals. What do you say we have a little fun tomorrow, and relax? Sound like a plan?