After presenting recently on the topic of personal strategic planning to a diverse group of about 200 ambitious women, I realized the need to share this content with a broader audience of hopefuls who are eager to propel themselves to the next level both personally and professionally. It’s not by accident that with great humility and gratitude, I often get the opportunity to share my story. Many have seen my journey up close by following my career progression and by exposure to my professional brand. What I often share is that building that brand was and continues to be very intentional to my personal strategic plan. For several years now, I’ve been consistently implementing and nurturing my brand (well before launching my consulting business). Having a personal strategic plan has been a catalyst for accelerated success I’ve had the fortune to experience, which resulted from passion, perseverance and pure curiosity.
Many of us only consider a strategic plan when thinking of our companies or our employers. We associate strategic planning with the process whereby we enter conference room with our colleagues with pen, paper, flip charts and markers, as we revisit or establish our mission, vision, goals, objectives and the like. However, rarely do we think of strategic planning as it relates to our personal lives.
I love empowering others with tools and nuggets of wisdom that will help them chart a pathway of success with great intention. Therefore, I’m sharing with you the same principles that resonated with those 200 or so women I recently had the pleasure of spending a good portion of my evening with a couple weeks ago. I hope to inspire you with the principles that have guided me in my journey and proved incredibly beneficial when implementing my personal strategic plan.
Those who have heard me speak before know that my absolute favorite word in the vocabulary is Intentional. I do a lot of speaking engagements and I don’t think I’ve ever managed to get through a presentation without using this word. It is such a powerful word and it’s so important to this discussion of personal strategic planning.
Intention is the driving force behind what has worked so effectively in my life. Intention is what led me to a my purpose. Being intentional has a certain look about it. It’s focused, deliberate, calculated, action-oriented, conscious, planned, thoughtful, and assertive. It means to execute with a purpose for an intended outcome and involves mental activity such as forethought. Intention is at the heart of every principle I will share with you regarding developing your personal strategic plan.
Personal Strategic Planning – what is it and why does it matter?
Personal strategic planning is identifying your purpose and mission and exercising intention in executing that plan to accomplish what you set out to achieve – not much different from organizational strategic planning. Personal strategic planning matters because it is a self-leadership strategy – if you can lead yourself you can lead others. Leadership is about improving others because of your presence and making sure that impact last in your absence. Building a personal strategic plan becomes an ongoing exercise of self-leadership. The very best leaders throughout history like Susan B Anthony, Helen Keller, Rosa Parks and many others were all principle-based leaders. If the very best leaders throughout history subscribed to principle-based leadership, we are wise to do the same.
Principle # 1 – Pursue Passion for your Purpose
Possessing passion for your mission and vision is about knowing your purpose. What are your passions and values? Enthusiasm is infectious. Being enthusiastic about your beliefs and ideas adds power to your convictions. Passion keeps you focused on your why/purpose. Simon Sinek tells us that in all we do start with the why and that’s true for personal strategic planning as well. When we’re passionless, we procrastinate on the plan or become burnout trying to execute it. With passion, we approach our plans with excitement and a sense of urgency. Passion gives planning energy. Passion also gives planning focus by narrowing our vision so that the plan dominates our attention and distractions fade into the background.
Principle #2 – Have a Personal Mission Statement
Start with what you want to accomplish, who you want to become and why. Your personal mission statement should evolve over time. Writing it down creates a greater sense of commitment to your personal mission.
Principle #3 – Build Your Personal Brand
When you have a strong personal brand, people recognize and care about your name, what you’re working on, what you offer, and what you’re about. It gives you influence. To build that strong personal brand you must be willing to put in sweat equity. This world is run by those who show up not those waiting to be asked. The absence of sweat equity into the execution of a plan is simply talk or rhetoric. Be purposeful and intentional. Have a personal brand statement, and work tirelessly to deliver on your brand promise. Here are some tips for being strategic in building a strong personal brand.
· Add value to gain influence.
· Pursue excellence. Become an expert.
· Network, be visible, and promote yourself. PR is your friend.
· Associate with other strong brands.
· Determine your niche. What separates you? What makes you unique?
Principle #4 – Build Partnerships to Gain Influence
Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life. No one is here today because they did it all on their own. I’m certainly not here today because I’ve gotten to this point on my own. In fact, I share all the time, that I am a believer in mentorships. Relationships are the single most powerful weapon that a person can have at their disposal to leverage.
A mentor is someone who you can be accountable to, a trusted confidant, someone with values and attributes you would like to emulate. The purpose of a mentor is to partner with you on your success. Mentor/mentee relationships can take on many different forms. Also, there’s something to be said for being strategic. Don’t rule out the potential of someone you normally wouldn’t connect with to be your mentor and advocate. Be versatile and open to learning from anyone.
Principle #5 – Pay it Forward
Promoting others and paying it forward builds your personal brand. I particularly love to see women supporting and promoting other women. Women must realize that part of our responsibility as women is to protect the full turf. So, believe in each other, support each other, defend each other and think and act as if your fellow sister deserves the world. Women accomplishing success has a leverage effect by providing role models and aspiring goals for other women and for girls at early stages of education and career decisions. Helping others have a significant effect on what it does for you just as much as what it does for others.
Principle #6 – Pursue Risks
Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow. In fact, I always like to encourage women to take the worst, the messiest, the most challenging assignment you can find, and then take control.
I like to challenge myself to take on things before I’m ready. That’s how I intentionally grow. A courageous spirit can help actualize our potential to the fullest. Courage is necessary for us to operate at our full capacity. Life is inherently risky. We must see risk for what it’s worth. Each mistake teaches us something. If you are afraid to take risks because you are afraid of criticism, then stop reading this now and accept life as it currently is for you. Risks cause you to stretch yourself to build your capacity for even greater potential.
I wish to focus the last few principles on concepts that have worked for me to help keep me on track during those times when outside influences made it hard to follow my personal strategic plan.
Principle 7 – Have a Victor’s Perspective
The quality of your life is based on how you process the events of life. Be a victor and not a victim, especially when faced with adversity. If you have a victor’s perspective, then most events will be interpreted as necessary. A victor looks at every obstacle as an opportunity. A victim shuts down, stops trying. At the outset, I make up my mind to expect challenges, road blocks, and then I remember my why/purpose. Having a victor’s perspective gives you confidence during those times when you are faced with difficulty. To have a victor’s perspective you must build your confidence.
A victor’s perspective forces us to avoid confidence killers to prevent compromising our brand. Confidence is a weapon. I am a woman of great ambition, (we must have that level of confidence) and there’s only one way I know to do things and that’s with a heart of tenacity, spirit of conviction, source of clarity, and most importantly with intention!
Principle# 8 – Principle of not Taking Things Personal
It’s healthy to assume people’s actions are coming from a place of positive intent. We must see the good in others for our sanity. People in general have sensitive natures and along with this quality comes the tendency to input meaning and motive to the behavior and actions of others. Perhaps it’s not personal and then asks yourself…so what if it is? Sometimes silence is the best response. And, it will keep you out of a lot of trouble. Remaining out of trouble helps protect your brand and avoid distractions. Not having to react to everything shows that you are in control of your emotions. Emotional Intelligence is an incredible skill to have when building and cultivating relationships and executing your personal strategic plan.
Principle #9 – Strive for Progress and not Perfection
I don’t believe that there’s such thing as work life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life. Perfectionism is a confidence killer. The irony is that striving to be perfect, keeps us from getting much of anything done.
I’m learning each day to become more and more vulnerable, letting people see my human side. Being willing to be vulnerable and admit when you need help. Showing humility can be risky, but also rewarding because if forces you to remember that you are striving for progress and perfection.
Principle #10 Live by Principle
You must stand for something. Be intentional about having strong conviction for principles. Someone who stands for nothing will fall for anything. Standing for something takes courage. It takes the mindset of a trailblazer, a change agent. Your actions in moving towards your dreams should not compromise who you are. Maintaining your integrity and character is crucial to anyone concerned about charting a pathway of success and building a strong personal brand.
For me, my convictions for are equality, and inclusion, building a strong legacy that my children and community can be proud of, and more importantly on a personal note, living a life that honors God.
We must always remember that life’s bigger than us. So, have conviction for those things you care about. Be voice in areas that need our attention. Be a person of principle.