Do you know how long it took Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? Just over four years. Four years. On one project. Wow. Good thing Michelangelo doesn’t live in an era where our average attention span is 8 seconds.
But look at what resulted. One of the most globally recognized paintings in history.
Michelangelo’s work on the Sistine Chapel randomly came to mind this weekend as I was reflecting on a project I’ve been working on for about six months now. I needed to remind myself that achieving goals requires PERSISTENCE.
You can’t expect overnight success and immediate results, particularly when you’re aiming for sustainability. Think about campaigns, new programs, or change efforts for example. Right about the time you start to get sick of it, others are just starting to tune in and get curious about it.
So how can we be persistent about the goals we’ve set out to achieve? And, how can we cultivate persistence amongst others when we’re working as part of a larger team?
Keep your eye on the prize. If it’s an extensive project, you’re bound to get lost in the weeds. Pull yourself out from time to time and remind yourself of the larger end goal. Make sure your actions are always strategically directed at that end goal.
Assess the project rationally. Don’t let emotions like frustration and possibly even rejection take over. When we throw in the towel and stomp away, no one wins. Think about what changes you might need to make to your original approach and be willing to make them.
Put yourself in others’ shoes. Think about those less involved in the day-to-day details of the project; maybe even the target audience you’re trying to impact. Meet them where they are and make sure you’re addressing the needs they need fulfilled. You will likely already be three steps ahead, which isn’t always a good thing.
Keep the project team engaged and motivated. You can do this in several ways, such as:
- Break the larger project into smaller chunks so that a “newness” comes with each phase.
- Recognize and celebrate milestones at various points along the way.
- Take time off to focus on something else…even if just very temporarily. You’ll come back refreshed.
Mentally prepare yourself to deal with unforeseen roadblocks. Michelangelo didn’t want the Sistine Chapel project to take four years, and in fact, several of the reasons it took so long were beyond his control – damp weather and illness to name a few. But these things came up, and he dealt with them, and his original game plan changed. There will be detours and roadblocks that effect your project. Period. Persistence will help you get through them.
But (There’s Always A “But”)
Never let your persistence and passion turn into stubbornness and ignorance. ~ Anthony J. D’Angelo
Sometimes we give it our all and it just wasn’t the right path, for whatever reason. Trust good mentors and colleagues and be receptive to feedback to know when to let your persistence go.
How do each of you begin a new year? A valued colleague of mine, Erin Schreyer, suggests that you pick a “word of the year” that sets a tone and keeps you focused. This is great advice, and if I wasn’t so long-winded (working on it…), I’d be able to do just that. Instead, I’ve chosen four:
Live what you love.
Why? Because we only get one chance at this life thing. In 2014 (and beyond), I want to stay focused on spending my time – both personally and professionally – on the things I love. I’m thinking this might sound like a desirable feat to some of you as well, so let’s dig in.
A Personal Perspective
2014 will be a year of change for me as I officially “open shop” on my organizational development consulting practice – Core. I’m excited for the opportunities this new venture will bring to my life. It’s going to help me live what I love. How?
I LOVE… enhancing employees’ workplace experience and helping organizations thrive through engaging and empowering people practices. This is my passion, hands down. I am now able to experience a greater breadth of projects and interactions outside of just one company. I’m blessed to be kicking off my 1st quarter in business with three outstanding clients – two former employers who are near and dear, and one new partner who I’m excited to learn more about.
I LOVE…my family. As an independent consultant, outside of my client obligations, my time is mine. My children need their parents to be strong, positive, and active forces in their lives. I need the flexibility to be there for them when they need me.
I LOVE…giving back to the profession that I get so much fulfillment from. I serve on the boards of Authentic Leadership Cincinnati and the Greater Cincinnati Human Resources Association (GCHRA). I’m looking forward to dedicating more focused attention to both groups, whose missions I very much believe in.
I LOVE…spending time with students. I’m a part-time Adjunct Instructor at the University of Cincinnati’s Blue Ash campus. It’s an outlet for me. I learn and grow so much from just 3 hours each week with my students who are achieving dreams through education.
I LOVE…healthy living. I value a healthy lifestyle – both physically and mentally – so that I can bring my whole self to everything listed above. This new career path will allow me to eat healthier meals at home and squeeze in my runs during random “break points” during the day…no one will know if I sit back down at my desk full of sweat! 🙂
To be able to balance all of the things I love the most, independent consulting was the right track for me to pursue. I realize, however, that venturing off on your own is not for everyone. So lately I’ve been thinking about how others, within a more traditional organization, can live what they love and how managers can help their employees get there. Below are some tips I hope you find helpful.
How can you live what you love in 2014?
Identify what you love.
You might have some self-exploration to do. Start drafting a list. What do you love and how do you want to spend your time? This might be harder than it sounds.
Talk to people about it.
Once you figure it out, share it with the world! The more you talk about it, the more you’ll encourage yourself to spend your time doing those things – even if it means enduring uncomfortable change to get there. Seek out mentors, learn from their experience and knowledge, and have them hold you accountable.
Take control of your destiny.
Sure, some things are out of your control, but the ball is largely in your hands. What do YOU (not anyone else!) need to do to be able to live what you love? Build a plan, take ownership of it, and execute.
This is where it can start to get uncomfortable because it may require that dreaded 6 letter word – CHANGE. It could mean deciding to move on from your current position or employer. It could mean asking your boss for an international assignment. It could mean going into work an hour earlier so that you can be home for family dinners.
A long-time mentor of mine once told me, “big things don’t happen with timid actions.” What bold actions do you need to take in 2014 to live what you love?
How can managers help their team members live what they love?
- Listen. Do you know what your team loves – both personally and professionally? If not, get to know them. Listen to both their verbal and nonverbal cues.
- Facilitate opportunities. Even though I’m a firm believer that you need to create your own destiny, it certainly never hurts when someone lends a helping hand. As a leader, what opportunities can you create for your team to help them live what they love? Maybe you can connect them to people or other resources they might not be aware of. Or maybe you could offer job shadowing, job rotations, or special project assignments.
- Ask what you can do to help your team achieve their goals. Let’s say one of your team members has a passion for cycling. How powerful would it be if you said to him, “Jason, I know it’s one of your goals this year to ride more (you know this because you did #1!). What can I do to help you achieve this goal?”
- Be flexible and open-minded. If you do #3, be prepared for the response. Jason might ask to arrive later in the mornings once the sun comes up so that he can ride his bike to work. He might ask if you would support his request to the facilities team to add a bike rack to the parking lot. Being flexible and open-minded to your team’s needs is a way to help them live the lives they love.
Don’t Forget About Mindsets
Love the life you live. Live the life you love.
The first sentence is very important. Not only could you strive to fill your time with the things you love; it’s equally important to develop a positive mindset to love the life you’re living…even if you’re not doing what you love all the time. Let’s face it, it’s impossible to spend 100% of our time doing things we love (I don’t care much for mopping floors – you?). If you adopt an optimistic mindset though, it’s amazing what you might find yourself loving.