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  • Dr. CK Bray

Stand Out at Work by Doing This One Skill!

Updated: Feb 4


It’s the beginning of the year and it’s time to create new budgets. Meetings are beginning to appear on your calendar to decide what are the short-term goals and what are the long-term priorities for your department and organization. Information needs to be gathered before you start allocating resources. Easy task for your team, you think, until you check back a few weeks later and there has not been much progress. Studies show that we fail to follow through on our commitments roughly 50% of the time, which personally I think is quite an optimistic number.


But there is always more to meet the eye when you have created goals for your team to accomplish. A thought leader in the field of motivation Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorsen teaches that when you create goals for your team and organizations to accomplish it is not just a matter of defining what needs doing, but you also have to

  1. Spell out the specifics of getting it done (don’t assume that everyone involved knows exactly what to do from beginning to end).

  2. Help your team have a vision of what the end or final product should be. Give your employees and organization a picture of what the end result should be as it helps them progress toward the goal.

Sounds easy right? Beyond those two things, what else can you do to improve execution, goal attainment, and success? It is what motivational scientists call if-then planning. If-then planning is successful for numerous reasons. It matches the way we as humans think and work. We are really good at taking information and then processing it into If-Then terms. For example, if x happens then y will happen and we make a connection that helps guide our behavior and actions. There are hundreds of studies that have proven that if individuals use If-Then planning they are 300% more likely than others to actually reach and attain the goals that they have set by:

  1. Improving team performance by sharpening the team’s focus.

  2. Prompting team members to carry out key activities related to the success of the goal in a timely manner and to discourage distractions.

Sounds good, but let’s put it into the real world.

In nearly every sales job (or any job for that matter) I have had to turn in weekly or monthly reports. The dreaded Friday report that everyone waits until the last minute to turn in. The report that over 50% of the time employees fail to turn in at the appointed deadline. (Yes, it is true!) How do you turn that around? Create an If-Then Plan. Have each team member decide when and how they are going to complete the report. So for myself I am going to say that if it is 3:00 pm on a Friday afternoon I am stopping whatever I am doing to sit down, grab a drink (soft drink that is!), and finish my report and turn it in. I make the If-Then plan even better if I decide that I will complete my report at Starbucks each Friday at 3:00 pm. (I’m wishing I had a report to turn in just so I can be at Starbucks on Friday at 3:00 drinking a Passionfruit lemonade—a very manly drink I know.) I will then write that plan down however I keep track of planning events in my life.


What then happens is when it gets close to 3:00 on a Friday afternoon I know exactly where I am going to be and exactly what I am going to be doing. My report gets turned in on time and the more I follow this plan the easier it becomes. Sound too easy? Just try it and you will find that the first few tries may be difficult, but after three successful attempts, it only gets easier. Try it and let me know what you think. It’s better than turning in your report late!