Q: I want to get my year off to a good start from a planning and direction point of view. What's the best way to go about this?
Dee, 34, product manager
A: Some people are planners; others like to go with the flow. Both styles have their advantages, but taken to an extreme, either one can cause trouble.
Take me, for example. My default approach has always been heavy on spontaneity. It has provided surprises, adventure and diversity of experiences, but also missed opportunities due to lack of preparation or willingness to commit to a course of action.
Yet those who are too far on the planning side fall into other traps. For example, they may stay with a plan out of principle even if the goal no longer makes sense.
The extremes are also challenging for building successful working relationships.
From the perspective of clients and colleagues alike, it's hard to work with someone who is overly rigid. Imagine if you are developing a new marketing campaign and the brand strategy changes. If you are resistant to adaptation, you will be frustrated — and others will be, too.
But leaders who won't pick a strategy and stay with it also put themselves and their companies at a disadvantage.
Knowing where you fit with all this will give you direction, and you will benefit from finding a position in the middle.
Start by defining your goal. This holds true whether you are thinking about your overall life vision, your high level business objectives for the year, or the needs of a specific project.
Let's say your company will be launching a new product in the summer. Apart from the technical aspects, there are many details that benefit from planning. Think ahead about all of these considerations and map out the timing for putting them in place.
For example, you will need internal training and communication, an external marketing plan, and sales preparation. There may be regulatory steps to take, or shipping and distribution planning.
As you can see, your overall product plan requires many sub-plans. You will likely be dependent on others for expertise. If you wait until the last minute, they may not be available and may not have enough time to complete their work. But if you rigidly plan their approach, you hamstring them.
In the spirit of the new year's new beginnings, consider this from a personal life vision perspective.
What are your values? What is your vision for your life? What would you like your legacy to be? When you have clarity about these, they serve as touchpoints that can frame your subsequent plans and interactions. Take some time to reflect to ground yourself, perhaps creating a vision poster or defining some key words to guide you in 2019.
The key will be to find a level of planning that builds on your innate orientation to ensure authenticity while also acquiring skills to build your personal and professional effectiveness.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.