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Showing posts from 2012

Art Worster on Transforming Your Business

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Art Worster is a consultant and author who has just published a book called Maximizing Return on Investment Using ERP Applications. He is also an old friend and colleague who I met back in the 1980's when we both worked for a large Germany-based chemicals company.

The book, co-written with Thomas Weirich and Frank Andera, industry experts in business process improvement, looks at ways that enterprise resource planning (ERP) programs can drive business improvement and success.

I recently interviewed Art and we spoke about such things as organizational change, culture, systems thinking, leadership, and engagement.

Q. You talk about an integrated approach to business transformation. Can you be more specific about what you mean by, or include in, that comment?

A. Thanks, Terry. Our book “Maximizing Return on Investment Using Enterprise Resource Planning Applications” talks about the exposure of fundamental business logic across functions that becomes illuminated by adoption of int…

Marcella Bremer on Changing the Culture of Your Company

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Marcella Bremer is a consultant and author based in the Netherlands who has just published a book called "Organizational Culture Change: Unleashing your Organization's Potential in Circles of 10." I had the pleasure of speaking with her via skype and asking her about her work and her book.

Here then is a short interview with Marcella Bremer, followed by more information about her and her book.

What is culture change and why would a company do it?

“Culture change is a label for behavior change. Why would you change behaviors? There are many reasons why. Employee turnover is one symptom. Losing a major account is another. Only a few companies have the visionary leadership to see change far ahead. Most do not change. They wait until they feel the pressure. Until they are standing upon the burning platform. Then they must change, whether they like it or not.”

What mistakes do companies make in this regard?

“75% of Organizational Change programs fail because their approach is t…

Lead the Way: Book and Podcast

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My latest book, entitled Lead the Way, has been published at last. A few months behind schedule, but better late than never.

What's it about? In a nutshell, how to become a more engaging leader. Here's the blurb I wrote:

Thinking about what it takes to become a more engaging leader? The roadmap to leading effectively is not a secret. In fact, the way has been known for a long time. In Lead the Way, the roadmap to becoming a more engaging leader is described in clear, commonsense, and practical terms, so that anyone who desires to lead more effectively can do so.

And not only has the book come out, so has a podcast interview with UK-based Anna Farmery at The Engaging Brand, where we discuss the book.

An accomplished interviewer, Farmery asked me some excellent questions, exploring such topics as:

- the roots of engagement (it starts from within)

- the power of connecting (where the sparks start to fly)

- the language of leadership (we need to use language creatively)

- the le…

Staying With the Unknown

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My Israel-based organization development colleague Allon Shevat wrote that the most important skill for an OD practitioner is the ability to stay with the unknown.

Here is an excerpt of his note: "...we can't cope well with ambiguity. I was trained on the knees of the Tavistock model which helped me more than almost anything else to navigate well through unknown complexity. If you want to add to what else helps to deal with ambiguity, then delve into eastern belief systems, live in a country that lost an empire like the UK, or come to Tel Aviv for a week."

Paraphrasing him, the most important skill for an OD practitioner is the ability to navigate and cope with complexity, the unknown, and the ambiguous. Or as Allon said, to stay with the unknown.

Amen to that.

When I think back to my earliest OD training, as an undergrad in the Human Communication Interaction Lab at Rutgers, that was my number one learning.

My gurus were masters at the unknown and ambiguous. Their sta…

Everyday Leadership

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With so much research, thinking, and writing on the topic of leadership, I sometimes wonder if we are getting any closer to really understanding it? I wonder if ordinary people recognize that they have the capacity to be leaders too?

Then along comes a force of nature, superstorm Hurricane Sandy, and we get a very clear idea of leadership in action.

For example, look at the Spanish club students at Franklin Township High School in Somerset, New Jersey, who noticed that gasoline was getting scarce so they developed an app to find out where the gasoline was in your part of the state.

Look at the two women in Hopewell Township who formed a storm relief effort to collect food and clothing for victims of the storm.

The list goes on and on. Neighbor helping neighbor. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things when the need arose. That's leadership.

Leadership guru Warren Bennis once said that leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. What that means, I think, is tha…

Love In the Workplace

Do you have love in your workplace?

I am currently doing some work for a client that is a large, faith-based, non-profit social services organization in northern New Jersey. They do a lot of good every day for some of the most damaged and troubled people in our communities.

In our training sessions, it's not unusual to hear the word "love" used. Yesterday, at a school for special needs children, in a session on how to strengthen teams, one of the participants commented on the list of teamwork ideas that the group had just generated.

"It's a good list," he said. "But without love, it's nothing."

Around the room, other heads were nodding in agreement. One other person chimed in, "It's true. Though we may not use the word very often, we do love our kids and we love our jobs."

I asked them if they love one another. Though it generated some laughs, they said that they did.

Pursuing it, I asked them: What is love in this workplace?

Re-Thinking the Formula for Change

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Over the weekend, a colleague sent me a link to a cute little video about the way to change the world. In sum, the makers said that you need three ingredients: an idea, a team, and action. I like it. Simple and clear.

But not enough.

I was reminded of Gleicher and Beckhard's Change Formula, D + V + F > RtC, where:

D = Dissatisfaction with the current situation, plus

V = Vision for improvement, plus

F = First Steps, must outweigh

Rtc = Resistance to Change

Recently, due to some reading and conversations, I've been thinking of some additional variables to further enrich this model. Perhaps the Change Formula could go something like this...

D + V + F + R + P > ItC

D = Desire to change or Drive to change, plus

V = Vision for the possibilities in change, plus

F = First concrete steps in the direction of the change, plus

R = Resilience, plus

P = Participation, must outweigh

ItC = Immunity to Change

A few comments on the tweaks above, in reverse order:

Immunity to Change - This is the t…

Customer Service with HEART

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Serving customers is one of the most challenging jobs out there. You need to be a good listener, an effective communicator, a calm conflict mediator, and an analytical problem solver all rolled into one. You must be very organized and have infinite patience. Plus you need to wear a sunny disposition even on days when you don't feel like it.

Many have endeavored to capture the key ingredients in customer service, so I have decided to throw my hat into the ring as well.

I call my approach Customer Service With HEART:

H = Help and Hear - You are there to Help the customer. Plain and simple. And the first (and most important) thing you do is listen. Hear the customer fully before responding. This may be the toughest part of listening. We have to make the choice to listen, especially when we are busy, preoccupied, stressed, and distracted. When you focus on the Other, pay attention to What is being said, as well as What is not being said. This includes the non-verbal signs the person i…

On Your Marks, Get Set, Go!

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Did you have the opportunity to watch the recent Summer Olympics on TV? The games were thrilling as always. And so many great athletes stood out such as gymnasts Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman, volleyballers Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, swimmers Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin, and runners Usain Bolt and Oscar Pistorius.

While watching the track competition, I took note of the runners just before their races started. The TV cameras zoomed right in for the close-up shots of their faces. You could see that they were getting into the zone of high performance.

Then came the three commands we are all so familiar with, On Your Marks, Get Set, and Go. It occurred to me that these three steps form a part of the leadership process.

On Your Marks - This first command says to the runner, Get in your lane. Get on your starting spot. This in essence is the leadership property of alignment. Getting into the right place to perform.

Watching the high diving competition, especially th…

Principles for Change Agents - Part 2

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As I said in Part 1, I have been a gatherer of good principles for managing change. Some of the maxims are common wisdom, others I can attribute to individuals whose work has had a direct influence on me. Here are a few more that have helped me to think differently about my work.

Get the whole system in the room - The credit for this one goes to Marv Weisbord, the author of the classic book Productive Workplaces. In his journey from business owner to OD Guru, Marv learned a lot about human systems and how to change them. One of Marv's insights was that change in an organization is possible if you get the right people into the room. Who are the right people? Anyone who is part of the process you want to change. If any key party is forgotten or missing, the entire effort will suffer.

People support what they help to create - This one comes from Meg Wheatley who has taught us that change is made possible when the people who will be most impacted by it are invited into the process of …

Principles for Change Agents - Part 1

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Recently, a colleague asked, Who or what has most influenced your thinking and practice as an Organization Development consultant?

In my travels, I have been a gatherer of good principles. Some are common wisdom, others I can attribute to individuals whose work has had a direct influence on me. Here is a sampler:

Seek first to understand - This one simply says, Before anything else, be sure to listen. In Zen Buddhism, one is taught the idea of the Beginner’s Mind. S. Suzuki once said "In the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind, only a few." Having an attitude of openness, being eager to learn, and walking in with a lack of preconceived notions when approaching a new client or problem, is the essence. Be receptive. Listen to your client, your team, your customer. Listen and you will learn. Listen well and you will be in a better position to help. This principle comes from the late Stephen Covey (who died today at age 79) in his now-…

The Leader's Choice

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Once upon a time there were three leaders. Each made choices, day in and day out, that affected their organizations . . . in every way.

The first, let’s call him F, was afraid of everything, including new ideas. "Don't kick the hornet's nest," he would say. He didn't want trouble. He did not want to upset things. "Don't rock the boat," was another favorite maxim of his.

He hated bad news. So, when he realized that his company was losing money and falling apart, his chief concern was protection, especially his own. He said to his head of HR, "Your job is to keep me out of jail."

Eventually, the company went under and many lost their jobs. Soon thereafter, F the Fearful Leader, landed like a cat in another choice executive job.

The second leader, we'll call him S, loved new ideas, especially if they came from himself. No one on his staff worked as hard as he did. No one had as many creative ideas as he did. In fact, his staff was just…

How Did You Get Started As A Consultant?

I was recently asked, "So, How did you get started as a consultant in the field of Organization Development?" As I answered the question, I noted how much I was enjoying providing the answer. I realized I was enjoying telling my story.

Questions such as "How did you get started?" ask us essentially for "our story." Each of us has a story. And most enjoy telling their story when they get a chance.

Sharing stories is a useful exercise. For the audience, each story offers something, certainly information, maybe instruction, perhaps inspiration.

Story telling also shapes the teller. For the teller, the story is an act of personal identity construction, one that job hunters for instance know quite well. Every time a hiring manager says "Tell me about yourself," a job applicant is invited to tell their story.

We tell ourselves our own story continually throughout our lives. Maybe that's why so many (including me) have gotten into genealogy. We…

New Managers: Watch Your Step

Recently, I was in conversation with a 25 year old freshly minted manager. The new manager was beaming with pride and excitement about his job with a company in the mid-Atlantic region.

When I asked him about the job and what he does, he said with all sincerity, “And now I have people under me. Now I give the orders. And they have to listen to me for a change.”

I nearly choked. Here was a fresh-faced young person, only out of college a few short years, who has already internalized the wrong image of what a manager does.

Look at the worn-out paradigm that is reflected in the words he uttered with such joy:

Under me – The old concept of manager is that of Boss where the starting point is fear. The manager has the power. And the manager distrusts people. As a result, he must control them, keep them down and under his thumb. With the workers “under” him, the Boss holds the power and “wields the stick” of authority to run the gang.

Give orders – In the old concept, managers decide what needs…

On Being a Leader - Memorial Day 2012

On this beautiful Memorial Day morning, when we remember the fallen heroes who served our country in times of war, I am thinking about my father, George James Seamon, who bravely served America during World War II, putting his life on the line in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy against the Nazis. He did not talk a lot about the war, but for the rest of his life (He died in 2003 at the age of 78), he carried a deep admiration for General George S. Patton. Patton, my dad would say, was a true leader. Fearless. Visionary. And genuinely compassionate toward his troops.

The same could be said about my dad, who after the war joined the New Brunswick Police Department and rose steadily through the ranks, attaining the rank of Captain, and ultimately Deputy Chief. Like Patton, my dad was fearless when it came to his job, whether dealing with the criminal element, or with corrupt politicians. Many is the time that men who served under my dad would say how wonderful a leader he was. He could b…

Transforming Ideas Into Action and Results

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Ever had the experience of synchronicity? It’s when you notice some coincidental events and you say to yourself “Whoa.” I had one the other day. In the morning, I saw an HBR blog about making ideas happen, and then later I saw a post about the 99% conference on the subject of making your ideas happen.

When I worked for the American Management Association several years ago, I proposed a new seminar on this very topic: How to turn your Brilliant Idea into action. It was shot down in the new ideas committee. Somewhat ironic, you might say.

I was really bummed about that rejection. I thought the seminar idea had real potential. Little did I know that the Great Recession was about to commence. Sometimes, in retrospect, you realize that an idea you are having is “ahead of its time.” Or maybe your idea was like the proverbial seed that fell on rocky ground where there was no soil for it to take root and grow.

So, let me propose this course again. What would it teach? Some of the themes of th…

Making Change Work

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Recently, I have been quite close to a few major change initiatives and I've noticed how certain basic principles associated with making change work are routinely overlooked.

People support what they help to create - Here's a basic question for the leaders of change: Have you consulted the people who will be most impacted by the change? Leadership experts like Meg Wheatley and others have taught us that "people support what they help to create." A simple and powerful truth about human nature. If you want the buy in of people in your organization, you must treat them with respect by inviting them to discuss the change. Listen to their concerns, and to their ideas. There's a great quote from Warren Bennis on this: "Good leaders make people feel that they're at the very heart of things."

Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater - How often have you seen this scenario? A CEO gets fed up with something in his organization that he perceives as dys…

Be Easy To Do Business With

HR Blogger Liz Ryan just published an interesting piece, at the Business Week Management Blog, titled "What every CEO needs to know about HR." I was drawn in, expecting to read a post addressed to CEOs. Actually it's a list of points for HR leaders. Good points to ponder, to be sure, but not what I expected.

Yet, Liz Ryan inspired me to write this blog post. Over the course of my HR career, I've had the chance to work closely with several CEOs. From my experience, plus the wisdom of Ram Charan (whose 2001 book What the CEO Wants You to Know is a small gem), here are some guidelines for HR leaders in working with the CEO and other business heads.

1.Know your stuff - CEOs are pretty smart people, generally speaking, having come up through a technical or functional path such as R&D, Sales, Finance, or Operations. Though they know an awful lot, they count on you to know your HR stuff, to be the go-to expert when it comes to HR matters.

2.Get close to your customer - …

The Way for Leaders

My OD colleague Roland Sullivan asked what wisdom I would share with CEOs in Asia about learning, development, and change. In my career, I have had the opportunity of observing "up-close and personal" several CEOs lead their organization in both learning and change. Here's some wisdom based on one of these people.

One was the CEO of a rapidly growing telecom company in the 1980's and 90's. He authored and fostered the action-oriented, fast-paced, customer-focused organizational culture that promoted teamwork, initiative, and continuous improvement. He recognized (and often said) that the company's competitive edge came from its "secret weapon" which we knew was the ACTION Culture, embodied in the highly engaged and committed People.

The ACTION phrase stood for the following ingredients:

A = Attitude
C = Close to your customer
T = Teamwork
I = Initiative
O = Open communication
N = Never ending improvement

As you can see, for this CEO, success was all…

Start Making Sense

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Professor Dave Davidson was one of my undergraduate professors in Human Communication, my major at Rutgers 35 years ago. His theory of human nature: "Never assume that the next guy knows what he is doing...much less why."

That maxim has bedeviled me ever since. As a Communication and Information theory guy, Dave Davidson was very into the work of Karl Weick, the social psychologist. Among Weick's many contributions, his concept of sensemaking made a lot of sense.

In a nutshell, sensemaking is the mental process of interpreting and constructing the reality around us. So defined, we are sensemaking pretty much all the time as we go about our daily lives. Most of the time, stuff makes sense to us. Sometimes, we find ourselves in challenging circumstances where we have to actively make sense of what is going on.

One of those challenging circumstances is organizational change. That's why Organization Development (aka OD) practitioners need to be sensemakers.

People spend…

This Blog Now Has A Podcast!

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Big news to share. Here We Are. Now What? has its first podcast!

The topic is job search, and it's an interview conducted by my son Kevin, based upon my newly self-published book "To Your Success!"

Running at just over 14 minutes, the podcast features a Boomer-to-Millennial chat about such job search topics as:

- being bold
- being "in transition"
- going direct to employers
- using your time effectively
- the merits of volunteering

The guitar music that frames the podcast was provided by my son Dave who is not only a great singer, but also a composer.

I hope you enjoy it. Please share it with anyone who is "in transition" and could use a pick-me-up.

Note: It is now also uploaded on youtube here

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Tuesday March 13, 2012

When Agents of Change Resist Change

What do you do when the people who were once the Agents of Change in your organization become, at a later point in time, the biggest resisters of change?

An example of this happened years ago, in the 1980's when I was with a global chemicals company. The regional training managers were brought together by the HR leadership team at headquarters, to work collaboratively on a comprehensive leadership development program and competency model. It was a rocky time to say the least. Each of was was embedded in a different business unit. Though we were matrixed to HR as well, our allegiance was to our client groups. It became apparent quite quickly that no one wanted to be there. The storming phase would go on a lot longer than anyone thought. One of my fellow training managers quipped, "Who will facilitate the facilitators?" We all laughed but we got the point.

Even agents of change, such as Training & OD Managers, can get in their own way, stuck with their hand in the bana…

Busy Week o' Writing!

This has been a busy period of writing for me! Topics range from job search to engagement to leadership. So here is a round-up for those who may have missed something.

My Book! - I self-published my first book, called To Your Success! a motivational guidebook for anyone in transition, whether seeking a job, or seeking more meaningful work.

Keys to Success - After speaking to a local Professional Services Group gathering of job hunters about some of the points in my book, I published this article via examiner.com to reach a broader audience.

Importance of Invitation - On the topic of engagement, one of the keys to connecting and engaging others is the simple (yet powerful) gesture of an invitation. This post was inspired by the prolific John Maxwell whose new LinkedIn group gave me the inspiration.

Leaders, Honor Thy People - On the topic of leadership, I was invited to be a guest blogger at the excellent About Leaders site that is run by Dr. Mary Kay Whitaker and Ron Whitaker. This post

My New Book: To Your Success!

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After years of preparation, I finally self-published my first book the other day. Called To Your Success," it is a motivational guidebook for anyone who is "in transition" seeking their next job or searching for more meaningful work.

As the great writing coach William Zinsser once said, "Write what you know." As a veteran of the job search, being "in transition" is something that I know quite well.

The topics covered include:
- identifying your strengths
- clarifying your mission
- writing your accomplishments
- setting goals
- telling your story
- building your resilience
- strengthening your confidence
- learning to sell yourself
- overcoming obstacles
- managing your time
- making change happen
- learning from failure
- achieving success

If you are out of work, or know someone who is searching, then consider this guide. Having been there myself, and having helped many job hunters these past several years, I know how difficult it is.

But there is a process. And …

Fail Well

Have you failed lately? Rather than shuddering at such a question, it may be time to rethink the role and value of failure in life.

At Wimbledon school for girls in the UK, they are having Failure Week, a program intended to boost the resilience and courage of their students.

Headmistress Heather Hanbury says that the program's emphasis will be "on the value of having a go, rather than playing it safe and perhaps achieving less."

When we are kids, the socialization process teaches us that failure is bad and to be avoided. When you get bad grades in school, for example, you sweated the eventual showdown with your parents. Our culture says "Failure is not an option," which pretty strongly slams the door on failure.

At the same time, there has been another school of thought on failure, reflected in such thoughts as these:

Thomas Edison: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discar…

The Process of Improving

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Looking to improve something in your life in 2012? Perhaps you are thinking of improving yourself? If you are looking to improve your team or your business, here are seven steps to process improvement.

P = Pick your target. Picture success. What would it look like if you actually reached your improvement goal? Envision it as specifically as you can.

R = Review your starting point. Where do things stand right now? What are your strengths that can help you reach the goal? What obstacles stand in your way? Make a list of each using the Force Field diagram where Driving Forces are listed on the left and Hindering Forces on the right. (This excellent strategic change management tool, the Force Field Analysis method, was developed by Organization Development founder Kurt Lewin, and was one of the first OD tools I learned.)

O = Open up. Have you ever been on the receiving end of an improvement hatched behind closed doors? Don't repeat that mistake. Who could help you with this improvement p…

Afflicting the Comfortable

As a youngster, I dutifully attended religion classes and learned many things that have stayed with me through life. The Corporal Works of Mercy, for example:
- To feed the hungry.
- To give drink to the thirsty.
- To shelter the homeless.
- To clothe the naked.
- To visit and ransom the captive.
- To visit the sick.
- To bury the dead.

In sum, to comfort the afflicted.

Somewhere later down the line, I learned another one, that turns the summary on its head:

- To afflict the comfortable.

That one was NOT taught in catechism, if my memory serves. However, it's there, for those who have eyes to see. Afflicting the comfortable is the job description of prophets. That's why they are so often thrown in jail, run out of town, and even crucified.

In today's world, who is fulfilling this prophetic role? Journalists have laid claim. The Occupy Wall Street protesters more recently.

Anyone else? To my way of thinking, there are others in life whose job description contains Afflicting the Comfo…

Goal Setting Made S*I*M*P*L*E

In the training and consulting that I do, I talk about goals quite a bit. Goals are fundamental to success in life. The latest research on success by Dr. Heidi Halvorson points to the importance of setting very specific goals.

My impression, however, is that most people don't set goals. Perhaps they don't buy it, or they don't get it. Or perhaps they did, at one time, but something got in the way, and their goals faded away.

What's the problem then? The SMART (Specific, Measurable, Aggressive, Realistic, and Time bound) formula has stood the test of time quite well. Is something missing?

For those who have been staying clear of goals, for whatever reason, here is a six-point model that I call Goal Setting made S*I*M*P*L*E:

S = Stop to think about what you want out of life. To make more money? Get a better job? Move to a different state? What do you aspire to? What would make you happier?

I = Important vs Urgent: We get so caught up in the crises of the moment that we hard…

Your New Year Epiphany

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It's January 8th in the new year of 2012. Have you had an epiphany yet?

The ancient word "epiphany" comes from the Greek meaning "to show forth." Like a light appearing in a dark room. In more recent usage, some have likened epiphany to the "aha moment" when an idea suddenly occurs to us, like a light bulb appearing in our minds.

An epiphany comes when we least expect it. It's a surprise. A gift.

Writing about the feast of the Epiphany in his daily e-newsletter, Fr. Richard Rohr says that it is about seeing with wonder. The Magi who followed a star to find the newborn king were "questing in wonder." What they found was a mother and father and their baby, huddled in a humble manager.

As a new year opens, what star are you following?

An epiphany can be a very small, ordinary thing. On twitter this morning, South African artist Laureen Raftopulos wrote: "Live in the moment by becoming fully aware of the beauty in the smallest of things aro…

To Your Specific Success

Driving my son Kevin to the train the other morning, I asked him if he had given any thought to his New Year's Resolutions. To my surprise, he said "Yes."

Kevin is a recent college graduate (Rutgers, Class of 2009) who has embarked upon a career in television, working as an editor for a well-known food show, based in New York City.

His goal, he told me, is to make a very specific move within his line of business, a move that would be a good next step in his career path in television.

I was happy to hear that. I offered some words of support to encourage him. And I told him that he is doing one of the things that Dr. Heidi Halvorson says that highly successful people do, namely: set very specific goals.

In her research (published last year in the Harvard Business Review), Halvorson found that successful people do a number of things differently that contribute to their success. And when it comes to goals, she has some very clear pointers to offer:

1. Get very specific - …