The early-warning system of your career

Warren Schmidt has arrived at the end of a long administrative career in the insurance industry. He is sitting in his office seat, staring at the wall clock wondering where on the track of his job life everything went wrong. Why didn’t he read the signs earlier? Why was he not sensitive enough to read the alarm signs? How could he allow to not have an early-warning system in place, to tell him when something would go terribly wrong?
Now, it was too late. Schmidt found his working life shattered into many broken fragments. It was right then that it dawned upon him. „I made a bad, bad mistake“, he said.
(inspired by the initial film scene in “About Schmidt” with Jack Nicholson)

Have you ever experienced a similar situation, somehow feeling that “something in your work life is wrong” but you were not quite able to put your finger onto it?

For situations like this it is useful to have some kind of internal radar mechanism that supports you in identifying problems before they come up. I call it an „early-warning system“. To have such a system in place you need to work through the following five steps:

  1. Ask yourself „Which are the critical success factors in my work?” (aka “What crucially needs to be in place or to happen so that I can be successful at work?”). Take your time and let answers emerge slowly but profoundly. Quality is more important than speed at this stage.
  2. Write down your critical success factors. In a written format, they develop a higher power and impact for you.
  3. On a scale of 1 (very low, poorly) to 10 (very high, excellent) ask yourself for each factor: How well is it currently addressed by you?
  4. For any factors with a value of 7 or less on the scale come up with ideas on how to bring them further towards a 10.
  5. Incorporate those activities designed in step 4 into your daily business routines and start evaluating all factors on the 10-step scale after a certain period of time.

Brian Tracy who wrote the great book „Thinking Big” inspired me to create this small and yet quite effective routine to regularly check up on my working success factors.

For example, reflecting on my work as a consultant and coach, I came up with three different success factors:

  • „Contact and Proximity”: Getting frequently into contact with my clients and being close to them. Obtaining information about their needs and wishes so that I can reflect on how to provide them with suitable services.
  • „Learning and Inspiration”: Participating in trainings, network events and analyzing useful media to increase my portfolio of methods and tools and to get to know latest trends.
  • „Output and Benefits”: Providing outputs (ideally on a daily basis) like one-on-one coachings or team buildings and regularly ask my clients about the usefulness of my services to them.

Evaluating these on a scale from time to time helps me to better focus on what is really essential in my work, thereby increasing my impact and effectivity.

Jack wants to know:
“Do you really know the critical success factors of your work?”

I encourage you to also find out more about your own critical success factors in business so you get a chance to focus more on effectivity and to significantly increase your impact.
Best of success!