Although this sounds obvious, it’s far from unusual for people to enter into important situations without having set any clear goals. If we take the example of attending an interview, your primary goal will be to secure the job – otherwise it would be pointless for you to attend. But is that your only goal?
Once beyond the initial goal, many people put little thought into the overall objectives. It’s not unusual, for example, when asked what kind of salary a person is looking for, that the person becomes embarrassed and states vaguely ‘well, I’m on X right now, so I‘d be looking for an increase’ – and then hoping for the best!
A bit more structure can really help you to achieve a positive outcome. To return to the interview scenario, be clear in your own mind about the salary you’re seeking. Then put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer, who will be seeking to understand why you’re worth that amount. You need to have clear arguments ready, without hesitation, to support your case.
So, we’ve moved on from ‘I want the job’ to ‘I want the job, but only with a salary of X, and I’m worth it because of Y’. This kind of thinking should be applied to all your objectives. The clarity helps you to perform well under pressure and presents you as a confident person who is clear about what he/she wants.
It also helps you to understand yourself, in terms of whether you really want the job – or whether you’ve applied for it just to get out of where you are now.
And it helps stop you getting into a situation where you feel compelled to take a job, even though making the move is barely worthwhile – because part of understanding what you do want is understanding clearly what you don’t want. This gives you the ability to confidently – and without guilt – walk away from a situation that isn’t giving you what you want.
So, for each of your objectives, identify clearly:
- What you want
- Why you want it
- Why you deserve it
- Why you will be good at it
- The reward/outcome you want from it
- What your bottom line is – when it’s not worth pursuing
While we’ve used attending an interview as an example, the same principles hold true for any situation where you are trying to negotiate an outcome. This can be your CV, for example, or even a sales email, a face-to-face review for promotion or even a sales meeting.
Another part of the equation is ensuring that you are not passive when pursuing your goals. It’s hard (and wrong) to dominate the proceedings at an interview, but you don’t have to remain reactive. Go beyond answering questions to asking questions. (Indeed, a common sales mistake is to tell people what you can do without finding out first what someone wants.) By asking questions, you can find out how you can add value – and make suggestions. You’ll also appear to be more interested, seeking solutions rather than imposing your will.
In some meetings, you can go further. Many meetings take place without someone having ‘the chair’ or without there being a formal leader. Many meetings are ‘about things’ rather than having a specific outcome in mind. When this is the case, it’s relatively easy to ‘take the chair’ (providing you don’t bully people) and to drive things towards your decided outcome. If you’ve defined your goals, and others haven’t, you’re going to find it easier to get what you’re seeking.
The key, in all situations, is simply to be clear about your goals. What you want and why you want it. You have something to aim for and have far more chance of getting a positive result. As with most things, more preparation will make it easier to get what you want.