Claire Steichen is the founder and President of Clear Strategy Coaching, an executive coaching firm in New York City. She coaches mid-level and senior professionals in leadership development focused on executive presence, employee motivation, and influence. Claire works with leading organizations across industries, with a focus on multi-nationals. So who better to ask about goal setting than her? Claire walks us through some practical advice on achieving your personal goals, for good.
1. Can you tell us a little bit more about your business, Clear Strategy, and why you decided to work as an executive coach?
Sure. At Clear Strategy I work with professionals to be in control at work, and to get excited again. I do it by focusing on three things: Impact – when you know what energizes you and what you love to do, and you understand the contribution to an organization, it builds enormous confidence. Influence – understanding how others behave lets you navigate dealing with others so you feel motivated, not trapped or put upon. And Initiative – some learning can only happen by doing. I help people take informed risks so they can learn, which boosts their confidence. I love my work! I decided to do it after years of a corporate career, all because of a course I took in business school called “Managing Group and Interpersonal Behavior.” I loved it and have been hooked on understanding how people behave at work ever since.
2. What are your client’s typical challenges?
Easy. They aren’t sure what they want and they don’t know how to get there. That leads to procrastinating…you whole life! To get along at work, get a promotion or get your dream job, you have to know the process and have the tools. And those tools are largely invisible – active listening, influence, emotional intelligence. Which is why we think it should be easy. But professional growth takes strategy and energy. I fist make people realize that the tools are real (whether they think so or not) and the I train them on how it all works. With that, the try the tools, learn from successes and failures, then they take it from there.
3. What are the benefits of having a coach when going through a life or career transition?
I have had a coach since day one of starting a business. Like having a business, job search and career strategy are big projects without clear milestones (until you have the tools). Having a coach keeps you on track, even when you feel discouraged.
4. How do you typically approach goal setting? To you believe in new year’s resolutions?
It’s funny, I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. Some years I accomplish everything I set out to do and other very little. I believe in personal growth and setting intentions. When I set an intention and am really clear about what I am wanting, it almost always happens. I find when you are pretending to yourself that you want something, but don’t want it enough to say no to other things, then it won’t happen.
On a more practical level, when I have a solid intention, I define it (not always easy) and set a date. Then I break it down into projects, no more than 2-3 per quarter. Then I look at all the other things I’d love to do and I decide what I want most or what needs to go first. A big key to focus and balance is being able to say no, and being able to do one thing at a time. If you don’t, you always feel behind and that can be discouraging. For each project I break it down further into 3-5 tasks. I then sequence those again into weeks, and edit and revise weekly. If you are ahead of schedule, STOP and smell the roses. If you fall behind, rework the schedule without judgment. Separately, I have two or three daily or weekly habits that I do, separate from projects, that keep things moving forward and keep life balanced.
5. Can you walk us through how you would help someone to transition into a plant based diet, using the methodology you usually apply in your own work as an executive coach?
Yes! That’s a cool way to use the process.
- First, I would define the goal and set a date. Do I want to go 100% vegan, or mostly, or just some? By when? I would probably give myself a year.
- Then I would break it down into projects. Again, defining things well here is important. First, I have to educate myself on the ingredient staples, plus the chemistry of how to bind cakes without using eggs, etc. Second, I have some ambivalence that I need to confront. I was raised by a French mother. For the French, butter is practically a national treasure! Need to deal with that. And finally, I have kids. The thought of transitioning them feels like pushing water uphill, and I know from experience that I’m not willing to cook two meals every time.
- I would break down each project into tasks: Educate myself on techniques and ingredients, Address my ambivalence and Figure out how to transition kids:
- Educate: Get some books, explore on-line vegan chefs and spend lots of time talking to my cousin Isabelle
- Ambivalence: Think about why I want to change – health, the environment, both of which are super important to me. Then, give myself permission to do it progressively. I know that once my body feels good and I start to measure the impact on the environment, I will build momentum.
- The kids: Don’t make this all or nothing. Look at what they are already eating that is vegan, like pasta with peas. Then maybe do snacks next. They will go for most sweet things. And milk – I know I want to work on that anyway. And then be OK with a little meat for now. I have to keep my sanity.
6. What advice would you give for people to deal with ‘failure’ or set backs when trying to achieve a goal?
I heard once that people who stay thin are not immune to cheating. But when they do, the forgive themselves and move on. I think that’s true with major habit change. Another way to think about failure is to consider: What did I learn? What would I do differently next time? If I’m totally honest, was my heart in it? And, is this a message to me about a bigger change?
Thanks for inviting me to do this! And for more information on goal setting in the job search and promotion, please click here.