“How can I maximise my effectiveness?” That’s a common question – and with a plethora of possible answers.

There are several strategies that you can implement – immediately – in both your professional and personal life. These strategies can be used continually throughout your life. They are simple but powerful mechanisms that can unlock your potential and enhance your performance.

And such mechanisms are all about one dominant outcome: giving yourself the best opportunity to accomplish your goals and fulfil your ambition.

In this 3-part series, we’ll explore some areas where you can apply strategies to increase your personal and professional effectiveness. In this edition we look at communications skills and strategic (goal setting and planning) skills.

Communication Skills

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”  Robert McCloskey

“Seek first to understand and then be understood” is an instruction first delivered by Stephen Covey in his acclaimed book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Covey’s message is a simple but powerful one: too often we enter into communications with others with pre-conceived assumptions or notions about what the other person’s expectations, ideas or judgements will be.

Rarely are communications entered into without a predetermined idea of the response we are seeking or expecting. This does little but make communication more complex and susceptible to misunderstanding.

Studies into interpersonal communication have continually discovered that three core qualities foster effective communication. These qualities are defined as:

  • Genuineness;
  • Respect; and
  • Empathy.

By incorporating these qualities into your everyday interactions with others, you can ensure that your relationships and communications become increasingly authentic, valid and meaningful.

Genuineness: To be genuine in communication is to be open, honest and self-expressive. The degree to which you behave in this way is the degree to which you’ll be able to significantly relate to another.

A conversation devoid of genuineness sees people conceal their thoughts, values or motives. Concealment can lead to defensive responses and ultimately minimal connection between people.

Of course, it is neither advisable nor appropriate to be completely self-expressive in all situations. Genuine communication means engaging in sincere, honest and responsible conversations. It means accepting yourself and expressing who that is.

Take a moment to reflect on the relationships in your life, both professional and personal.

  • In which relationships do you feel the most genuine?
  • In which relationships do you feel the least genuine?
  • What is it about your most genuine relationships that encourage you to express more of who you are?

Respect: Respectful communication is communication that values the other person. When you engage in respectful conversation you appreciate the other person’s separateness and self-identity. To facilitate respectful communication:

  1. Show consideration for personal boundaries. Avoid asking questions that are overly personal or intrusive. We often show this respect to colleagues and acquaintances but can fail to do so with our children or other family members.
  2. Don’t impose your personal values onto others. Appreciate differences in other’s values and beliefs.
  3. Avoid making assumptions. Don’t assume someone is thinking or feeling a particular way simply because that would be your natural response or reaction. Always check with them.

Empathy: Empathy exists on a continuum between apathy and sympathy. Effective communication means showing genuine care and concern for somebody. It does not mean identifying so strongly with another’s situation that it becomes debilitating or difficult for you to manage.

Empathy means viewing the world through another’s person’s eyes. It requires abandoning self-focused communication for authentic connection and understanding.

The more you develop your communication skills the greater the possibility for genuine conversations based on honesty and respect. It is these conversations that have the power to influence your life.

Interactions based on genuine connection and consideration lead to improved understanding. This, in turn maximises the likelihood of successful communication that is not only authentic but leads to results.

Increase your professional effectiveness by using your communication skills to identify the expectations of others and express your needs clearly and succinctly.

Strategic Skills – Goal Setting and Planning

“A goal properly set is halfway reached.” Zig Ziglar

Clear goals contain the power to motivate and energise us into action. Yet so often we start out on the quest for self-improvement, either personally or professionally with no real concept of where we want to be or exactly what it is we want.

We may have some vague concept in mind, such as increasing income or productivity but this is rarely translated into specific goals. Without a clear goal in mind, it becomes increasingly likely that we may unwittingly focus our well-intended energy in the wrong direction.

When we are unsure of where we are heading it becomes very easy to work hard yet accomplish little. With a clear goal in sight, we can ensure that our actions continually contribute to its achievement.

Without goals you are drifting and when you drift you are not in control.  If you are not in control, then someone else is.  Then you have relinquished the basic right to be master of your own destiny.  In doing this you also surrender your freedom of action which restricts your choices and can lead to frustration, anxiety, fear and stress.

The benefits of goal setting are numerous.  Individuals who set effective goals:

  • suffer less stress and anxiety;
  • have better concentration;
  • show increased self confidence;
  • perform better;
  • are happier with their performance.

Goal setting also:

  • keeps you focussed;
  • provides clarity and direction;
  • increases determination, patience and persistence;
  • builds self-esteem when goals are met;
  • ensures you remain proactive in your life, rather than reactive.

The seeds of achievement are found in the process of goal setting.  If your goals are incorrectly set, then the probability of a successful outcome is severely diminished.

When setting your goals ensure you subject each goal to the SMART but PURE test.

Goals must be SMART:

Specific - Is your goal well-defined?  Your goal must be clear and concise.  Avoid setting unclear or vague objectives.

Measurable - Be clear how you will recognise when you have achieved your goal.  A hint is to use numbers and dates where possible.

Attainable - Don’t set yourself up for failure. Setting yourself goals that you cannot possibly achieve will only end in disappointment.  Make your goals challenging, but realistic.

Relevant - Try and step back and get an overview of all different areas of your life.  Consider how relevant your goals are to the overall picture.

Time-framed - Set a time frame for the completion of each goal.  Even if you have to review your time frame as you progress, it will assist you to stay motivated.


  • Positively stated
  • Understood
  • Realistic
  • Ethical

Most of these are self-evident and require no further elaboration; however a couple of observations must be made.

If a goal is not realistic, there is no hope, but if it is not challenging, there is no motivation.  It is very important to state goals in the positive.  If I say to you ‘Don’t think of a blue balloon’ – what do you think about – a blue balloon.  If goals are stated in the negative – you will focus on the negative.

One of the most powerful tools for overcoming procrastination and increasing productivity is PLANNING. Every minute spent on planning can save up to 10 minutes in execution. Planning needn’t be time consuming or complicated. It does however need to be regular. Plan everyday in advance and watch your productivity and performance soar.

Planning begins by creating lists. With all of the technology available today (such as palm pilots or electronic organisers) it can be easy to forget that a simple list can be a vital planning tool. It is important to always work from a list. When something comes up, add it to the list before doing it. You can increase your productivity by 25% from the first day you begin working consistently from a list.

Many people find it helpful to create a variety of lists from which they plan. A popular and well regarded planning system involves the use of four key lists:  Master list; Monthly list; Weekly list and Daily list.

Your Master list contains everything you wish to accomplish sometime in the future. This is the brainstorm list where you can capture all of your thoughts and ideas. Anything at all that you would like to do should be included on this list.

Your Monthly list is made up of all of those things that you would like to achieve within the month. Some of these items may have been transferred from your Master list.

Your Weekly list is a record of all those tasks that you will accomplish within the week. This list may, of course contain items that have been transferred from your Monthly list.

Similarly, your Daily list includes all those items and activities that you are going to achieve within the day. As you progress through the items on your list, your sense of progress and accomplishment will become almost tangible, creating a sense of momentum and dramatically increasing your effectiveness.

Lists should be continually evolving and changing. It may be helpful to create a routine around list creation. Set aside some time every evening to clearly plan your next day. When you plan each day in advance you will find it much easier to get going and keep going. You may be amazed at the results.

Source: www.counsellingacademy.com.au