Business. Success. Partnership.

For the past 10 years, I have committed three hours every month -- regardless of weather, work or home responsibilities -- to my Business Success Partnership. Each month, I meet with two colleagues -- my partners -- to assess our professional and personal goals. Each of us gets one hour to draw upon the wisdom of the group to examine our current situation, goals and challenges, and determine what actions we want to take, what changes to make and what support we might need to do this.
There have been many times when each of us may have wanted to cancel, whether we felt we didn't have the time to meet or the energy or fortitude to plan, but we didn't, because we all understand that it is this deliberate process of pausing, assessing and evaluating that has enabled us to build satisfying lives and careers.
Recently, we had our annual retreat where we gather for two full days -- pausing, assessing, evaluating and planning for the year ahead. I am now clear on my goals for this year, what I want my business to look like at the end of the year, and in a few years, and about how I want to take better care of myself and spend my time when I'm not working. This experience of being reflective and purposeful about my work and life choices, and having reliable support from trusted colleagues has been invaluable to me. Here are some thoughts and fieldwork so you can benefit, too.
What is your business? By business, I don't mean just your company, your job or your vocation. What is your important Work (with a capital "W")? How do you want to spend your valuable and scarce time, energy and attention, professionally and personally? In the midst of our busy lives, we seldom pause and think about what is really important. Taking a break to assess will lead to greater satisfaction, engagement and most likely, accomplishment. If we have a foundation of what is most important, we're more likely to make the time to not only do what keeps us busy, but what matters to us.
Your Fieldwork: Create your Personal and Professional Vision.
Think about what you want your life and your work to look like in the, three, five or even 10 years from now. Write it down in the present tense, as detailed as possible. Consider these questions: What does my job/career look like at this time? My responsibilities? My impact? My title and salary? My daily and weekly schedule? My satisfaction? What does my life look like? How is my work and non-work time integrated? What interests, hobbies, and volunteer activities am I pursuing? What relationships do I nurture? Once complete, keep it somewhere easily accessible and visible. Look at it once a quarter and assess if you're moving in the direction that you've designed. If not, make an adjustment to your current life and/or work.
What does success mean to you? The answer is as unique as you are. As with your business above, if you know what success is, you're more likely to achieve it. Success in all facets of life and work occurs when we are acting upon our values. Values are beliefs and principles that are most important to you and that, when acted upon, make sense, make you happy and make meaning.
Knowing your values also enhances decision-making, allowing you to make consistent choices with these values. We each have many values, and sometimes our values can conflict with each other. Your core values are the values that are most important to you during any specific period in your life. So, know your core values, act upon them, and you will be more likely to live your definition of success.
Your Fieldwork: Define your Core Values
One of the initial exercises I assign my executive coaching clients is a Values Clarification Process, which leads to identification of their 10 core values. This exercise also appears in my book, Your Work, Your Life ...Your Way: 7 Keys to Work-Life Balance, because knowing and acting upon your values is critical to greater work-life balance satisfaction. If you're interested in completing this exercise, email me at and put Values Clarification Exercise in the subject line of your email. I completed this process over 15 years ago and I currently carry a crinkled copy of my core values with me. A few times a year I review this document to assess how I am acting on my values (Competence, Joy, Respect, Individuality, Knowledge, to name some) and use that check-in to determine if I want to make any changes in how I'm living and working.
Success and satisfaction do not happen alone. Having the right people on your team will enable you to work well, lead well and live well. Knowing that you cannot do it all, and seeking out the best people to support you, will make life easier, improve your results, and help you build a network of important relationships. People in my network take on many roles, including sounding board, expert, cheerleader, deliverer of difficult messages, nurturer, and drill sergeant. Surrounding yourself with the right people is a critical success tool and strategy.
Your Fieldwork: Identify your Support Team
Create a document called My Support Team. First, determine those trusted colleagues, friends and associates who already assist you in some way, or from whom you believe you can gain more assistance. Seek those people out and begin conversations. Second, look at your Professional and Personal Vision, and Values Clarification Document. Where can greater support help you to create your vision and live your values? Seek out those who can guide you. And, if you're reading this and thinking, 'who am I to seek help from all of these people?,' remember partnerships work both ways. Even if you can't assist someone now, you will later. Third, consider expanding your network by hiring the right professionals to help you - some of my killer partnerships include my PR consultant, my marketing guru, my web designer and my chiropractor. Now it's your turn to be more strategic in thinking about all of the great people around you.
I wish you well as you develop your Business, Success and Partnerships!
Philadelphia-based leadership/executive coach Julie Cohen, PCC, is founder and CEO of Work. Life. Leader., a leadership and professional development program for emerging and developing leaders. She is the author of Your Work, Your Life...Your Way: 7 Keys to Work-Life Balance, a blogger for Working Mother and a columnist with The Philadelphia Business Journal. Follow Cohen at or @jccoach on Twitter.

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