Make 2011 your best year ever

Considered by many as the worst in decades, some individuals are saying 2010 was great. In this blog, John McKee, says there is probably a key reason behind the results of those people. The answer, he says, is simple - but not easy.

Is there a prescription for career satisfaction? Can anyone have a strong professional life and a good balance in their personal life?

The answer to both questions is — to a real extent — yes.

Over the years I've been fortunate enough to have worked with many very successful individuals. At some point, I started asking them what they attributed to their success. I found that there were a lot of common points made.

  • Regardless of personal backgrounds and their locations, people leading large organizations, including AT&T, General Motors, DIRECTV, or Nordstoms, have told me many of the same things.
  • It was the same for those in governmental roles. And it didn't seem to matter whether they were working in Canada or the United States.
  • People leading start-ups all had similar feedback.
  • And the points made were consistent for both women and men.

In 2001, I started my own practice, Business Success Since then I've made a point of asking every new client similar questions when we commenced work. I was able to see some strong patterns:

  • Those who considered themselves to be successful did certain things.
  • Those who did not regard themselves as successful did not do those particular actions.

I learned that successful individuals often behave like successful organizations. Both do a few certain things, and they do them over and over. On the other hand, those "less-than-successful" don't do those specific things.

As someone in leadership, you won't be surprised to hear what they are — they're pretty timeless. And, if you think for a moment before reading on, you can probably guess what the successful (people and organizations) do; and what the not-very-successful people and organizations, do not do.

It's called long-term planning. It's the creation of a plan that's longer than just the next few months, and it takes into account all the factors that could impact success and satisfaction.

Every great organization (or satisfied individual) I have asked has a plan. It's detailed and has step-by-step activities. It's reviewed regularly, and if changes are needed, they're made. And it's updated annually. Sounds simple, right?

But apparently, it's not. Over 80% of people that we poll do not have a detailed plan for their life. Many of these people actually do make plans for their jobs, but they don't create one for their own life. So they know it makes sense to have a plan to manage progress toward objectives, but they don't have a plan for their own life. How weird is that?

Do you want to make 2011 your best year ever? Make a plan. And then manage it just as thoughtfully as you do on the job — have "by when" dates for each goal, make notes about hits and misses, create running changes when you see trends occurring, build new action steps that will ensure you achieve your goals. All the same stuff you do (or should do) at work.

If you think this is so obvious that it doesn't warrant a blog (let alone a book), ask those around you how they would rate their life in terms of success on a 1 to 10 ranking. Then ask how many of them have a plan. You'll see an immediate correlation.

The option, of course, is to NOT make a plan. (And how's that working for you?)

Here's to your future!


(In the interests of full disclosure, John wants to note that he has a new book titled The Plan, launching on January 17.)


John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

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