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Albert Einstein and Persistence

Albert Einstein and Persistence

Everyone knows that intelligence was key to Albert Einstein’s success. Equally important, however, was his persistence. Einstein toiled away as a low-level civil servant in the Swiss patent office. All the while, he was doggedly focused on trying to solve the grandest problems of theoretical physics. He wasn’t making much money and many of his friends from university had more prestigious jobs. But he stayed focused on solving these issues. And then one day in the spring of 1905, he had a breakthrough moment that resulted in the creation of the iconic equation E=mc2.

Performance Principle:  Persistence is a foundational ability of effective people. As leaders we are responsible not only for setting the right goals but also for keeping people focused on these goals despite many distractions. From my own work in implementing manager and employee development programs, here are some tips on how to keep people focused:

  1. Keep the goals simple. When you are doing any kind of goal setting, boil the goals down to simple and easy-to-remember statements. A goal is a target. If you cannot remember a goal you cannot “see” the target for which you are aiming.
  2. Tap into people’s real motivations. When I work on developing managers and employees, I always assess what motivates people personally. Ultimately, people do what they want to do. Practically speaking, this means figuring out what motivates your people and figuring out how their motivations intersect with the goals you are setting.
  3.  Follow Up. You have to follow up with people at least once per month if you want to see them make real progress toward the goals you have set. One of the reasons that I get hired to develop managers and staff is because I provide this ongoing follow up, and it makes a big difference.
  4. Celebrate Success. Goal oriented people and organizations often allow success to go uncelebrated because they have moved onto the next challenge. Don’t do that. Take the time to recognize and reward teams and individuals for achieving their goals. This serves two purposes. First, you reinforce effective behaviors in those being recognized. Second, you re-communicate to everyone else the importance of staying focused on the right goals.
  5. Update Your Goals. I recommend revisiting and revising your goals every 6 months. I have found this timeframe allows you to keep the goals relevant. And, it gives you yet another excuse to refocus your people on what is most important.
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