This blog is written by Jerry Weinstock, Microsoft Business Applications MVP. He shares how he set and pursued stretch goals to become a Business Applications MVP and author a white paper for Microsoft.
When you hear the term "Stretch Goals" it is usually in the context of performance metrics for sales people on quota or commission. I am going to tell you two stories where I have used stretch goals to take my career to the so-called next level by getting me out of my comfort zone and accomplishing bucket list items. Stretch goals are also for technology people!
When we think about goals they are generally conservative, somewhat routine and tend to be achievable and perhaps expected to be accomplished. Do not confuse it with "doing your job" and getting a positive review along with the standard merit increase. New Year’s Resolutions are not stretch goals!
A stretch goal is an objective that you set for yourself that is extremely difficult to achieve. It is over and above your normal activities or the results that others expect you to achieve. While there are many ways to define a stretch goal, in my life I have defined it by two criteria; it will take me well out of my comfort zone, requiring me to "stretch" well past my current level of activities and skill level; and it will be something when achieved, is "braggable" either in a personal or business setting. It could also be a bucket list accomplishment but not everything that might fall into a bucket list checklist is a stretch goal.
So now that we have a baseline for stretch goals, let me tell you about two stretch goals that took me well out of my comfort zone, provided some things I could brag about, and catapulted my career to another level.
Back in the early days – circa 2007-2009, the Microsoft CRM Team Blog (that was its’ name then) was just about the only place online that you could find new product information being posted. We did not have Facebook or Twitter the way it's used today, nor Linkedin. Additionally, very few people were blogging on their own website. It was the one place you went to almost every day to get the latest CRM news.
I had been voraciously consuming the blog posts as soon as they came out, applying the new found knowledge to projects for my clients. I had noticed a pattern that some of the posts were being made by non-Microsoft people and labeled as "guest posts". After a while of seeing these posts, I began to think that I had equally good information to share as these guest bloggers. I just had never done anything like that before and I had no clue how to break into the process. All I knew was that all the guest bloggers were MVPs. While I had no direct exposure to these people I knew from seeing them at events and their entourage that they seemed a step ahead of all the other consultants.
So while I had given no thought to becoming an MVP, I also had no clue where to begin the process. I got it in my head that if I tried, I could write equally valuable blog content. I started working on several candidate posts that went through dozens of iterations. Finally, when I had something that I thought might work, I tracked down Jim Glaas who, at the time, ran the MVP program and managed the team blog. After pinging him with emails, I finally connected with him and we started the process. The first post I submitted was turned down because it was based on what the product team assessed as unsupported methods. I was devastated and almost retreated. The second submission I came up with was accepted and on September 9, 2009 the first post appeared – A Plethora of Phone Attributes.
After successfully getting one post accepted and basking in the glory for a few minutes (my family wasn’t impressed), I set out to see if I could continue to stretch and repeat the accomplishment. I had several more published, one of them is as follows:
Concurrent with the posting of the Marketing list post, I received an email from Jim asking why I wasn't a CRM MVP. He advised that if I spent a lot of time in the CRM forum, it would greatly boost my chances. I took him up on it without knowing much about the MVP program, but I felt confident that if I pushed myself, I could demonstrate I was equally qualified.
I received the MVP Application form in January 2010. I then set out to diligently become more active on the community forums. Every morning, as soon as I got to the office, I went to the forums and tried to answer the questions that had been posted the night before. In many cases I actually had to create the submitters’ scenario in CRM to come up with the answer. This went on for months, sometimes my real work didn’t get started for 2+ hours after the day began.
I applied to the MVP program with the formal application in April and was notified that I had been turned down and to re-apply. I decided to ramp it up even more and delivered another guest post and stretched myself to answer even more complex questions on the forums.
On October 1, 2010 I received the email letting me know that I had been recognized for my community activities and entered the MVP program. It is coming up on 11 years now and I consider it the single biggest professional stretch goal I have accomplished. It has had more impact on my business and personal life than any other career event. Put your mind to it and stretch yourself, you can do it also if you want it.
Just like I had been observing the guest posts by MVPs circa 2008, I had been consuming Microsoft White Papers. I always marveled over the value of the content along with the prestige that seemed to come to people that were skilled enough to put them together. I had jumped on Microsoft Flow when it was first introduced and felt it was the most powerful tool that the product team had given to functional consultants in the life of the product. After blogging, speaking, and answering forum questions for the first two years I believed I had defined myself as the go to person in the community for Flow and Dynamics 365.
I decided to set my next stretch goal – to firmly establish myself at the pinnacle of Flow and Dynamics 365. After a long and brand new process that took me through selling the idea to Microsoft and then actually delivering on what I told them I could do, in August of 2019 the Flow white paper was released. Did I stretch myself? You bet, the paper went through four iterations with Microsoft and I invested three times the amount of hours that I had originally estimated but I was ecstatic when it was released. It certainly falls into the braggable category. Would I do it again? I could but probably wouldn’t and perhaps that is the third criteria of a stretch goal – something you achieve but only need to do once.
So that kind of sums it up – get out of the routine, think big, take yourself to the next level, accomplish something that no one around you has, look to the leaders that you know, set a stretch goal for yourself and when you achieve it – tell the world. You will have a smiling grin on your face.
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