A Mentors Couch

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SMART rules & reward goals

Topic 4 from the “Constant change requires leaders to excel in the basics” series

transcript written by Wayne Brown

Here we are at topic 4 already – the title is “SMART rules and reward goals”…

In this 3 pack episode (meaning this blog, plus the original video and the podcast), we talk about an old favorite of many – the SMART goal setting tool. Still, we incorporate a more modern flavor, leveraging off the gaming world and what has made this phenomenon so popular with the millennials and iGen groups.

And remember that we are using this approach in the context of delegation – i.e., how to get buy-in and positive, sustainable action towards the achievement of those delegated tasks or projects.

There is much debate today about whether the SMART approach to setting goals still works with our younger generations.

So during this episode, we’ll explore that concept a little deeper and identify how we can utilize the SMART structure while modernizing the method to still be useful in today’s business.

Let’s start with a review of our target…

The aim here is to delegate our Priority 3 and 2 tasks to a motivated, capable and engaged team in a way where the effort is sustainable – every leader’s dream, right?

If you have been with us since the beginning of this series, you should be starting to realize that there isn’t one single, fast cure-all in this equation.

Rather it’s a combination of carefully coupled actions (i.e., basic leadership skills) that enables the leader to excel. And a large portion of that success revolves around your team’s performance.

So in topic 2, “Motivating your future team,” we spent time exploring 7 key triggers for motivating each individual.

In topic 3, Creative Delegation Techniques, we took one step further and spoke about assessing each task’s complexity and the teams’ skills before deciding which tasks were best suited for which team member.

And do you also recall in topic 3 that we were careful to add those “activities of choice”?

We wish to take this journey one step further by establishing the requirements for each and every delegated activity.

Typically this is where we introduce our SMART acronym, and we still do, but understand that it’s just the starting point.

So let’s move onto this traditional tool and take a closer look at the pros and cons.

SMART is made up of 5 words…

Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timebound – although in peak performance, we talk about the need to stretch and challenge the individual. Therefore, we prefer to use the word Ambitious instead of attainable. In itself, SMART forms a great guide to work through with employees as you assign their tasks..

Note, however, that we need clear determinability (meaning we must identify if the “objective is achieved or not achieved”). This is really of central importance.

There must be a criterion that allows everyone involved to clearly and unmistakably make that determination.

Remember, throughout this process, the secret lies in communicating your expectations concisely and allowing the team member to speak and express their thoughts. ” Based on the employee’s personal behavior motivators and skills, you would also include discussing the level of support and review that should take place throughout the activity.

At this moment the leader should…

Take the time to make clear that some additional rules apply as well as those just mentioned above;

  • If the achievement of the objective is endangered, the employee must provide early timely feedback to the leader.
  • The agreed objectives are documented.
  • The leader helps the employee to help themselves.

If you remember our earlier discussions, you will recall that we said all 4 of today’s working generations appreciate communications, clarity, and feedback, so no real issue so far. If this part is done correctly, it should be a positive and exciting experience for everyone involved.

However, the outcome is still somewhat predictable.

Now we want you to cast your mind back to Topic 3…

Yes, we introduced delegation, but in particular, something a little extra – the weekly meeting to discuss your project and progress.

This was an important step as recent studies have confirmed that the psychological effect of “making progress” is critical to sustained motivation. It encourages even higher levels of effort and opens the window to innovation.

When coupled with the team or peer collaboration, you have the chance of unlocking epic and creative performance improvement. A simple yet effective trigger is to ensure we are showcasing the various projects and discussing each person’s progress while obtaining support and feedback from the team.

So why do we bring this up now? Simply because you have the opportunity right here and now at this stage of setting the goals, setting the rules, and setting the periods for feedback, to tap into this powerful realization – your ability to design the work to be inherently motivating

You have the foundations laid. They are solid, based on everything we have covered to date. Now it’s time to look at your progress and development of SMART rules and reward goals.

Ask yourself if you have created that environment that enables and sustains great work. Have we bridged the gap between the old ways and the future needs? The gap which academics refer to as Constructive Discontent

Have we enabled the employee to do their work and therefore make the all-important progress? Have we designed the work to be inherently motivating?

To explore this, we will examine closely the way that game designers are thinking. How have they attracted an estimated 2.35 billion online video gamers worldwide collaborating by choice with each other?

It’s worth noting here that more than half of those are based in the Asia Pacific. In business, we know that today the rules of engagement and buy-in of our employees have changed. Therefore, we will explore what makes this gaming revolution so attractive to the millennial and iGen workforce.

How can we learn from and tap into this phenomenon to make our workplace activities equally enticing across all 4 generations?

Essentially game designers work on three elements – goal-driven, challenge intense, immediate feedback, all to provide a rich experience.  

Sounds somehow familiar, right – so are we really that far from a solution. The great realization is that we are very well positioned for this next quantum leap if we have already acted on the previous steps from topics 1, 2 & 3.

The gamer’s rewards are inherent from their success, based on their own skill and performance – the potential carrot and stick are there. Still, it’s much more intrinsic in the background, driven by a personal desire to do well and receive instant gratification and feedback based on ability and performance.

Have you picked up on that one missing element in most businesses today – it’s the removal of latency. Gamers receive instant feedback on their performance.

By contrast, many employees have no idea how their performance is seen until the annual performance review.

Did the light bulb just come on – do you now see the connection between the weekly progress and team collaboration meetings?

So let’s summarize what we have introduced in this topic 4 episode…

  • You must already action the learnings from Topics 1, 2 & 3. These form the basis for building a strong and successful team and turning your leadership from good to great.
  • We now add to that repertoire by establishing the task framework, expectations, and ground rules – using the traditional tool called SMART – ensuring that the targets are a stretch and challenge. This is an opportunity for you to sit with each of your team and discuss the project in detail, identifying support and resource requirements.
  • AND then, the extra element – we introduce as part of this planning an agreement to participate in weekly meetings to “establish that clear sense of progress.” This is done in collaboration with the team as each project is reviewed – for anyone familiar with the project management technique called Agile, you will see similarities here with sprints and regular update meetings
  • This then enables the “piece de resistance,” the icing of the cake, the “game-changer” from the past, incorporating the missing item – through that weekly meeting, employees receive that almost instant gratification and feedback as experienced and wanted through the gaming world.

And you probably expect it by now; there are secrets to how we need to offer this feedback. For gamers, it’s very black and white. Succeed and win, fail you lose!

Do we or should we take a similar harsh approach with our employees and their projects when they aren’t going so well – typically not! In fact, that goes against what we have already introduced. Instead, we offer feedback that doesn’t become stuck on the problem and reasons why not by turning our attention to what needs to be done to get the project back on track and completed.

More on this in our next topic, “Feedback strategies,” where we look forward to having you join us again for this vital and final step in establishing a high-performance team through genuine leadership.

These are basics skills but are coupled with the latest best practice learnings and studies in neuroscience. If you can put them in place, then you will truly separate yourself from the pack.

Remember to subscribe if you haven’t already and ;

Watch this video on our YouTube channel Mentors Rant

Listen to this podcast episode on Stitcher or iTunes or

Right-click here and “Save As” to download a copy of this podcast.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aH2Ppjpcho – various random experiments

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lhVUedc1a4 – connection

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YPW5QGErSs – self leadership

https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2015/11/01/new-managers-6-tips-for-holding-employee-progress-review-meetings/#2bfee7e1502b – progress blog Forbes







https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQPShOARgAY – dr Jason fox – epic change

https://www.vgvids.com/join-online-gaming-revolution/ – blog article

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTACQSsKhdk – the rise of fortnite

Constant change requires leaders to excel in the basics

10 skills at the heart of every leader’s arsenal.

“Topic 6 – Achievement reviews.”

transcript written by Wayne Brown

Hello and welcome back to our series; constant change requires leaders to excel in the basics.

Today we continue our discussion about team and employee feedback by looking closer at turning the traditional approach of the annual performance appraisal on its head and offering achievement reviews instead.

It’s a logical step if you have already adopted the learnings from the previous five leadership basics. And by now, your team would be motivated and heavily engaged while working on their assigned and chosen tasks. They will be able to see and share their progress & at the same time receive ongoing & immediate feedback.

Hence, the need to conduct that one-off annual performance review is greatly diminished. Instead, we turn this event into an opportunity to celebrate the success each employee is experiencing. Given that we’re at the halfway juncture of this series, however, and before plunging headlong into this topic, let’s quickly recap what we have covered in the first five episodes.

Topic 1: Understanding your place in the team – looking at nine key stakeholders and managing and setting expectations.

Topic 2: Motivating your future team – turning our focus to one of the key stakeholders and learning about seven primary considerations to achieving positive and sustainable motivation.

Topic 3: Creative delegation techniques – introducing task prioritization & the correct assignment of those tasks, but incorporating Activities of choice, showcasing progress & team collaboration.

Topic 4: SMART rules and reward goals – modernizing the traditional SMART goal setting tool by adopting an online gamers mindset to enable immediate gratitude and feedback (at least weekly)

And last topic 5: Feedback strategies – where we looked at the importance of everyone soliciting feedback, whether informal and formal and for the leaders, we offered several tools to improve their ability to prepare and deliver.

And one last item before we start our discussion on replacing the traditional performance review with our Topic 6 alternative, called Achievement reviews.

First, the technology uses web and mobile-based applications that offer instant real-time feedback to employees and leaders alike. In addition, many of these applications provide a modern version of the 360-degree employee assessment.

More and more organizations are adopting this approach from start-ups thru to Fortune 500 companies. Awareness of this practice was recently showcased by Tony Robbins and his interview with Ray Dalio (one of the greatest Hedge Fund managers of our time). Dalio explains the process adopted within his company Bridgewater and the tremendous value the use of this feedback application has bought to the employees and company alike. Essentially during any given period (meeting or at any time when the system is open), an employee or leader can provide feedback to other team members. The receiving team member can receive this feedback immediately and react or adjust accordingly.

So, we’re now ready to tackle our feature topic by throwing out tradition and the annual performance review process and replacing it with our approach, which focuses on the successes rather than the improvement gaps or failures.

To kick start this, we begin with a long-standing motivational theory. How many of you recall in topic two that we spoke about several motivational theories? One of these was the Needs theory or Acquired Needs theory from David McClelland.

From his research, he concluded that people have motivating drivers that are directly linked to needs, regardless of age, gender, culture, or race. He identified 4 of these needs as achievement, affiliation, power & avoidance.

McClelland also developed his version of the iceberg model, using the same Needs Theory. The Iceberg model looks at a person’s visible behavior, knowledge, and skills plus the underlying, unexpressed and unconscious HIDDEN deeper layers.

It provides an insight into the (learned) needs of someone based on his Acquired Needs Theory and links this to what the person does (i.e., what’s visible above water level) and what they think and want (which are hidden and below the water level).

In short, we want to utilize the learnings from this theory and model to understand how we can maintain our employee’s motivation during this dreaded once or twice a year event. Ensuring that we focus on achievement, affiliation, and power while being careful not to trigger any hidden (below the water) reaction in the minds of our team.

Rather than go cold turkey and turn off the performance evaluation mentality all at once, we’re going to provide here a soft transition. By offering an interim step, we hope to make everyone feel more comfortable doing this gradually. Therefore we discuss first a practice that has become quite popular in recent years, and that is the use of 360-degree feedback.

The traditional method of 360-degree assessment has always been quite costly to perform, particularly with a large volume of participants. Therefore these assessments are conducted less frequently and for special occasions, such as Leadership or talent development, and perhaps with some coaching scenarios.

Fortunately, the evolution in technology has also impacted many of these HR assessment platforms, and with it, we can find relatively lower-cost 360-degree assessment options for businesses.

The concept, however, remains similar. The person seeking feedback will request input via a questionnaire related to their performance. Typically, in addition to rating themselves, they seek this input from peers, direct reports, and their immediate boss. Still, from time to time, the clustering may be broader and involve customers or suppliers, depending on the circumstance.

There’s considerable advantage in this approach over and above the one-on-one performance review. The cross-section of respondents provides a balanced means of comparative feedback, which is easier for the employee to accept and often offers insights which the leader may not have known existed. 

However, the real challenge is to ensure that the results are interrupted correctly and the feedback coupled with concrete actions as an outcome.

The downside to the 360-degree assessment process is that it is seldom specific to the individual’s role or tasks and, more so, around personalities.

Therefore, the final method addresses that issue and is our preferred concept for all semi-annual or annual reviews – we call it the Achievement Review (remember the McClelland Needs Theory).

As the name implies, leaders will meet with the employee to acknowledge their successes during the past 6 or 12 months. If this leader has adopted our methods from topics 1- 5, this will be a consolidation activity. All the tasks or projects having already been discussed weekly throughout the year.

The initial acknowledgment meeting will still be in private one on one.

And then, continuing from our earlier online gaming phenomenon, each employee’s project results will already be known. The consolidated results can be made visible to the other team members, thus creating a form of competition,

But they are also offering the opportunity for continued, immediate gratitude and feedback from all. (again, remember McClelland’s theory and the need for Affiliation and Power).

Through this method, you skillfully satisfy all three motivational needs based on visible behaviors (i.e., above water actions) while also shaping the deeper & hidden thoughts and wants.

The outcome is a reinforcement of great performance, which becomes somewhat self-perpetuating for the employee and a sustainable, results-driven team.

Hopefully, you’re able to see how each of these six topics feeds into and supports each other. It’s not a linear approach but a truly powerful combination of parallel skills and activities. In short, an excellent way to the end of topic six and our focus on feedback. Well, almost – in topic 7, we acknowledge that even the best leaders and their teams have their moments, where not everything goes as scripted. There are those times when individuals express or demonstrate their disapproval about a situation. It’s human nature and a part of our DNA.

Suppose you remember the learnings from the SCARF model. In that case, you’ll recall that we each have our own unique personal behavior preferences, which ensures we can perceive situations as a threat just as easily as we can a reward.

It’s therefore not likely that every member of the team will always agree with everything the leader wants or needs to do.

So, in the next episode, we look at this reality and explore ways to deal with it – from handling conflict to turning the situation into a problem-solving exercise where everyone can learn and grow. 

We hope you are enjoying this series so far and have already subscribed to our video channel Mentors Rant and our podcast channel couchTALK. If not, we’d love to have you join us and receive your feedback and thoughts about these episodes, so please take a moment and leave a comment below. Here’s hoping that your day as an elevator-escalator tribe executive is productive, fruitful, and safe. Bye for now.

The necessity for Change

“Constant change requires leaders to excel in the basics.”

10 team skills at the heart of every leader’s arsenal.

transcript written by Wayne Brown

Welcome to CHANGE or at least the “Necessity for Change.” As you can see from my appearance, we leave no stone unturned to re-enforce this message – visually and informatively.

We plan to paint a convincing picture of why your relationship with change is such a formative part of your Leadership credentials during this video. And how you can help others understand and follow your lead during what can be a highly dynamic and, therefore, challenging process to fulfill at work.

We have already aligned your chances for success in advance through the earlier topics introduced, so this exercise is just an extension of those learnings. While you may not realize it, we are living a life of constant daily change.

The only difference between change at work and change in your private life is that we may not always be in control of making the change at work, and therefore we become concerned by the uncertainty & potential impact. Let’s take a closer look at this concept as we launch into the topic. 

What age are you now? – in my case, I’m nearing 60, and as I cast my mind back to the earliest times I can recall – maybe around 3 or 4 years of age, I can see that things were quite different then compared to just five years later when I started playing competitive sport.

During those five years, of course, there was constant change as I developed and learned exponentially. Then the next ten years, moving from primary to high school (freedom!) These first 15 or so years were so formative, influencing my thoughts, my values and offering experiences that created my beliefs and shaped my behaviors. Ah, the memories …. But of course, it didn’t stop there; change continued during the next ten years – experiencing girls, cars, the beach, sport and introducing this thing called a job. And then a further ten years – the feeling of responsibility kicks in, with the addition of family, on top of work pressures.

Whatever your age or images, I’m sure you can see that until today your life has been in a constant flux of change – some of it planned and intentional, some forced and some unexpected. During this time, we reacted and responded, but we survived and most likely are stronger in our minds as a result.

On a personal level, technology has had a significant influence on the changes in my world – the use of calculators only came into practice towards the end of my high school years—computers a few years after that. I purchased my first desktop in 1986 with a DOS operating system and 20MB hard drive for AUD 5000. Ten years later, I read a book written by Bill Gates called Crossroads. He predicted that in five years, we would all be walking around with our world in our back pocket  – while his prediction was a little ambitious, it was an image that certainly painted a picture of significant change ahead. Today as we shoot this video, we are entering another significant moment in history where change is reshaping our lives – the technical convergence of AI, IoT, Internet 3.0, 5G, Quantum computing, autonomous vehicles, and the list goes on. I look at my five-year-old daughter, and I can’t help but wonder what her teenage life will be like ten years from now.

So, as we shift that image of constant change occurring everywhere in our personal lives across into the workplace, we need to ask why it becomes such an emotional process.

We know that all business, profit or non-profit, exists to provide a product and service to the customer which addresses their pain.

These pains (needs) change, and therefore a company’s solution also needs to change right. And we have witnessed countless examples over the decades where once-dominant companies in their field have disappeared entirely.

Why for the simple reason that they didn’t understand or ignored those changing needs. So the message is that a company that fails to keep pace with the changes happening all around it will soon be extinct.

Naturally, there is a range of considerations for all companies during any change process. What is the impact on employees? To the customer and with the systems and procedures? And importantly, the company culture?

We’ll be exploring a number of these elements as we delve deeper into this video.

For now, see if you can recall some industry titans from the past couple of decades that no longer exist or forced into a different direction? And by contrast, who are the current day titans (those dominating the landscape).

Past companies such as Kodak, compared to the Amazons, Microsoft, Apple, and Google who are presently shaping much of our current and future lives – history will tell the story, whether all of these will survive 20 years from now.

And then we have fewer examples of those mega-companies such as Disney that have been able to weather the changing storm and continue to dominate decade after decade. What is the secret to their success? I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a fascinating topic.

Where to start in unraveling some of the reasons? We have decided to introduce first the neurological aspect, as we’ve touched on this already with the Motivational discussion. It’s the fundamentals of what drives our emotions and subsequent behaviors.

We can explain this simplest by showing either the 5 stage Kubler-Ross Change Curve depicting morale & competence or using a more vivid example through the Claes Jansen Change House model.

The Kubler-Ross model illustrates five stages along a curve. Kubler-Ross places denial, frustration, depression, experiment & decision at different locations on the curve, measured across a time axis. In our graphic illustration, we have overlaid the curve onto the house to give you some resemblance of how this might work.

Typically, we start from the status quo (from contentment where everything is proceeding as normal, and we feel relaxed, comfortable there’s no sign of any storm looming – you might say the sun is shining and the birds are singing.

Suddenly, the environment encounters a change. I’m shocked and in denial of the need for such a change. As time progresses, we move to frustration and anger.

If not dealt with correctly, people may get stuck here. The best practice is to allow those involved to express their annoyance as part of the healing process.

After which, the realization starts to set in, and we often see depression or general apathy towards the situation. The good news is this is the turning point, and if you, as the leader, are present and supportive, we begin to climb out of the negative situation.

However, the next phase is that enter a state of confusion which is often the greatest challenge. Something may feel wrong, but we’re not sure what to do to make things right.

We could be tense with feelings of inferiority and doubts – this is where we will start to experiment with the new changes. To develop our understanding further and grow in our confidence about accommodating and using them.

We need to be conscious here that the new environment might not suit everyone. There is a risk that people may not accept the situation instead opting to leave and seek a different setting rather than stay. Finally, with more time, experience, and guidance, we reach the final stage or room – we make the decision to accept the changes and start to embrace them: they rebuild their ways of working. Only when people get to this stage can the organization begin to reap the rewards of the change initiative.

As you may imagine, there is a large degree of preparation and careful planning required to have any chance of success during any change initiative. Clearly understanding where you are today and what the future state looks like through both mindset and behaviors.

Give due consideration to your stakeholder’s reactions (whether it’s your team, customers, suppliers, etc.) and make this based on their motivation, attitude, and abilities.

And then finally, being able to think through the entire implementation process and communicating with clarity. By demonstrating your belief in the changes and leading from the front, ensuring that the necessary supporting systems, tools, or procedures are available and working. And exploring the need for additional stakeholder development, coaching, and guidance to enable implementation. You can see illustrated on the screen the four broad steps mentioned in this entire change process. We are now going to explore the requirements of the last two steps, starting with WHAT & HOW.

We focus on Mindset and Behavior Change using the “from-to” tool before introducing the implementation guideline technique called BCM or Behavior Change Model. And how to incorporate the Change Story for more powerful communications. 

With every Change initiative, clarity of purpose is extremely important. Starting therefore with the exercise to define “What is the current status and what is it we desire for the future” 

This definition then enables us to explore the stakeholders’ current related mindset. Changing the mindset to align with that defined future state is perhaps the most critical factor in achieving success within the change process.

It’s foundational in being able to reshape behavior, and so we introduce here a simple 3 part tool, which Leaders can utilize together with their stakeholders, and we start by identifying where they are today – i.e.

What is the current status? How do current behaviors and their underlying mindset support this status – which we list in the “From” column.

The tool provides us with powerful insights, as we have already defined our desired future state, and therefore we can now determine what our mindset and behavior need to look like to achieve that state.

Hence in the “To” column, we list these new thoughts, beliefs and rules, and necessary activities as a consequence. Based on this realization, we can then develop the necessary actions to drive that change in mindset and behavior from today to the future vision.

And therefore, the time has arrived to start making the change a reality. We consider the actions needed to implement this Change initiative and to be successful.

For those familiar with John Kotter’s famous 8 step Change model, you will notice some similarities in the model we are about to introduce. There are numerous models available to you, so feel free to utilize what works best for you.

In our case, we are going with a simple and visually easy four-quadrant model, referred to as the Behavior Change Model. Our four quadrants cover the actions required “Creating understanding,” Being a role model, aligning systems, and Building capabilities.

To create understanding, we need to focus on our Communications skills mentioned a little earlier. Ensuring that every stakeholder has clarity around the change reason. It’s the starting point where we provide the rationale – introducing the big picture and zooming in to the local level, outlining timing, approach, systems, training, etc.

Then address what I’m required to do as a result and what’s the impact. Later we introduce the “Change Story” technique to support you here.

From this, we move to quadrant 2. We explore the required actions for leaders to demonstrate their belief in this change.

You essentially want to illustrate that you champion the initiative and will lead the way with adoption. Don’t underestimate this step – the stakeholders will be watching you closely to gauge your buy-in.

Quadrant 3 & 4 help us consider the supporting systems, tools, processes, and training associated with this change. Are they available? It is part of the change involving new technology that replaces existing legacy systems and will generate extra workload to introduce resistance. Whatever the case, you need to have considered carefully the actions required and the resulting reactions. Rigorously, working through each of the four implementation stages will greatly increase your chances of success which in itself a significant achievement considering that 70% of all Change Initiatives fail.

And finally, to put the icing on the cake – let’s ensure that you can celebrate that success by providing all of your communication throughout the process are effective and engaging. To do so, we introduce easy to remember five key elements in developing our Change Story.

  1. Have the right parts and structure – i.e., make it personable, stating the BIG REASON WHY change is necessary. Paint the vision, the goals, what will they be doing differently in the future? What is expected of them, and what are the next steps?
  • Tie your story to a strong analogy – introduce a theme or fable which can be easily associated back to this change initiative and is enticing and motivating.
  • Grab the stakeholders’ attention with a teaser. – create some buzz and excitement within the story around the change process using something relevant and enforceable.
  • Spark emotions – the story should stir up emotions. Remember the motivational methods covered in Topic 2

And finally, as made famous by Stephen Covey in his 7 Habits – always have the end in mind. Make the ending of your story positive, and the recipients wanting to know more.

Something to keep firmly in mind throughout this entire Change process, and I’ll quote John Kotter again here – “Do not declare victory too soon.”

The secret is to remember the Change Curve and the reality that change is a process that takes time. People need the opportunity to work through their emotions, and while they can be supported and guided, not forced! So this brings us to the end of this topic, “Necessity for Change.” We hope you have gained a brief insight into the “Why What and How of Change?”

Our VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) world today requires that we not only understand this change need but that we leaders must also champion the process.

As we move into our next and second last topic, “Pitching your value-based strategies,” we’ll take a peek into the need for balance between performance and values and the impact of strong culture based on diversity and inclusion.  How does this guide your approach in the pursuit of strategic objectives? Until then, stay safe and keep learning. Bye for now!