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Why You Should Talk About Bucket Lists

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Many of us have a personal bucket list, but what about a professional one? Talk to your team about yours — and theirs — urges one founder.

By Karen Catlin (Co-founder, Femgineer & Karen Catlin Consulting)

We fill our personal bucket lists with our dreams: travel to far-away places, adrenaline-filled activities, famous people we’d like to meet. I get a chuckle out of my kids’ bucket lists, which give me insight into their aspirations, however simple or crazy. A few years back, their bucket lists included ordering room service, riding in a limo, and jumping out of a moving car. As a parent, I could help make some of these happen, once I knew about them. (Note to my kids: Don’t even ask me to help with that last one!)

My bucket list is a jumble of ideas, not well formed except for a handful of professional things I want to get done some day. It includes things like contributing content to wikipedia, publishing a book about the intersection of leadership and parenting, and joining the board of a non-profit whose cause I care about.

By sharing these bucket items with all of you, research shows that I’m more likely to accomplish them. (You can read a summary of this research by Gail Matthews, PhD, published on the Dominican University web site.) In fact, since writing the first draft of this article, I took the plunge into wikipedia! For the Dreamweaver page, I wrote a brief history of how the project started, and I added some ACM publications to the IRIS Intermedia page. I worked on both of these software projects earlier in my career, and it felt good to add to their wikipedia pages.

Leaders can use bucket lists to increase employee engagement with their company’s mission and future. By asking about an employee’s list, we can discuss otherwise unspoken career goals and dreams. Whether it’s traveling internationally, developing code for a 1.0 software release, shadowing an executive for a day, becoming a patent holder, or something else, once you know you can make introductions. You can look for stretch assignments for them to take on. You can open doors!

What do you think of using bucket lists to improve engagement, with your family or your employees? I’d like to hear from you!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Inside Voice. Photo credit: Kyle Clements via Flickr.

What’s on your professional bucket list? Your team’s?

kcatlinAbout the blogger: Drawing on her experience as a former software industry executive, Karen Catlin now develops powerful women leaders. She is co-founder of Femgineer and Karen Catlin Consulting, leading workshops, coaching individuals, and advising companies. Karen blogs about the intersection of parenting and leadership at “Use Your Inside Voice.” She holds a degree in Computer Science from Brown University. Follow her on Twitter @kecatlin.