As we look to the new year in business, we often feel like we are already working at our max, especially during times when we are trying to balance heavier personal obligations along with our intense workloads. We all know hard work does not always equal enormous success in every instance. Many of us, sometimes me included, are SPENT. We focus on the task instead of the big picture. In some ways it feels easier to get lost in the minutiae, because our habits define them. But if your work does not reflect your vision, you are wasting enormous time and taking longer to reach the milestones of success. Strategic goals, when artfully executed, drive accelerated achievement and growth WITHOUT overworking.
As 2016 winds down, most of us are in planning mode for 2017. Goal setting is often part of the planning process. Goals are an excellent way for businesses to refine their strategy, identify areas of opportunity and create a focal point for the long hours of hard work that lie in the months ahead. But poorly defined and underdeveloped goals can have the opposite effect and leave an already over-worked business owner spinning their wheels and getting nowhere. This state is only exacerbated when you translate those loose goals to your team. How can you make sure you avoid the hamster wheel of loose goals? Be S.M.A.R.T.!
Most of you have heard of the paradigm of S.M.A.R.T. goals. S.M.A.R.T stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Reasonable and Timely. It is a tried and true method for helping busy owners set good goals, ESPECIALLY when they have a well-defined strategy and can marry up that strategy to the goals of their team members. Let’s start with Specific. I meet a lot of business owners who have a hard time being specific when it comes to growth. They will give me goals such as “Well, I don’t know, I just want to make more money.” The problem with an undefined goal is you don’t know when you reach it or even why it’s important. Technically if you made a dollar more you have hit your goal, but I don’t know of a single person that would think that is good enough. You need to specify your goals so you know what you are working toward AND when you get there.
Speaking of getting there, you also need to be able to Measure your goals. Not only does this help you know when you have arrived, measurement at regular intervals also tells you how you are doing along the way. For example, if you have a goal of increasing sales by 10% in a particular product line by the end of year, you should be checking your sales data for that product line every single month. This will help you direct your time and energy where it is needed. If you are behind your goal you may need to ramp up your efforts. If you are way ahead of your goal you need to readjust your goal (because perhaps you were too easy on yourself) or refocus your efforts in other areas that aren’t performing as well.
Measurement is the one facet of goal setting that I notice people seem to have the least interest in. It’s not sexy, it’s not fun, and a lot of the time it can be a drag. But it IS powerful. Period. Driving a culture based on easy measurements (ones that do not require enormous amounts of work to maintain) is the best practice for companies who are really going somewhere. When I was still working in a giant firm, the measurements drove behavior. If you measure it, it has an amazing way of actually happening. Also, if you want to change behaviors, be strategic about how you structure and measure goals. For example, if you measure people’s time based on individual achievements, they will not work as a team and may actually become competitive with each other more so than in the market. Measure achievements of the team and you get team-oriented achievements. So, just do it (I say with a reassuring smile).
The third attribute, Actionable, is also a critical component of goal setting. If you don’t have the ability to influence or change it, then you shouldn’t set a goal around it. If you do, you are setting yourself up for spending countless hours of effort to gain nothing but frustration. Before you set a goal ask yourself if it is something you can truly impact either directly or indirectly. If you can’t, then leave it alone and find another goal. The same goes for your team. As you develop goals for your team, make sure that each member has the authority to implement fully the goals you set with them.
A lot of entrepreneurs are optimists. This is a great quality that helps them approach each day with passion as they nurture their business from inspiration to reality. It can also be their biggest downfall when it comes to goal setting. Yes, you want your business to be the next Cinderella-IPO-story in the next 60 days, but is that realistic? Probably not. Make sure your goals make you stretch and grow as a person and a business owner, but don’t set them so high that you are setting yourself up for failure either. Nothing is worse than working day after day after day for something that just won’t happen. In addition, evaluate carefully any potential barriers to your goals that should be addressed.
Lastly, you want your goals to be Timely. What do I mean by this? You need to have a set time frame for achieving the goal. For example, you can have goals of making 10 cold calls every week, bringing in 2 new clients each month or increasing sales 20% by the end of the year. All three of these give a specific deadline for reaching it. By building a range for attaining your goal you are able to set multiple smaller goals that help channel your work to reach “the big one.”
At the end of the day, when you have established all your goals, ask yourself why they are so important. Why do they matter? How do they match your vision? How will they be meaningful to your business once you achieve them? To your life? To the lives of your team? When it comes to goal setting, be S.M.A.R.T. Keep your goals Specific. Measure your progress every step of the way. Make sure it is Actionable. And be Reasonable in what you can achieve within a specific Time frame. Want more help in becoming a master goal setter?
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