How Can I Become A Better Leader – Part 3 – Goal Setting
Nothing happens unless first we dream. Carl Sandberg
There is a moment in every person’s life when the awareness of their destiny bursts like a bubble onto the surface of their conscious mind. It is then that the weak avoid the realisation and busy themselves with the mundane tasks of their lives. It is also at that moment that the strong will awake and decide to take action to change their world for the better and thereby secure for themselves their rightful and valued place in the history of humankind.
Napoleon Hill writes about some of the worlds greatest thinkers and achievers and what differentiates them from most others people. The biggest differentiator is that of persistence. He highlights that Henry Ford was often misunderstood to be ruthless and cold-blooded. This misconception grew out of Ford’s habit of following through in all his plans with persistence.
“The majority of people are ready to throw their aims and purpose overboard and give up at the first sign of opposition or misfortune. A few carry on despite all opposition until they attain their goal. These few are the Ford’s, Carnegies, Edisons” and more recently the Gates, Bransons and Cowells of this world.’
The key is not just to set goals, but to ACT on them. Paul McKenna writes about the traits of rich thinkers and successful entrepreneurs and what he noticed was that there is virtually no gap between their decisions and their actions. Once they decided to go ahead with a project, the first action steps were generally taken within 24 hours. When Mark Burnett arrived in LA in 1982 with only $600 in his pocket, his first job was selling T-shirts on Venice Beach. Today he is the most successful TV producer in the world. His moto is “jump in – take action even if you are not entirely ready”. He firmly believes that a major part of his success has been his willingness to go for what he’s passionate about.
The world is into goal-setting isn’t it? And yet most people I meet suggest we are not generally into goal-setting, yet everybody says how essential it is for success, particularly in relation to leadership. And it absolutely is. Goal setting and goal acting is what differentiates the most successful leaders to those who just generally ‘get by’.
Unfortunately, many people don’t set aside time to think about their goals, plan for success, take the right action, measure and reflect. Why? Most people think it takes so long to prepare they give up before they begin and convince themselves that goal setting isn’t for them.
One of the easiest ways to think and plan goal setting can be summed up Dr Stephen Covey’s second habit – that of ‘begin with the end in mind’. Set your goals for where you want to be in one year’s time and then work backwards from there. Where do I want to be in 9 months, 6 months, 3 months? Where do I need to be at the end of next month to be on track to hit my annual goal? Imagine for a moment, you have been asked to organise a tennis tournament – a singles knockout competition. Two hundred and fifty seven people apply to play in the competition. Your job is to work out how many matches there will need to be. Two hundred and fifty seven people, singles knockout competition, how many matches altogether?
The answer, of course, is 256 matches, because at the end of the day there will be only one winner – and 256 losers.
How does this relate to goal setting? Well if we look at where we want to get to first (ie to win) and determine our destination, rather than the starting point, then the road ahead becomes clear.
When goal setting, also bear in mind the Pareto principle – the 80/20 rule. Dr Spencer Johnson, author of The One Minute Sales Person plays out this scenario with a successful sales employee:
“I do four specific things: 1) I decide on the few important 20% – and they become my goals. 2) I write my goals down in a special way. 3). I often review my goals. 4) I frequently look at my goals and then at my behaviour to see if it matches my goals.”
From hereon I have decided to split this article in two halves. The first section looks at personal goal setting and the second focuses on my advice regarding corporate goal setting. If you work or run your own business you will definitely experience the latter, but the most successful people will have both areas covered.
Setting and Delivering Personal Goals:
Goals are the fuel in the furnace of achievement.
Brian Tracy, Eat that Frog
Think of goal setting as if you were driving in a foreign country – You wouldn’t get where you expect to go without a clear set of directions. It is like drawing a map for yourself.
Many studies have proven that long-term perspective is the most accurate single predictor of upward social and economic mobility in the world today. And it has been proven that people who have goals written down are much more likely to achieve them. In the absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivia.
Here is my step by step guide to setting yourself personal goals. Also bear in mind the following rule to making this a worthwhile activity by using this long established philosophy (well my slightly amended version) – goals must be:
- Realistic but stretching
- Enjoyable (yes – make it fun)
STEP 1: Write Down Your Focus Areas
Here is a list of some areas you may want to focus on. Skip the ones that are not for you and write out each focus area goal. It often helps to think about what you have accomplished over the past few years – where would you like to focus your attention now to lead a fulfilling, successful and enjoyable life?
Branding – Your look and feel, your image and health, or your pitch.
Career Progression – What are your ambitions and how can they be realised.
Money – How much money you would like to earn?
Time – How will you manage to balance your time this year to make sure you can focus on what’s important to you?
Relationships – How will you spend more quality time with those whose company you enjoy the most?
Leadership – what do you want your performance and that of your team to look like?
Personal Health – So your performance is better – exercise, eating etc.
Time of your life – If you were planning to experience the best year of your life – what would you like to happen in the next 12 months to be able to look back and say “Wow, what an amazing year!” So dream big – plan to win.
STEP 2: Write Your Goals Down
• Write each goal as if it is already happening – use the present tense
• Give dates by when you want to achieve each one i.e. within the next 12 months.
• Balance your goals between work, business, health, hobbies and relationships. This will ensure you achieve that elusive work/life balance you have always dreamed of.
• Make them so they are realistically achievable and maybe a little stretching at the same time. Have fun with this.
• Set the goals so they can be broken down into small objectives (milestones) that you can check off throughout the year. Make sure you celebrate success.
STEP 3: Look At Your Goals Everyday
I highly recommend writing your goals neatly on paper or creating a vision or dream board that illustrates them. Use colour pens or make a collage that brings them to life and hang them in a place where you can see them everyday. Keeping them within your sights will keep them in your mind.
Techniques for Personal Success
1. Start With An Easy Goal And Complete It
One of the main reasons people don’t end up achieving their goals / keeping their New Year resolutions is they set themselves up for failure by choosing goals that take a lot of discipline and time to achieve. There is nothing wrong with having big goals however, but here’s a great way to get started:
Choose a simple goal and get it achieved within the next two weeks. This will start your momentum and get you feeling like you making good progress. Think of a small, achievable goal that only takes three to four hours to complete.
Choose something like:
- Clear office
- Organise my diary
- Delete unwanted files from computer
- Recycle last years unwanted papers
- Go for my first run
- Take my children over the park.
Next, set a date when you will get it done by and go for it.
Now that you have achieved a goal within the first two weeks, the rest of your goal setting will seem a lot easier to accomplish.
2. Make Lists To Stay On Track
• Make daily lists of what you need to do to get your goals met – the night before! Do the hardest thing first in the morning – don’t procrastinate.
• Do something everyday that moves you towards the goals
• Delegate the little activities that waste your valuable time to other people (I know it is easier said than done!).
• Don’t overload yourself – studies show that 6 tasks is the maximum you can achieve in one day!
3. Get Help
Build a team of friends, colleagues and supporters around you. There are two things you can do with these people. Delegate (in the nicest possible way!) or turn them into raving fans. We can all accomplish so much more when we have people cheering us on or by our side. For example going to the gym is no fun on your own… and sometimes it requires that extra special level of discipline to force ourselves out the door. Meeting someone there or going along with them makes all the difference.
Find a coach. Every successful sports athlete has a professional coach at their side. Coaching is one of the most powerful and effective things leaders can experience. Having a coach at your side will enable you to focus on setting great SMARTEE goals; taking the right action at the right time; develop a winning mind-set and ensuring you achieve and celebrate success. In every case that I know of, successful leaders, business people, CEO’s, Entrepreneurs and athletes swear by the power of coaching.
4. Structure Time to Achieve Goals
They won’t happen unless you have time to make sure they do!
5. Remember You Can Change The Goals As You Go
Goals should be looked at as beacons and guiding points for you to keep yourself on track along your journey. I would not recommend changing them every week but the world is changing so rapidly it can sometimes be a challenge to know what goals are reachable in this climate. So if during the course of the year your goals change its OK to cross one off or modify as you go.
6. Write Down 5 Successes Each Day
I’m inviting you to write down five little victories a day for this entire year.
This is a very powerful technique from T. Harv Eker. Once you start getting into this habit, you are training yourself to put the focus on the positive and get your brain to stop being so critical. Put a notebook in your bag or next to your bed and each day write down 5 things. Make sure they are balanced.
My final piece of advice for personal goal setting
This is a process intended to take a whole year and you will have your days where you may get frustrated, and you will start to beat yourself up (sound familiar?)
Self-criticism can interfere with achieving your goals and dreams. So, the next time you are making yourself feel bad, take a step back and instead acknowledge the good, and celebrate your achievements.
Another thing that will stop you is not taking time for YOU, so schedule time to reflect and take it all in. Maybe that’s a walk in the park or listening to your favorite music, or maybe it’s spending time with people you love and turning down your power for a few precious moments.
Setting and Delivering Corporate Goals
In organisations, setting clear, achievable, challenging, and unwavering (as much as possible given today’s rate of change) measures are critical to employee and organisational success. Appropriate measures are also strong motivators because most employees want to excel, and knowing the target helps them self-measure.
1. ‘Partnership’ goal setting:
Ideally goal setting should be done in partnership between bosses and employees. Involving employees will enhance their involvement and ownership. Direct reports are closest to the action and often in the best position to provide information on what’s possible in their work. Partnership goal setting carries some risk, (if morale is low), but executives are often surprised by the ambitions of motivated teams of people and more and more organisations are giving this methodology a try. It’s hugely empowering. Getting the boss’s input on metrics at the same time will ensure you are measuring all the same outcomes with the same language, measures and expectations.
Watch out for the pull… The demands of shareholders’; market expectations; consumers and over ambitious CEO’s can lead to real challenges when it comes to setting achievable objectives for all. I once worked for an organisation where the senior executive thought it would enhance motivation by setting ‘BIG, HAIRY, AUDACIOUS GOALS!’ Suffice to say, the opposite happened. A recent survey by The Booz & Company revealed the great majority of executives (64% of the 1800 respondents) said their biggest frustration is ‘having too many conflicting priorities’. They feel their biggest challenges are (a) ensuring that day-to-day decisions are in line with the strategy and (b) allocating resources in a way that really supports the strategy. Half of the executives consider setting a clear and differentiating strategy a significant challenge and most do not feel their company’s strategy will lead to success, saying growth initiatives often lead to waste. The vast majority of executives (82%) say functional departments in their companies get competing demands from different business units.
The most effective targets are clearly aligned with a corporate vision which all staff buy-in to. When everyone is singing off the same song sheet and everyone understands the role they have to play, the right targets can lead to cumulative productivity and success.
2. Communicate the goals.
Many executive teams set goals, but they don’t communicate these goals to the organization. For goals to be effective, they have to be communicated to every employee in the organization. Employees should wake up in the morning thinking about how they’re going to help achieve these goals. It also helps to consider the employees’ or group’s strengths and weaknesses. Determine what targets would encourage strength building directly linked to business goals and the individual’s career development aspirations.
3. Focus and execution
Focus on results AND activity – the latter should lead to the former. Establish a culture of execution. Execution is not an event–a onetime push towards achieving goals. Rather it is a way of life, and this way of life (execution versus non-execution) is set in the early days of the organization. The best way to establish this culture is for the founders, particularly the CEO, to set an example of hitting goals, responding to customers, and heeding and measuring employees. This obsession can go right down to the level of the CEO answering emails and responding to phone calls.
4. Aspirations and milestones.
Drill down into the goal to determine the “One Measure” that clearly determines success. This is often called a ‘Key Performance Indicator’ (KPI). Set a single, discrete measure for each “fundamental” of the business that equates to success. For example In-bound Sales answering each call within 3 rings or following up all conversations within 48 hours.
You can also agree aspirational targets for “Break-through’s”. For example, reducing cost or time by 20% in a key business process. These types of goals do not have to be performance related, but can act as additional incentives to move the organisation forward at a quicker pace. For example, I worked for a company that introduced a cost saving initiative called ‘1%, 1%, 1%’. The objective was to try to find a way to reduce costs by 3% and share the savings: 1% directly with the member of staff or team who came up with the idea; 1% with the department/division to spend on what they liked and 1% to benefit the organisation.
5. Recognition and reward
Set the standard that employees measure their own progress against targets and report their progress or slippage to you on an agreed-upon time frame. Establish the up-front expectation that when slippage occurs the employee is to report results for the period with a workable and realistic plan to reach the target before the end of the performance period. Managers need the capability and confidence of Morpheus. Morpheus is the character in the film, The Matrix who gave Neo the choice between the blue pill and the red pill. He was, essentially, the adult supervision. Cold, brutal reality is the ally of execution, so find a Morpheus who distributes the red pills and enables employees to see things as they really are.
Provide routine opportunities for employees to review progress. Teach them how to “brag” about their good performance, results achievement, and help them feel a real sense of achievement as they are reporting progress that will enable target accomplishment.
Make the rewards worth it. Be sure to determine the employee’s aspirations so you know what rewards will create a real enticement. For example, it’s not always about financial reward as this leadership video outlines. Companies like Iceland, recently voted The Times Top 100 Companies to work for in the UK, spend up to £7million every year on Achievers Awards Ceremony’s, holidays, parties and celebrations for their top achievers. Many employees would prefer barriers to be removed so they can really produce. Others want better computers, a better desk, chair or a simple “Well done” from the boss. Too many organizations fail to see the value in giving high performers what they want for fear that the employees are going to want a million dollars each. And – maybe an employee that gets enough business to produce a hundred million in profit should get that million!
Goal setting is for winners. It requires self-discipline, engagement and the more fun we can make it the more powerful it can become in unlocking the potential we have within us. Goal setting can create a relentless drive within us, especially when the goal gets closer and closer to being achieved. Let’s take a look at the film, “Finding Nemo” for example.
The father clownfish character of Marlin goes through a transformation from an over-protective father to a problem-solving parent in the animated film. His goals are clearly defined – to find his son, Nemo. During his journey, Marlin makes several changes solely on the problems that he is faced with and the way he chooses to handle them. Throughout the film, he battles the ocean’s obstacles and the choices that he makes to react to those problems change his entire view on life and ultimately help him achieve his goal of bringing his son back home.
So, as a leader I encourage you to adopt a goal-setting mind-set. I will leave you with my five golden nugget ingredients to success – plan it, execute it, reflect on it, call on a coach and know when to celebrate your accomplishments.
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Next week we will take a look at the how to develop the leadership skill of being a good listener.
This article was written by Simon Teague with extracts and references from the following sources:
Thomson, P. (1998) The Pinnacle Principle. Simon & Schuster. London
Mckenna, P. (2007) I Can Make You Rich. Transworld Publishers. London
Hill, N (2007) Think and Grow Rich. Wilder Publications. Radford
Johnson, S (2004) The One Minute Sales Person. Harper Collins. London
Covey, S (2004) Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Simon & Schuster. London