Often, we’ll hear from successful people about the importance of setting goals. They talk about how having goals is motivating, inspiring and enables them to break through to new heights of achievement. If all that’s true, then why don’t more of us set goals? Generally, the theory is that we’re afraid of failing. Next to speaking in public, fear of failure is No. 2 on most people’s list of greatest fears.
Know this — people who have goals do better than those that don’t. Additionally, those who have written down their goals outperform those whose goals are not in writing. Taken one step further, people who have written down their goals and then share them with others do the best. You may ask “Why is that?” Simply, it’s because while our goals may be our individual aspirations, we don’t achieve them alone. Often, we need the help of others to accomplish the goals we’ve set for ourselves. At Think2Perform, we call those supporting people enablers. Enablers are people that have a vested interest in us achieving our goals. Enablers could be family members, close friends, colleagues at work, our boss, etc.
Set A SMART Goal
A goal isn’t truly a goal unless it’s SMART — specific, measurable, achievable, results-based and time-bound. For example, losing weight isn’t a goal. However, “losing 20 pounds in six months” meets the SMART criteria for goals. “Lose 20 pounds” is specific, measurable and results-based while “in six months” adds the time-bound element to the goal.
Yet, there’s more you need to know to be a great goal achiever.
Here’s the secret — people who regularly set and achieve their goals focus on performing their key activities. What are key activities? Key activities are the tasks/activities that “I must do” to achieve my goals. Goal achievement follows the law of cause and effect or what we call “natural law”. Our goals are the effect, results or desired outcome. In order to achieve the goals, we have to focus on the actions we can control — our “key activities.” As it applies to goal achievement, the key activities are the “cause” in the law of cause and effect.
Identify Key Activities
With every goal we set, we’ll have key activities that drive the outcome. Take our health, for example — if we want to live healthier lives (lose weight, run a marathon, lower our cholesterol), there are only three key activities that will get us to our goal — diet, exercise and rest. If I want to be healthy (being healthy is a value, not a goal) and lose 20 pounds in six months, then, to make the goal a reality, I have to determine (quantify) how much of each key activity must be performed, by me, to achieve the weight loss goal.
Once you’ve identified and quantified your key activities, focusing on doing more of the key activities, will, in fact, help you reach your goal of becoming healthier and losing weight.
After answering the “how much” question for each key activity, you reach the last step in setting yourself up for goal achievement success — answering the final and most important question, “Am I willing to do them?” At Think2Perform, we call this the “acid test” question.
If I answer the acid test question, “yes” then I have a goal. If the answer is “no, I’m not willing to do the key activities to achieve the goal” then I have a dream, not a goal.
Let’s use a business example: Suppose Company X wants to hit a determined revenue target next year. In order to achieve that objective, Company X’s executive team identifies the market share gain required for the target. Taking it one more step, the firm-wide objective is divided up by business unit, department and region so that everyone in the firm is clear on what they need to do to hit the goal. And that’s where many companies stop. See, hitting a revenue target or acquiring clients are results and we can’t control results. We can only control activities.
Instead, to increase the odds of Company X hitting its goal, the executive team needs to go deeper and identify the key activities the company must do that would have the greatest impact on increasing revenue. Those activities could include acquiring new customers and/or selling more to existing customers.
Then the questions become:
“How do we do that?”
“What are the activities we must do to generate more customers and/or sell more to our existing customers?”
“How much of each of those activities must we do and who’s going to do them?”
The final question then becomes, “Are we willing to do them?”
Once we have those answers, the odds of goal achievement for Company X go up dramatically.
That’s the secret. As a firm, team or individual, we have to, one, have a goal, two, know what our key activities are, three, know how much of each activity we must do and, four, we have to be willing to do them.
Chuck Wachendorfer is a partner and the chief operating officer at Think2Perform, a partner of the Vail Chamber & Business Association. It offers a series of Breakthrough for Business workshops throughout the year, helping local businesses achieve their best practices. To learn more, visit www.vailchamber.org or www.think2perform.com.