Most firms I’m currently working with are reflecting on the first six months of 2014 and measuring year-to-date progress against their annual goals. To keep everyone focused on what “winning” looks like and to increase the probability that the company will meet its objectives, it is crucial for businesses to have written, measurable goals that are communicated to those in the organization. These business objectives quite literally help people get, and stay on, the same page. While businesses don’t exist to make money they have to make money to exist — much like the fact that we need air to exist but don’t exist to breathe. Having clearly defined goals and objectives increases the chance of successfully making the money needed for the business to exist.
Like many things in life, however, goal achievement follows the law of cause-and-effect or natural law — what we do today will create a result tomorrow. The key linkage in any businesses is to know:
• What are they key activities that will produce the desired results?
• How many of those key activities must be done, and who must do them, to increase the odds of successfully achieving the company’s goals?
A few years ago, I was working with the executive team of a very large, successful bank to help improve their performance. During one of my conversations with Peter, an up-and-coming leader in the organization, he mentioned confidently that he thought all of his people knew their goals and were focused on achieving them. “That’s great news, Peter,” I replied. “Do you know if they’re doing the right things to achieve those goals?” I asked. He thoughtfully paused a moment and said, “I’m not sure. I think most of my people are.” “Would it be worth knowing that now, at mid-year, instead of finding out at year-end?” I persisted. “I’d rather know now so we can continue to achieve our goals by year-end,” Peter decided.
What Peter found out was that most of his people knew their key activities but a few didn’t. With those that didn’t, he had the opportunity to clarify what mattered most for them and defined what was required of them to help the organization achieve its annual goals. You see people generally don’t take a job to fail at it. If someone is underperforming or not on track for their goals, then it’s most often because they’re either not doing the right key activities, not doing enough of the key activities or, finally, not correctly or effectively doing the key activities. The job of any leader is to help their people identify which of those three challenges, or bottlenecks, might be creating the issue and then help them solve the problem.
At Think2Perform, we utilize a five-step goal achievement process:
• Have a goal that is specific, measurable, attainable, results-based and time-bound (SMART).
• Have a plan.
• Implement the plan (take action).
• Control direction.
• Throw off discouragement.
At midyear, the role of a leader/business owner/executive involves steps 4 and 5. In order to control direction, an organization has to know where it stands now and identify if the firm is or isn’t on track. If it isn’t, then what do we have to do now to get back on track? Knowing what to do could involve identifying activities we need to do more of, others we should do less of or stop doing all together because they’re not working, and, finally, some we should simply be doing more effectively.
Keep Up The Hard Work
Step 5 is about keeping people motivated and inspired to give their best. It’s about pushing through and not allowing them to be defeated or throw in the towel for the last six months because they’re behind their goal. Great leaders work with their teams to identify what’s not working and lay out a game plan to fix the issue so, collectively, they’re back on track.
Achieving goals is a dynamic process that requires an organizational and individual commitment to self-awareness. The best athletes, leaders, teams and organizations pay the most attention to their key activities because that’s what they can control. If they focus their attention on the cause, then they will create the desired result. Use this time to step back and reflect on how the year has gone in your organization — ask the tough questions — make the necessary adjustments and set your team and organization up for success.
Chuck Wachendorfer is a partner and the chief operating officer at Think2Perform, a business and sports performance firm that improves bottom-line results for executives, athletes and organizations such as American Express, Ameriprise Financial, Comerica Bank, Boston Scientific, United Health Group, the FBI, 3M, the Minnesota Twins and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He resides in Edwards with his wife, Lori, and their three children. Think2Perform is a partner of the Vail Chamber & Business Association. They offer a series of Breakthrough for Business workshops throughout the year. To learn more visit www.vailchamber.org or www.think2perform.com.
Achieving goals is a dynamic process that requires an organizational and individual commitment to self-awareness. The best athletes, leaders, teams and organizations pay the most attention to their key activities because that’s what they can control.