A Simple And Straight Forward Approach To Getting Where You Want To Go

Goal SetterA famous conversation from Alice in Wonderland goes like this: “‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’ said Alice. ‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat. ‘I don’t much care where—’ said Alice. ‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat. ‘–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation. ‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.’”

Why Is It Important To Have Goals In Business?

Goals give you direction; a final destination if you will. Alice did not have a destination in mind, so neither she nor others had any idea of how to get her there. By setting goals in business you are allowing yourself and your staff members to see where you want to go. This is very important as, without goals, how do you know if you are succeeding or not – sure, you will end up somewhere, but is that where you truly want to be? Another benefit of having clearly defined organisational goals is that each person is in alignment and working towards a common purpose. Goals also offer motivation – a focus. Imagine if you went ten pin bowling, but there were no pins. What would you be aiming for? Rolling the ball down the aisle as fast and straight as you can may occupy you for the first few goes but, very soon, most of us would lose interest. Without the pins, there really is no goal, and no opportunity to celebrate success, leading to a decrease in motivation. This brings me to longevity. For a business to be successful in the long term, goals must be determined to support this. Just like bowling, you will not be in the game for very long if you repeatedly do not achieve anything.

How To Establish Goals?

The first step is to look at organisational goals – the key performance indicators that will allow your business to grow and succeed. These will change for each business and each industry, but some common ones are: percentage of sales growth per year, Productivity levels, cost reduction, market leadership and so on. The second step is to determine individual goals for each person that will help achieve the organisational goals. We suggest an average of five critical goals per person. Not every daily task of each person needs to be written into one of these goals. These five goals should be focused on what is going to have the biggest impact for the business. This is known as Pareto’s Law, or the 80/20 rule – eighty per cent of the results will come from twenty per cent of the tasks performed. You may have 25 tasks that make up your role. There will be a huge variance in the impact that each of these tasks will have on actual business outcome, and thus the time you put into each should vary – it is important to prioritise those that will yield the greatest results and, once that is done, set some SMART goals.

Writing SMART Goals

When you start to write out these goals (putting pen to paper is an important step in the process), you must make sure that they are SMART goals. There are about 347 million variations of what SMART stands for, all of which are fairly similar. The version I use is, Specific and measurable, Motivating, Attainable, Relevant and Trackable over time.

A goal needs to be specific, so that those who are responsible for achieving the goal have a clear view of what is required of them, and what is considered goal accomplishment – the standard if you like. If a goal is specific, it is measurable, as it will be clear to see how far you have progressed toward goal accomplishment.

Motivating is the second step towards a SMART goal. It would be great if every job we had in life motivated us, but sometimes we just have to do things that are not enjoyable. We must, however, understand the importance of the outcome. For example, you may be looking after a friend’s baby when it gets struck down with a bout of gastro. Changing poor bub’s nappy is not going to be enjoyable, but you are motivated to do so for the health and wellbeing of the child. As you can see, not all goals themselves must be motivating (finishing a nappy change), but the outcome of the goal should be seen as valuable and motivating (a happy, healthy child).

Setting unattainable goals is only going to decrease motivation and increase the chance of failure. Make sure that the goals you set are attainable or achievable, but still push for improvement.

A goal must also be relevant, remembering the 80/20 rule. Set goals that are going to have the greatest impact on getting the results you want.

Making your goals Trackable over time means that you can celebrate the milestones along
the way.

How To Track Progress Towards Achieving Goals

You do not do goals, you achieve goals. What you do is perform a series of tasks that get you to accomplish goals. A good idea is to write down all the tasks that must be completed to reach your goal. List them in order of execution and build in timelines or deadlines for each, so that you can mark off where you are up to, and make sure that you are still on track. This is why your specific, motivating, attainable and relevant goals must also be trackable over time.

The Value Of Reassessing Goals

It is a valuable exercise to regularly reassess your goals, so make sure that your goals are written clearly and simply. It is great to have high ambitions, but make sure your goals do not resemble a full-blown business plan. Key goals should be written on no more than one page and be able to be read in less than one minute. This allows you to quickly see if the goal is still relevant – is that still a priority to get you to where you want to go? Goals also need to be reassessed on merit of attainability. If, while tracking your progress, you realise that you are not in line to meet your goal, ask yourself, “Have I done everything possible and sourced direction, support and resources to help me achieve this goal?” If you can answer yes, then possibly the goal was not attainable in the first place, or factors outside of your control have influenced your success. Make sure you have put in considerable effort before resetting the goal, as you will be resetting the standard.

What To Do When You Reach Your Goals?

Celebrate your success! If you do not have someone that will formally reward and recognise your achievements, then take it upon yourself to enjoy what you have achieved, and feel pride in your accomplishment. Foster this positivity into focusing on other goals that you are still working towards, and look to the future. Now is the time to set new targets and write new goals. Many businesses are in the process of doing this as we come to the close of the financial year. With hopes that the global financial crisis will be but a distant memory in the 2011/2012 financial year, the focus is shifting from cost reduction to attainable growth and prosperity.

The importance lies not in setting the goals, but in executing the day-to-day tasks that will allow you to achieve your goals. Goals are dreams with a deadline. Dream big, work hard and celebrate your success.

Catherine Hadaj
Catherine Hadaj is the client relationship manager at Blanchard International. With offices in Sydney and Melbourne, Blanchard International offers training in self, one-to-one, team and organisational leadership