10 Tips for Successful Goal Setting

by John Long

As a fast growing staffing software company, I am constantly trying to make sure all of the team members are

  1. Energized 
  2. Know where the team is going
  3. Feel ownership in the company

Being the son of teachers, I had little practical guidance or experience in leading people in those three areas.  I am constantly learning and trying new things.  Feel free to comment and post ideas!

One of the best methods, though, is Goal Setting.   Sure, everyone pays lip service to setting Goals.  Many follow through.  There is a nice rush of setting goals, as you are picturing the end result.  Think – I want to lose 20 pounds, how great would that be!  Or, I’m going to save 3 months expenses, wouldn’t that be great!  We all start strong, with high hopes.  But, after the initial honeymoon, discipline needs to kick in and that is when goals just go to the wayside. 

This doesn’t mean goals shouldn’t be set though!   The sales team and I just returned from our ‘reward’ for hitting our 6 month goal from July 2009 to December 2009. 

The goals had three parts: 

1) Specific number of users sold
2) Everyone in our database called (we had over 1700 staffing firms that hadn’t heard from us)
3) Specific number of incoming leads
If we made all three, then we went on a 4 day trip to Jamaica – which was a blast! 

10 tips for good goal setting:

  1) Make it Specific:  Make your goals as specific as possible.  Anything vague like – “Try to do better at…” or “Think about….” Or “Get more….”, won’t motivate or communicate where you need to get to.

2) Make it Measurable:  What is the old adage – “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”?  This is very similar to the first one, but try to pick goals that you can easily measure and report on.  Graphs for progress are awesome!

3) Make it Simple:  If your goal can’t be regurgitated in 10 words or less, it’s too complicated. 

4) Consistent Progress Updates:  We do weekly sales meetings, though we try to keep them short.  These update meetings help to keep the goals first and foremost in people’s minds.

5) Frequent and Short-term:  I really liked our 6 month goals plan.  It gave enough time to keep us focused on it, but not so long that it seemed unreal.

6) Narrow it Down:  “Do fewer things well” is a theme in our evolution from small to mid-sized company.  Stick with your goals for the designated time period and resist the urge to add a bunch more as you go.  This is a difficult thing for me, as I’m always looking for ways to improve.  But, at the end of 6 months, I’d rather have had those 3 goals accomplished then 10 goals partially complete. 

7) Long-term plan:  If you are like me – you don’t think you are anything special in the way of foresight.  I don’t believe I have psychic powers or the next Steve Jobs.  I’m just a normal guy working hard to make Avionté a great company.  It is tempting, then, to give up on a Long Term Plan.  Most of my day – and I bet your day as well – is focused on putting out fires and the next couple of weeks.  Creating goals, especially when you limit your goals to a few, helps you and your team follow a long term plan. 

8) Publish your Goals:  Our team’s goals are published and not only does it bring us together as a team, but it has really helped the company know what we are doing.  This has significantly increased the accountability level in both our team and the other teams within the company.

9) Positive Thinking:  One of my biggest pet peeves – and maybe I should write a diatribe about it – is negative, excuse laden thinking.  People drive me nuts when they just come up with stupid excuses as to why things are happening.  Creating good goals provides the structure to keep thinking in check.  As an example – our goal was to call everyone in the database.  Of all the goals, this is the one that is in our control the most.  I’d start to hear “I can’t call because I’m trying to close business” or “these companies aren’t in our target market anyway”.  These are excuses.  The goal is a mandate for the reward, regardless of the excuse.  Don’t meet the goal; guess we won’t go to Jamaica.  By focusing on what needs to be accomplished, the team members then gelled together to finish the task. 

10) Motivation:  When you get to work, do you know exactly what you need to accomplish?  Most days, I don’t.  It is definitely something I struggle with.  During the writing of this blog, I had to ignore or be curt, with 3 different IM conversations, the little Outlook icon representing new email, a call from my brother and people thinking about coming into the office.  Having goals really helps that out.  Your team can judge quickly then, are they doing a great job or not.  Are they meeting expectations or not.  By having a goal, they can mentally clear their desk and focus on the goal.  That is a great motivator, especially when there is a nice reward at the end!

Again, please feel free to comment or share suggestions!  I am very interested in hearing ideas that help to make a company better.

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