as published in Conway Daily Sun
The three most common problems with company or organization goals are 1. The goals are too small or uninspired. 2. People don’t know what the goals are. 3. People don’t really care or connect with what the goals are. So how do you create exciting goals? How do you get everyone to understand the goals and to support them? This is my passion – to teach and inspire exactly this. Please read on.
Most clients hire us to help them reach their goals while many are suffering from the troubles listed above. Most will say their goal is to increase sales, increase customer satisfaction or retention, to make more money, reduce error rates, get employees to care more about their work, to improve communication between departments, etc. My experience has been that most people cannot clearly articulate what exactly their goal is in a measurable way. Sure, some will include a metric of a certain change by a certain deadline, which is what we teach in goal-setting 101. The goal was likely set because of a pain the client was feeling. We feel pain when we lack of sales, so we decide we need to do something about the pain. We feel pain when employees are fighting and not working together. We feel pain when customers are leaving negative reviews on Trip Advisor, on comment cards and satisfaction surveys. We feel pain when we have high turnover. The goal is to alleviate the pain. We know we have accomplished the goal when the pain has diminished enough for us to worry about the next greatest pain on our list. I feel your pain.
The trouble is, we become trapped in this reactionary state of setting goals in response to pain and we rarely get to set goals based on what we really want. We rarely get to proactively change the world, achieve great things and experience our vision. We rarely get to inspire anyone else to be the highest version of themselves. We tend to muddle through our careers, advancing based on our ability to alleviate pain and occasionally we produce something measurable. The “something measurable” is usually something the boss needed to alleviate his or her pain. We are promoted until we can no longer excel. Sometimes we get lucky and retire or die before anyone notices. Are you sufficiently depressed yet? I have good news - it does not have to be this way! You can get ahead of the curve and proactively take charge of your own goal setting.
1. Set bigger goals. If you have ever tried to raise money for a project, you may have noticed that it is easier to raise large amounts of money for a large project that everyone wants, and difficult to raise even a little money for a small project that won’t really matter. Most companies set goals to increase sales 10% – 20% over the prior year. Few set big goals such as to triple sales because they do not know how to achieve it. They never learn how to achieve it because they never set the goal. They do not set the goal because they do not have the support they need. Ironically, no one helps them because they are never asked to help, because the big goal was never set. Set big goals without knowing how you will achieve them.
2. Make sure everyone understands the goal. It may seem obvious, but it is not. In large, sophisticated companies, even the top people usually cannot name the CEO’s top priorities. When I ask my client employees to name their employer’s top priorities, less than 10% can. Most want to know and feel embarrassed that they don’t. Some are even angry that their managers/owners don’t include them in that information. Most managers set the goal. They hold a meeting and tell everyone. Then they wonder why nothing is happening, so they hold more meetings put out more memos or incentives and get a little action for a little while. Keeping goals top-of-mind is a marketing job you must do all day, every day and everywhere in your company. Remember, old-fashioned carrot and stick incentives do not work for jobs that require any thinking. I encourage you to include everyone in setting the goals to start with. This takes more time up front but saves time “selling” the goal to staff and it makes the goal truly achievable. Further, the process of goal setting as a group will reveal the hidden roadblocks to success.
3. Do you ever use the phrase “get buy-in” about your staff? If so, call me today – this is an emergency! If you need to get buy-in, that means you have people not supporting the goals. That is not okay! This is as common as the common cold, but we have a cure for this situation if you are brave enough to transition from boss to true leader – or partner, even servant. People really want to help you achieve a worthwhile goal. Your suppliers and customers want to help, I want to help and more than anything, your employees want to help. People need to feel a connection between what they do and what matters to them. If their work doesn’t matter, they don’t even know what the goal is or why it matters, or how they affect it, how engaged will they be?! Big goals and everyone knowing them is great, but stakeholder engagement is the critical piece that makes the magic happen at execution time.
I hope you will decide to dream big. You CAN do it, you will figure out how and people will help you. If you need a little inspirational reading, I invite you to consider reading some of my favorite resources: The Success Principles, The One Thing, Drive, Crucial Conversations, Firms of Endearment, Theory U, Conscious Capitalism, The Circle Way, The Speed of Trust and Predictable Results in Unpredictable Times. Or, when facing life’s next pop-quiz, you could just call me and I’ll help you.