Yesterday, a friend and colleague said she was having trouble “holding herself accountable”. She wasn’t getting things done that she thought she should be, including some things she deemed important to the business. For perspective, this woman is running a business, supervising a stable workforce and keeping multiple clients happy. On top of all that, she’s a mom! (Can you say “busy”?)
- What are you not achieving?
- Where’s the breakdown?
- What are your goals?
That last one about “goals” is super important. A goal is something you commit to. You move heaven and earth in your efforts to achieve it and you still won’t have a perfect track record for goal achievement. Things get in the way: changing economy, fickle clients, new demands from the boss/team, unanticipated emergencies, life! I ran Operations for two years for a manufacturing company and I can assure you, our monthly shipments supporting our revenue goals were sacred. I would do everything I could, as the month wore on, to hit that monthly number: allow overtime, authorize expediting charges, go to 3 shifts, even bring on shop workers from a temp agency. (These activities would always result in tensions between our revenue and profit goals but that’s another conversation.) With all that, I had a pretty good track record but it still wasn’t perfect.
The problem is that all businesses are chock full of things labeled “goals” when most of them are really “targets”. Goals are vital to achieving the mission of the organization. Targets are something that show up on the “to do” list that would be nice to achieve but other priorities always take precedence. In my Operations days, I had the “goal” of cleaning up and organizing our multi-acre metal storage yard for more than a year with little progress! Clearly, it was not a goal. It was a target.
Back to my friend and colleague, it turns out she is quite good at hitting goals. Remember, she has long-term employees and happy clients. You don’t have those conditions if you’re dropping the ball on important elements of your business. Her problem is that she had way too many items on her “to do” list and they hadn’t been segregated into goals and targets. She is currently undertaking a review of all the items on her plate and deciding which ones she will commit to. Once that step is done, she can enroll an “accountability partner” to drive follow-up and consequences. (That last bit is always hard if you are the CEO!)
How about your situation? Do you have too many “goals” on your plate? How many are targets? If you looked at all the things the people on your team are trying to accomplish, would there be confusion between goals and targets? Keep in mind, if you don’t do a good job of defining goals up front and negotiating commitment, your ability to enforce accountability later is diminished, if not eliminated.
Here are a few criteria you can use to check on whether you have a good goal. They are an expansion of the SMART goal system. If your goal meets all these criteria, it’s a good business goal.
Business SMART+ goals:
- Specific, single result
- Achievable but challenging
- Relevant to business
- Time based
- Controllable by goal owner
The last thing to keep in mind is that “all goals are not equal”. Any individual, team or organization can’t have more than 3 – 5 truly vital goals. Prioritize and keep the focus on the few things that are truly important to your success.