When I become a manager for the first time, I was very ambitious. I had big goals and huge visions of the work me and my team would get done, but for some reason my team still lacked focus and was out of an alignment.
I realised, I made every mistake in the book and most of those objectives were not accomplished. Instead of feeling down and losing my confidence, I decided to truly understand how to set goals and make sure my future ambitions would not be defeated. Here are my insights.
Most business goals fail or are not achieved in full. Why? Reasons are many, and it usually has less to do with what methodology you use for goal setting and more to do with people’s overall attitude toward their work goals.
1. Your goals exist only in your head.
Having a goal in mind is not the same as having a goal. To commit to a goal, you must write it down and make sure you make progress on it every week. Studies show that people with written goals get 10 times more done as people without them. And that’s also one of the reasons, most New Year’s goals fail by January 15th or businesses don’t get the result their Executives dream about.
But even if you have written down specific well thought out goals for your business, they will be useless unless you get everyone in your team on board and working towards them. While you might think you have a clear idea on what your team needs to accomplish, it’s a lot harder to make sure everyone understands and values your goals the same way.
Handling team’s or company’s goals requires constant communication to make sure everyone is on board and everyone works on the right things. The bigger the team, the harder it gets as it takes just a few unengaged persons to make sure the goal is never finished. Luckily, there are many approaches you can try.
2. Your goals are vague.
While having some sort of idea of where you want to get to is definitely good but don’t mistake dreams with realistic goals. If you want to succeed, your written goals must be both very specific and have a precise deadline, Otherwise, it’s way too easy to ignore those goals or decide to “work on them later.” As Tim Ferris wrote in “Tribe of Mentors”: “Life punishes the vague and rewards the specific.”
I managed to start having specific written goals when I adopted the SMART goal framework. SMART offers a set of criteria to check your goals against. While for the first year, I had to manually spend time improving my goals, by now it has become so natural that I hardly ever think about it when I make future plans.
3. Your goals are unrealistic.
Becoming the emperor of the world” is usually good ambition but for most of us it’s, luckily, not something doable. When setting goals you need to understand what is actually possible to achieve. While some methodologies like OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) often encourage you to set unrealistic goals, you still need to understand what exactly will you get done.
4. You don’t measure your progress regularly.
Having figured out how to set goals, I was confident. However on my first try of setting SMART quarterly goals, I was still unsuccessful. Because well-worded specific goals that everyone understands will get you nowhere unless you measure them regularly. That’s why I started doing weekly roundups on my progress with weekly reporting.
What I saw was that most of the tasks I do every week look beneficial in a short run but don’t help me move towards the long-term goals I had set. When I prioritize my daily work based on how much it moves me toward my OKRs, I’m better off in the long run.
5. Your goals are no good for you.
When you’re running a business, you need to focus on both your long term plans and next week.
It’s easy to get caught up with some short-term plan or goal that seems relevant and useful while actually moving you away from your long-term vision. Question you need to ask is, where do you see yourself in 5 years? Or 10 years? Will the goals you’ve set for this year help you move towards that dream? And if not, why are you doing them all?
Still even if you follow every tutorial and try every methodology, some of your goals will fail. Failure is normal and good. The important part is that you learn from failure, get a better system and be more focused in the future.