Everybody has goals. Whether in their personal or professional life, each person has something they are working toward. In my career, I’ve spent a lot of time talking with individuals about how they can achieve their goals. Whether people can realize the benefits of goal setting usually comes down to one thing: Are they truly goals, or are they dreams?
What’s the difference between dreams and goals? A dream is something you hope will happen, and to me it’s a passive and wishful approach to success. But with a goal, you identify a concrete result that you actively work to accomplish, with measurable steps along the way to make sure you’re on track.
The Benefits of Goal Setting
At Brokers International, we go through an annual goal-setting process. We set SMART business goals, some of which are metric based KPIs, like our total sales targets or gross margin. Once we set those numbers, it’s relatively easy to measure if we’re on track throughout the year. But we also set goals by department, which might be project- based as opposed to functional. These project-based goals, like updating our CRM by the end of the year, or creating a new product, don’t have inherently straightforward tracking. For those types of goals, we dig in and create a plan.
The first step is to break a goal into tasks that must be completed by quarter to hit the goal. We call those tasks rocks. In this system, I might get assigned three to five rocks every quarter that must be completed by the end of the quarter to hit the goal.
The value of Brokers’ goal program is that the minute we are off track we can identify it and get back on track. If a problem is so significant that it jeopardizes the goal (missed rocks), we reprioritize things to make sure we hit the goals.
Every quarter we meet and see how well we’ve done on the rocks. Every person in the organization has rocks and has visibility into how their rocks impact the overall goal. It keeps everyone aligned with where the company is going and in theory should let you know exactly where hiccups are.
It also helps you manage people. If you miss your rocks, in quarterly review, we can see how things are tracking and where the issues are. Is Nancy struggling but reaches out to her teammates for help? We would reward her for that teamwork approach. If she struggled but never communicated that or sought help from her team, we’d manage her based on her adherence to the Brokers International core value of teamwork.
Why Is It Important To Set Realistic Goals?
In business and in life, a lack of goals leads to sloppy work. You know you want to accomplish something, but you don’t have a blueprint. This is as bad an idea in business as it is in building a house. You are likely to wind up with an end result that isn’t where you really wanted to be.
Likewise, goals that are unattainable, poorly thought out or misaligned have the impact of demotivating people or causing people to not trust the process. Demotivational goals completely miss out on the benefits of goal setting.
I went to school in a nontraditional way. After I finished my military service I wanted a degree, but I couldn’t go to college for a typical four-year program. I didn’t think it was ever going to happen, balancing my career with my education. I planned out what the process would look like and how I could balance school and work, and then I took that plan and put it into action. It took me 11 years of night classes, one or two classes a quarter over a period of years, but I got through it and earned my degree.
I didn’t force myself to do something that I knew was unrealistic for my situation. Instead, I took a big task and pursued incremental milestones.
Four Steps to Achieving Your Goals
One of the hardest things in accomplishing a challenging goal is maintaining motivation. When you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and the day-to-day grind is wearing you down, these four steps will help get you across the finish line.
- Advertise your goal.
If you don’t share with anyone what you’re doing, nobody else will hold you accountable. When I first set out a goal, I will advertise it to as many people as I trust to hold me accountable.
For example, if you’re going to write a book, tell a lot of people you’re going to write a book by a certain date. Hopefully, they will keep asking you about it and keep you focused on the goal.
- Recruit cheerleaders.
It’s one thing to advertise a goal. But then you can specifically ask people to hold you accountable to a goal. Sometimes people will complete a goal because they don’t want to let people down. If one of your weaknesses is keeping people on point, you’re addressing that weakness in a positive way.
- Seek out experts.
There are people who have done this before, whatever your goal is. There is more than one way to skin a cat. If you want to start a business, ask different people who have started a business for their different perspectives on how to go about it.
Seek out advice from people who have already been there on something you’re about to embark on. You don’t have to take their advice, but you’re simultaneously sharing your goal with someone and getting advice and accountability.
- Share your failures.
It’s great to share your successes. But talking about and owning up to your failures or missed attempts is motivating. I’ve said many times, if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not working. There’s a quote attributed to Thomas Edison: “I didn’t fail 1,000 times in making the lightbulb; I learned 1,000 ways not to do it.”
Remember that every failure is a step toward success.
Do you have dreams? Or do you have goals? Dreams are fine to a point, but whether personally or professionally, the benefit of goal setting is knowing exactly where you’re trying to get and the steps you need to take to get there.