I find at this time of year, I begin to think about setting goals for my business. I’m sure it has a lot to do with the thought of new beginnings looming as the end of the year approaches. So I was delighted when I came across Monica Castenetto, a consultant who has been coaching people for 15 years on making change happen. She was talking about her journey, and it got me thinking about my business journey and what I want to achieve next year; and how goal setting plays such an important part in helping you get to your destination. But is there more to goal setting than simply coming up with an objective?
Goal setting – getting it right
Goal setting has long been a serious consideration among employers and businesses who are keen to keep their workforce both striving for more and to develop their effectiveness. But setting goals is just as important (and perhaps even more so) when you are running your own business and constantly relying on your own abilities.
Facing up to uncertainties
However much we might map out and plan for all eventualities in life and business, there are always uncertainties and there’s always scope for unforeseen challenges. What a good goal-setting strategy can offer, is a plan of action that is workable and realistic, regardless of the obstacles we have to overcome.
The best way to offset the issues uncertainty can introduce into your working life and the progress of your business, is to get specific and to pinpoint the details of what you want to achieve; the when, how and why. Your professional life is always likely to be something of an up and down affair, but setting specific targets can help you find (and tap into) motivation that lasts, gets you through the tough times and keeps you grounded when things are going your way.
It’s (almost) all about you
As all entrepreneurs know, there is nowhere to hide when goals are not being reached or when progress has taken a downward turn. But that doesn’t mean that you have to keep your ideas, your ambitions and your difficulties all to yourself. You might be surprised in fact, just how supportive and ‘keen to help’ your close friends and family can be, by offering encouragement and in spurring you closer to your targets.
So, while the responsibility for your company’s success or otherwise will ultimately rest on your shoulders, it can help to lean on others, and to let those people closest to you, share some of the load as best they can. And this is particularly true of self-employed or stay-at-home business operators, who with the right attitude, can use the energy and enthusiasm of the people around them, as motivation and fuel for reaching pre-set goals.
For more on this I’d recommend reading the blogs from ‘happiness expert’ Gretchin Rubin.
Let me write that down
You might think, that once you’ve managed to set out in your mind what your most central business aims are for the foreseeable future, that you’d have a good chance of remembering and referring to them. However, evidence has repeatedly shown, that the simple act of writing down your priority goals, gives you a dramatically improved chance of achieving them; as research by psychology professor Gail Matthews at the Dominican University of California, clearly demonstrates. In fact, Professor Matthews’ study gives a strong indication that if you don’t write down what your goals actually are, then your chances of reaching them are slim indeed. But even when your goals and your plans are clearly sketched out and noted down, there remains a real danger that they will not be attained or consistently targeted unless you add accountability to the equation as well.
In the context of a typical business enterprise workplace, accountability is a key issue for managers and team leaders alike, but it can easily be overlooked when you’re fully responsible for your own operation. It is difficult after all, to hold yourself accountable for a lack of motivation and attainment on a regular basis; which is precisely why setting the right goals and working towards them in the right way, is so important for entrepreneurs.
Here again, you can look to your nearest and dearest to keep you on track simply by sharing your plans, your progress and the problems you’ve been facing. By shedding light on the challenges you face and being open about how you’re getting on, you can help give yourself the extra motivation you just might need, not only to keep trying, but to try that bit harder and to do whatever it takes to succeed.
Going one step further
If we accept that goal setting is important for motivation, and that accountability can be crucial for attainment of established targets, then how do we bring it all together and make the most of our individual skills and talents? The answer isn’t anything out of the ordinary or a bag of magic beans, it’s the trusty old chestnut known as a progress report.
Keeping track of your own performance over time, with as ‘realistically attainable’ goals as possible, is the only sure-fire way to make sure you are operating close to your optimal level. In short, progress reports can help make sure you stay on track to meet your goals, and retain motivation month-to-month and year-to-year.
Going too far
Goal-setting is an established tool for motivating employees and individual business operators alike, but evidence suggests that establishing benchmarks too often and in ways that are too prescriptive can actually be counterproductive under certain circumstances. A report on the subject called ‘Goals Gone Wild’ from the Harvard Business School, makes the case that while having operational targets is very important for motivational purposes in a number of ways, it can sometimes lead employees to have too narrow a focus, as they work and aim to problem-solve.
What does success mean to you?
The challenge therefore for managers, entrepreneurs and business leaders, is to think carefully about what their goals are, and ought to be, at a given time and under particular circumstances. For the most part that means making sure you know what success looks like for you and what it will take to get there. Breaking down challenges into manageable tasks helps maintain motivation, but aiming for the wrong goals can be misleading and ultimately might hamper your path to success.
But, whatever you do, you should always aim to enjoy and relish the challenges you set for yourself, and learn to celebrate your successes in style, in any way that feels right. After all, you’ve earned it!
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!