Many business leaders like to brag about "crushing their goals." But few can offer a concrete system of how to do it, rather than just leaving it as another empty management cliche.
Here are four secrets that top business leaders use to accomplish their goals every year:
1. Create the Right Rhythm
Some organizations create goals once a year
But more companies, like mine, are setting quarterly goals instead. In addition to this being a proven best practice, it allows companies and individuals to flex with rapidly changing business conditions.
If you have some Big Hairy Audacious Goals (aka "BHAGs"), that's fine too: Just break them down into bite-sized chunks each quarter to make meaningful progress.
2. Focus on the Right Stuff
The best business goals are usually aligned with the larger organization's or your department's goals. They're the important things that will move the needle for you, your department or your company if achieved--not the urgent things that need to get done right now.
Resist the urge to make the number-one item on your to-do list a goal. People tend to gravitate towards urgent things because it makes them feel necessary, but the people who really know how to make it rain are experts at identifying what's important, not what's on fire.
Try this litmus test to figure out if you have great goals:
- Does it feel like it's a stretch, but not impossible?
- Will it help me/my organization to get where we're going, or is it directly aligned with a company objective?
- Am I uniquely qualified to do it, compared with someone else in the company?
- Will it take putting multiple building blocks in place to make it possible?
If you said yes to all of the above, than you've probably set the right goal.
Three-to-five is the magic number of goals to focus on every three months. Remember, goals are meant to be a stretch, not an everyday activity don't confuse your daily job responsibilities with your goals.
When I don't achieve one of my goals and it's still relevant, I simply bring it into the next quarter.
3. Scale mountains, one step at a time
The key to breaking down big goals into achievable pieces? Time. I learned from a mentor early on in my career to schedule everything in my calendar. In order to give myself the best shot at achieving my goals.
I have two standing 90-minute time slots in my calendar every week that are set aside to work on my quarterly objectives or other important (not urgent) tasks. You'd be amazed how much you can achieve by committing just three hours per week.
If you're tempted not to schedule a meeting with yourself because it sounds silly, remember that something else will inevitably come up--and you'll wonder where the time went. Don't sacrifice the important for the urgent.
4. Use the right tools
For years I struggled to find the right way to keep track of my and my direct reports' goals. Note pads, excel spreadsheets, email--all of it proved to be cumbersome and never available when I needed it.
Goals are hard enough to achieve on their own: Don't add to the difficulty by being disorganized with them. Instead, use one of the many goal tracking tools out there (like Betterworks or Asana) to set your goals and check in on them. My company, for example, uses 7geese--which gives us transparency and tools to encourage each other.
Successful business leaders set the example in their organizations by showing how audacious goals can be achieved by breaking them down into manageable tasks, each one assigned to the right person. Give your team these skills, and you will be training the leaders who will help you climb mountains together.