In a fast-growing company, people have to keep learning and growing to keep up. One of the best ways to help them meet such demanding expectations is to build their capacity and performance holistically--across all aspects of their lives. If they are doing things outside of work they have never done before, that will carry over to their jobs and produce unexpected benefits.
At Acceleration Partners, this process begins with setting goals--both personal and professional. At our annual company summit in November, I reminded my employees that for our company to have its best year ever in 2018, each of them would have to have his or her own best year. I also let them know I expect them to reach new heights of accomplishment by taking risks and getting out of their comfort zones.
To set the stage, I publicly reviewed my successes and failures from my own goals from 2017 across the four aspects of my life that I track (personal, professional, family and community). I also went over the "stop doing list" I created to trim away commitments that have become a distraction. This is a list of things I was committing to give up or stop. When my 2018 goals were ready, I posted them on one of our company's Slack channels. I knew that to lead by example, I would have to be publicly accountable for working toward my own best year.
I have to admit I considered editing some of my personal goals before posting them for the whole company to see. In the end, however, I decided to be a little vulnerable, which included sharing health/weight and financial goals. I hit send and waited. For a few days, nothing happened. Then the comments started to trickle in: People who has read my goals thanked me for sharing and let me know they were beginning the same process.
A week later, the head of client services posted her goals to Slack along with this comment:
"Posting these publicly to 48 people is way outside of my comfort zone, my stomach literally feels queasy right now, so if any of you are on the fence... know that you're not alone! Very hard to do, but every piece of research I've seen says share your goals with as many people as you can to keep yourself on it, so I am giving it a go and maybe you should too."
Within days, more people had posted their goals, taking inspiration and ideas from each other. Many revealed that they had never set goals before and were excited about the exercise.
Now we are well on our way to seeing goals posted by half the company. Discussions have taken off, and I can sense there is a lot of excitement about the process. One team member created a master file to track everyone's progress. Others posted notes of encouragement and support. The energy and momentum I see my team sharing is more than I ever expected.
Here are my top take-aways from this experiment:
1. In team-building exercises, whoever goes first sets the tone.
I'm glad I took the plunge. I am sure that doing so helped others to share their own vulnerabilities more honestly.
2. Sharing builds a foundation of trust that can support deeper relationships.
As team members learn more about each other as people, not just as co-workers, they gain insights that enable them to work better together.
3. Sharing goals publicly raises the collective bar.
When people saw others driving to improve by going out of their comfort zones, they were inspired to push themselves to do the same.
4. Knowing what your employees want to accomplish can be an amazing motivator.
Once I knew my employees' goals, I was able to jump in and help some of them: I offered to mentor one person and found a speaking opportunity for another. This was similar to when we asked our employees to name their top five life goals and then helped to make them happen. The message I'm trying to convey is that my people and my business rise and fall together.
For 2018, rather than thinking about success in business and success in life as two discrete things, approach development as an integrated exercise. The effort will raise the bar both for your organization and for your team members. When you help people reach elevated expectations, everyone wins.