Leading your team to goal setting

Last week, I suggested that you communicate company goals to each team member so that your company-wide goals have context for them in their daily work and with their department’s goals. That’s only part of the job when working with team members and goal setting. The other part is making sure they have a process for identifying what they want to accomplish and how they will break it down and knock off the steps required to make departmental and personal goals happen.

Goal setting training?

You might be looking at that last paragraph and wondering how it is possible that anyone on your team doesn’t already have a process they’re happy with for goal setting. Have you asked them what process they use for identifying, prioritizing and achieving goals? For a business owner, this may not seem possible, but business owners usually have a different worldview, mindset, background (and so on) from at least some of their staff.

To shine a light on that thought: In all the companies I’ve worked for and with since I started post-collegiate work in the early ’80s, not one offered (much less required) goal setting training of any kind to help employees or teams with this critical responsibility.

NOT ONE. How is this possible?

Even if your team members have a goal setting / achievement process they are happy with, do you know how it fits with the process your company uses? What if yours is better? How will learning yours impact their work and life? What if THEIRS is better? How would that change the lives of the entire team and the future of the company?

Yes, training.

The same way that it’s possible for companies to forget to train their people on project management, process management, product management, etc. The assumption at companies that don’t do this may be that “We hired an experienced person, so we expect you to know this.”

That’s great, but if the experienced hire hasn’t been trained, or uses a sloppy, misguided or incomplete method – who pays for that? Even if the method is good, but it’s incompatible with your company’s process, it’s worth discussing.

Are these things a part of your employee on-boarding? Are you showing them where the health insurance forms are and how to file expense reports, but failing to provide them with information (and training) on the company’s preferred goal setting process? Are you spending any time acclimating them to how project management is done at the company?

Are they being trained on the systems and tools your company uses to communicate, manage projects, collect and review feedback, store ideas, plan projects and identify goals? If not, how will they thrive in your system?

People systems are as important as other systems

It’s all too easy to see a need in a company, hire for it, plug someone into a position and turn them loose like a replaceable part. You may feel that your front line people can be handled that way since they aren’t viewed as a strategic hire. I suggest that they are because they are customer-facing, but it’s more than that and goes back to our discussions last week where giving context to company goals is critical to achieving them.

When you take that concept of giving your team context to company goals and apply it to the systems across your entire company, even the front line staffer needs to know your systems and the importance of using them. How else will they determine and achieve their goals? How else will they know the importance of passing along client feedback, much less how to do it?

One of management’s responsibilities is to see that the staff has the systems and training to handle everyday situations. You train them to run the register, but it shouldn’t end there. What are you doing to prepare them to become of strategic value to your company? We see stories on a regular basis where someone started at an entry level position at a large company and somehow managed to end up as the company’s CEO (or as the company’s owner). These things don’t happen by accident.

How you prepare someone to become an integral part of your success is more important as any other training you provide. Train, mentor and guide them – even if you don’t plan for them to become CEO.

Are you communicating company goals?

The natural thought process for small business owners at this time of year is often about goals, i.e.: “How can we do better next year?”

Before you can answer that, you need to decide what “do better” means. What’s your process for thinking that through? If you decide it’s about increasing a high level focus item like profit (rather important), you’re going to have to break it down so you can focus on the actions that produce the increase you’re looking for.

Departmental goals matter too

Once you’ve settled on an area to improve, don’t limit improvement ideas solely to your focus. If you have a staff, you have to get them involved. If you’re big enough to have multiple departments, you have to get them involved. Get them together and take them through the process you went through. For each department or area of the company, what data should they review? For each department or area of the company, what else needs review and discussion? What do they think they can improve upon this year that will have the most significant impact on their area’s quality and speed? Each department needs to understand how achieving their goals will contribute to other departmental goals, and vice-versa. Finally, all departments or areas of the company need to understand how their area’s goals contribute directly to company-wide goals.

Communicate company-wide goals

Most business owners are pretty good at breaking down the achievements required to reach their goals, but a common misstep is to overlook the communication required to make sure that the owner’s company-wide goals have “Why does this matter to me?” context at all levels of the company, for every employee.

This is a critical step for several reasons, most of which are connected to the need to provide employees with context to the company’s goal(s). When discussing the context of the goals with your team, answer these questions from the employee’s perspective: Why should I care? How can a brand-new employee contribute to such a high-level goal? How can an employee who feels their work is “menial” possibly believe their effort is critical enough that it rolls up into the company’s goals? What do I need to hear about my work to make this company goal important? (If they don’t know these things, they won’t likely be bought in to company goals.) My low-level work seems unimportant, so why does this matter to anyone? I watch the clock all day, how could my work be of importance to the company?

Each person, regardless of what they do, needs to understand how their work contributes to the company’s goal(s). They also need to understand what their department’s goals are. They need to be reminded that the most “menial”, seemingly “low level” task is important because that work is often where the company has significant contact with the customer. If they don’t truly understand the importance of what they do – their leader needs to step in and help.

Obvious, but often overlooked

You might be thinking this is all so obvious, but in small, closely-held companies, these things are not commonly communicated, or are not explained to a level that makes them resonant with the staff. If your company goals don’t resonate with the staff, they really aren’t company goals at all. The same goes for departmental goals, which can produce silo’d behavior that leaves people with the impression that the performance of one group or even one person is not all that meaningful to the rest of the company, when the truth is that all of these pieces working in sync are critical to making the entire company’s goals.

Things to consider

What are the three most valuable pieces of information you learned about your clients this year? Of those three, which demand that you leverage them with into the new year? Is any one of them such a competitive advantage?

What is an area of strength in each department that can be leveraged for the entire company? Is this a strength limited to that department, or can that department teach the rest of the company how to gain from it?

When you sit down to look at these things and discuss them, be sure that you’re thinking about and discussing the data, rather than going on gut feel. It’s way too tempting to do this by the seat of the pants, but don’t do it.

Ever have trouble breathing?

Ever have trouble breathing?

Maybe you got hit hard and had the breath knocked out of you or maybe you choked on a McNugget. Doesn’t matter because while you were choking, you only wanted one thing: to breathe. Everyone knows that desire, which sets the stage for this video.

In the video above showing Giavanni Ruffin’s workout, you should know that he doesn’t play football at Miami or Nebraska or LSU or Southern Cal. He goes to East Carolina. Not exactly a name you see in the national championship. Yet that doesn’t seem to alter his work effort. He clearly has bigger aspirations.

Once you’ve seen the video above, you may want to hear the remaining 10 minutes of this Eric Thomas’ talk. Below, you can see the original two-segment piece recorded as he spoke to a class at Michigan State University.

Want more? Here, Eric channels Jim Rohn (“the 5 people closest to you…”).

Think back to the story about the athlete who wants to be rich and whose head is being held underwater. Think about how hard he fought to get back above the water and breathe. Think about how bad you JUST WANTED TO BREATHE the last time you were choking.

Now focus that level of desire on your business.

Ask yourself the question Eric asks….How bad do you want it?

9 minutes of “Will power”

Yesterday, I happened across this video montage of Will Smith interview clips that has him discussing what motivates him.

His comments on persistence, work ethic and competition are a good listen and well worth the 9 minutes.

Do you have that kind of will power?

What *finally* tripped your trigger?

During a recent mastermind session, the gang was talking about motivation and decision-making.

While that was stirring around in my head, I managed to stumble across CC Chapman’s insightful post about inspiration.

Stir in the TED Behind the Scenes video included in CC’s post, which I’ve included above. I strongly suggest you read CC’s comments even though the video is included above.

A few takeaways from the video:

  • Everyone fears failure. Even Sir Ken and the other TED speakers.
  • None of these people are perfect.
  • They all seem to have a very clear vision of what they want to accomplish and what’s really, truly important to them.
  • Watch what Raghava KK says to Ken Robinson after Raghava’s talk – and how Ken responds.

Little Things

A takeaway from the mastermind chat was recognizing the importance of the little wins that happen when you’re just starting toward a big goal. These little wins are, at first, what fuel us to become what everyone else eventually sees as an overnight success.

A friend who has lost almost 100 lbs over the last 2 years reminded me of this when saying (paraphrased) “No one sees me doing the hard stuff. The sweat. The celery. They only see the result, and they have no idea how hard it was to get here.”

That friend didn’t say that angrily, but was recognizing that few see the bulk of the effort we make on the way to our goals. The people who didn’t see the loss 500 calories at a time after an hour on the treadmill almost every day for 2 years know better, but some still have the impression that it disappeared overnight.

Little successes. A mile in 15 minutes today. A mile in 14 minutes after 2 weeks of effort.

Doesn’t seem like much unless you’re the one having those successes.

Translating that elsewhere

Those small victories fuel the confidence to keep going, regardless of the goal you’re chasing.

I remember a sale to the Wyoming Red Cross and having the X-Prize folks use my software back when almost no one had heard of them (much less me). Those events were a couple of the small victories I look back on that were essential to building the confidence that helped me move forward.

Remembering those got me to wondering about the small victories that encouraged you. I’d like to hear about them.

Take yourself seriously first

Private moment. In public.
Creative Commons License photo credit: skedonk

Today’s guest post from AJ Leon is about getting serious about your ideas and goals.

Dan Kennedy talks about “massive action” more times than you can imagine. That’s all about getting serious.

Do you take yourself seriously? If not, how can you expect anyone else to?

Talking big, doing big

lunchtime escaping
Creative Commons License photo credit: Sam Judson

This post about goals at 37 Signals is chock full-o-gold.

Make note of the attitude shift that this post provokes, particularly the paragraph that starts “Hey, if Iâ??m going to stand on the podium of Le Mans…”

See how the sentence that talks about the future of 37 Signals changes EVERYTHING?

It changes what they do.

It changes how they do it.

And a lot more.

What’s your big goal? The Jets are taken.

On obscene profits and the joy of being average

Yesterday’s Eagle Court reminded me of the last few moments of this short 2 minute video guest post from Tom Peters.

Note for those who might cringe at, be disgusted by or even “hate” the thought of a company earning the “obscene profits” extols: Mr Peters is a Democrat who spoke on the Obama campaign trail in 2008.

Can you imagine watching the heads of 2 political parties would have discussing that? Irony is beautiful sometimes.

My amusement aside, I urge you to take the video deadly serious: Get rid of the “average” stuff/processes/people in your business (or improve them).

Do it with enthusiasm and without prejudice.

Taken a pulse lately?

Ten months of 2009 are gone. Take the pulse of your business and ask yourself: “Is the business where I wanted to be by now?

Before you think this is all about the finances, it isn’t. It’s all about where you wanted to be. Maybe it’s about finances, but there might be more important indicators. It’s easy to be profitable and still heading in the wrong direction, for example.

If you’re behind, what can do add, change, delete, correct or adjust to get your progress back on track to meet/exceed your business’ goals? Have you actually done what you said you would do? If not, why not?

Not just about Retail

Big retail (and far too much of small retail) looks at these next two months as what gets them into the black. They’ve even named the day after Thanksgiving “Black Friday” because that’s the shopping day that traditionally moves their business into the black.

While many outside of retail often look at these next two months as throwaways due to the number of holidays, vacations, parties, travel, hunting season and so on – that’d be a mistake.

Likewise, lots of companies put off hiring during these two months (hmm, so NOW till January is the time to pick off the best talent?).

As for the delay, I can find a holiday and related excuses to do that in any month. Why would you do that?

Thank them

In a few weeks, Thanksgiving is coming up in the U.S.

What a great time to take a little time to thank your clientele for their business – just don’t be boring about it and don’t make it a sales call. Whatever you do, do it as a sincere thanks rather than making it ordinary and using it as just another opportunity to pitch everyone.

For Canadian readers who are thinking “Darn, our Thanksgiving was last month”, it’s not too late. Simply acknowledge that you’re a bit tardy so you thought you’d thank them in time for the Americans’ Thanksgiving.

2010

One last thing on this topic – now’s the time to get moving on an assessment of 2009’s successes and failures, and start laying out your 2010 plans and goals. Have your plans and strategies ready for Jan 1 (and start them earlier if it makes sense). Don’t wait until Jan 1 to start this process.

What success looks like

What does it look like to YOU, that is?

To get where you are going most efficiently, with the least amount of distractions and dead end side trips, a detailed plan is essential.

But it isn’t just about the plan. You have to be able to see the destination in your mind. You have to think through the nuances as well as what impact they have on your journey to get there.

For example, if a made-over store is one of your goals, what does it look like? How is it merchandised? How big is it? What sort of facilities does it have? Where is it? Same place as your current location, or different?

Drilling down beyond that, what will it take to make all those things happen? What specific level of revenue? What staff positions are needed to make this happen? What expertise do you need to learn or pick up via new or newly-trained staff members? Are there new product lines, services or directions that your products/services need to address in order to make all of this happen?

Think about it. Get it down on paper or on your computer – whatever you use to plan projects.

Knowing what success looks like in extraordinary detail will help you build and execute a better plan for getting there.