New Year’s resolutions have gotten a bad rap lately. There’s much written about how so many people make resolutions at the beginning of a new year but, in the end, so few actually keep them. So the advice of many self help writers is simply this – why bother, why put yourself through this process, why set yourself up for failure?
But this kind of logic isn’t how great organizations or movements are built, world changing action is taken, personal transformation happens, or mountains moved. Whether it’s a New Year’s resolution or simply a personal goal or new calling, you’re taking a risk by setting them, it’s the reality of goal setting.
But this reality should never stop us from setting a goal and then working to achieve it. Just because most people don’t fulfill their New Year’s resolutions certianly isn’t a reason to avoid them. Instead understanding that failure is the accepted risk we take to create change, isn’t a reason to opt out, it’s the reality we embrace to increase our chances of success.
Now how do we increase our chances of succeeding, in achieving our New Year’s resolutions? By remembering these five principles of goal setting:
- Reality – Know that we tend to be overly optimistic with short-term goals and too pessimistic about long-term goals – so we adjust our goals accordingly.
- Focused – Have only a few resolutions. The less, the better the chance of success.
- Written – Write them down then review them on a regular basis (click here to learn about meetings with yourself)
- Guided – Share them with people who can provide wisdom and encouragement.
- Downside -Remember that even if we fall short of achieving our resolutions, we’ll most likely come significantly farther along our journey then we would have if we’d never set the goal in the first place.
So let’s make 2017 our best year yet. Best, not because we avoided failure by not setting challenging goals, but because we made a life changing New Year’s resolution, then worked like crazy to make it a reality.
As Theodore Roosevelt said – “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered with failure…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat.”
Do you want to assure your team accomplishes a goal, task or project? Then there’s five steps, as a leader, you must take to increase the odds of your team being successful. By the way, in the spirit of transparency, I write these as much as reminders to myself as I do to be helpful to you.
Put the goal, task or project clearly and concisely in writing
– writing down a goal, task or project with the accompanying plan gives it a sense of permanency and significance. Making it clear includes defining success so your team knows when it has won. Also outline the steps and resources needed to win. Make sure it’s concisely written because by doing so it will make it more memorable.
Measure and track progress on a regular basis
– How often you measure and track your progress depends on duration of the goal or project. The shorter the horizon the more frequent you must measure and track. The farther out the horizon is the less frequently you need to measure and track progress. But no matter the horizon, don’t ever believe you can stop or avoid regular tracking and measurements. If you do, your team will soon flounder. The depth of your measuring and tracking will also depend on the track record of your team.
Provide consistent and regular feedback – If you’re appropriately consistent in measuring and tracking then you’ll be in the right place and posture to provide timely and helpful feedback. Feedback includes recognizing the good progress and providing correction if necessary.
Stay with it till it’s accomplished and finished
– Doing these five steps requires discipline on your part as a leader. If you lose sight of a goal, task or project eventually our team will as well. What you chose to focus on will be what your team focuses on, and what you chose not to focus on (or lose focus on) will eventually be what your team choses not to focus on as well.
- Celebrate – By doing these first four steps you will increase your team’s chances for success. This last step increases your team’s chances of success on the next project, task or goal. So celebrate, thank, reward, and affirm the good work your team does and they’ll be ready for the next challenge that comes their way.
This past August, on the annual Perry men’s Canadian fishing trip, my boys and I stumbled into a conversation about other types of fishing – fly, saltwater flats, and deep-sea fishing. We agreed that it would be fun to try these other kinds of fishing in addition to our spin casting (traditional), cold water fishing we do, knowing each type of fishing is capable of catching lots of fish.
Yet the more we discussed the idea of trying these other methods of fishing, the more we realized it might not be as good as it sounds. For example, because of our fishing experience, we understand all too well that to be successful catching fish requires the right equipment, knowledge about the body of water to be fished, a working understanding of the habits of the targeted fish, and, most importantly, having the simple experience gained by hours of actual fishing. Which means, because each one requires its own knowledge, experience and equipment, the additional resources (time and money) needed to be successful would make it impossible to be really good at more than one method of fishing.
So it became apparent in our discussion that spreading our limited resources out to thinly between numerous types of fishing would lead us to not being very good at any of them. As a result we decided our best shot at being really good fishermen was to focus our limited resources on one type of fishing (spin casting, cold water fishing).
Which led me to reflect on just how easy it is for individuals, teams and organizations to be enticed by new and novel strategies and opportunities which promise only to deliver the same results (catching fish) as current methods, without considering the additional resources necessary to pursue these strategies nor the negative impact that a wider focus can have on the current work.
Whenever one of the members of the SpringHill leadership team’s distracted from the task at hand the rest of the team will say “squirrel”. It’s a reference to the Disney/Pixar movie “Up” where a dog named Dug becomes distracted from what he’s doing when someone yells “squirrel”.
And just like Dug, we have our own “squirrels” that interfere with either the task at hand or those tasks requiring a long-term commitment and focus such as visions and Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG’s). As a matter of fact, it’s easier for “squirrels” to distract us from those far off goals because we’re often lulled into believing we can temporarily change directions and still have time catch up or get back on track. But the truth is almost every time a leader or an organization falls short in achieving a grand vision or a BHAG, there were “squirrels” along the way that distracted them from the important work. And of course, this makes sense, because if big visions and BHAG’s didn’t require extraordinary effort and single-minded focus to achieve then they wouldn’t, by definition, be visions or BHAG’s.
A good friend of mine, Jack McQueeney, reminded me of this reality recently when I asked his opinion about an overseas opportunity I’ve been offered. He simply asked me two questions “how will this trip advance SpringHill’s vision?” and “Is there anything else you could do with the 7 days that would be more effective in advancing SpringHill’s vision?”
Then Jack told me he always looks for 2 to 3 touch points between an opportunity he’s offered and his job and the ministry he serves. If he can’t clearly see 2 or 3 touch points then he’ll politely decline the opportunity. In other words Jack doesn’t allow “squirrels” to distract him from the work he has before him.
So as you can see I have squirrels in my life, but the more important question is “what are the squirrels in yours?”