Define what you wish to achieveMake sure that your goal is specificState your goals appropriatelyRecord your goalCheck your prioritiesChunk your goals and make yourself accountableCheck and review progressDefine what you wish to achieve
Every executive and business owner has one key objective – to improve performance. Behind every business objective, (whether it is, for example, to grow your business by 10%, increase ROI by 5% or become a better leader), is the desire to improve performance. It is this aspiration that makes us successful in our labours.
Performance Improvement can be defined in many ways. For example, the International Board of Standards for Training, Performance and Instruction (2003) defines it as the process of designing or selecting interventions which may include training directed toward a change in behaviour, typically on the job.
I believe that performance improvement is any positive change that can be measured after you have actively decided to make a change in your current circumstances. This is why defining the improvement requirement and measurement method is all important.
If we assume therefore, that a key success factor in business is to improve performance, where would you start? A logical approach would be to decide which area of performance needs improving and look for experts in this field to enable you to achieve the appropriate improvement. For example, you may need to improve your sales so you engage a marketing consultant to enable you to achieve this.
I believe that the first step towards performance improvement is defining your goal. Following a goal setting process will ensure that performance enhancement is made.
Goal Setting Process
There are seven steps to setting the goals that will achieve your objectives and improve your performance. I will use the above example of improving sales to explain the goal setting process. The seven steps are as follows:
To begin the process, consider what it is that you broadly want to achieve. In this example you wish to improve your performance by increasing sales.Make sure that your goal is specific and time bound
Once you have determined the broad area of improvement you will need to define your goal more specifically. What is it that you wish to achieve and how will you measure the change? What is the appropriate timeframe for the improvement? These are the first questions that you need to ask yourself. In my example I want to improve sales because I have realised that if I can increase the volume of my sales I can reduce the cost of production. I have also realised that I need to increase sales by 10% to reduce costs to an acceptable level, within the next 3 months. I will measure this by looking at management information that shows my sales figures before and after, as well as my production costs.
If I am not specific in my goal then it will be difficult to achieve it, especially if I have not set a timeframe for achievement. Many of us work best when we have deadlines to work towards. This is another reason to ensure we set realistic timeframes and measurements so that we can assess our progress.State your goals appropriately
It is very easy to sabotage yourself when you are setting yourself improvement targets. You may consciously wish to improve your sales but subconsciously believe that improving your sales will increase your profits. Increasing your profits may make you believe that you will be wealthy and wealthy people are never happy. You therefore sabotage your attempts to improve your sales. The annoying thing is you may have set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound) objectives perfectly, but are not able to achieve them because you are unknowingly working against your core values. For example – I want to be happy and being wealthy means I will not be happy.
To ensure that you achieve your goals you need to understand fully why you wish to achieve them and what has been stopping you from achieving them. It can take time to discover your subconscious motivations and realities but once this has been achieved you will be able to achieve your goals because you are not working against yourself.
You are now ready to state your goals in a positive fashion. Goals should never be stated negatively, for example, ‘I will not fail to improve my sales’. The reason for this is because the subconscious mind cannot process negativity. It will look for the command in the statements that it ‘hears’. So in the above statement it ‘hears’ the command ‘I will fail to improve my sales, not’. This is another example of you sabotaging your ability to achieve. Your goal could be stated ‘I will improve my sales by 10% within 3 months’. To support this goal you could also assert the statement ‘I have improved my sales in July’. By believing that change is possible enables you to draw towards yourself opportunities to exploit positively.Record your goal and have leverage
To ensure that you become fully committed to your goal you should record it. This will give the subconscious mind a detailed set of instructions to work on. The more information you give it, the more clarity the final outcome has. The more precise the outcome, the more efficient the subconscious mind can become. (Gene Donohue).
Once you have recorded the goal you will need to write down the factors that will motivate you to achieve the goal. It helps to know whether you are motivated towards or away from things. For example, if you improve sales you will be able to retire early (positive motivation), if you improve sales you will not be bankrupt (negative motivation). If you are aware of how you are motivated you will be able to record a number of reasons why you must achieve the goal based on your motivation bias. You will have established leverage on yourself and make performance improvement more likely.Check your priorities and resources
If you have more than one goal, you will need to prioritise them to ensure that they do not conflict with each other in terms of deadlines and values. Do not set goals that conflict with each other. For example, ‘I will improve my sales by 10% in 3 months’, and I will reduce production costs by 1 month’ when you have already decided that the only way to reduce production costs is by increasing sales. The increase in sales would take 3 months.
Only set the number of goals that you can fully focus on. If that is not possible, then I recommend that you revisit the goal definition stage. This will ensure that you only tackle the key things that will improve performance in the timescale that you believe is appropriate.
You must ensure that you have the right resources available to achieve your goal. Without this vital check you will not be able to realise your desired outcome.Chunk your goals and make yourself accountable
It can be difficult to improve performance when you have provided yourself with a stretch target. Sometimes the sheer size of a goal can make it unachievable. In circumstances like this you need to chunk your goals into small more obtainable ones. For example, the goal to improve sales by 10% in 3 months can seem difficult to achieve. To achieve this goal you can chunk it down to smaller goals (ie increase the number of sales conversions. This can be done by increasing the number of targeted cold calls by 15%). This process will enable you to set manageable smaller goals that work towards the larger goal.
Make yourself accountable, by telling someone of your goals. This will help focus you on achievement. You are more likely to achieve your goal if you have to explain to a third party why you have not completed your goal. If you feel that you cannot, find a third person who will be objective in this process, like a mentor or coach, then write your goal in a place where you will see it regularly.Check and review progress
This is the final step. It is important to ensure that everything that you do is working towards the performance improvement. By checking and reviewing progress you will be able to adjust your performance accordingly.
© Dynamic Transitions 2005