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Greeno: Set goals that can be accomplished

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 5:10 p.m. CDT

Depending on your personality type, you might not categorize setting your annual business goals as exciting or adventurous. The yearly charge of establishing goals can easily become just another mundane task to be completed. Or, even worse, it can be a demoralizing exercise if you seem to fall short each year.

But Daniel Boone, a famous American pioneer, explorer and frontiersman, had a different view of goal setting. He compared it to establishing a destination. “Having an exciting destination is like setting a needle in your compass,” Boone said. “From then on, the compass knows only one point. ... And, it will faithfully guide you there through the darkest nights and fiercest storms.”

Boone’s description certainly makes goal-setting sound more appealing, but goals also need to be practical. Doing something just for the sake of doing it is a waste of time – and in today’s business environment, you can’t afford to waste time. As a leader, you have to find a way to create goals that blend the visionary facet with the functional aspect, and there are three keys to accomplish that.

Look beyond the goal: A well-crafted, well-thought-out goal is a wonderful thing, but if you leave it at that, you’re going to fail. A Forbes piece by Bill Conerly put it like this, “The value of the goal is not the goal itself, but the determination of the action steps most likely to lead to achieving the goal.” You must establish an action plan for each of your goals, and that plan has to incorporate every department and employee in your business. 

This means you need to go beyond posting the company goals in the break room and announcing them at the end-of-the-year party. You need to break them down so each division, each department within those divisions and each and every employee in those departments have a specific and measurable part to play in achieving the goals. It will require some additional work, as well as cooperation and collaboration among management, but this is the only way to convert your dream into reality.

Recognize your limitations: In case you haven’t realized it yet, the phrase “you can achieve anything” isn’t completely true. Everyone, and every company, has limitations. A wise leader will recognize this fact, assess both strengths and weaknesses, and then make educated, achievable goals. And unachieved goals don’t mean a missing checkmark at the end of the year. When you set goals that have no possibility of being met, you do two things. First, you discourage and disengage everyone in your organization. Second, you put your business at risk by wasting valuable time and resources. The combination of those two consequences is enough to cripple, and even destroy, the best of companies.

Break it down: Once each area and individual in the company has their own unique action plans, you’ll need to break it down even more. Pinpoint exactly which tasks are essential to achieving the goals, and then narrow it down to what needs to be accomplished in the year, each quarter, each month, each week, and each day. Setting goals can result in some amazing accomplishments, but you have to do more than slap your top three wishes on some letterhead. Crafting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely takes effort. The outcome, however, is well worth it. At the very least, you’ll find yourself with more motivated and engaged employees, and, at the very best, you’ll achieve your dreams and enjoy all the rewards that come with them.

• Terri Greeno owns Express Employment Professionals in Crystal Lake. 

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