I recently read a post on LinkedIn and it left an immediate and lasting impression. It said that you get more out of goal setting by adding two words to the end of every goal statement.
These days everyone and their dog seems to have something to say about goal setting and they all have a slightly different take on the subject. I suppose that each one thinks that their approach is better, however slightly, than everyone else and so will be more effective and more relevant.
I like to keep things simple
I have a very simple approach to goal setting. It works for me and so I am not bothered whether it makes sense to anyone else. My simple approach is just this:
1. Work out where you are.
2. Decide where you want to be.
3. Select the strategy or strategies that you think will get you from one to the other.
4. At appropriate points on your journey, check where you are and make course corrections and amend your strategies as necessary.
As far as I can see, every article, book and webinar on goal setting, whether free or you have to pay for it, comes back to this basic concept. It’s all about map reading. If you know where you are now and you know your destination, you can use a map to plan your route. All you have to do then is decide on your strategy, whether you are going to walk, or take the car, bus, train or plane. Fundamentally, I cannot see that goal setting is any different to that.
So, is my take on goal setting any better that anyone else? It is simple. You have to give me that.
My problem is that generally the people I speak to:
1. Don’t know where they are.
2. Don’t know where they want to get to.
3. The only strategy in their armoury is to work harder to achieve incremental growth to a greater or lesser extent.
Is there a chasm here that we must bridge? There certainly is but with a little guidance, we can overcome this problem for most people. Anyway, enough of that for the moment. Let’s assume you know where you are and where you want to be, and when.
So, where do you want to be? Here is a question that I actually ask business owners regularly and most of them initially cannot answer.
“10 years from today:
1. Will you still be in business?
2. When you go to work on that day what does that day involve for you?
3. What is your turnover?
4. How many people do you employ?
5. What profit are you generating?”
Then I get the blank look as if they have never considered that before.
If I get an answer about turnover, it is based upon 10 years of modest incremental growth on top of what they have at the moment.
BHAGS – another name for the Moon
We need to discuss BHAGS – Big Hairy Audacious Goals.
In other words, aim high! Shoot for the moon and you may hit a star. Give your imagination free reign and set your intellect free to reach high, unconstrained by your “oh so logical” brain.
When it comes down to it, I think that most people have a thought in their minds of what they would ideally like to have achieved, but they keep it hidden in case people, especially family, laugh at them. What is your dream?
Suppose that your turnover is currently £1M and that in 10 years, your dream is sell your business for £10M and to do that you need a turnover of around £15M. That’s a fair bit more growth annually than inflation plus a bit. So, in order to reach your goal, what strategies do you need to put in place. They are likely to involve all five components of any business:
1. You have a product or service that people want
2. Marketing – letting people know you exist
3. Sales – getting them to put their hand in their pocket and give you money
4. Product or service delivery – the plain logistics of deliver
5. Numbers – do the business financials work for you.
Milestones – course correction points
Then you need milestones along the way. For example, if you are on course for your big 10 year goal, what do you need to have achieved in 5 years – turnover, staff employed, profit etc. You can then decide if you need to adjust the strategies – a course correction. If you are on course for your big 5 year goal, what do you need to have achieved in 3 years – turnover, staff employed, profit etc. And do you can count back to the point where you look at what you need to achieve, this year, this month, today!
Let’s add booster rockets to your goal
Now that you have a goal, you are ready to take it to a whole new level, but how? Here is your big 10 year goal:
“In 10 years I want to sell my business for £10M and to do that I need a turnover of around £15M.”
This has all the right characteristics of a goal. It is concrete, certain, time limited and easily measured.
Now consider this statement and see if you can complete it:
“In 10 years I want to sell my business for £10M, so that …”
You just took the full stop off the end of the sentence and just like removing a dam from a water course, the thoughts will come flooding out. You have given your brain a deep question that that it may well struggle to answer. So, why do you want to sell your business for £10M.
You just added two little words to the end of your goal and you immediately moved into a new dimension. You discovered that the goal that you thought about so hard and possibly crafted over time, is not actually your real goal.
One problem with this is that, having identified a deeper goal, you may find that there is another way to achieve it and you don’t need to spend the next 10 years building up the business.
Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?
There is another slightly different approach to understanding your goals and your motivations. You set out a goal that is important to you and you then ask the question “Why?” and to your answer, you ask the question “Why?” again. I am told that you can generally only do this 5 times before your only answer is that “it makes sense to me” or something similar. You are then speaking about feelings and state of mind. Logic and reasoning are gone but it taps into what you are and what makes you tick – feelings.
How? How? How? How? How?
Once you have reworked your goals and understand the “Why?” you can do the same with the “How?” question, and by repeatedly asking “How?” you work out how to achieve your goal in fine detail.
Enough of the Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? and the How? How? How? How? How? for today. I am sure people have probably written books about these techniques so I will just settle for planting the idea and giving you a taster that you might want to explore for yourself.
Is goal setting just trendy bunkum?
I must admit that when people start spouting off about goal setting and the latest techniques to use, I either switch off or start getting sleepy. You do get the impression that it is a bit of a bandwagon.
Having said that, most people set goals and determine strategies every day. It is just a part of being human. Every time you decide to go somewhere you set the goal, the destination, and the strategy is the mode of transport and the route. We all do it all or the time.
The difficulty comes in making the big goals. Those life changing decisions that will take time and effort but that, you hope, will bring rich rewards, and not necessarily financial.
This is where goals and milestones come into their own. They do not guarantee that you will succeed but they will help to keep you focused and measure your progress towards you long term goal. They force you to be accountable to yourself and if that is not enough incentive, you can get someone else involved in the process so that you are accountable to them. Hopefully by properly understanding what is driving you, you will stay on course. The “so that …” and the “Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?” will give you the deeper insight you need to tap into the feelings that ultimately drive you forward.Maybe this will