A SURE-FIRE WAY TO INCREASE GOAL ACHIEVEMENT
How many goal setting acronyms can you name? Here’s a few to get you started; SMART, OKR, EXACT, GROW, SPIRO, KPI, 4DX, BHAG – the list goes on.
Goal setting frameworks are very useful – especially when you find one that works well for you, your team or your organisation. The challenge is that we typically pay much more attention to goal setting than we do to goal achievement. This is a bit like Tsundoku; the art of buying books that you never read.
If you follow my work, then you’ll almost certainly have heard me say “the most important part of how you achieve anything, is why you want to achieve it in the first place.” Many of us have goals we will never achieve; not because we’re stupid or lazy, but because we don’t have a big enough reason. To achieve any goal, or complete any priority of significance, you must have a ‘big why’.
Historically, I always attached the importance of a ‘big why’ to the initial process of goal setting. More recently, I’ve come to understand how you can increase the odds of goal achievement by applying the ‘big why’ philosophy, every time you review your goals or priorities.
In my work with clients, I encourage them to set significant goals for the year ahead, followed by 10-15 key deliverables for the next quarter to build momentum towards those goals. For example; a goal might be to increase revenue by 10%, and a first quarter deliverable could be to sign the XYZ client account. We capture these deliverables in a ‘leadership scorecard’, which we review every six weeks, and reset every quarter. The aim of the deliverables is to encourage a felt sense of momentum, in the client, towards their goals.
Given the importance of momentum, I pay close attention in these review sessions to any priority where there is strong progress, any priority where there is little progress, and any priority that reappears on multiple consecutive scorecards. I’ve learned that each of these scenarios presents an opportunity to assess and increase motivation.
When you make strong progress on a priority, that’s an opportunity to reinforce its importance; to prove that it was, or still is, worthy of your time and attention. It’s an opportunity to build further momentum and motivation into that priority, and to extend that momentum to other priorities. Ask yourself;
- What has allowed me to make such great progress on this priority?
- What is different for me as a result of this progress; how have I/others benefited?
- How could I leverage my progress on this priority to create increased momentum across other priorities?
When you make little or no progress on a priority, that’s a warning sign you should pay attention to. It could just mean that you’ve been focused on other things, that your original expression of the priority was not quite right, that you don’t care enough about it yet, or that it’s not really too important in hindsight. Regardless of the reason, priorities that remain undelivered over an extended period of time consume a disproportionate amount of mental energy, usually in the form of worry and procrastination. They’re momentum killers, so you want to address them right away.
Your first objective is to improve; either your articulation of the priority itself, or the motivation you have to achieve it, or both. Ask yourself;
- How could I improve the way I’ve expressed this priority, to more accurately reflect the important outcome I’m seeking?
- With the benefit of hindsight, what are all of the reasons this priority is so important right now?
- What are the consequences of not getting it done?
If you can’t improve the expression of your priority, or your motivation to get it done, then you have only one smart option left; remove it. The wisdom of the Dakota Indians captures this sentiment nicely; “If you find you’re riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.”
There’s no shame in deprioritizing a goal or taking a priority off your list. In fact, it’s essential to goal achievement. You want to consistently put 100% of your energy into the fewest number of things that really matter. Ask yourself;
- If I was rebuilding my priority list today, would it make the cut?
- What are the consequences for removing it from my list? Can I live with those consequences?
- If I took it off my list, where could I redirect my energy and attention to produce more significant outcomes elsewhere?
Goal setting is important, but goal achievement is even more so. If you want to build an unstoppable momentum towards your goals, be sure to review them at regular intervals, using the ‘prove, improve, remove’ approach.
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