Most of us (at least those who don’t own retail businesses) are in low-power mode at this time of year. Double midweek days off and decompression following the holiday rush allows us time to think. For many, that thinking naturally turns to what we hope to accomplish in the coming year.
For a small business owner, company goals frequently occupy a higher priority then personal goals. Losing ten pounds would be nice, but growing by 10% would be nicer. Reading more is a great goal, but reading stronger financial statements every month can ease the pain of not having opened a book.
Some of us develop extensive and detailed business plans. Others go through the year with a series of short term objectives. Both methods can succeed, if you have the people who work for you tuned in to what the goals are, and how they can help you to reach them.
Follow the SMART methodology (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Resourced and Time-sensitive). Note that I substitute “Resourced” for the more widely-used “Reasonable.” I think specifying how something is both attainable and reasonable is redundant. On the other hand, a well stated goal should include the tools, time and talent available to make it happen.
Your leadership role begins with clearly communicating the goals to your employees and showing them how each one can contribute to successful execution. A few simple steps can make this much easier.
- Start with “Why.” Simon Sinek’s question on TED has generated over 20,000,000 views for a reason — it makes sense. Explain to your employees how accomplishing these goals will fit with your core values, make the company a better place to work, or improve your offering to customers. Take them out of the “more money is just better” mindset with a bigger perspective of the benefits.
- Define each of the SMART factors clearly and in detail, with complete narratives. Putting them in a conversational form makes them more real than theoretical.
- Sit with employees individually or in small groups and ask them to discuss how their contributions can support the overall goal. In many cases, you’ll discover that they have no idea of how to approach any objective beyond merely “working harder.”
- Develop clear graphic representations of accomplishments and progress towards the objective, and put it where employees can check it regularly. If this involves collecting data, delegate the responsibility to someone who will be diligent in maintaining it.
- Celebrate milestones and on-target performance. Don’t let regular wins or regular shortfalls become routine. “Why we fell short” is less important than “How can we do better?”
If things are quiet around your business, it’s a perfect time to be communicating with your staff. Business goals are more involved than New Year’s resolutions.. If you want your company to reach its objectives, it will require an all-hands effort.