So the time has come to turn your 2018 planning into your 2019 reality. You know what you want to accomplish this year, but how do you transform those big ideas into concrete progress?
We’re here to help. We’ve put together this practical guide to getting things done, as well as a handy 9-point cheat sheet you can use any time you’re setting goals.
1. Set the right goals
Has your organization already mapped out its targets for the next year? Has your team? Have you?
In most cases, you’ll already have a pretty good idea of what your company hopes to achieve in 2019 by now. (But if not, there’s no time like the present. Go plan it now! We’ll wait.)
No matter what role you play or which department you’re in, those top-level company goals should form the basis for your team and individual targets, too. So if your organization is aiming to double their number of clients this year, for example, what is your marketing team doing to help achieve that goal? And your sales team? And your HR team?
Maybe your marketers need to run X number of campaigns to generate more leads. Or your salespeople need to try new messaging in order to increase conversions. Or your recruiters need to hire more account managers to take care of all those new clients. Whatever it is, you need to make sure your goals align and that you’re all working together in the same direction. So when you’re setting and communicating your goals, don’t forget to consider the why as well as the what.
2. Write those goals down…
No matter what kind of goal you’re setting, writing it down is the surprisingly simple way to help you meet it.
Studies show that you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down. That’s because putting it in writing forces you to set your intention strategically and concisely.
Your goal should be no more than a sentence: if you can’t explain it in one sentence, then there’s a problem.
If you’re having trouble summarizing it, it’s likely that the goal is too broad, not clear enough, or too difficult to measure. Maybe it’s actually two goals pretending to be just one, like two kids in a trench coat.
Either way, you need to drill down until it can be simply expressed. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to read your sentence to anyone and they should be able to picture exactly what it is you want to achieve. If you can’t? Back to the drawing board until you can distil it down.
3. …In a place where everyone can see them
Another benefit of having your goals in writing is that it keeps you accountable. Once your company and your team have set their goals, put them somewhere where everyone can see them.
And, with the exception of private or confidential information, we mean everyone. Share your team’s goals with other departments. Make sure everyone from the CEO to your interns know exactly what you’re aiming to achieve, and who’s responsible for what. If that sounds daunting: good! Your goals should be challenging, and the public commitment is a great motivator to keep your team motivated and on track. On the other hand, if you’re terrified of failing publically, that’s probably a good sign that you’ve set unreasonable goals that sound good on paper but you don’t think your team can actually achieve — so you probably need to rethink them. (Challenging is good; impossible is not.)
We love using project management software to keep the whole organization on the same page, and it works great for setting goals, too. Try using your project management tool to set big picture goals as Milestones or using notebooks to list the targets for each team. Having them written out somewhere central — especially somewhere every employee can see them when they log in every day — reminds the team what they’re working towards, and encourages every single person to see how their individual tasks help the company to reach its big-picture goals.
4. Measure your goals progress
Don’t wait until the end of the quarter to see how you’re tracking. When you’re serious about hitting a target, you need to measure your performance every step of the way. For any goal to be successful, you need to know exactly what the KPIs are. What constitutes success? If you don’t have clear ways of monitoring and measuring your impact, you need to tweak those goals until you do. Likewise, don’t set goals that are dependent on factors outside your control. Think “I will reach out to 5 new customers a day,” not “I’m going to get 5 new accounts a day.” To make sure you stay on track, build reporting on goal-related metrics into your weekly standups. If you’re a team lead, appoint someone to run the reports and put the information in an easily-accessible, shared space where everyone can check it. This way, you’ll have the data you need before you even need it. While fluctuations from week to week are to be expected (and should be taken with a big pinch of salt), it also means that when longer-term patterns emerge, you’ll be able to pinpoint where things changed and get more specific insights. Not only that, but it gives your team the ability to course-correct in real time, instead of waiting for the end of the quarter — when you might have already veered too far off track to still hit the goal.
5. Celebrate your achievements — and learn from your mistakes
You did it! (We always knew you could.) Now what? Before you start the cycle all over again, take a moment to appreciate your team’s hard work. Did someone really raise the bar? Don’t forget to thank them and give them the recognition they deserve. While you’re at it, take stock of what you can do better next time while the experience is still fresh in your mind. Do you need to stagger your goal deadlines so they’re not all in Q4? Do you need to be clearer about who owns each goal? Maybe you set too many goals and in future, you need to focus on the top three objectives instead of the top thirteen. Use the opportunity to celebrate and reflect. Then set new goals and smash them, too.
Your goal-setting cheat sheet
Ask yourself these 9 questions next time you’re setting goals for your team. For every goal:
Can you sum up the objective in one sentence?
Have you defined what “done” looks like for this goal?
How will you measure your progress towards this goal?
For every team:
Does the team know how their goals tie in with the company’s overall goals?
Does the team know the goals of the other teams in the organization?
Does the team have the resources they need to successfully achieve this goal (and in the required time frame)?
For every person:
Do they know how their tasks help the company reach its big-picture goals?
Do they know what they’re responsible for delivering?
Do they know where they can find important metrics to see how progress is tracking towards reaching?